Monday, May 30, 2011

Onset of Cold Likely Drove Vikings from Greenland

Ruins of a Norse church in Greenland.

New research shows that a “Little Ice Age” likely prompted Norse Vikings to vacate their settlements in Greenland ~ which they had established around 980 AD ~ around the year 1100.

Researchers have recreated the climate during a span of 5,600 years, through the mid-1300s, using data from lakes near the Norse settlement in western Greenland. Cooling started around the year 1100, dropping 7 degrees Fahrenheit in 80 years. The change could have shortened the crop growing season and increased sea-ice levels enough to impede sea travel.
"This is the first quantitative temperature record from the area they were living in,” study researcher William D'Andrea, now at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, said in a statement. “So we can say there is a definite cooling trend in the region right before the Norse disappear.” 
“Suddenly, year after year, you go into this cooling trend, and the summers are getting shorter and colder and you can't make as much hay. You can imagine how that particular lifestyle may not be able to make it,” D'Andrea said.
Disappearance of the Norse from Greenland could also be due to other factors, including their dependence on trade, combative relationships with their neighbors and sedentary lifestyle, the researchers said.
Click here for the complete article.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Trove of Mysterious Rock Art Found in Sudan Desert

Wadi Abu Dom rock art depicting a rider and horned animal.

Dozens of rock art drawings that defy scientific explanation have been discovered in Sudan’s Bayuda Desert. Some were etched more than 5,000 years ago.

Archaeologists discovered 15 new rock art sites in an arid valley known as Wadi Abu Dom, 18 miles from the Nile. Some of the sites revealed just a single drawing while others have up to 30, said lead researcher Tim Karberg of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Germany.

According to 
A number of the images appear to date back around 1,500 years ago, to a period when Christianity was spreading in Sudan. They include depictions of crosses, a church, which may show a nearby, ancient monastery called al-Ghazali, and one remarkable picture of a knight riding an animal with horns.
“One is a depiction of an armed rider, with a lance and a shield, a kind of knight depiction," Karberg said, suggesting this may be an image of St. George, the legendary soldier said to have slain a dragon.
Drawings of St. George are known from Sudan and texts discussing him have been found within the country. “Our texts attest to the popularity of the Saint in Christian Nubia,” wrote historian Gerald Brown, in a study he did on the subject. 
The team also found detailed representations of cattle at Wadi Abu Dom that, based on rock drawings found at other sites, are probably from the late Bronze Age.  During this time, more than 3,000 years ago, the northern parts of the country were occupied by the Egyptian empire.

Click here for the complete article.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Satellite Survey Pinpoints Numerous Pyramids

Several of the new finds are in the area of Saqqara.

At least 17 pyramids, 1,000 tombs, and 3,000 settlements ~ all previously unknown ~ have been revealed through use of an infra-red satellite survey of Egypt. Initial excavations have confirmed some of the findings, including two of the suspected pyramids.

“We were very intensely doing this research for over a year,” Dr. Sarah Parcak tells the BBC. She has pioneered the work in space archaeology from a NASA-sponsored laboratory in Birmingham, Alabama. “I could see the data as it was emerging, but for me the a-ha moment was when I could step back and look at everything that we'd found.”

The team analyzed images from satellites orbiting 700km above the earth, equipped with cameras so powerful they can pinpoint objects less than 1m in diameter on the earth's surface. According to the BBC, ancient Egyptians built their houses and structures out of mud brick, which is much denser than the soil that surrounds it, so the shapes of houses, temples and tombs can be seen.

"These are just the sites [close to] the surface,” Parcak says. “There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered over with silt. This is just the beginning of this kind of work.”

Click here for the complete article and photos.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Colossal Statue of Amenhotep III is Unearthed

A second of a pair of fallen statues of Amenhotep III ~ King Tut's grandfather ~ has been revealed at the tomb where he was buried. The statues probably toppled during an earthquake and are the only preserved examples of their size, reaching an estimated height of 59 feet.

One alabaster statue shows the Pharoah seated and wearing a Nemes headdress, a pleated kilt and a royal beard. The Nemes headdress is the striped cloth that drapes down behind a pharaoh's ears and over his shoulders.

The pair was discovered at Kom el-Hettan, on the west bank of Luxor. The statue is located in the passageway leading to the funerary temple's third gate, or pylon, some 656 feet behind the Colossi of Memnon, which guarded the first gate.

The statue pair are unique in their well-carved alabaster, according to Hourig Sourouzian, mission leader of the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project. The stone, hewn in the quarries of Hatnub in Middle Egypt, was rarely used for such colossal statues.

Click here for the complete article.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Update on Search for Genghis Khan Tomb

Armed with technologically advanced digital imaging gear, researchers have completed their second year of searching for the hidden tomb of Genghis Khan and are expected to announce their search results by the end of 2011.Twice as many researchers were involved in the second year effort, which covered several months of 2010.

According to Past
Genghis Khan asked to be buried without markings and after he died, his body was returned to Mongolia and presumably to his birthplace in the Khentii Aimag. Many people assume he is buried somewhere close to the Onon River. According to legend, the funeral escort killed anything that crossed their path in order to conceal where he was finally buried. After the tomb was completed, the slaves who built it were put to death, and then the soldiers who killed them were themselves killed.
Click here for the complete article and an 8-minute video on the search effort.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sling Bullets Sometimes Bore Insults

Slingshot bullets recovered from the battlefields of Egypt, Greece and Rome often carried inscriptions designed to add insult to injury, according to archaeologist Amanda Kelly, a classics professor at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Slings ~ also known as sphendonetai ~ have been used in warfare from the Persian Wars and the endless fighting between Greek city states to Alexander the Great's campaigns and the Roman conquest of Britain. Julius Caesar said they were particularly useful against war elephants despite being a low-class division of light infantry, said Kelly.

According to
Some bullets were marked with personalized images any soldier could recognise such as bovine heads. Others were more elaborate, bearing the names of army generals, cities or the blacksmiths who cast them in lead. And quite often, the missiles packed a verbal as well as a physical punch.
"Perhaps the most unexpected element is the humor involved," Kelly said. She cited examples of Athenian sling bullets that read "Take that" or Cypriot versions saying "This is yours." More advanced taunts speak of male genitalia, impregnation and other sexual references.

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hieroglyphic Stairway is Focus of More Research

A section of the Guzman stairway at El Palmar.

Ancient Mayan writing continues to intrigue modern researchers and is now believed ~ through the use of magnificent pieces of art ~ to have been an important social act by which new kings established their place in their culture’s lineage.

The Maya told the stories of their parents, ancestors, founders, foes, captured enemies and military alliances on a variety of edifices, according to a recent National Geographic article, referring to Mayan writing as “ a unique feature of this culture that along with the perfection of their calendar has intrigued and mystified the world.”

It also states:
After the Classic period, there is a regional hiatus in writing, commemorative dates and construction.  This initially led to the notion of the Maya “Collapse”.  A term that has created more confusion than clarification since it implies the disappearance of a culture, but the Maya people never disappeared, and the term rather addresses a dissolution of government and society.  Although we still don’t know much about the causes of the “collapse”, the following Post-Classic period, dated between 900-1200 AD, was a time of major change. 
Much of the article refers to the recently discovered Guzman hieroglyphic stairway at El Palmar in Campeche, Mexico. The pyramid that holds the stairway was built between the 7th and 8th Centuries AD and a few decades after its construction a total of 90 blocks containing Maya glyphs were added, creating a stairway of six steps leading to a temple on top of the pyramid.

Click here for the complete article.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sodom Search Shifts to North of Dead Sea

New focus for finding Sodom is on an area northeast of the Dead Sea.

Scientists in search of the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are shifting their attention to the north side of the Dead Sea, based on new interpretations of the Biblical text. According to Popular Archaeology, attention has focused on “Zoar” as mentioned in Genesis 13:10. Using Zoar as their operative word, many scholars sought Zoar, but turned up nothing.
What is now emerging as the most promising new prospect for Sodom, according to a number of scholars, is a site called Tall el-Hammam located approximately 14 kilometers northeast of the Dead Sea in the fertile southern Jordan River Valley of Jordan. Nestled among lush agricultural fields, it is a mound (or Tall) that rises conspicuously from a ground space encompassing one square kilometer, a very large site by any comparison. Dr. Steven Collins of Trinity Southwest University began research related to Sodom by carefully examining the biblical text in Genesis, along with geographic study and intense, broad-based archaeological surveys. All indicators brought him to the location of Tall el-Hammam.
 "If rigorous scholarship and responsible, objective archaeology confirm a link between Tall el-Hammam and Sodom or other possible biblical associations, then so be it,” Collins says. “If the same approach suggests that such connections are not warranted, then so be it. But we must not hide from the possibilities because of bias one way or the other.”

Click here for the complete article and video.