Archaeology April 2013

Robot Finds Mysterious Spheres in Ancient Temple   Discovery - April 30, 2013
Hundreds of mysterious spheres lie beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, an ancient six-level step pyramid just 30 miles from Mexico City. The enigmatic spheres were found during an archaeological dig using a camera-equipped robot at one of the most important buildings in the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan.

Archeologists Unearth New Information On Origins of Maya Civilization   Science Daily - April 25, 2013
The Maya civilization is well-known for its elaborate temples, sophisticated writing system, and mathematical and astronomical developments, yet the civilization's origins remain something of a mystery. Anthropologists typically fall into one of two competing camps with regard to the origins of Maya civilization. The first camp believes that it developed almost entirely on its own in the jungles of what is now Guatemala and southern Mexico. The second believes that the Maya civilization developed as the result of direct influences from the older Olmec civilization and its center of La Venta.

Where did Maya culture come from? Archaeologists dig into tangled roots   MSNBC - April 25, 2013
Archaeologists say that ceremonial structures unearthed in Guatemala are centuries older than they expected - and that the findings point to new theories for the rise of Maya culture. "The origin of Maya civilization was more complex than previously thought," the University of Arizona's Takeshi Inomata, lead researcher for a study appearing in this week's issue of the journal Science, told reporters on Thursday. Even though all this happened 3,000 years ago, the findings could provide fresh insights about social change in general, he said. The Maya had their heyday in Mexico and Central America between the year 250 and 900, but the roots of their culture go much farther back. There are several schools of thought about how their distinctive culture arose: Some archaeologists say the central features of Maya cultural life, including grand ceremonies centered on broad plazas and pyramids, were borrowed from Mexico's older Olmec civilization. Others say those features arose internally, without much outside influence.

Robot Discovers Burial Chambers in Ancient Temple   Live Science - April 23, 2013

Like many other workers, it looks like Indiana Jones has been replaced by a robot. A remote-controlled, mobile robot the size of a lawn mower has discovered three burial chambers deep within the shadowy recesses of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, an ancient pyramid in Mexico. The temple is part of the archaeological site of Teotihuacan, a vast complex of temples and pyramids about 31 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Mexico City. Constructed almost 2,000 years ago, the city of Teotihuacan - with more than 125,000 residents, one of the largest cities in the world at its peak - was abandoned several centuries later for reasons that have yet to be discovered.

Original Australians numbered 1,000-3,000, study finds   PhysOrg - April 23, 2013
This undated University of Southern Queensland photo shows a 28,000-year-old charcoal rock art fragment excavated from Arnhem land in Australia's Northern Territory. Australia was first settled by between 1,000 and 3,000 humans around 50,000 years ago, but the population crashed during the Ice Age before recovering to a peak of some 1.2 million people around five centuries ago, a study said.

Giza Secret Revealed: How 10,000 Pyramid Builders Got Fed   Live Science - April 23, 2013
The pyramid of Menkaure, with three queens' pyramids in front. Behind are the pyramids of Khafre and Khufu. The workers' town that archaeologists have been exploring was used to house laborers building Menkaure's pyramid. The builders of the famous Giza pyramids in Egypt feasted on food from a massive catering-type operation, the remains of which scientists have discovered at a workers' town near the pyramids. The workers' town is located about 1,300 feet (400 meters) south of the Sphinx, and was used to house workers building the pyramid of pharaoh Menkaure, the third and last pyramid on the Giza plateau. The site is also known by its Arabic name, Heit el-Ghurab, and is sometimes called "the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders." So far, researchers have discovered a nearby cemetery with bodies of pyramid builders; a corral with possible slaughter areas on the southern edge of workers' town; and piles of animal bones.

Wanted: Stonehenge Druid-in-Chief   Live Science - April 23, 2013
Attention Stonehenge enthusiasts: there's a job opening at the mysterious stone monument, and a better opportunity may not arise for the next 5,000 years. English Heritage, the organization that oversees Stonehenge as well as 420 other historic properties around Britain, is seeking a "dynamic and inspirational leader" who can "take the Stonehenge visitor experience forward," according to a job posting on English Heritage's website. The new manager will oversee efforts on a new visitor center and coordinate summer solstice activities. The job pays 65,000 ($99,229). The Wiltshire, England megaliths were raised nearly 5,000 years ago, but exactly why has remained an enduring mystery.

Stonehenge-Era Grave of Gold-Wearing Woman Found   Live Science - April 23, 2013
More than 4,000 years ago, a woman, perhaps an ancient queen, was carefully laid to rest outside of modern-day London, ornamented with beads of gold strung around her neck and a large drinking cup placed at her hip. Archaeologists have just uncovered her grave at a quarry that lies between Windsor Castle and Heathrow airport. The woman's bones have been degraded by acid in the soil, making radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis impossible. Nonetheless, excavators believe she was at least 35 years old when she died sometime between 2500-2200 B.C., around the era Stonehenge was constructed. The woman was adorned with a necklace that had tube-shaped beads fashioned out of sheet gold and black discs of lignite, a dark, coal-like material similar to jet. Though her clothing long ago disintegrated, amber buttons and fasteners were scattered across the woman's body in a row, hinting at how she may have been dressed.

Did an Earthquake Destroy Ancient Greece?   Live Science - April 23, 2013
The grand Mycenaens, the first Greeks, inspired the legends of the Trojan Wars, "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey." Their culture abruptly declined around 1200 B.C., marking the start of a Dark Ages in Greece. The disappearance of the Mycenaens is a Mediterranean mystery. Leading explanations include warfare with invaders or uprising by lower classes. Some scientists also think one of the country's frequent earthquakes could have contributed to the culture's collapse. At the ruins of Tiryns, a fortified palace, geologists hope to find evidence to confirm whether an earthquake was a likely culprit. Tiryns was one of the great Mycenaean cities. Atop a limestone hill, the city-state's king built a palace with walls so thick they were called Cyclopean, because only the one-eyed monster could have carried the massive limestone blocks. The walls were about 30 feet (10 meters) high and 26 feet (8 m) wide, with blocks weighing 13 tons, said Klaus-G. Hinzen, a seismologist at the University of Cologne in Germany and project leader. He presented his team's preliminary results April 19 at the Seismological Society of America's annual meeting in Salt Lake City.

Edinburgh's Mysterious Miniature Coffins   Smithsonian - April 16, 2013
The 'fairy coffins' discovered on Arthur's Seat, a hill above Edinburgh, in 1836. Were they magical symbols, sailors' memorials - or somehow linked to the city's infamous mass murderers, Burke and Hare? early in July, 1836, some boys were searching for rabbits' burrows in the rocky formation, near Edinburgh, known as Arthur's Seat. In the side of a cliff, they came upon some thin sheets of slate, which they pulled out. Little cave. Seventeen tiny coffins. Three or four inches long. In the coffins were miniature wooden figures. They were dressed differently in both style and material. There were two tiers of eight coffins each, and a third one begun, with one coffin. The extraordinary datum, which has especially made mystery here: That the coffins had been deposited singly, in the little cave, and at intervals of many years. In the first tier, the coffins were quite decayed, and the wrappings had moldered away. In the second tier, the effects of age had not advanced so far. And the top coffin was quite recent looking.'

4,500-year-old harbor structures and papyrus texts unearthed in Egypt   MSNBC - April 16, 2013
Archaeologists have stumbled upon what is thought to be the most ancient harbor ever found in Egypt, along with the country's oldest collection of papyrus documents, Egyptian authorities say. The harbor goes back 4,500 years, to the days of the Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) in the Fourth Dynasty, the Egypt State Information Service reported on Friday. The Great Pyramid of Giza serves as the tomb of Khufu, who died around 2566 B.C.

2,000-Year-Old Ritual Bath Found in Jerusalem   Live Science - April 16, 2013
Archaeologists in Jerusalem say they've found a 2,000-year-old ritual bath with a sophisticated system to keep water pure, Israel's Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced. The bath, known as a miqwe or mikveh, was found at a site in southwest Jerusalem's Kiryat Menachem quarter, and researchers say it had a unique water supply system. The miqwe collected rainwater from three basins, which were cut into the roof of the bath, and sent water into an underground immersion chamber through channels, explained IAA excavation director Benyamin Storchan. Storchan said in a statement that this system was more complex than that of other baths of the same time period, which typically had a small rock-cut pool nearby that supplied rainwater to the underground chamber.

Did Admiral Byrd Fly Over the North Pole or Not?   Live Science - April 16, 2013
On May 9, 1926, famed American explorer Richard Byrd took off from the Norwegian Arctic island of Spitsbergen along with his pilot, Floyd Bennett, in an attempt to be the first to fly to the North Pole. About 16 hours later, the pair returned to the island in their Fokker tri-motor airplane, the Josephine Ford, saying they had indeed accomplished the feat. Byrd submitted his navigational records to the U.S. Navy and a committee of the National Geographic Society, one of his sponsors, who confirmed the accomplishment, according to the Ohio State University Libraries. Byrd was hailed as a hero, given the Medal of Honor, and went on to fly over the South Pole, as well as achieving many other polar exploration milestones. But from 1926 onward, not everyone thought that Byrd and Bennett actually made it to the North Pole. The controversy largely rested on whether the plane could have covered the distance in just 15 hours and 44 minutes, as the team recorded, when the flight was expected to take about 18 hours, given the ground speed of the aircraft.

Other adventures - Admiral Byrd and Hollow Earth Theory