Archaeology January 2013


Archaic Native Americans built massive Louisiana mound in fewer than 90 days, research confirms   PhysOrg - January 30, 2013

Nominated early this year for recognition on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which includes such famous cultural sites as the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu and Stonehenge, the earthen works at Poverty Point, La., have been described as one of the world's greatest feats of construction by an archaic civilization of hunters and gatherers. Now, new research in the current issue of the journal Geoarchaeology, offers compelling evidence that one of the massive earthen mounds at Poverty Point was constructed in less than 90 days, and perhaps as quickly as 30 days - an incredible accomplishment for what was thought to be a loosely organized society consisting of small, widely scattered bands of foragers.




Aliens   Crystalinks


300-Million-Year-Old Tooth Wheel Found In Russian Coal: Scientists   Huffington Post - January 24, 2013

Alien connections?
The Earth was so young 300 million years ago, the first land animals had yet to evolve into dinosaurs, most scientists believe. If that's the case, how do you explain the discovery in Russia of a piece of a gear shift -- a common machine part -- embedded into a hunk of 300-million-year-old coal. Has this artifact been correctly identified? And if so, who could have made this thing? And for what purpose? According to Komsomolskaya Pravda, a resident of Vladivostok -- near the borders of China and North Korea -- named Dmitry, recently noticed something odd about a hunk of coal he had obtained to heat his home during the winter.

When geologists broke the piece of coal in which the metal object was pressed into and spot-treated it with special chemical agents, it turned out the the metal detail was unusually light and soft. ... It was found to be composed of 98 percent aluminum and 2 percent magnesium," which led to the implication that the metallic object was created artificially.




Australia   Crystalinks


Did Mega-Drought Kill Ancient Aboriginal Culture?   Live Science - January 10, 2013

A 1,500-year drought in Australia may have led to the demise of an ancient aboriginal culture, a new study suggests. The results, published Nov. 28 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, show that geological traces of a mega-drought in the northwest Kimberley region of Western Australia coincide with a gap and transition in the region's rock art style. The finding suggests that the people who lived prior to the drought, called the Gwion, either left the region or dramatically altered their culture as a result of the drought, and a new culture called the Wanjinda eventually took its place.'




Ancient Egypt   Crystalinks


Egyptian Mummy's Elaborate Hairstyle Revealed in 3D   Live Science - January 24, 2013

Nearly 2,000 years ago, at a time when Egypt was under the control of the Roman Empire, a young woman with an elaborate hairstyle was laid to rest only yards away from a king's pyramid, researchers report. She was 5 feet 2 inches in height, around age 20 when she died, and was buried in a decorated coffin whose face is gilded with gold. A nearby pyramid, at a site called Hawara, was built about 2 millennia before her lifetime. The location of her burial is known from archival notes. High-resolution CT scans reveal that, before she was buried, her hair was dressed in an elaborate hairstyle.


Bones and jars of the dead unearthed in 3,000-year-old Egyptian tombs   MSNBC - January 10, 2013

Archaeologists say they have discovered a string of 3,000-year-old rock tombs in the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor, containing the remains of wooden coffins, skeletons, furniture and canopic jars. The tombs were dug within the funerary temple of Pharaoh Amenhotep II, who reigned from 1427 to 1401 B.C. during Egypt's 18th Dynasty. However, the newfound tombs appear to be part of a more recent cemetery. In Thursday's announcement of the discovery, Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said they date back to the beginning of a transitional period that lasted from 1075 to 664 B.C.


Dahshour, Egypt: New cemetery endangers Egypt's ancient necropolis   AP - January 15, 2013

In this more than 4,500-year-old pharaonic necropolis, Egypt's modern rituals of the dead are starting to encroach on its ancient ones. Steamrollers flatten the desert sand, and trucks haul in bricks as villagers build rows of tombs in a new cemetery nearly up to the feet of Egypt's first pyramids and one of its oldest temples. The illegal expansion of a local cemetery has alarmed antiquities experts, who warn the construction endangers the ancient, largely unexplored complex of Dahshour, where pharaoh Sneferu experimented with the first true, smooth-sided pyramids that his son Khufu - better known as Cheops - later took to new heights at the more famous Giza Plateau nearby.




Ancient Nubia   Crystalinks


Ancient Carving Shows Stylishly Plump African Princess   Live Science - January 6, 2012

A 2,000-year-old relief carved with an image of what appears to be a, stylishly overweight, princess has been discovered in an "extremely fragile" palace in the ancient city of Meroe, in Sudan, archaeologists say. At the time the relief was made, Meroe was the center of a kingdom named Kush, its borders stretching as far north as the southern edge of Egypt. It wasn't unusual for queens (sometimes referred to as "Candaces") to rule, facing down the armies of an expanding Rome.




Ancient Greece   Crystalinks


Athenian 'Snake Goddess' Gets New Identity   Live Science - January 8, 2013

A mysterious "snake goddess" painted on terracotta and discovered in Athens may actually be Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest. Once linked to the worship of the dead, the goddess is flanked by two snakes on a slab of terracotta about the size of a piece of notebook paper. She has her hands up above her head, which has given her the nickname "the touchdown goddess" thanks to the resemblance of the pose to a referee's signal. The goddess is painted in red, yellow and blue-green on a tile, with only her head molded outward in three dimensions. This unusual piece of art was found amid a jumble of gravel and other terracotta fragments in 1932 in what was once the Athenian agora, or public square.


Over 300 Clay Figures Found at Ancient Site   Live Science - January 9, 2013

Archaeologists at a Neolithic settlement in Greece have discovered over 300 clay figurines - some that look like people, others that look like human-animal hybrids, all of which date back more than 7,000 years. The little statuettes were scattered all over Koutroulou Magoula, a site about 160 miles (257 kilometers) from Athens that was occupied during the Middle Neolithic period (c. 5800 - 5300 B.C.). Researchers say Koutroulou Magoula was once home a few hundred people who made houses from stone and mud-bricks and subsisted by farming and keeping domestic animals. The archaeologists are still investigating what the artifacts say about the ancient settlement's culture.




Ancient Rome   Crystalinks


Sicilian Mummies Bring Centuries to Life   National Geographic - January 29, 2013

Arrayed in crypts and churches, with leering skulls and parchment skin, the desiccated dead of Sicily have long kept mute vigil. But now, centuries later, these creepy cadavers have plenty to say. Five years into the Sicily Mummy Project, six macabre collections are offering scientists a fresh look at life and death on the Mediterranean island from the late 16th century to the mid-20th. Led by anthropologist Dario Piombino-Mascali of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity in Palermo (map), the ongoing investigation is revealing how religious men and their wealthy supporters ate, interacted, dealt with disease, and disposed of their dead. These mummies are a unique treasure in terms of both biology and history,


What Does First-century Roman Graffiti Say?   National Geographic - January 29, 2013

A facelift of the Colosseum in Rome that began last fall has revealed centuries of graffiti. Removing the accumulated grime and calcification, experts discovered layers of inscriptions on the section of a wall seen here - designs in red and faded gray from antiquity, and lettering in black left by visitors in modern times. Built in the first century, the Colosseum may have held crowds as large as 50,000 people. Its numbered entrances and covered passages were designed to get spectators in and out quickly and to separate the high and mighty from the hoi polloi.


Down the Drain: Lost Items Reveal Roman Bath Activities   Live Science - January 11, 2013

Ever go swimming with rings on your fingers or hoops in your ears only to find your jewelry had vanished after your dip? If so, you've got something in common with ancient Romans. A new study of objects lost down the drains in the bathhouses from the Roman Empire reveals that people got up to all sorts of things in these gathering places. They bathed, of course, but they also adorned themselves with trinkets, snacked on finger foods and even did needlework.


Scale Model Discovered for Florence Cathedral   Live Science - January 11, 2013

Italian archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a mini dome near Florence’s cathedral - evidence, they say, that the structure served as a scale model for the majestic structure designed by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446). Found during excavations to expand the Cathedral museum, the model measures 9 feet in circumference and it’s made of bricks arranged in a herringbone pattern. This building technique had been previously used in Persian domes, but Brunelleschi was the first to introduce it into Europe when he worked at the dome.


Ancient Pompeians Could Go Upstairs to Pee   Live Science - January 11, 2013

The residents of the ancient city of Pompeii weren't limited to street-level plumbing, a new study finds. In fact, many in the city may have headed upstairs when nature called. Most second floors in the Roman city are gone, claimed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii in A.D. 79. But vertical pipes leading to lost second stories strongly suggest that there were once toilets up there, according to a new analysis by A. Kate Trusler, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Missouri. "We have 23 toilets that are connected, that are second-story preserved, that are connected to these downpipes.


2,000-Year-Old Treasure Discovered In Black Sea Fortress   Live Science - January 10, 2013

Residents of a town under siege by the Roman army about 2,000 years ago buried two hoards of treasure in the town's citadel - treasure recently excavated by archaeologists. More than 200 coins, mainly bronze, were found along with "various items of gold, silver and bronze jewelry and glass vessels" inside an ancient fortress within the Artezian settlement in the Crimea (in Ukraine), the researchers wrote in the most recent edition of the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.


Pompeii 'Wall Posts' Reveal Ancient Social Networks   Live Science - January 10, 2013

Think of it as the earliest version of the Facebook wall post: Ancient Pompeii residents revealed their social networks through graffiti on actual walls. Now, a new analysis of some of these scribbled messages reveals the walls of the wealthy were highly sought after, especially for political candidates hoping to drum up votes. The findings suggest that Pompeii homeowners may have had some control over who got artistic on their walls, said study researcher Eeva-Maria Viitanen, an archaeologist at the University of Helsinki.


Ancient Shipwreck Reveals 2,000-Year-Old Eye Medicine   Live Science - January 9, 2013

Ancient gray disks loaded with zinc and beeswax found aboard a shipwreck more than 2,000 years old may have been used as medicine for the eyes, researchers say. These new findings shed light on the development of medicine over the centuries, scientists added. Scientists analyzed six flat gray tablets approximately 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) in diameter and 0.4 inches (1 cm) thick that were found in a round tin box aboard the so-called Relitto del Pozzino shipwreck, which was discovered about 60 feet (18 meters) underwater in 1974 on the seabed of the Baratti Gulf off the coast of Tuscany. The hull, only 50 to 60 feet (15 to 18 m) long and about 10 feet (3 m) wide, dated back to about 140 B.C.


Oldest Roman Hairstyle Recreated for First Time   Live Science - January 9, 2013

For the first time, the hairstyle of the Roman Vestal Virgins has been recreated on a modern head. The Vestals were priestesses who guarded the fire of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, among other sacred tasks. Chosen before puberty and sworn to celibacy, they were free from many of the social rules that limited women in the Roman era. Their braided hairstyle, the sini crenes, symbolized chastity and was known in ancient texts as the oldest hairstyle in Rome.




Paleontology   Crystalinks


Storms Reveal Iron Age Skeleton   Live Science - January 17, 2013

A series of storms that hit Scotland's Shetland Islands over the holidays revealed what archaeologists believe could be 2,000-year-old human remains. Police were initially called to the scene when storms eroded a cliff at Channerwick and exposed the skeleton, but officials soon determined that they wouldn't have to open a homicide investigation. Local archaeologist Chris Dyer said the ancient skeleton looked as if it were contemporary with the remains of Iron Age structures revealed nearby. Researchers then identified evidence of one or possibly two more burials at the site, but another storm caused a further chunk of the cliff to crumble, covering up the discovery.




Maya Civilization   Crystalinks


Mass Human Sacrifice? Pile of Ancient Skulls Found   Live Science - January 26, 2013

Archaeologists have unearthed a trove of skulls in Mexico that may have once belonged to human sacrifice victims. The skulls, which date between A.D. 600 and 850, may also shatter existing notions about the ancient culture of the area. The find, described in the January issue of the journal Latin American Antiquity, was located in an otherwise empty field that once held a vast lake, but was miles from the nearest major city of the day, said study co-author Christopher Morehart, an archaeologist at Georgia State University. Morehart and his colleagues were using satellite imagery to map ancient canals, irrigation channels and lakes that used to surround the kingdom of Teotihuacan (home to the Pyramid of the Sun), about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Mexico City. The vast ancient kingdom flourished from around A.D 200 to 650, though who built it remains a mystery.


Ancient Mexico's Dead Got Makeovers   Live Science - January 9, 2013

Death didn't mean the end of beauty for pre-Hispanic civilizations in what is now Mexico. A new study finds that ancient Teotihuacans likely exhumed the dead and painted them with cosmetics during periodic remembrance rituals. The ancient city of Teotihuacan is northeast of modern-day Mexico city. It was a major cultural area in its day, marked by huge monuments, temples and pyramids. Among the archaeological finds at the site are pots of cosmetic pigments. It was these pots that researchers from Mexico and Spain analyzed to reveal the death practices.


Maya Predicted 1991 Solar Eclipse   Live Science - January 8, 2013

The Maya, best known these days for the doomsday they never foretold, may have accurately predicted astronomical phenomena centuries ahead of time, scientists find. A new book, "Astronomy in the Maya Codices" (American Philosophical Society, 2011), which was awarded the Osterbrock Book Prize for historical astronomy here at the American Astronomical Society conference Monday (Jan. 7), details a series of impressive observations made by Mayan astronomers pre-16th century.




Aztec Civilization   Crystalinks


Mysterious Shaman Stones Uncovered in Panama   Live Science - January 16, 2013

Archaeologists have unearthed nearly 5,000-year-old shaman's stones in a rock shelter in Panama. The stone collection may be the earliest evidence of shamanic rituals in that region of Central America, researchers say. The 12 stones were found in the Casita de Piedra rock shelter, in the Isthmus of Panama. The rocks, which carbon-dating of surrounding material showed to be between 4,000 and 4,800 years old, were clustered in a tight pile. That suggests they had been carried there, likely in a leather pouch that has long-since disintegrated. If correct, it constitutes the earliest material evidence in lower Central America of shamanistic practice.




Aztec conquest altered genetics among early Mexico inhabitants, new DNA study shows   PhysOrg - January 31, 2013

For centuries, the fate of the original Otomí inhabitants of Xaltocan, the capital of a pre-Aztec Mexican city-state, has remained unknown. Researchers have long wondered whether they assimilated with the Aztecs or abandoned the town altogether. The answers may lie in DNA. Following this line of evidence, the researchers theorize that some original Otomies, possibly elite rulers, may have fled the town. Their exodus may have led to the reorganization of the original residents within Xaltocan, or to the influx of new residents, who may have intermarried with the Otomí population.




Evolution   Crystalinks


In evolution, fossils reveal, 'Court Jester' gets last laugh   PhysOrg - January 10, 2013

The dominant factors in the rise and fall of the diversity of life on Earth has been a point of debate for scientists nearly as long as they have studied the processes of evolution. In the 1970s, evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen began calling the case for biological factors (such as competition with other organisms for food, space and mates) the "Red Queen" hypothesis, after Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass" character who tells Alice she must run hard in Wonderland just to stay in the same place. The alternative argument, backing the nonbiological forces of the environment (physical characteristics like chemistry and temperature or relative catastrophes like asteroid impacts), came to be known as the "Court Jester" hypothesis. "This question - which one is pulling the strings? - is a big one for people who study the history of life on Earth," says Shanan Peters, a University of Wisconsin–Madison geoscience professor. "And what we've found is that it's actually both. They just play very different roles."






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