Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Great Houses Indicate Chaco Social Hierarchy

Ruins of a Chaco Great House.

Social hierarchies may have emerged within Southwestern Native American society as early as the 9th century. Researchers are using unpublished archival information and modern radiocarbon dating to do an updated archeological analysis on Pueblo mortuary sites within the Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico.
Chaco Canyon is famous for its unusual architecture and the dense packing of at least 15 multistory masonry pueblos, known as "great houses." The locale has long been considered a remarkable example of multifaceted culture in the prehistoric New World, but researchers remain divided over whether Chaco gave rise to chiefly societies, or if the society and buildings were cooperatively constructed.
Patterns of human remains and other artifacts found within the great house mortuaries suggests that the long-observed disparity in burial numbers between small houses and great houses in the canyon may be due to the presence of social hierarchies ~ suggesting that only Chaco elites were buried in great houses, where their status was legitimized through ritual links to ancestors and cosmological forces.

Click here for the article.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Amarna Was Sun-Worshiping City

New evidence from ancient burial sites in the Egyptian city of Amarna  indicate that it was a sun-worshipping city, according to Egyptologist Barry Kemp.

“Archeology is a moving frontier,” he says. “There are always more questions and uncertainties, as is the case in all humanities.”  When Kemp and his colleagues unearthed bodies from the cemetery, the bodies’ orientation was towards the sun, characteristic of the city’s unique sun-worshipping religion.

At the time, most cities were polytheistic, but the pharaoh of Amarna established the city in order to exclusively worship the sun god in what Kemp called a unique “social experiment.”

Click here for the complete article.

Monday, November 8, 2010

DNA Traces European Farming Back to Near East

New DNA evidence indicates immigrants from the ancient Near East brought farming to Europe and spread the practice to the region's hunter-gatherer communities. The new genetic study adds crucial information about how farming was introduced to Europe's nomadic hunter-gatherer societies almost 8,000 years ago.

An international research team has compared ancient DNA from the remains of Early Neolithic farmers at a burial site in central Germany with a large genetic database of European and Eurasian populations. They found a unique genetic signature suggesting "significant demographic input from the Near East during the onset of farming.”

Sometimes referred to as the Fertile Crescent, the Near East would include modern-day Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

The revolutionary element of this study was the addition of ancient DNA, explains Alan Cooper, director of the Centre for Ancient DNA, as previously researchers could only use genetic data from modern populations to examine this question.

"We have never had a detailed genetic view of one of these early farming populations - there's been a lot of inference around it, but it's all been guesswork" he says.

Click here for the complete ABC News article.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Newly Discovered Statue is Amenhotep III

Archaeologists have unearthed the upper half of a red granite statue of a powerful pharaoh who ruled nearly 3,400 years ago. 

Egypt antiquities chief Zahi Hawass says the statue was discovered on Thursday at the site of the funerary temple of Amenhotep III, one of the largest on the west bank of the Nile in the southern temple city of Luxor.

The statue portrays Amenhotep III with the falcon-headed sun god Re-Horakhti and exhibits the expert craftsmanship of ancient Egyptian artisans. Amenhotep III was the grandfather of the famed boy-pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Click here for a more detailed article.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Evidence Points to Stone Age Beer

Research for a half-century has indicated Stone Age farmers domesticated cereals not so much to fill their stomachs but to lighten their heads. Signs that people went to great lengths to obtain grains despite the hard work needed to make them edible ~ plus the knowledge that feasts were important community-building gatherings ~ support the idea that cereal grains were being turned into beer, says archaeologist Brian Hayden at Simon Fraser University in Canada.

Agriculture began in the Neolithic Period of the Stone Age about 11,500 years ago. Evidence suggests that until the Neolithic, cereals such as barley and rice constituted only a minor element of diets, most likely because they require so much labor to get anything edible from them.

"In traditional Mayan villages where I've worked, maize is used for tortillas and for chicha, the beer made there,” Hayden says. “Women spend five hours a day just grinding up the kernels.” However, sites in Syria suggest that people nevertheless went to unusual lengths at times just to procure cereal grains ~ up to 40 to 60 miles.

One might speculate, Hayden said, that the labor associated with grains could have made them attractive in feasts in which guests would be offered foods difficult or expensive to prepare, and beer could have been a key reason to procure the grains used to make them.

"It's not that drinking and brewing by itself helped start cultivation, it's this context of feasts that links beer and the emergence of complex societies," Hayden added.

Click here for the complete article.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ancient Wall Designed to Protect Sphinx

Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a 3,400-year-old wall on the Giza plateau that once protected the Sphinx from desert winds. The two sections of mud-brick wall, which stretch for 433 feet, have been dated to the reign of Thutmose IV.

According to ancient Egyptian texts, the pharaoh built the enclosure after the Sphinx appeared to him in a dream complaining that it was being choked by sand. The team also uncovered a third, older section of wall that is believed to be part of a settlement for priests and officials overseeing the mortuary cult of the pharaoh Khafre.

Egypt’s government is building its own wall around the Giza site to protect the monuments from looters and prevent touts from disturbing visitors. Tourism, which accounts for 12.6 percent of jobs, is one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency and brought in $10.8 billion last year, according to the Tourism Ministry.