Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lost Language of the Picts is Discovered

New research has determined that the ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind carved stones displaying the written language of the Picts, a society existing in Scotland from 300 to 843.

Highly stylized rock engravings on what are known as the Pictish Stones earlier were believed to be rock art. But a new study instead concludes the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts.

"We know that the Picts had a spoken language to complement the writing of the symbols, as Bede (a monk and historian who died in 735) writes that there are four languages in Britain in this time: British, Pictish, Scottish and English," lead author Rob Lee told Discovery News. "We know that the three other languages were ~ and are ~ complex spoken languages, so there is every indication that Pictish was also a complex spoken language."

Click here for the complete article.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

New Research Reveals Details of Nasca Lines

The image of a spider on the Nasca plain.

The April issue of National Geographic online features an extensive article regarding the Nasca civilization in Peru, including the origin, culture and other key aspects of this mysterious people who inhabited the coastal region of southern Peru more than two millennia ago.

Today the Nasca are most famous for their “lines” portraying huge images visible from aircraft. The article explores the question of the Nasca lines with new information such as this:

They were not made at one time, in one place, for one purpose. Many have been superimposed on older ones, with erasures and overwritings complicating their interpretation; archaeologist Helaine Silverman once likened them to the scribbling on a blackboard at the end of a busy day at school. The popular notion that they can be seen only from the air is a modern myth. The early Paracas-era geoglyphs were placed on hillsides where they could be seen from the pampa.

Click here for the complete article.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Greenland's Vikings Mostly Celtic, Not Norse

Presumed Viking ruins in southern Greenland.

Analysis of DNA from a Viking gravesite near a 1,000-year-old church in Greenland reveals that those buried there had strong Celtic bloodlines, probably originating from the British Isles.

Danish archaeologists are currently conducting the first regional study of southern Greenland’s original settlers, whose colonies date back to the year 985. The skeletons disinterred outside the old church also date back to just a few years after that period.

“Initial results somewhat surprisingly suggest that the people in the graves were more Celtic than Nordic,” says Jette Arneborg, curator and senior scientist at the National Museum. “We’ve always known that Norsemen travelled a lot and we also know that the early inhabitants of the Faroe Islands and Iceland had traces of Celtic genes. But now we also have evidence of this in Greenland as well.”

Although the DNA analysis reveals the inhabitants had Celtic blood in their veins, Arneborg said there was no question that the settlers were Nordic. “Everything these people did ~ their culture, means of nourishment and so on ~ was clearly Scandinavian,” she said.

Click here for complete article.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stone Wall Believed to be Greek's Oldest

Palaeontologists have unearthed what is believed to be the oldest stone wall in Greece, standing at the entrance of a cave in Thessaly for the last 23,000 years.

The age of the find ~ determined by an optical dating test ~ singles it out as "probably one of the oldest in the world", according to a Ministry of Culture press release. "The dating matches the coldest period of the most recent ice age, indicating that the cavern's paleolithic inhabitants built it to protect themselves from the cold.”

The wall blocked two-thirds of the entrance to the cave, located close to Kalambaka in central Greece. Greek palaeontologists have been excavating the site for the last 25 years.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tetitla Palace Murals Now Restored

Portion of the Las Aquilas mural.

Several Prehispanic murals at Tetitla Palace, in the Teotihuacan Archaeological Zone, have been fully restored after two years of work by specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Jaime Cama Villafranca of the National School of Conservation, Restoration and Museography (ENCRyM) directed the intervention.

Black pigment on the Las Aguilas mural ~ no longer visible to the naked eye ~ was recovered.
“The mural presented eagle’s heads painted in red, floating on a white space,” Villafranca said. “After analyzing it, we found rests of black lines that united the heads. We restored the black feathers described in archaeological reports of the 1940s decade.”

At the Green Goddesses mural, blue pigment also was recovered. “Female characters richly adorned seem to throw aquatic elements with their hands,” he said.

Click here for the complete article.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nubian Excavations Have Revealed 100 Pyramids

Some of the pyramid structures excavated in Meroe.

French, Swiss and British archaeologists say the Nubian Desert of northern Sudan holds mysteries to rival ancient Egypt.

"There is a magic beauty about these sites that is heightened by the privilege of being able to admire them alone, with the pyramids, the dunes and the sun," says Guillemette Andreu, head of antiquities at Paris' Louvre museum.
"It really sets them apart from the Egyptian pyramids, whose beauty is slightly overshadowed by the tourist crowds."

Kush, also called Nubia, was an ancient kingdom centered on the confluence of the Blue Nile, the White Nile and the River Atbara and was one of the earliest civilizations in the Nile valley. The Nubians eventually gained their independence and, at the height of their power, they turned the table on Egypt and conquered it in the 8th century BC.
 At the end of March, the Louvre will host its first exhibition on the Meroe dynasty, the last in a line of ‘black pharaohs’ that ruled Kush for more than 1,000 years until the kingdom's demise in 350 AD.

Meroe had three cemeteries containing more than 100 pyramids that are smaller than their Egyptian counterparts. The largest are 30 metres (98 feet) high and the angles are steep, some close to 70 degrees.

Although the pyramids have been thoroughly excavated, yielding a treasure trove of knowledge about Kushite culture, many aspects of Kushite civilisation remain shrouded in mystery for archaeologists.

Click here for the complete article.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tasmanian Tribal Site is 40,000 Years Old

Tasmanian petroglyphs.

Australian archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the world's southernmost site of early human life, a 40,000-year-old tribal meeting ground.

The site appears to have been the last place of refuge for Aboriginal tribes from the cannon fire of Australia's first white settlers, said Michael Mansell of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. The find came during an archaeological survey ahead of roadwork near Tasmania's Derwent River and soil dating had established the age of the artifacts found there.

"When the archaeological report came out it showed that (life there) had gone back longer than any other recorded place anywhere else in Tasmania, dating back to 40,000 years," Mansell told AFP.

Up to three million artifacts, including stone tools, shellfish fragments and food scraps, were believed to be buried in the area, which appeared to have been a meeting ground for three local tribes.

Click here for complete article.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thracian Tomb Dated to 4th Century BC

Coin found near tomb displays King Amatokos II coat of arms.

After years of research, the Starosel Tomb in Bulgaria has been dated to the 4th century BC. The Ancient Thrace tomb is the largest underground temple on the Balkan Peninsula.

In the summer of 2009, an archaeological team took samples from a stake in the middle of the tomb where gifts to the Greek goddess of the hearth Hestia had been laid. Radio carbon dating carried out in Germany has shown that the stake was burned in the period after 358 BC, when the temple was constructed, and dirt was heaped on top of it to form a burial mound.

Current analysis indicates that the temple in the village of Starosel and the nearby Thracian ruler’s residence under Mount Kozi Gramadi were built during the reign of the Thracian King Amatokos II (359-351 BC). The family coat of arms of King Amatokos was a doubleheaded ax, or a labrys. Symbols of a labrys were discovered on several items around Starosel, including Thracian coins.

Click here for the complete article.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Knights Templar Kept Nail as Relic

A four-inch nail thought to be one of thousands used in crucifixions across the Roman empire has been found at a remote fort believed to have once been a stronghold of the Knights Templar.

Archaeologists believe it dates from either the first or second century AD. It was found last summer in a decorated box in a fort on the tiny isle of Ilheu de Pontinha ~ just off the coast of Madeira ~ thought to have been held by the Knights Templar, the religious order that was part of the Christian forces which occupied Jerusalem during the Crusades in the 12th century.

Bryn Walters, an archaeologist, said the iron nail's remarkable condition suggested it had been handed with extreme care, as if it was a relic. "It dates from the first to second centuries," he told the Daily Mirror. While one would expect the surface to be "pitted and rough" he said on this nail the surface was smooth. That suggested that many people had handled it over the centuries, with the acid on their hands giving it a "peculiar finish.”

Click here for the London Telegraph article.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Coins Found Dating to Alexander the Great

A collection of Hellenistic coins dating back to the era of Alexander the Great were found recently near Najm Castle in northern Syria .

A local man found the coins as he was preparing his land for construction, uncovering a bronze box that contained around 250 coins. Yousef Kanjo, director of archaeological excavations at Aleppo Department of Archaeology and Museum said the box contained two groups of silver Hellenistic coins: 137 tetra drachma (four drachmas) coins and 115 drachma coins.

One side of the tetra drachma coins depicts Alexander the Great, while the other side depicts the Greek god Zeus sitting on a throne with an eagle on his outstretched right arm. 34 of these coins bear the inscription "King Alexander" in Greek, while 81 coins bear the inscription "Alexander" and 22 coins bear "King Phillip."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Emperor's Horse Statues Mostly Geldings

Some of the terra cotta horses found in the emperor's tomb.

Most of the horses in the terracotta army in a Chinese emperor's tomb had no testicles, pointing to the possibility of equine castration some 2000 years ago.

Yuan Jing, an archaeologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, studied the more than 600 terracotta horses within the tomb of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, who ruled from 221 BC to 207 BC. He noted that all the 520 horses that pulled chariots had penises but no testicles, some of the 116 cavalry horses were found to have them. Yuan said his findings gave some indication of how horses may have been handled by humans.

Researchers believe the terracotta army ~ which includes archers and infantrymen ~ was to help Qinshihuang rule in the afterlife.

Click here for the complete article.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Syrian Megalith May Predate Stonehenge

One of the corbelled stone structures found in the Syrian desert.

Dr. Robert Mason, an archaeologist with the Royal Ontario Museum, believes he has discovered an ancient landscape at the Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi monastery in the Syrian Desert, consisting of stone circles, stone alignments and what appear to be corbelled roof tombs.

From stone tools found at the site, it’s likely that the features date to some point in the Middle East’s Neolithic Period, a broad stretch of time between roughly 8500 BC and 4300 BC.

It is thought that in Western Europe megalithic construction involving the use of stone only dates back as far as 4500 BC. This means that the Syrian site could be older than anything seen in Europe. Mason described his shock at discovering the apparent tombs, stone circles and stone alignments: “I was standing up there thinking, oh dear me, I’ve wandered onto Salisbury Plain.”

Click here for the complete Independent article.