Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why Did Stone Age Brits Convert to Farming?

Archaeologists are investigating islands around Britain in an attempt to settle debate about why the isles’ hunter-gatherers converted to farming about 6,000 years ago. The issue is whether the change was due to colonists moving into Britain or if the indigenous population adopted an agricultural lifestyle themselves.

According to the Independent:
The experts will be excavating three island groups in the western seaways ~ the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly and the Outer Hebrides ~ to understand what sailing across this area would have been like in 4,000 BC.
Fraser Sturt, from the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, said: "How people changed from hunter-gatherers to agricultural lifestyles is one of the big questions in archaeology. We know that the first signs of domestication occurred in the Middle East around 10,000 BC and reached France by 5,000 BC. However, it appears to be another 1,000 years before Neolithic farming activities reached Britain."
"We are investigating why this happened by looking at changing social practices, possible environmental impacts and the nature of maritime technology and communication."
Recent discovery of French pottery in Scotland suggests that colonization from the continent is a possible explanation for the shift. Studies show that the first colonists are likely to have travelled across the western seaways, but there has been very little excavation of the islands to prove this theory.

Click here for the complete article.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Search Intensifies in Dardanalles for Lost City

The submerged city likely predates the ruins of Troy.

An archeological team has discovered a trove of ceramics and pottery estimated to be 7,000 years old in the vicinity of Erenkoy, on the Turkish shore. As a result, a search has intensified for a lost city submerged in the Dardanalles Strait.

According to National Turk:
The lost city lies in the sea floor in the Aegean entrance of the strait on the shores of Europen side. The professor said the pottery indicates the city is from around 5000 BC. “We believe the civilizations on the shores of Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits had been buried under water,” he said. “This latest mound discovered is also 90% under water and gives significant hints of the sea levels then.” 
The lost city would be older than Troy. The latest discovery of the ancient city is as important as the ongoing digs in the Marmaray Project in Istanbul, the historians and scientists state.

Click here for the article.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mystery 'Wheels' Seen Only from High Above

Some of the wheels in Jordan's desert.

Thousands of mysterious ancient “geoglyphs” ~ similar in construction to Peru’s famous Nazca lines ~ have been found in the Middle East with the help of satellite-mapping technologies and aerial photography. According to
Referred to by archaeologists as "wheels," these stone structures have a wide variety of designs, with a common one being a circle with spokes radiating inside. Researchers believe that they date back to antiquity, at least 2,000 years ago. They are often found on lava fields and range from 82 feet to 230 feet (25 meters to 70 meters) across. 
"In Jordan alone we've got stone-built structures that are far more numerous than (the) Nazca Lines, far more extensive in the area that they cover, and far older," said David Kennedy, a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia.  
Some of the wheels are found in isolation while others are clustered together. At one location, near the Azraq Oasis, hundreds of them can be found clustered into a dozen groups. "Some of these collections around Azraq are really quite remarkable," Kennedy said.
His research reveals that these wheels are part of a variety of stone landscapes, including stone structures used for killing animals, lines of stone cairns that run from burials, and a number of strange structures that meander across the landscape for up to several hundred feet and have no apparent practical use. 

Click here for the complete article and a photo gallery.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

An Inca Written Language: Yes or No?

Machu Picchu as Bingham first encountered it in 1911.
When the Yale University history lecturer Hiram Bingham III encountered the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru 100 years ago, on July 24, 1911, archaeologists and explorers around the world (including Bingham himself) were stunned, having never come across a written reference to the imperial stone city. Of course, the absence of such historical records was in itself no great surprise. The Inca, a technologically sophisticated culture that assembled the largest empire in the Western Hemisphere, have long been considered the only major Bronze Age civilization that failed to develop a system of writing—a puzzling shortcoming that nowadays is called the "Inca Paradox."
The Incas never developed the arch, either—another common hallmark of civilization—yet the temples of Machu Picchu, built on a rainy mountain ridge atop two fault lines, still stand after more than 500 years while the nearby city of Cusco has been leveled twice by earthquakes. The Inca equivalent of the arch was a trapezoidal shape tailored to meet the engineering needs of their seismically unstable homeland. Likewise, the Incas developed a unique way to record information, a system of knotted cords called khipus (sometimes spelled quipus). In recent years, the question of whether these khipus were actually a method of three-dimensional writing that met the Incas' specific needs has become one of the great unsolved mysteries of the Andes.
To continue reading, click here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ancient Chinese Statue Continues to Baffle

Curators and scholars continue to puzzle over an 11-inch-high burial figure that appears to be seated in a side-saddle position with a cloth draped across his face.

According to the Wall Street Journal:
Made in China during the latter part of the eighth century, this unusual Tang dynasty burial figure today sits on a shelf in the Museo di Arte Orientale (MAO) of Turin, Italy, exuding as much mystery as he does energy. To date, nobody can say exactly who or what he is—his clothes, his pose, his expression don't add up. Even his manufacture is atypical: While almost all other known burial statuettes are hollow and cast in molds, this one is solid clay and appears to have been sculpted by hand. 
 For the moment, MAO has him down as "a Persian riding a camel or a horse," says Marco Guglielminotti Trivel, MAO's curator of East Asian art. And this is plausible enough. Formerly owned by the Agnelli Foundation, the figure's eyes are rounded, his nose aquiline, and though most figurines show a male rider straddling his mount, sidesaddle is not unheard of. The raised fists, Mr. Guglielminotti notes, might have held reins, while the face cover—as well as a flap of cloth over the back of his neck—would have protected against wind, sun and sand. 
Not everyone agrees. Marcello Pacini, who acquired the statue at auction some 20 years ago for the Agnelli Foundation, says: "I have never seen a rider with such intensity in his eyes. His is the expression of a priest honoring a god, not that of a camel rider facing some banal complication." He thinks the mystery man may be a Zoroastrian priest feeding the sacred fire.

For the complete article, click here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Greek's Oracles Relied on Nature's Signs

"Priestess of Delphi," 1891, John Collier.

Oracles in ancient Greece relied greatly on natural phenomena ~ sounds, smells, the rustling of leaves ~ to glean information regarding the fate of individuals and nations alike. According to an article in the Greek journal,
Unlike fortunetellers today … ancient soothsayers dealt less with making specific predictions about the future than offering assurances that particular decisions were correct or incorrect or that the gods looked favorably or unfavorably upon particular actions. Ancient augury took many forms, including the reading of flights of birds and the examination of sacrificial animals’ livers or other internal organs. Sometimes right and wrong, or favor and disfavor, were determined through the casting of lots -- like the rolling of dice today. Colored pebbles or animal bones (including pigs’ “knucklebones”) were commonly used in these divinations.  
More formal, highly ritualized prophetic practices also took place in or beside certain ancient Greek temples. Among the gods associated with oracles and prophesies were Apollo and Zeus, whose sanctuaries at Delphi and Dodona were well-known in Greek lands and elsewhere in the Mediterranean world for their priests’ and priestesses’ strange abilities to convey divine pronouncements.
Click here for the complete article.