Saturday, January 30, 2010

Traces of Tartessian Capital May Be Found

Artist's conception of Tartessian capital in southern Spain.

A team of researchers are examining a marshy area of Spain’s Andalusian parkland to find evidence of 3,000-year-old Tartessos ~ a wealthy civilization in southern Iberia that predates the Phoenicians ~ that may have had its capital in the heart of what is now the Donana national park.

Until now historians had dismissed the region as a possible site believing that it had been submerged since the ice age. But new evidence suggests the waters may have receded in time for the Tartessians to build an urban centre, which was later destroyed in a tsunami.

The Tartessian civilization, which developed in southern Spain between the 11th and 7th centuries BC and became rich trading gold and silver from local mines, has long been linked by mythologists to the Atlantis legend.

Archaeological findings have already proved the existence of Tartessian culture at sites on the opposite bank of the Guadalquiver River.

"If they existed on the other side, they must also have been here (in Donana)," Sebastian Celestino, the archaeologist leading the project told the newspaper El Pais. "There were earthquakes and one of them caused a tsunami that razed everything and which coincided with the era in which Tartessian power was at its height."

Click here for the London Telegraph article.

Earliest Farmers Left Prominent Genetic Trace Among British Males

11th Century Byzantine painting of farmers in fields and getting paid.

Most men in Britain are descended from the first farmers to migrate across Europe from the Near East 10,000 years ago. The ancient farmers left their genetic mark by breeding more successfully than indigenous hunter-gatherer men as they made their way west, a study has found.

Genetic tests on women, however, have shown that most are descendants of hunter-gatherer females. "To us, this suggests a reproductive advantage for farming males over indigenous hunter-gatherer males during the switch from hunting and gathering to farming," said Patricia Balaresque, a geneticist at Leicester University and co-author of the study.

More than 60% of British men, and nearly all of those in Ireland, can trace their Y chromosome back to the agricultural revolution, or more precisely the sexual success of the men behind it.

It is believed the first European farmers came from the "fertile crescent" that stretched from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, but experts have argued whether the westerly spread of agriculture was driven by the cultural transmission of ideas and technology, or by migrating farmers.

Click here for the Guardian article.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tomb May Reveal Post-Mayan Evidence

Ceramic head found in the tomb in Mexico's Chiapas state.

Archaeologists say a recently discovered 1,100-year-old tomb from the twilight of the Mayan civilization may reveal who occupied the Mayan site of Tonina in southern Chiapas state after the culture's classic period began to decline.

Many experts have pointed to internal warfare between Mayan city-states, or environmental degradation, as possible causes of the Maya's downfall starting around AD 820.

But Juan Yadeun, who oversees the Tonina site for Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, said artifacts from the Toltec culture found in the tomb may point to another explanation. He said the tomb dates to between the years 840 and 900.

"It is clear that this is a new wave of occupation, the people who built this grave of the Toltec type," Yadeun says. "This is very interesting, because we are going to see from the bones who these people are, after the Maya empire."

The Toltecs were from Mexico's central highlands and apparently expanded their influence to the Maya strongholds in southern Mexico. They are believed to have dominated central Mexico from the city of Tula — just north of present-day Mexico City — between the 10th and 12th centuries, before the Aztecs rose to prominence.

Click here for the CBC article.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Leading Archaeologist Discusses the Sphinx is running a feature on American archaeologist Mark Lehner, who has spent decades researching the Sphinx. From the article:

No human endeavor has been more associated with mystery than the huge, ancient lion that has a human head and is seemingly resting on the rocky plateau a stroll from the great pyramids. Fortunately for Lehner, it wasn’t just a metaphor that the Sphinx is a riddle. Little was known for certain about who erected it or when, what it represented and precisely how it related to the pharaonic monuments nearby. So Lehner settled in, working for five years out of a makeshift office between the Sphinx’s colossal paws, subsisting on NescafĂ© and cheese sandwiches while he examined every square inch of the structure. He remembers “climbing all over the Sphinx like the Lilliputians on Gulliver, and mapping it stone by stone.” The result was a uniquely detailed picture of the statue’s worn, patched surface, which had been subjected to at least five major restoration efforts since 1400 B.C. The research earned him a doctorate in Egyptology at Yale.

Recognized today as one of the world’s leading Egyptologists and Sphinx authorities, Lehner has conducted field research at Giza during most of the 37 years since his first visit. … Applying his archaeological sleuthing to the surrounding two-square-mile Giza plateau with its pyramids, temples, quarries and thousands of tombs, Lehner helped confirm what others had speculated—that some parts of the Giza complex, the Sphinx included, make up a vast sacred machine designed to harness the power of the sun to sustain the earthly and divine order.

Click here for the complete Smithsonian article.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shard Indicates Earlier Old Testament

Discovery of the earliest known Hebrew writing ~ an inscription dating from the 10th century B.C., during the period biblically ascribed to King David's reign ~ could mean that portions of the Bible were written centuries earlier than previously thought.

Until now, scholars have held that the Hebrew Bible originated in the 6th century B.C. But the newly deciphered Hebrew text is about four centuries older, scientists announced this month.

"It indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research," said Gershon Galil, a professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa in Israel, who deciphered the ancient text.

The writing was discovered more than a year ago on a pottery shard dug up during excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, near Israel's Elah valley.

Click here for the LiveScience article.