Posts Tagged ‘archeology’


Members of Ecuador’s Guangala culture may have outfitted the infants in skulls as a protective measure

By Jason Daley

Archaeologists excavating a site in Salango, Ecuador, have discovered evidence of a burial ritual that might even make Indiana Jones shiver. As the researchers report in the journal Latin American Antiquity, excavations at a pair of 2,100-year-old funerary mounds revealed several unusual sets of remains: namely, the skeletons of two infants wearing what appear to be bone “helmets” made from the skulls of older children.

Members of the Guangala culture interred the infants at Salango, an ancient ritual complex on the country’s central coast, around 100 B.C. Archaeologists unearthed the remains—as well as those of nine other individuals, many of whom were buried with small objects including figurines and shells—while conducting excavations between 2014 and 2016. Per the study, the discovery represents the only known evidence of “using juvenile crania as mortuary headgear” found to date.

One of the babies was around 18 months old at time of death, while the second was between 6 and 9 months old.

As the study’s authors write, “The modified cranium of a second juvenile was placed in a helmet-like fashion around the head of the first, such that the primary individual’s face looked through and out of the cranial vault of the second.”

The older infant’s helmet originally belonged to a child aged 4 to 12 years old; interestingly, the researchers found a small shell and a finger bone sandwiched between the two layered skulls. The second baby’s helmet was fashioned from the cranium of a child between 2 and 12 years old.


The researchers found a small shell and a finger bone sandwiched between the two layered skulls. (Sara Juengst/UNC Charlotte)

Perhaps most eerily, the older children’s skulls likely still had flesh when they were outfitted over the infants’ heads. Juvenile skulls “often do not hold together” if they are simply bare bone, the archaeologists note.

“We’re still pretty shocked by the find,” lead author Sara Juengst of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte tells Forbes’ Kristina Killgrove. “Not only is it unprecedented, there are still so many questions.”

Potential explanations for the unexpected burials abound: DNA and isotope analysis currently underway may clarify whether the infants and children were related, but even if these tests fail to provide a definitive answer, Juengst says the researchers “definitely have a lot of ideas to work with.”

Speaking with New Atlas’ Michael Irving, Jeungst explains that “heads were commonly depicted in iconography, pottery, stone, and with literal heads in pre-Columbian South America.”

She adds, “They are generally representative of power, ancestors, and may demonstrate dominance over other groups—such as through the creation of trophy heads from conquered enemies.”

According to the paper, the helmets could have been intended to protect the deceased’s “presocial and wild” souls as they navigated the afterlife. Other infants found in the funerary platform were buried with figurines placed near their heads, perhaps for a similar purpose. An alternative theory posits the skull helmets belonged to the infants’ ancestors and were actually worn in both life and death.

Jeungst and her colleagues also outline a “tantalizing hypothesis” centered on a volcano located near the burial site. Ash found at Salango suggests the volcano was active and likely interfering with agriculture in the area, potentially subjecting the children to malnourishment and even starvation. Sîan Halcrow, an archaeologist at New Zealand’s University of Otago whose research focuses on juvenile health and disease, tells Killgrove that all four sets of bones showed signs of anemia.

Another less likely explanation identifies the children as victims of a ritual designed to quiet the volcano. The remains show no signs of trauma, however, and as Juengst says to Newsweek’s Aristos Georgiou, the evidence suggests the four juveniles “probably were quite ill anyway.”

The most plausible explanation, according to Jeungst, is that the Guangala outfitted the infants with skulls “in reaction to some sort of natural or social disaster and [to ensure] that these infants had extra protection or extra links to ancestors through their burials.”

While the unusual burial may seem macabre to modern readers, Juengst tells Killgrove she found the helmets “strangely comforting.”

“Dealing with the death of young infants is always emotional,” she explains, “but in this case, it was strangely comforting that those who buried them took extra time and care to do it in a special place, perhaps accompanied by special people, in order to honor them.”

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/remains-infants-found-wearing-helmets-made-skulls-other-children-180973608/#qA6mSw6T0mpl92KM.99

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a tomb of a prominent goldsmith dedicated to the god Amun and the mummies of a woman and her two children, the antiquities ministry said on Saturday.

The finds were made in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, famed for its temples and burial grounds.

The tomb dated back to Egypt’s 18th dynasty New Kingdom era – around 15th century BC, said Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al Anani on Saturday.

“The work did not finish yet and we’re continuing and working to find more objects and more tombs,” he said.

The site includes a courtyard and niche where a statue of the goldsmith Amenemhat and his wife and one of his sons, as well as two burial shafts, the ministry said in a statement.

The tomb of “Amun’s Goldsmith, Amenemhat” contained a sculpture carved into a recess of him seated beside his wife, the ministry said.

A portrait of their son was painted between them.

A burial shaft in the tomb led to a chamber where the archaeologists discovered mummies, funerary statues and masks, the ministry said.

Another shaft led to a chamber where the team found the mummies of a woman and her two children.

The woman appears to have died at the age of 50 and tests showed she had suffered from a bacterial bone disease, the ministry quoted bone specialist Sherine Ahmed Shawqi as saying.

The team also discovered 150 small funerary statues carved in wood, clay and limestone.

https://www.trtworld.com/mea/egypt-announces-discovery-of-3-500-year-old-pharaonic-tomb-10361

by ROBBY BERMAN

Though it it seemed to be just a corroded lump of some sort when it was found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece near Antikythera in 1900, in 1902 archaeologist Valerios Stais, looking at the gear embedded in it, guessed that what we now call the “Antikythera mechanism” was some kind of astronomy-based clock. He was in the minority—most agreed that something so sophisticated must have entered the wreck long after its other 2,000-year-old artifacts. Nothing like it was believed to have existed until 1,500 years later.

In 1951, British historian Derek J. de Solla Price began studying the find, and by 1974 he had worked out that it was, in fact, a device from 150 to 100 BC Greece. He realized it used meshing bronze gears connected to a crank to move hands on the device’s face in accordance with the Metonic cycle, the 235-month pattern that ancient astronomers used to predict eclipses.

By 2009, modern imaging technology had identified all 30 of the Antikythera mechanism’s gears, and a virtual model of it was released.

Understanding how the pieces fit goes together confirmed that the Antikythera mechanism was capable of predicting the positions of the planets with which the Greeks were familiar—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn—as well as the sun and moon, and eclipses. It even has a black and white stone that turns to show the phases of the moon. Andrew Carol, an engineer from Apple, built a (much bigger) working model of the device using Legos to demonstrate its operation.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.

Archaeologists have discovered what may be the original structure built at the pyramid of Kukulkan at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, experts said Wednesday.

Last year, archaeologists using electrical imagining techniques found that the pyramid, which is also known as El Castillo, was built atop a subterranean river, or a cenote.

Archaeologists have long known that a smaller pyramid is encapsulated underneath the visible temple.

Researchers said Wednesday that they had detected an even smaller structure inside the other two structures. Using what is called tri-dimensional electric resistivity tomography, or “ERT-3D,” they found a 10-metre tall structure within the 20-metre tall ‘intermediate’ pyramid that was covered over by the last construction stage, perhaps around 900 A.D.

Archaeologist Denisse Lorenia Argote said “if we can research this structure in the future it could be important, because it could tell us about the first-period inhabitants” of the site.

Argote, of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, said the first structure may be in the “pure Maya” style from between 500 and 800 A.D.

University of California, San Diego anthropology professor Geoffrey Braswell, who was not involved in the latest project but who has conducted research at Chichen Itza, said the discovery may be new, or may be a structure detected in the 1940s.

Braswell said that while digging into the intermediate-layer pyramid in the 1940s, one archaeologist found a third platform buried within it.

“The tunnel was unstable, so we know very little about this platform,” Braswell wrote. “It appears to be much smaller than the outer two pyramids, and is not perfectly aligned within them.”

The computer image distributed by the researchers also showed un underlying structure not quite aligned with the subsequent layers.

Braswell compared the Kukulkan pyramid to a Russian nesting doll, with each layer encapsulating another. But at the bottom, there may be more than one platform encapsulated.

“To make matters more complicated, ” Braswell wrote, “the third Russian doll moving in may actually be one of a set of several small dolls rattling around inside the same shell. We just do not know. ”

Rene Chavez, a researcher at the National Autonomous University’s Institute of Geophysics, said the early structure appeared to have a staircase and perhaps an altar at the top that may have just been filled in and preserved. The structure has been mapped, but it is not clear whether it will be excavated.

“Given that no one has excavated this structure … it is difficult to say with certitude if it is one of the oldest buildings at the site,” Braswell said. “But this is quite possible.”

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/world/original+pyramid+found+nestled+inside+larger+ones+mayan+ruins/12399722/story.html


The spells are written in a mysterious language, but a few names of demons could be deciphered.

By Bryan Nelson

Archaeologists excavating a site associated with the ancient Roman city of Viminacium in modern day Serbia have stumbled upon something very unusual: tiny sheets of gold and silver, rolled up like scrolls and placed inside diminutive lead amulets, with mysterious writing etched on them. Scholars now believe the etchings are ancient magic spells, reports The Guardian.

The amulets were discovered inside the graves of skeletons that were buried 2,000 years ago. The scrolls, made of incredibly thin precious metals, likely would have taken expert craftsmanship to be so elegantly etched upon.

“The alphabet is Greek, that much we know. The language is Aramaic – it’s a Middle Eastern mystery to us,” said Miomir Korać, chief archaeologist at the site.

So far the only thing that can be deciphered from the writing is the names of a few demons that are connected to the territory of modern-day Syria, adding to the interest of the find. Archaeologists guess that the inscriptions must be magic spells… but for what purpose?

Since the amulets are similar to those found at sites in other countries, which have been known to contain “binding magic” and which were also buried in graves, researchers assume these gold and silver scrolls have a similar purpose.

“They were often love charms, ordering someone to fall in love, but there were also dark, malignant curses, to the tune of ‘May your body turn dead, as cold and heavy as this lead,’” explained archaeologist Ilija Danković.

If a similar spell was inscribed on these scrolls, it certainly adds some ominous intrigue to the cause of death of these ancient humans!

Actually, magic charms were especially common in the graves of individuals who had suffered a violent death, because of a belief that “souls of such people took longer to find rest and had a better chance of finding demons and deities and pass the wishes to them so they could do their magic,” added Danković.

The fact that these skeletons received their charms on precious sheets of gold and silver might indicate that they had an elevated social status.

As for the prospects of ever fully deciphering the scrolls, researchers are doubtful; the language they were written in has been lost.

http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/tiny-golden-scrolls-found-2000-year-old-skeleton-contain-ancient-magic-spells

Danish archaeologists doing a survey ahead of the construction of the Femern Belt link scheme, an immersed tunnel that will connect the German island of Fehmarn with the Danish island of Lolland, have found a 5,500-year old-ceramic vessel bearing the fingerprint of the artisan who made it.

The vessel is known with the name “funnel beaker,” a kind of ceramics which features a flat bottom with a funnel shaped neck. Such earthenware is characteristic of the Funnel Beaker Culture (4000 – 2800 B.C.), which represents the first farmers in Scandinavia and the north European plain.

It was found in pieces in a former fjord east of Rødby Havn, on the south coast of Lolland, Denmark.

“It is one of three beakers at the site, which originally was deposited whole probably containing some food or liquid presumably as part of some long forgotten ritual,” Line Marie Olesen, archaeologist at the Museum Lolland-Falster, told Discovery News.

At the same site Olesen and colleagues last year found a 5,500-year-old flint axe with the handle still attached. The axe was deliberately jammed into what used to be the seabed during the Stone Age.

As the beaker was brought to the Danish National Museum for conservation, experts noticed a fingerprint on the interior surface.

“It must have been left there while manufacturing the pot,” Olesen said.

According to Olesen, a lot of time and symbolism was put into the manufacture and decoration of the funnel beakers and associated pots.

“From the contexts in which they appear it is obvious that they played an important part in everyday life, be it ritual or profane,” she added.

“The fragile fingerprint, left unintentionally, is an anonymous, yet very personal signature, which somehow brings us a bit closer to the prehistoric people and their actions,” Olesen said.

Last year the same archaeological survey unearthed 5,000-year-old footprints left by people who attempted to save parts of their fishing system before it was flooded and covered in sand.

“An unknown persons gallery is gradually developing before our eyes, of the people who lived by Lolland’s southern coast at the time when agriculture was introduced some 6,000 years ago,” Anne-Lotte Sjørup Mathiesen of the Museum Lolland-Falster, said in a statement.

http://www.livescience.com/51363-ancient-fingerprint-found-on-ceramic-vessel.html?li_source=pm&li_medium=most-popular&li_campaign=related_test


Who was Cervantes? BBC News has the essential facts
1547: Born near Madrid
1571: Shot and wounded at Battle of Lepanto
1575: Captured and enslaved for five years in Algiers
1605: Publishes first part of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, second part in 1615. Don Quixote is man obsessed with chivalry who sets out in search of adventure on his ageing horse Rocinante and with his faithful squire Sancho Panza
1616: Cervantes dies aged 68, with six teeth remaining. Buried at Convent of Barefoot Trinitarians
Grave lost when convent rebuilt

Forensic scientists say they have found the tomb of Spain’s much-loved giant of literature, Miguel de Cervantes, nearly 400 years after his death.

They believe they have found the bones of Cervantes, his wife and others recorded as buried with him in Madrid’s Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians.

Separating and identifying his badly damaged bones from the other fragments will be difficult, researchers say.

The Don Quixote author was buried in 1616 but his coffin was later lost.

When the convent was rebuilt late in the 17th Century, his remains were moved into the new building and it has taken centuries to rediscover the tomb of the man known as Spain’s “Prince of Letters”.

“His end was that of a poor man. A war veteran with his battle wounds,” said Pedro Corral, head of art, sport and tourism at Madrid city council.

The team of 30 researchers used infrared cameras, 3D scanners and ground-penetrating radar to pinpoint the burial site, in a forgotten crypt beneath the building.

Inside one of 33 niches found against the far wall, archaeologists discovered a number of adult bones matching a group of people with whom Cervantes had been buried, before their tombs were disturbed and moved into the crypt.

“The remains are in a bad state of conservation and do not allow us to do an individual identification of Miguel de Cervantes,” said forensic scientist Almudena Garcia Rubio.

“But we are sure what the historical sources say is the burial of Miguel de Cervantes and the other people buried with him is what we have found.”

Further analysis may allow the team to separate the bones of Cervantes from those of the others if they can use DNA analysis to work out which bones do not belong to the author.

Investigator Luis Avial told a news conference on Tuesday that Cervantes would be reburied “with full honours” in the same convent after a new tomb had been built, according to his wishes.

“Cervantes asked to be buried there and there he should stay,” said Luis Avial, georadar expert on the search team.

The convent’s religious order helped pay for his ransom after he was captured by pirates and held prisoner for five years in Algiers.

The crypt will be opened to the public next year for the first time in centuries to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ death.

Mr Corral told the BBC that the project had not just been about finding the bones of the author but of honouring his memory and encouraging people to learn more about him.

Many people may be rediscovering Cervantes because of the search, he said.

Born near Madrid in 1547, Cervantes has been dubbed the father of the modern novel for The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, published in two parts in 1605 and 1615.

The book is thought to be one of the most widely read and translated books in the world.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31852032