Saturday, December 25, 2010

Magi Revelations Translated from Ancient Text

The first English translation of a 1,700-year-old text ~ Revelation of the Magi ~ contends that Jesus told the Magi he has come to earth many times.

"Christ tells them, 'This is one of many occasions on which I have appeared to the peoples of the world,'" Brent Landau, teacher of Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told ABC News. "So this text may even be saying that there are no non-Christian religions because Christ is the revelation behind everything."

Landau ~ author of The Revelations of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem ~ hypothesizes that the text is a sort of lost message about them from an early Christian community. "I think the thing that stunned me the most was what it seemed to be suggesting about the scope of Christ's revelation, if you will," he said.

The original text tells of the Magi’s trip to Bethlehem, probably along the Spice Road from China, and finding the infant in a cave. "The cave is filled with light," Landau said, describing the transcribed text. "They're kind of hesitant about this, but eventually the star...its light concentrates and reveals the small luminous human being, a star child, if you will ~ it's Christ."

Click here for the article that elaborates on the video above.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mayan Temples Could Have Been Amplifiers

Temples in the northern section of Palenque ruins.

Ancient Mayan buildings may have been design to amplify sounds to either enthrall or disorient audiences. Temples at the Mayan city of Palenque in central Mexico, for example, might have formed a kind of acoustic public-address system, projecting sound across great distances, according to a team led by archaeologist Francisca Zalaquett of the Unisersidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.

According to National Geographic:
Zalaquett's team recently discovered that Palenque's Northern Group of public squares and temples—built around roughly A.D. 600—is especially good at projecting the human voice as well as sounds like those that would have been made by musical instruments found at the site. 
Performers and priests may have stood atop these temples or in specialized projection rooms, which still exist, to broadcast songs and chants throughout the squares. The Maya are known to have to held public rites to commemorate enthronements, births of nobles, and war victories as well as to honor deities, Zalaquett said. 
The acoustics may have even been purposely enhanced by the strategic application of stucco coatings, Zalaquett's findings suggest. Measurements at some of the buildings still bearing stucco suggest it may have changed the absorption and reflection of sounds.

Click here for the complete article.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Older Chinese Town May Lie Beneath Ancient One

Ceramic tiles recovered in 2003 from the 2,000-year-old site.

Archaeologists are hoping that sediment from a Yellow River flood has preserved a buried town as well as it did a smaller one discovered in 2003 in Sanyangzhuang in central China. The discovery in 2003 included four walled houses, wells, toilets, ponds and trees, all dating back more than 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty.

Efforts now are focused also on evidence of an even older agricultural field lying deeper than the 2003 discovery, plus the possibility of an even older and larger town buried about two miles away. “If these are preserved in the same way the houses are, it would really turn out to be a staggering development,” says Tristram Kidder of Washington University.

According to Discover News, the 2003 find was buried intact by 28 inches of flood sediments, which formed a protective layer over the village. Kidder thinks massive flooding from the Yellow River hit so quickly that people left behind everything, from large grinding stones to tiny coins.

Click here for the article.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pompeii Skeletons Point to Earlier Syphilis

Erotic scene from a Pompeii fresco.

Ongoing examination of a group of skeletons dating to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD is revealing considerable new information about early Roman life in Pompeii. The skeletons are the remains of a group of about 50 Pompeii residents who tried to escape the eruption by hiding in a basement storeroom filled with pomegranates.

Among the new findings are that syphilis likely existed in Pompeii, which overturns the previous belief that the disease was unknown in Europe before it was transmitted in the late 1400s by Columbus’s sailors.

Also, the skeletons show that people were taller than earlier believed and that their lifespans were longer.

Click here for the complete BBC article plus some videos.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Area of Early Civilization Now Beneath Persian Gulf?

Now submerged area may be where moderns first interacted with Neanderthals.

Land now submerged under the Persian Gulf may have supported some of the earliest humans outside Africa some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago. The floodplain now under water would have been about the size of Great Britain, shrinking as water flooded the area. Then, about 8,000 years ago, the land would have been swallowed up by the Indian Ocean, researchers now say.

A new research study, detailed in the December issue of the journal Current Anthropology, has broad implications for aspects of human history. According to
For instance, scientists have debated over when early modern humans exited Africa, with dates as early as 125,000 years ago and as recent as 60,000 years ago (the more recent date is the currently accepted paradigm), according to study researcher Jeffrey Rose, an archaeologist at the University of Birmingham in the U.K.
"I think Jeff's theory is bold and imaginative, and hopefully will shake things up," Robert Carter of Oxford Brookes University in the U.K. told LiveScience. "It would completely rewrite our understanding of the out-of-Africa migration. It is far from proven, but Jeff and others will be developing research programs to test the theory. 
Viktor Cerny of the Archaeogenetics Laboratory, the Institute of Archaeology, in Prague, called Rose's finding an "excellent theory," in an email to LiveScience, though he also points out the need for more research to confirm it.
"Given the presence of Neanderthal communities in the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates River, as well as in the eastern Mediterranean region, this may very well have been the contact zone between moderns and Neanderthals," Rose told LiveScience.

Click here for the complete article.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Arabic Island Site Reveals Early Christianity

Portion of the island's Christian-settlement dig site.

Remains of a Christian monastery and church on Sir Bani Yas Island in the Arabian Gulf, believed to have been settled around 600 AD by a community of 40 monks, is now open to the public. Unearthed in the early 1990s, the site has valuable historical and religious significance.

"Twenty years ago, we had no idea that Christians came this far south and east in the Arabian Gulf," Dr Joseph Elders, the project's archaeological director, who began excavating the site nearly two decades ago, told The National. "This shows that Christianity had penetrated far further than we thought before. We don't have many monasteries from this period."

The monastery complex, a multi-building compound located on the eastern side of the 87-square-kilometre island, is the only pre-Islamic Christian site known in the UAE. Discovered in 1992 during an archaeological survey, the monastery is believed to have been an important destination for pilgrims travelling along a trade route to India.

"We think quite a lot of visitors came to the monastery," said Dr Elders. "These people wanted to be visited."

Christianity spread throughout the Gulf between the years 50 and 350, following the trade routes. The inhabitants of the 7th-century settlement probably belonged to the Nestorian Church, or Church of the East. Researchers believe the wealthy community was made up of a mixture of people from along the Gulf, and local residents who spoke Syriac and Arabic.

Click here for the complete article.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ballgame Park Likely Mentioned in Sacred Book

A section of the Tonina Ballgame court.

A ritual ballgame park in the Mayan city of Tonina ~ today known as Chiapas in Mexico ~ is likely the one described 1,500 years ago in the sacred book of the Mayas, the Popol Vuh. Newest evidence is the discovery of two scuptures there in the shapes of serpent’s heads and used as part of the ballgame.

Discovery of the two sculptures brings to four similar objects that have appeared since 1992, all of them in Palacio del Inframundo (Underworld Palace), at the Acropolis of Tonina. 

Archaeologist Juan Yadeun Angulo, responsible for the Tonina Archaeological Project, told “With this discovery, the Tonina Ballgame court, 70 meters long, becomes the only example in Mexico of how these ritual spaces were in the Classic period (200-900 AD), whose scoreboards were animal-shaped monuments.”

According to Yadeun, sculptures of snake heads were attached to the lateral walls of the court until 688 AD, representing the myth mentioned in Popol Vuh regarding astral movement, specifically the equinoxes, solstices and the Ecliptic, which is the orbit described by the Earth in its movement around the Sun.

Click here for the complete article.

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.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Demise of Mystery Legion May Have Been Mundane

Rome’s legendary Ninth Legion ~ Legio IX Hispana, or the “Spanish Legion” ~ was one of the oldest and most feared units in the Roman army by the 2nd century AD. Raised by Pompey in 65 BC, it fought victorious campaigns from Gaul to Africa, Sicily to and Spain, and Germania to Britain.

But sometime after 108 AD, the legion disappeared from the records. The popular version of events is that the Ninth ~ numbering some 4,000 men ~ was sent to vanquish the Picts of modern day Scotland and mysteriously never returned.

According to Heritage Key:
The real explanation is very likely much more mundane ~ the unit was probably either simply disbanded, or continued to serve elsewhere, before finally being destroyed at another battle some years later. The myth, as is so often the case, tends to overshadow the truth.
Legio IX Hispana was put together in Spain alongside the Sixth, Seventh and Eight Legions in 65 BC, and first came under the command of Julius Caesar then the Governor of Further Spain, in 61 BC.
Expert at inspiring loyalty in his troops, he found one of his most devoted veteran armies in the Ninth. Although no record of the legion’s emblem exists, we can deduce that it was probably a bull, like all of Caesar’s faithful legions.
It served in Gaul throughout the Gallic Wars from 58-51 BC, and during Caesar’s Civil War against Pompey and the Senate from 49-48 BC. Victory at Pharsalus was decisive in ensuring Caesar’s ultimate grip on the Republic, and the Ninth played a key role. He repaid its service by ~ after his African campaign of 46 BC, and ultimate triumph at the Battle of Thapsus ~ disbanding the legion, and settling its veterans at Picenum and Histria.
The one certainty is that Legio IX Hispana had been disbanded or wiped out altogether by the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180), because a listing of active legions by that Emperor makes no mention of the Ninth.

Click here for the complete article.

Archaeologists to Explore 5,000-Year-Old Tomb

The tomb near Maghere resembles a pile of rocks.

Collapse of Tirnony Dolmen near Maghera in Northern Ireland is creating a rare opportunity for archaeologists to explore a portal tomb that lies beneath ~ and determine exactly how old it is.

Normally portal tombs, which are among the oldest built structures still standing in Northern Ireland, are off limits to excavators and must be preserved. But after the massive capstone of this portal tomb fell to the ground earlier this year, archaeologists will be able to uncover the secrets it has held for millennia before repairs are carried out.

Tirnony Dolmen is between 5,000 and 6,000 years old, according to Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIIEA) archaeologist Paul Logue.

“After standing in Northern Ireland weather for over 5,000 years some of the tomb’s structural stones have begun to crack, causing the capstone to slip,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “Before we start to repair the tomb we will excavate it to ensure that the archaeological material associated with it is recorded ahead of restoration work.”

“When the tomb was first built it would have been used for interring the bones of selected members of the local stone age community,” he explained. “This could have included men and women, young and old. Finds from inside similar tombs include pottery and flint tools, possibly left as grave goods for use by the dead in the afterlife. We hope to find out more about how this tomb was built, when it was built and how it was used.”

Click here for the complete article.

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Evidence For Big Pre-Columbian Civilization

One of the depressions near Santarém, possibly an ancient reservoir.

Pre-Columbian Indian societies that once lived in the Amazon rainforests may have been much larger and more advanced than researchers previously realized, according to archaeologists from Brazil. Working with archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg, the team has located the remains of approximately 90 settlements in an area near the city of Santarém in the Brazilian part of the Amazon.

“The most surprising thing is that many of these settlements are a long way from rivers, and are located in rainforest areas that extremely sparsely populated today,” says Per Stenborg from the Department of Historical Studies, who led the Swedish part of the archaeological investigations in the area over the summer.

According to BioScholar:
Traditionally archaeologists have thought that these inland areas were sparsely populated also before the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th and 17th centuries. One reason for this assumption is that the soils found in the inland generally is quite infertile; another reason is that access to water is poor during dry periods as these areas are situated at long distances from the major watercourses. 
It has therefore been something of a mystery that the earliest historical account; from Spaniard Francisco de Orellana’s journey along the River Amazon in 1541-42, depicted the Amazon as a densely populated region with what the Spanish described as “towns,” situated not only along the river itself, but also in the inland. 
The archaeologists have come across areas of very fertile soil scattered around the otherwise infertile land. These soils are not natural, but have been created by humans.

“Just as importantly, we found round depressions in the landscape, some as big as a hundred metres in diameter, by several of the larger settlements,” says Stenborg. “These could be the remains of water reservoirs, built to secure water supply during dry periods.”

Click here for the complete article.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bacteria Causing 'Black Death' Conclusively Found

Anthropologists at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have determined that the Yersinia pestis bacteria caused the Black Death that raged across Europe in the Middle Ages. Cause of the epidemic has remained highly controversial and other pathogens were often named as possible causes, in particular for northern Europe.

 Using DNA and protein analyses from skeletons of plague victims, an international team led by the scientists from Mainz has now conclusively shown that Yersinia pestis was responsible for the Black Death in the 14th century and the subsequent epidemics that continued to erupt throughout the European continent for the next 400 years.

"Our findings indicate that the plague traveled to Europe over at least two channels, which then went their own individual ways," explains Dr. Barbara Bramanti from the Institute of Anthropology of Mainz University.

Click here for the complete article.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Breadmaking Goes Back 30,000 Years

Starch grains found on 30,000-year-old grinding stones indicate prehistoric man ate an early form of flat bread, contrary to his popular image as primarily a meat-eater. The new findings show that Palaeolithic people ground plant roots similar to potatoes to make flour, which was then made into dough.

"It's like a flat bread, like a pancake with just water and flour," Laura Longo of the Italian Institute of Prehistory and Early History told Reuters News. "You make a kind of pita and cook it on the hot stone."

The result was "crispy like a cracker but not very tasty," she added.

The grinding stones ~ each of which fit comfortably into an adult's palm ~ were discovered at archaeological sites in Italy, Russia and the Czech Republic. Researchers said their findings throw mankind's first known use of flour farther back some 10,000 years. The previously oldest evidence had been found in Israel on 20,000 year-old grinding stones.

The findings may also upset fans of the Paleolithic diet, which follows earlier research that assumes early humans ate a meat-centered diet.

Click here for the complete article.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swiss Door May Go Back 5,100 Years

Archaeologists have discovered a 5,100-year-old poplar wood door in Zurich, Switzerland. Researchers believe it was made in 3063 BC and may be one of the oldest ever found in Europe.

It has well-preserved hinges and is "remarkable because of the way the planks were held together,” said chief archaeologist Niels Bleicher, who used tree rings to determine the age of the door. It was likely built around the time construction began on Britain's renowned Stonehenge monument.

"It's a clever design that even looks good,” Bleicher said. It resembles another door found in nearby Pfaeffikon. A third door unearthed in the 19th century ~ made from one solid piece of wood thought to be even older ~ possibly dates back to 3700 BC, Bleicher said.

Click here for the article.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Data Contradicts Mayan Calendar End Date

The Mayan Long Count calendar likely doesn’t end on December 21, 2012  ~ the date hyped by many apocalyptic thinkers ~ according to new research into the technique for translating the ancient calendar into Gregorian calendar years.

The research also contends that the actual end date of the Mayan calendar is essentially unknown within at least a 100-year span. In fact, the Mayan calendar may have already ended.

According to LiveScience:
A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. That would throw the supposed and overhyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into doubt the dates of historical Mayan events. (The doomsday worries are based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, much as our year ends on Dec. 31.) 
The Mayan calendar was converted to today's Gregorian calendar using a calculation called the GMT constant, named for the last initials of three early Mayanist researchers. Much of the work emphasized dates recovered from colonial documents that were written in the Mayan language in the Latin alphabet, according to the chapter's author, Gerardo Aldana, professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California.
Later, the GMT constant was bolstered by American linguist and anthropologist Floyd Lounsbury, who used data in the Dresden Codex Venus Table, a Mayan calendar and almanac that charts dates relative to the movements of Venus.
"He took the position that his work removed the last obstacle to fully accepting the GMT constant," Aldana said in a statement. "Others took his work even further, suggesting that he had proven the GMT constant to be correct." But according to Aldana, Lounsbury's evidence is far from irrefutable.

Click here for the complete article.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Unknown Bronze Age Civilization is Discovered

Site ancient settlement high in Caucasus Mountains.

Researchers have discovered traces of a previously unknown Bronze Age civilization in the peaks of Russia's Caucasus Mountains, using aerial photographs taken 40 years ago.

"We have discovered a civilization dating from the 16th to the 14th centuries BC, high in the mountains south of Kislovodsk," Andrei Belinsky, the head of a joint Russian-German expedition that has been investigating the region for five years, told AFP.

He said researchers had discovered stone foundations, some up to 3.3 feet high, at nearly 200 sites, all "visibly constructed according to the same architectural plan, with an oval courtyard in the centre, and connected by roads."

The decorations and forms of bronze items found in the area indicate the civilization is linked to the Kuban civilization, which was discovered at the end of the 19th century at the foot of Mount Kazbek and is known for its artistic bronze works.

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Far From Brutes, Neanderthals Had Compassion

Neanderthal reconstruction in Prehistoric Museum of Halle, Germany.

New research indicates Neanderthals displayed “a deep seated sense of compassion” and were not the dumb brutes often depicted in archaeological lore.

“Compassion is perhaps the most fundamental human emotion,” researcher Penny Spikins of the University of York tells Discovery News. “It binds us together and can inspire us but it is also fragile and elusive. This apparent fragility makes addressing the evidence for the development of compassion in our most ancient ancestors a unique challenge, yet the archaeological record has an important story to tell about the prehistory of compassion."

Based on fossils, artifacts and other evidence, the scientists propose a four-stage model for the development of human compassion:
The first stage began six million years ago, according to the scientists, when the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees experienced the initial awakenings of an empathy for others and motivation to help them, perhaps with a gesture of comfort, or moving a branch to allow them to pass.
The second stage from 1.8 million years ago sees compassion in Homo erectus beginning to be regulated as an emotion integrated with rational thought. Care of sick individuals represented an extensive compassionate investment while the emergence of special treatment of the dead suggested grief at the loss of a loved one and a desire to soothe others feelings, the researchers conclude.
The third stage, based on findings from Europe between around 500,000 and 40,000 years ago, sees humans such as Homo heidelbergensis and Neanderthals developing deep-seated commitments to the welfare of others illustrated by a long adolescence and a dependence on hunting together. There is also archaeological evidence of the routine care of the injured or infirm over extended periods. These include the remains of a child with a congenital brain abnormality who was not abandoned, but lived until five or six years old. The researchers also note that there was a Neanderthal with a withered arm, deformed feet and blindness in one eye who must have been cared for, perhaps for as long as twenty years.
In the fourth stage, the scientists say modern humans starting 120,000 years ago extended compassion to strangers, animals, objects and abstract concepts. 
“We have traditionally paid a lot of attention to how early humans thought about each other,” Spikins adds, “but it may well be time to pay rather more attention to whether or not they ‘cared.’”

Click here for the complete Discovery News article.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rare Statue of Amenhotep is Unearthed

Part of a statue of King Amenhotep III, believed to be King Tutankhamun’s grandfather, has been unearthed, Egypt's Ministry of Culture announced on Saturday. 
The 4-by-3-foot red granite statue depicts the Egyptian pharaoh wearing the double crown of Egypt, which is decorated with a sacred asp. The king is seated on a throne next to the Theban god Amun.

The ninth ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Amenhotep III (1390-1352 B.C.), reigned for 38 years during a time when Egypt was at the height of prosperity and cultural development. His mummy was found in 1898 in a tomb dubbed KV35 by French Egyptologist Victor Loret.

The statue is one of the best new finds in the area because of its expert craftsmanship," according to Zahi Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said in a statement.

Click here for the complete article.

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Report Dispels Clovis Comet-Destruction Theory

There simply is no evidence that a comet created a cataclysm that wiped out the Clovis people, the earliest known culture in North America, according to two archaeologists who have studied the situation.

Archaeologists David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University and Vance Holliday of the University of Arizona argue that there is nothing in the archaeological record to suggest an abrupt collapse of Clovis populations.

“Whether or not the proposed extraterrestrial impact occurred is a matter for empirical testing in the geological record,” they write in the October issued of Current Anthropology magazine. “In so far as concerns the archaeological record, an extraterrestrial impact is an unnecessary solution for an archaeological problem that does not exist.”

According to
The comet theory first emerged in 2007 when a team of scientists announced evidence of a large extraterrestrial impact that occurred about 12,900 years ago. The impact was said to have caused a sudden cooling of the North American climate, killing off mammoths and other megafauna.
It could also explain the apparent disappearance of the Clovis people, whose characteristic spear points vanish from the archaeological record shortly after the supposed impact. As evidence for the rapid Clovis depopulation, comet theorists point out that very few Clovis archaeological sites show evidence of human occupation after the Clovis. 
At the few sites that do, Clovis and post-Clovis artifacts are separated by archaeologically sterile layers of sediments, indicating a time gap between the civilizations. In fact, comet theorists argue, there seems to be a dead zone in the human archaeological record in North America beginning with the comet impact and lasting about 500 years.
But Meltzer and Holliday argue that a lack of later human occupation at Clovis sites is no reason to assume a population collapse. “Single-occupation Paleoindian sites ~ Clovis or post-Clovis ~ are the norm,” Holliday said. That's because many Paleoindian sites are hunting kill sites, and it would be highly unlikely for kills to be made repeatedly in the exact same spot.

Click here for the complete article.
More discussion of the issue on blog.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Early Roman Temple to Mithras Discovered in France

Early depiction of Mithras killing a bull.
Archaeologists excavating at Angers, France, have discovered the remains of a temple ~ dating to the third century AD ~ dedicated to the Indo-Iranian god Mithras. In the temple sanctuary, a typical bas-relief of the god Mithras wearing his Phrygian cap shows him slaughtering a bull ~ the so-called tauroctony. The depiction was intentionally damaged in ancient times, possibly by early Christians trying to suppress the pagan cult.

According to the London Independent:
The earliest evidence of occupation at the 9,000 square meter excavation site is dated to about 10 BC. It is believed the cult of Mithras was brought to the Roman Empire by soldiers coming from the East at the end of the first century AD.
Mithraism, a religion exclusive to men, first became popular with the elite, but quickly spread through all layers of society. Later it became known as a soldier's cult. Shrines dedicated to Mithras are most often found at the borders of the Roman Empire, where large amounts of troops were stationed. 
With the rise of Christianity, the worship of Mithras came under severe attack. Roman Emperor Theodosius banned the Mithriac mysteries in 392, along with all other pagan religions.

Click here for the complete article.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Aborigines May Have Been First to Settle Americas

Australian Aborigines on Botany Bay by Arthur Phillip, 1790.

Scientists now say there is compelling evidence that two different populations first colonized the Americas, the earliest being Australian Aborigines over 11,000 years ago.

Cranial features distinctive to Australian Aborigines are present in hundreds of skulls uncovered in Central and South America, according to evolutionary biologist Walter Neves of the University of São Paulo.

The second population to arrive ~ up to now regarded as the first migration to the Americas ~ was humans of East and North Asian origin who entered the Americas from Siberia across the Bering Strait and founded modern Native American populations, he argues. It has been believed that these Asian people spread steadily southward to eventually populate Central and South America as well.

“The results suggest a clear biological affinity between the early South Americans and the South Pacific population,” Neves says. “This association allowed for the conclusion that the Americas were occupied before the spreading of the classical Mongoloid morphology in Asia.”

According to Cosmos magazine:
Until about a decade ago, the dominant theory in American archaeology circles was that the 'Clovis people' ~ whose culture is defined by the stone tools they used to kill megafauna such as mammoths ~ was the first population to arrive in the Americas. 
They were thought to have crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia into Alaska at the end of the last Ice Age, some 10,000 or so years ago, following herds of megafauna across a land bridge created as water was locked up in glaciers and ice sheets.
But in the late 1990s, Neves and his colleagues re-examined a female skeleton that had been excavated in the 1970s in an extensive cave system in Central Brazil known as Lapa Vermelha. Dubbed Luzia, the skeleton is between 11,000 and 11,400 years old. “We believe she is the oldest skeleton in the Americas,” Neves said.

Click here for the complete article.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pyramid "Grid" May Be Key to Construction

Bryn's drawings may unlock pyramid's construction secrets.

According to a Norwegian architect, researchers have been so preoccupied by the weight of the stones comprising Egypt’s ancient pyramids that they’ve overlooked two major problems: How did the Egyptians know exactly where to put the enormously heavy building blocks, and how was the master architect able to communicate highly precise plans to a workforce of 10,000 illiterate men?

These were among the questions that confronted Ole J. Bryn, an architect and associate professor of Architecture and Fine Art with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology when he began examining Khufu's Great Pyramid in Giza. Khufu's pyramid ~ better known as the Pyramid of Cheops ~ consists of 2.3 million limestone blocks weighing roughly 7 million tons. At 146.6 meters high, it held the record as the tallest structure ever built for nearly 4,000 years.

According to ScienceDaily:
What Bryn discovered was quite simple. He believes that the Egyptians invented the modern building grid, by separating the structure's measuring system from the physical building itself, thus introducing tolerance, as it is called in today's engineering and architectural professions.
Bryn has studied the plans from the thirty oldest Egyptian pyramids, and discovered a precision system that made it possible for the Egyptians to reach the pyramid's last and highest point, the apex point, with an impressive degree of accuracy. By exploring and making a plan of the pyramid it is possible to prepare modern project documentation of not just one, but all pyramids from any given period.
As long as the architect knows the main dimensions of a pyramid, he can project the building as he would have done it with a modern building, but with building methods and measurements known from the ancient Egypt, Bryn says.
If the principles behind Bryn's drawings are correct, according to ScienceDaily, then archaeologists will have a new "map" that demonstrates that the pyramids are not a "bunch of heavy rocks with unknown structures" but, rather, incredibly precise structures.

Click here for the complete article.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

King Herod's Private Theater Box is Located

Frescos found in the once-extravagant theater in Herod's palace.

Archaeologists in the Judean desert have excavated a lavish, private theater box in King Herod's winter palace. The room provides further proof of Herod’s thirst for extravagance, say the archaeologists from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Herod was ruler of the Holy Land under Roman occupation from 37 to 4 B.C. He is known for his extensive building throughout the area, including the 400-seat theater where his private box was found.

Herod commissioned Roman artists to decorate the theater walls with elaborate paintings and plaster moldings around 15 B.C. Upper portions feature paintings of windows overlooking a river and a seascape with a large sailboat.

Click here for the Associated Press article.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Another 37 Ancient Tombs Found Near Pellas

Greek archaeologists last week announced discovery of 37 ancient tombs dating back to the Iron Age in a cemetery near the ancient Macedonian capital of Pellas.

Discoveries at the site included a bronze helmet with a gold mouthplate (shown at right), weapons and jewelry in the tomb of a warrior from the 6th century BC.

The newly discovered tombs brings the total to about 1,000 tombs ~ dating from 650 BC to 280 BC ~ discovered in the area since archaeological work began in 2000. The tombs contain iron swords, spears and daggers, as well as vases, pottery and jewelry of gold, silver and iron.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Temple to Athena Nike Now Restored

The temple during the restoration process.

The Greek temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis is now fully restored, following a decade-long facelift. Built between 427–424 B.C. ~ while Athens was fighting Sparta for control of the Greek world ~ the building was dedicated to the city's patron goddess Athena in her capacity to bring victory in battle.

 According to the Associated Press, the compact temple survived intact until the late 17th century, when it was demolished to provide material for a gun emplacement. It was rebuilt after Greece's independence from Ottoman rule in 1829.
Athena Nike had two dates with restoration crews over the last two centuries — one in 1935, another in the 1830s — and the latest top–to–bottom refurbishment was aimed to fix mistakes from previous restoration efforts for good. 
"We have used the latest technology, following successful experimentation with stress and aging," project head Dionysia Mihalopoulou told the Associated Press. "The choice and use of materials was the best possible, they will not corrode." 
Starting in 2000, workers took down 315 marble sections weighing up to 2–1/2 tons, laying bare a concrete foundation slab that was replaced by a stainless steel grid. Crews replaced the concrete additions with sections of new marble from ancient quarry sites ~ whose brilliant white contrasts with the old stone's patina in places like the walls and columns to make clear they are modern additions. 
Every block was returned to the original position selected by the temple's ancient architects.

Click here for the Associated Press article.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tetracycline Found in Ancient Nubian Mummies

Ancient Egyptian depiction of royal beer drinking.

Africa’s ancient Nubians were using the antibiotic tetracycline 2,000 years ago, likely obtaining it in the beer they had consumed since early childhood. Large doses of the drug ~ which was officially patented in the United States in 1950 ~ have been found in mummies dating back to 350 AD.

According to Discovery News:
Some of the first people to use antibiotics, according to the research, may have lived along the shores of the Nile in Sudanese Nubia, which spans the border of modern Egypt and Sudan.
“Given the amount of tetracycline there, they had to know what they were doing,” said co-author George Armelagos, a biological anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta. “They may not have known what tetracycline was, but they certainly knew something was making them feel better.” 
Armelagos was part of a group of anthropologists that excavated the mummies in 1963. His original goal was to study osteoporosis in the Nubians, who lived between about 350 and 550 A.D. But while looking through a microscope at samples of the ancient bone under ultraviolet light, he saw what looked like tetracycline -- an antibiotic that was not officially patented in modern times until 1950.
At first, he assumed that some kind of contamination had occurred.
“Imagine if you're unwrapping a mummy, and all of a sudden, you see a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses on it,” Armelagos said. “Initially, we thought it was a product of modern technology.”
Scientists were able to trace the source of the antibiotic to grain that was contaminated with a type of mold-like bacteria called Streptomyces. Grains that are stored underground can easily become moldy with Streptomyces contamination, though these bacteria would only produce small amounts of tetracycline on their own when left to sit or baked into bread. Only when people fermented the grain would tetracycline production explode.

Nubians both ate the fermented grains as gruel and used it to make beer.

Click here for the Discovery News article.