Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Clues Unearthed on the "Golden Chiefs"

Gold pendant found in tomb.

Recently found tombs in Central America are providing new clues about the “golden chiefs of Panama,” a mysterious, unnamed civilization.
"It's really a very spectacular find, probably the most significant" for this culture since the 1930s, when the nearby Sitio Conte site, also in central Panama, yielded a wealth of gold artifacts, anthropologist John Hoopes tells National Geographic. Until now, Sitio Conte provided the only major evidence of the golden-chiefs culture, which can be traced from about A.D. 250 to the 16th century, when Spanish conquerors arrived on the scene.
Dated between A.D. 700 and 1000, the new artifacts were excavated two miles from Sitio Conte, at a site called El Caño. A few years ago, archaeologist Julia Mayo of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute decided to reinvestigate El Caño. Not long after digging had begun, in 2008, the team uncovered the skeleton of a high-ranking chief, clad in circular breastplates embossed with ghoulish faces, patterned arm cuffs, and a belt of large golden beads.
The most recent dig, in early 2011, uncovered a similarly adorned chief in a multilevel burial pit once sheltered by a wooden roof. Surrounding this golden chief are at least 25 carefully arranged bodies, making the assemblage the largest of the six El Caño burials revealed to date, according to National Geographic.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Linen Indicates Scroll's Likely Essene Authorship

A Qumran cave near the site of the Essene settlement.

Analysis of fabrics found in caves at Qumran points to the Essenes sect as authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In all, some 200 textiles have been analyzed.

According to
The research reveals that all the textiles were made of linen, rather than wool, which was the preferred textile used in ancient Israel. Also they lack decoration, some actually being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours. Altogether, researchers say these finds suggest that the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, "penned" some of the scrolls. 
A breakthrough in studying these remains was made in 2007 when a team of archaeologists was able to ascertain that colorful wool textiles found at a site to the south of Qumran, known as the Christmas Cave, were not related to the inhabitants of the site. This meant researchers were able to focus on the 200 textiles found in the Dead Sea Scroll caves and at Qumran itself, knowing that these are the only surviving textiles related to the scrolls.
However, the analysis is not conclusive proof. An archaeologist who has excavated at Qumran told LiveScience that the linen could have come from people fleeing the Roman army after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and that they are in fact responsible for putting the scrolls into caves.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Egyptian Carvings Among World's Oldest

Scientists have dated rock carvings found in Qurta, Egypt, to be between 15,000 and 23,000 years ago, making them the oldest Egyptian works of art known to exist and among the oldest art found anywhere.
These carvings offer views of animals that the Paleolithic hunters encountered ~ mostly the wild predecessors of the domestic cattle of today. Other carvings, called petroglyphs, depict hippos and gazelles. Humans are found, too, among the drawings, but usually they are shown only as stick figures.
The researchers said that the carvings have more in common with the drawings found in Lascaux, the cave in France, as opposed to the art of the Egyptian dynasties. The Lascaux cave paintings have been dated to 17,300 years ago, or about the same era as this new discovery in Egypt.
"As such, they're not considered as Egyptian art, because it predates the appearance of Egyptian culture," said Yale's Colleen Manassa, assistant professor of Egyptology. She added that it even pre-dates "by a long shot" the predynastic art that was the precursor to Egyptian art.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stone Age Artist Studio May Go Back 100,000 Years

Abalone shells and stone utensils were used to mix ochre.

Archaeologists have uncovered a 100,000-year-old “studio” in South Africa in which early humans apparently mixed some of the first known paint. Dwellers of the cave used stones for pounding and grinding colorful dirt enriched with a kind of iron oxide to a powder, known as ocher.

Based on artifacts in the cave, the artists then blended the ocher with the fat of mammal-bone marrow and a dash of charcoal. Traces of ocher were left on the tools, and samples of the reddish compound were collected in large abalone shells, where the paint was liquefied, stirred and scooped out with a bone spatula, according to the New York Times.
Archaeologists said that in the workshop remains they were seeing the earliest example yet of how emergent Homo sapiens processed ocher, one of the species’ first pigments in wide use, its red color apparently rich in symbolic significance. The early humans may have applied the concoction to their skin for protection or simply decoration, experts suggested. Perhaps it was their way of making social and artistic statements on their bodies or their artifacts. 
 The discovery reaches back to when modern Homo sapiens were known to have started using paint. Previously, no workshop older than 60,000 years had come to light, and the earliest cave and rock art began appearing about 40,000 years ago.
The well-known animal depictions of Cro-Magnon artists in the caves of Europe would come even later, the Times stated. The animals on the walls of Lascaux in France, for example, were painted some 17,000 years ago.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Göbekli Structures May Have Been Homes

Ancient Turkish structures believed to be the world’s oldest temples may not have been religious buildings after all. Archaeologist Ted Banning of the University of Toronto says that the buildings found at Göbekli Tepe simply may have been houses for people.

The buildings at Göbekli were found in 1995 by Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute and colleagues from the Şanlıurfa Museum in Turkey. The oldest of the structures at the site are immense buildings with large stone pillars, many of which feature carvings of snakes, scorpions, foxes, and other animals.

According to
The presence of art in the buildings, the substantial effort that must have been involved in making and erecting them, and a lack of evidence for any permanent settlement in the area, led Schmidt and others to conclude that Göbekli must have been a sacred place where pilgrims travelled to worship, much like the Greek ruins of Delphi or Olympia. If that interpretation is true it would make the buildings, which date back more than 10,000 years to the early Neolithic, the oldest temples ever found. 
However, Banning offers an alternative interpretation that challenges some of Schmidt’s claims. He outlines growing archaeological evidence for daily activities at the site, such as flintknapping and food preparation. 
“The presence of this evidence suggests that the site was not, after all, devoid of residential occupation, but likely had quite a large population,” Banning said.
Banning goes on to argue that the population may have been housed in the purported temples themselves. He disagrees with the idea that the presence of decorative pillars or massive construction efforts means the buildings could not have been residential space.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spanish Site Remains Probable for Atlantis

Atlantis map by 17th century scholar Athanasius Kircher.

As research continues, archaeologists and geologists are increasingly convinced that the fabled Atlantis is submerged in mud flats near Cadiz in southern Spain, the victim of a tsunami.

“This is the power of tsunamis,” Professor Richard Freund of the University of Hartford, Connecticut, leader of the international team, tells the London Mail. “It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that's pretty much what we're talking about.”

According to Mail Online: 
The team used a satellite photo of a suspected submerged city to find the site then surveyed it with a combination of deep-ground radar, digital mapping, and underwater technology. Buried in the vast marshlands of the Dona Ana Park they found a strange series of  “memorial cities” built in Atlantis' image by the refugees who fled the destructive tsunami. Freund said the 'twist' of finding the memorial cities makes him confident Atlantis was buried in the mud flats.
“We found something that no one else has ever seen before, which gives it a layer of credibility,” Freund said, “especially for archaeology, that makes a lot more sense."

Click here for the complete article.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Views of Nebuchadnezzar's Ishtar Gate

Here are scenes of the reconstructed Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The actual gate was built about 575 BC at the request of King Nebuchadnezzar II, who dedicated it to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. If you want to know more, here's the Wikipedia link.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mexican Footprints May Be 25,000 Years Old

Five human footprints that may be as old as 25,000 years have been discovered in Chihuahua in northern Mexico. Specialists say they could belong to the first men who lived in this region.

The footprints correspond to three adults and a child that probably lived in the caves that are located in the sierra, in the Valle de Ahuatos, eight kilometers from the town of Creel, in Chihuahua, according to Art Daily.

According to morphoscopic analysis, Footprint 1, by its longitude of 26 centimeters, corresponds to the right foot of a male adult, while Footprint 2 belongs to the left foot of another adult, but the gender is difficult to determine. Footprint 3 was made by the right foot of an infant three or four years old.

Footprints 4 and 5 are from another adult and represent the only pair that corresponds to the same person. These footprints are significant as they have six toes, which may be due a malformation, researchers said.

Photo shows one of the prints.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ancient White Mayan Road Unearthed

Archaeologists digging in El Salvador have unexpectedly unearthed a white road buried 1,400 years ago under volcanic ash. Known as a “sacbe” ~ or “white road” ~ it is six feet wide and was built around 600 AD from ash originating with an even earlier volcanic eruption.

“Until our discovery, these roads were only known from the Yucatan area in Mexico and all were built with stone linings, which generally preserved well,” says University of Colorado professor Payson Sheets, who discovered the nearby Mayan village of Ceren.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Platform Might Lead to Aztec Ruler Tomb

No Aztec ruler’s tomb has ever been found, but archaeologists are optimistic that the recent discovery of a ceremonial platform in Mexico City might lead them to such a tomb.

According to Latino Fox News: 
Researchers have been on a five-year quest to find a royal tomb in the area of the Templo Mayor, a complex of two huge pyramids and numerous smaller structures that contained the ceremonial and spiritual heart of the pre-Hispanic Aztec empire. 
 "The historical records say that the rulers were cremated at the foot of the Templo Mayor, and it is believed to be on this same structure — the 'cuauhxicalco' — that the rulers were cremated," said archaeologist Raul Barrera. 
 "That is what the historical sources say," he said, referring to accounts written by Roman Catholic priests who accompanied the Spanish soldiers in the 1521 conquest. "Of course, now we have to find archaeological evidence to corroborate that."
The platform is about 15 yards in diameter and probably was built around A.D. 1469. It is still being unearthed and is covered with at least 19 serpent heads, each about a half-yard long.

Click here for the complete article.
Photo shows two of the platform's serpent heads.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stonehenge Site Important Even Before Stones

Newly unearthed evidence points to the Stonehenge area in England being an important site for Stone Age people thousands of years before the famous monolithic stones were erected.

A team of student archaeologists has uncovered a huge cache of artifacts belonging to hunter-gatherers from the middle of the Stone Age, including the remains of a gargantuan Mesolithic-era feast, which took place close to Stonehenge.The site has also yielded what are believed to be the oldest carved figurines yet found in the UK, indicating a continuity of human presence in what seems to have been a sacred spot for thousands of years.

According to the Independent:
With the tools were animal remains, including what Jacques and his team thought was a cow’s tooth, which they sent away for radiocarbon dating. The result was an astonishingly early date of around 6250 BC, firmly in the Mesolithic period and more than 3,000 years before construction on Stonehenge began. Further excavations ensued and, by the end of September 2011, the team had uncovered a rare Mesolithic hoard of more than 5,500 worked flints and tools from just two small trenches 35m away from each other. 
As well as the tools and tool production debris, large quantities of burnt flint were found, indicating a fire, and more than 200 cooked animal bones, which came not from a cow, but from at least one aurochs – a gigantic creature resembling a buffalo that is now extinct.
Archeologists are linking the recent finds to the mysterious Stonehenge “totem poles,” three colossal Mesolithic post holes found during the excavation of the Stonehenge car park some years ago ~ another clue that the area was important to people in the Mesolithic era.

Click here for the complete article.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Evidence of Mayan Contact with Extraterrestrials?

The governments of Mexico and Guatamala are cooperating with filmmakers who contend there is proof of contact between the Mayan civilization and extraterrestrials.

"Mexico will release codices, artifacts and significant documents with evidence of Mayan and extraterrestrial contact, and all of their information will be corroborated by archaeologists," according to Raul Julia-Levy, producer of “Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and Beyond,” due for release next year.

Luis Augusto Garcia Rosado, minister of tourism for the Mexican state of Campeche, said new evidence has emerged "of contact between the Mayans and extraterrestrials, supported by translations of certain codices, which the government has kept secure in underground vaults for some time." He said among the evidence is proof of landings pads in the jungle that are 3,000 years old.

The Guatemalan government has joined the project as well, giving access to artifacts and newly discovered prophecies. While the Guatemalan government is not offering information about aliens, it has joined Mexico in supporting the project.

"Guatemala, like Mexico, is home to the ancient yet advanced Mayan civilization and has also kept certain provocative archeological discoveries classified, and now believes that it is time to bring forth this information in the new documentary," Guatemala's minister of tourism, Guillermo Novielli Quezada, said in a statement. He said the country was working with filmmakers "for the good of mankind."

Click here for the complete article.
Photo shows ancient Mayan sarcophagus lid with astronaut-like image.

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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Researchers Explore Cahokian Coppersmithing

Artist's rendition of Cahokian settlement.

Researchers have employed 600-year-old metalworking techniques to gain a better understanding of copper artifacts left behind by the Mississippians of the Cahokia Mounds, who lived in western Illinois from 700 until 1400 AD.

The researchers, from Northwestern University, were able to identify how the coppersmiths of Cahokia likely set up their workshop and the methods and tools used to work copper nuggets into sacred jewelry, headdresses, breastplates and other regalia.

"Metals store clues within their structure that can help explain how they were processed," said David Dunand of Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and co-author of the paper. "We were lucky enough to analyze small, discarded pieces of copper found on the ground of the excavated 'copper workshop house' in Cahokia and determine how the metal was worked by the Cahokians."

The researchers also tested theories that some archeologists had made about the coppersmiths' techniques. One idea was that they made large copper pieces, like ceremonial breastplates, by "laminating" sheets of copper together through a hammering technique. But the lamination could not be reproduced, even with much greater weights achievable with a modern press.

The other hypothesis ~ that the Cahokians used copper knobs or copper rivets and other mechanical devices to secure sheets of copper together ~ seems more likely.

Click here for the complete article.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Peru Launches Effort to Preserve Pre-Incan Site

A cooperative effort of the Peruvian government and the Global Heritage Fund aims to conserve and restore the mysterious ancient site of Marcahuamachuco. Built over 1,600 years ago atop a mesa at 10,000 feet, archaeologists call the site ~ known for its impressively massive castillos and circular double-walled structures ~ the "Machu Picchu of the North."

According to Popular Archaeology:
Built around 400 A.D. and lasting until 800 AD, Marcahuamachuco was the center of a Pre-Incan civilization and thought to have been ancient Peru's most important economic, political, spiritual, and military center during that time period. Some of the site's functions still remain a mystery, but scholars suggest that it was a religious oracle for the population, later used as a sacred burial ground.
The site consists of several major compounds surrounded by curved stone walls, in some places as much as 12 meters high, with interior plazas, rooms and galleries that are interpreted by archaeologists to have served ceremonial and administrative functions.
But over the years, its impressive remains have fallen prey to the elements, both natural and human-derived, such as weathering, plant growth, livestock grazing, and lack of conservation.
"It is one of Peru's most important archaeological treasures, and like so many of the country's top heritage sites, it has suffered in the shadow of Machu Picchu for too long," says Jeff Morgan, executive director of the GHF. “With excellent potential to be one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the northern highlands of Peru, Marcahuamachuco will provide a major focus for economic development in an area with few opportunities for local communities."

Click here for the complete article.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Farming Came to Europe by Varied Routes

How agriculture reached Europe from its origins in the Middle East some 11,000 years ago has remained a tantalizing mystery for scientists. Now a new DNA-based study suggests that Europe’s earliest farmers used two different routes.

According the magazine Science:
Some of this research, most notably in Germany, suggests that male farmers entering central Europe mated with local female hunter-gatherers ~ thus possibly resolving the contradiction between the Y chromosome and mtDNA results. 
A team led by molecular anthropologist Marie Lacan of the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France, reports work on ancient DNA ~ both mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal ~ from more than two dozen skeletons found in the 1930s in a cave called Treilles in southern France. Archaeologists think Treilles is a communal gravesite because the bones add up to 149 individuals, 86 adults and 63 children.
They found that the female and male lineages seemed to have different origins. The mtDNA showed genetic markers previously identified as having deep roots in ancient European hunter-gatherer populations, but the Y chromosomes showed the closest affinities to Europeans currently living along the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe, such as Turkey, Cyprus, Portugal, and Italy.
The team also concluded that, in addition to the spread of farming into Central Europe suggested by the German studies, there appears to have been at least one additional route via southern Europe.

Click here for the complete article. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Homo Erectus Origins in Eurasia, Not Africa?

Homo erectus models from Kenya National Museum.

Scientists are questioning the long-held belief that early humans migrated solely from Africa. An even earlier group of Homo erectus may have migrated instead from Eurasia to Africa.

Much of the new speculation regarding humans’ earliest migrations comes from Dmanisi, a major archaeological site in the mountains in the Republic of Georgia, between Europe and Asia. Evidence now points to human occupation there some 1.85 million years ago, substantially earlier than previously believed.
"The recently discovered data show that Dmanisi was occupied at the same time as ~ if not before ~ the first appearance of Homo erectus in east Africa," team leader Reid Ferring of the University of North Texas tells the Associated Press. "We do not know as yet what the first occupants looked like, but the implication is that they were similar to, or possibly even more primitive than those represented by Dmanisi's fossils."
The occupants of Dmanisi "are the first representatives of our own genus outside Africa, and they represent the most primitive population of the species Homo erectus known to date," according to David Lordkipanidze of the Georgia National Museum. The early humans at Dmanisi "might be ancestral to all later H. erectus populations, which would suggest a Eurasian origin of H. erectus."

Click here for complete article.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Clovis Killer-Comet Theory Now Deemed Impossible

A tenacious theory that explained the disappearance of the Clovis people ~ arguably North America’s first humans ~ is being strongly disputed by scientists who say it’s impossible.

The hypothesis is that a speeding comet nearly 13,000 years ago was the culprit, spraying ice and rocks across the continent, killing the Clovis people and the mammoths they fed on, and plunging the region into a deep chill. 
Now a host of scientific authorities are making the case that the comet theory is “bogus.” Researchers from multiple scientific fields are calling the theory one of the most misguided ideas in the history of modern archaeology, which begs for an independent review so an accurate record is reflected in the literature.
“It is an impossible scenario,” says Mark Boslough, a physicist at Sandia Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., where he taps the world’s fastest computers for nuclear bomb experiments to study such impacts. His computations show the debris from such a comet couldn’t cover the proposed impact field. In March, a “requiem” for the theory even was published by a group that included leading specialists from archaeology to botany.

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Genetics Identify Easter Island Settlers

Genetic evidence is proving that South Americans helped settled Easter Island ~ one of the most remote islands in the world ~ centuries before Europeans reached it. Genetics has, for the first time, given support to elements of this controversial theory showing that while the remote island was mostly colonized from the west, there was also some influx of people from the Americas.

Genetics, archaeology and linguistics all show that as a whole, Polynesia was colonized from Asia, probably from around Taiwan. The various lines of evidence suggest people began migrating east around 5,500 years ago, reached Polynesia 2,500 years later, before finally gaining Easter Island after another 1,500 years.

Click here for the complete article.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More Research on Potential King Solomon Mine

Aerial view of KEN, with fortress and slag mounds.

Archaeologists will return to a site southeast of the Dead Sea in September to continue investigating one of the largest copper mines of the ancient Middle East. Among other things, they hope to identify the ethnicity of the people who controlled the mines during the 10th century BC.

That’s the period when, based on the Biblical accounts, scholars have traditionally dated the kingdom of Edom, as well as that of David and Solomon of ancient Israel. Khirbat en-Nahas ~ usually shortened to KEN ~ is substantiated as the largest Iron Age (1200 - 500 BC) copper mining and smelting center in the southern Levant.

According to Popular Archaeology:
Recent radiocarbon dating has placed its age indisputably two centuries earlier than scholars had previously thought, pushing back the clock from the long-accepted dates assigned by archaeologists for the center and the kingdom of Edom in which it was located. 
It also places its heyday squarely during the time when ancient Edom and the United Monarchy of Israel under kings David and  Solomon, according to traditional interpretations of the Biblical account, dominated the region.
The significance of the discoveries at KEN fall within the context of a larger debate about chronology and the credibility of traditional interpretations about the existence of the kingdoms of David and Solomon as depicted in the Hebrew Bible.

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Incan Fortresses Reveal War with Cayambe

A gate of the Incan fortress of Quitoloma.

Archaeologists in northern Ecuador have discovered evidence of an Incan war with a neighboring people as part of excavation of two fortresses built 500 years ago. “We're seeing evidence for a pre-Columbian frontier, or borderline, that we think existed between Inca fortresses and Ecuadorian people's fortresses,” Samuel Connell of Foothill College in California, told LiveScience.

The team has identified an estimated 20 Inca-built fortresses and two forts built by the Cayambe, an Ecuadorian society. “We know that there are many, many fortresses throughout northern Ecuador that haven't been identified one way or the other," said Chad Gifford, of Columbia University, also a project director.

According to
The discoveries suggest that there is a ring of truth to stories that Spanish chroniclers told when they penetrated into South America during the 16th and 17th centuries. According to these stories, Incan ruler Huayna Capac sought to conquer the Cayambe. Using a “very powerful army,” he was hoping for a quick victory but ended up getting entangled in a 17-year struggle.
“Finding that their forces were not sufficient to face the Inca on an open battlefield, the Cayambes withdrew and made strongholds in a very large fortress that they had,” wrote Spanish missionary Bernabe Cobo in the 17th century. “The Inca ordered his men to lay siege to it and bombard it continuously; but the men inside resisted so bravely that they forced the Inca to raise the siege because he had lost so many men."
Finally, after many battles, the Inca succeeded in driving the Cayambe out of their strongholds and onto the shores of a lake.
The newly discovered Inca fortresses are built out of stone, contain platforms called ushnus, and are located on ridges about 10,000 feet above the ground.

Click here for the complete article.

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.
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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.