Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ashes of Ancient Halls Made Into Mounds

Archaeologists in England have unearthed the burned remains of two massive 6,000-year-old buildings whose ashes were shoveled into piles to make burial mounds.

"The buildings seemed to have been deliberately burned down," says Julian Thomas, a professor at the University of Manchester who’s leading the excavation. Researchers believe these halls of the living may have been transformed into "halls of the dead" after a leader or important social figure died.
The remnants were uncovered in an open field near Dorstone Hill in Herefordshire. For decades, amateur archaeologists have noticed pieces of flint blades in the area and wondered whether the land there contained relics of a long-forgotten time.
 According to LiveScience.com:
When Thomas and his team began excavating, they found two large burial mounds, or barrows, that could have held anywhere from seven to 30 people each.  
The smaller barrow contained a 23-foot-long (7 meters) mortuary chamber with sockets for two huge tree trunks. Digging deeper, the researchers uncovered postholes, ash from the timbers, and charred clay from the walls of an ancient structure. 
These burnt remains came from what were once two long-halls, the biggest of which was up to 230 feet (70 m) long, with aisles delineated by wooden posts and several internal spaces.
It’s not clear who built the halls and barrows, though the building construction is similar to that found in England between 4000 B.C. and 3600 B.C, predating the construction of Stonehenge by a millennium.

Artist's conception of one of the long halls.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tablet Tells of Mayan 'Snake Queen'

A tablet from 564 A.D. found beneath the main temple of the ancient Mayan city El PerĂº-Waka’ in northern Guatemala reveals what archaeologists describe as a “dark period” in Mayan history, including the violent story of a 6th-century “snake queen.”

The stone tablet stood exposed to the elements for a hundred years, before being buried as an offering in a funeral for another queen. Epigrapher Stanley Guenter, who deciphered the text, believes the tablet was dedicated by King Wa’oom Uch’ab Tzi’kin, a title that translates roughly as “He Who Stands Up the Offering of the Eagle.”

“The information in the text provides a new chapter in the history of the ancient kingdom of Waka’ and its political relations with the most powerful kingdoms in the Classic period lowland Maya world.”

Lady Ikoom was a predecessor to one of the greatest queens of Classic Maya civilization, the seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord known as Lady K’abel who ruled El PerĂº-Waka’ for more than 20 years with her husband, King K’inich Bahlam II. 
She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the imperial house of the Snake King, and she carried the title “Kaloomte,” translated as “Supreme Warrior,” - higher in authority than her husband, the king.

Around the year 700, Stela 44 was brought to the main city temple by command of King K’inich Bahlam II to be buried as an offering, probably as part of the funeral rituals for his wife, queen Kaloomte’ K’abel.
Image: A portion of the newly discovered tablet.