Tag Archive: Archeology


Chilean and French scientists have discovered a network of underground caves on a remote island in Patagonia that could provide valuable clues as to how continents were formed. The group found the system of around 20 limestone caves this week during a research trip to Diego de Almagro island off the far southwest coast of Chile.

Scientists had to abseil and scubadive to get into the caves, some of which are around 50 meters deep (165 feet). They found wall paintings and bone fragments left by the indigenous Kawesqar people that could help date the caves.

“You can make models of areas where the continents broke off and this could be one of those spots,” said speleologist Natalia Morata. The expedition is the latest in a series by the French Centre Terre association, who have found types of rock in the caves normally found in more temperate zones. That could give clues as to how the continents split apart. Scientists believe continents move due to plate tectonics, and that the map of the Earth would have looked very different millions of years ago.

Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu, in southern Egypt, have uncovered a step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years, predating the Great Pyramid of Giza by at least a few decades.

The step pyramid, which once stood as high as 43 feet (13 meters), is one of seven so-called “provincial” pyramids built by either the pharaoh Huni (reign ca. 2635-2610 B.C.) or Snefru (reign ca. 2610-2590 B.C.). Over time, the step pyramid’s stone blocks were pillaged, and the monument was exposed to weathering, so today, it’s only about 16 feet (5 m) tall.

Scattered throughout central and southern Egypt, the provincial pyramids are located near major settlements, have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 x 61 feet (18.4 x 18.6 m).

The purpose of these seven pyramids is a mystery. They may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king in the southern provinces.

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Big picture. A new model of the Amazon predicts that terra preta is more likely to be found along rivers in the eastern part of the rainforest. The letters indicate known archaeological sites.

Look around the Amazon rainforest today and it’s hard to imagine it filled with people. But in recent decades, archaeologists have started to find evidence that before Columbus’s arrival, the region was dotted with towns and perhaps even cities. The extent of human settlement in the Amazon remains hotly debated, partly because huge swaths of the 6-million-square-kilometer rainforest remain unstudied by archaeologists. Now, researchers have built a model predicting where signs of pre-Columbian agriculture are most likely to be found, a tool they hope will help guide future archaeological work in the region.

In many ways, archaeology in the Amazon is still in its infancy. Not only is it difficult to mount large-scale excavations in the middle of a tropical rainforest, but until recently, archaeologists assumed there wasn’t much to find. Amazonian soil is notoriously poor quality—all the nutrients are immediately sucked up by the rainforest’s astounding biodiversity—so for many years, scientists believed that the kind of large-scale farming needed to support cities was impossible in the region. Discoveries of gigantic earthworks and ancient roads, however, hint that densely populated and long-lasting population hubs once existed in the Amazon. Their agricultural secret? Pre-Columbian Amazonians enriched the soil themselves, creating what archaeologists call terra preta.

Terra preta—literally “black earth”—is soil that humans have enriched to have two to three times the nutrient content of the surrounding, poor-quality soil, explains Crystal McMichael, a paleoecologist at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. Although there is no standard definition for terra preta, it tends to be darker than other Amazonian soils and to have charcoal and pre-Columbian pottery shards mixed in. Most of it was created 2500 to 500 years ago. Like the earthworks, terra preta is considered a sign that a particular area was occupied by humans in the pre-Columbian past.

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stonehenge sounds

Of all the stones the ancients could have chosen to use in building Stonehenge, why did they pick those famous bluestones?

A provocative new study suggests it’s because of their special acoustic qualities. The study adds a surprising twist to previous research that revealed Stonehenge may have been used as a concert venue.

For the study, researchers at the Royal College of Art in London tapped on more than 1,000 rocks in the Carn Menyn area of the Preseli Hills in southwestern Wales, the region where the iconic monument’s bluestones are believed to have come from.

“We found it was a noteworthy soundscape, with a significant percentage of the actual rocks making metallic sounds like bells, gongs, tin drums, etc., when tapped with small, handheld ‘hammerstones,’” study co-leader Paul Devereux, a research associate at the college and an expert in archaeo-acoustics.

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Sima de los Huesos remains

That’s the verdict cast by human evolution experts on an analysis in Nature journal of the oldest human genetic material ever sequenced.

The femur comes from the famed “Pit of Bones” site in Spain, which gave up the remains of at least 28 ancient people.

But the results are perplexing, raising more questions than answers about our increasingly complex family tree.

The early human remains from the cave site near the northern Spanish city of Burgos have been painstakingly excavated and pieced together over the course of more than two decades. It has yielded one of the richest assemblages of human bones from this stage of human evolution, in a time called the Middle Pleistocene.

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Fragments of humans’ ancient relatives are scattered across the globe. Sometimes a tooth or a few bones are all we have to tell us about an entire species closely related to humans that lived thousands or millions of years ago.

So when anyone finds a complete skull of a possible human ancestor, paleoanthropologists rejoice. But with new knowledge comes new controversy over a fossil’s place in our species’ very fuzzy family tree.

In the eastern European nation of Georgia, a group of researchers has excavated a 1.8 million-year-old skull of an ancient human relative, whose only name right now is Skull 5. They report their findings in the journal Science, and say it belongs to our genus, called Homo.

“This is most complete early Homo skull ever found in the world,” said lead study author David Lordkipanidze, researcher at the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi.

Skull 5 is the fifth example of a hominid — a bipedal primate mammal that walked upright — from this time period found at the site in Dmanisi, Georgia. Stone tools and animal bones have also been recovered from the area.

The variation in physical features among the Dmanisi hominid specimens is comparable to the degree of diversity found in humans today, suggesting that they all belong to one species, Lordkipanidze said.

 But “if you will put separately all these five skulls and five jaws in different places, maybe people will call it as a different species,” he said.

Archaeologist Martti Pärssinen has made sensational finds of an ancient civilisation in the Amazonian area. The summer’s digs in Brazil have unearthed unique artefacts, including entirely new forms of ceramics.

Professori Martti Pärssisen johtamissa kaivauksissa löytyi kesällä enemmän keramiikkaa kuin mitä alueelta on koskaan ennen kaivettu.

The clearing of the Amazon rainforest has revealed mysterious patterns in the earth. The large-scale patterns are best visible from the air, where Finnish archaeologist Martti Pärssinen takes pictures of them.

The geometrical patterns have been made with earth mounds and moats. Many of them are huge, with sides measuring up to a few hundred metres. Over 300 such structures have been discovered in the Brazilian state of Acre alone.

The construction feat involved can be compared to that achieved by those that built the pyramids in Egypt.

Pärssinen points out that people here must have expended as much energy as the workers in Egypt, shaping the earth into vast motes and mounds, in complex, multiple structures.

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The Romans may have first come across the colorful potential of nanoparticles by accident but they seem to have perfected it.

The colorful secret of a 1,600-year-old Roman chalice at the British Museum is the key to a super­sensitive new technology that might help diagnose human disease or pinpoint biohazards at security checkpoints.

The glass chalice, known as the Lycurgus Cup because it bears a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, appears jade green when lit from the front but blood-red when lit from behind—a property that puzzled scientists for decades after the museum acquired the cup in the 1950s. The mystery wasn’t solved until 1990, when researchers in England scrutinized broken fragments under a microscope and discovered that the Roman artisans were nanotechnology pioneers: They’d impregnated the glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of a grain of table salt. The exact mixture of the precious metals suggests the Romans knew what they were doing—“an amazing feat,” says one of the researchers, archaeologist Ian Freestone of University College London.

The ancient nanotech works something like this: When hit with light, electrons belonging to the metal flecks vibrate in ways that alter the color depending on the observer’s position. Gang Logan Liu, an engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has long focused on using nanotechnology to diagnose disease, and his colleagues realized that this effect offered untapped potential. “The Romans knew how to make and use nanoparticles for beautiful art,” Liu says. “We wanted to see if this could have scientific applications.”

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Even in the Bronze Age there was more to life than work. Excavations at a burial site in south-east Turkey have revealed a set of 49 sculpted pieces that may once have been used in board games. They are among the oldest evidence of such games ever found. Haluk Sağlamtimur at Ege University in İzmir, Turkey, and colleagues made the find during excavations of a 5000-year-old burial at the site of Başur Höyük, according to Discovery News. The stone pieces, which were found gathered together in a cluster, show a bewildering array of shapes and styles. Some are carved into elaborate pigs and dogs, whereas simpler ones are pyramids and bullet-shaped.

Sağlamtimur discussed the finds at the annual International Symposium of Excavations, Surveys and Archaeometry in the Turkish city of Muğla. He thinks the pieces belong to some complicated chess-like game. His team now hopes to work out the strategies that the game must have involved. Not so fast, says Ulrich Schädler, director of the Swiss Museum of Games in La Tour-de-Peilz. “Do the objects really all belong to one game? I would answer no,” he told New Scientist. “We don’t have the slightest trace of a board game using more than two different kinds of pieces before chess.” Early forms of chess were not played until about 1500 years ago.

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The world’s oldest temple, Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey, may have been built to worship the dog star, Sirius.

World's oldest temple built to worship the dog star?

The 11,000-year-old site consists of a series of at least 20 circular enclosures, although only a few have been uncovered since excavations began in the mid-1990s. Each one is surrounded by a ring of huge, T-shaped stone pillars, some of which are decorated with carvings of fierce animals. Two more megaliths stand parallel to each other at the centre of each ring.

Göbekli Tepe put a dent in the idea of the Neolithic revolution, which said that the invention of agriculture spurred humans to build settlements and develop civilisation, art and religion. There is no evidence of agriculture near the temple, hinting that religion came first in this instance.

“We have a lot of contemporaneous sites which are settlements of hunter-gatherers. Göbekli Tepe was a sanctuary site for people living in these settlements,” says Klaus Schmidt, chief archaeologist for the project at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Berlin.

But it is still anybody’s guess what type of religion the temple served. Giulio Magli, an archaeoastronomer at the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy, looked to the night sky for an answer. After all, the arrangement of the pillars at Stonehenge in the UK suggests it could have been built as an astronomical observatory, maybe even to worship the moon.

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Aboriginal Rock Art - Astronomy

The cluster of engraved astronomical markers found on a series of rock platforms is without parallel in Australia, and perhaps the world. Within a span of 3.5 kilometres there are at least 16 major rock platforms (at a location kept secret at this juncture) which contain no less than 3,500 star markers.

Conducted after extensive consultation with the relevant Original Elders and Custodians, and set against a backdrop of an enormous amount of Dreaming stories focused “on top,” in particular the Seven Sisters (the Pleiades), the construction of so many markers is part of a trend, verging on obsession, the Original people had with distant celestial objects and constellations.

Our estimated tally of 3,500 star-markers is extremely conservative, many platforms are yet to be seen, and it is possible some will never be seen. We set ourselves two tasks: to determine the approximate number of star markers engraved and the possible reasons that inspired these people to devote so much time and effort chipping and pecking into rock.

To begin with, we are by no means the first to see these engravings, undeniably many have obviously seen the thousands of engraved circles over the years, but amongst non-Original circles nothing seems to have registered. It wasn’t until researcher Paul White was assessing the credentials of the extremely contentious set of 300 hieroglyphs found on three sandstone walls near Kariong, in work not related to any astronomical issues, he and his colleague came upon the set of star markers closest to the glyphs. Soon after the positioning and alignment of these Original engravings of the night sky was fed into computer software at Sydney University and according to White, “the star charts reveal an unbelievable match with the star pattern above Gosford around the year 2,500 BC. The whole thing is a giant star map”.

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The ability to track time may have been available thousands of years earlier than previously thought, according to researchers in Scotland who have discovered what appears to be a 10,000-year-old “calendar.”

Archaeologists from the University of Birmingham recently announced the results of their analysis of a series of 12 pits dug in a field in Aberdeenshire in the journal Internet Archaeology. The discovery is believed to date back to about 8,000 B.C.

The Mesolithic monument — part of the Warren Field site originally excavated in 2004 — appears to mimic the phases of the moon and may have been used to track the lunar months.

Laid out in an arc, the row of pits is 50 meters (about 164 feet) long, according to the Scotsman. The pits, which alternate in depth, represent what could have been a fairly sophisticated measuring system, splitting the lunar month into three ten-day weeks.

World's Oldest Calendar

warren field

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Archaeological dig at Tel Hazor finds Sphinx fragment of pyramid-building Egyptian king

Part of an ancient Egyptian king’s unique sphinx was unveiled at a dig in northern Israel on Tuesday, with researchers struggling to understand just how the unexpected find ended up there. The broken granite sphinx statue—including the paws and some of the mythical creature’s forearms—displayed at Tel Hazor archaeological site in Israel’s Galilee, is the first such find in the region. Its discovery also marks the first time ever that researchers have found a statue dedicated to Egyptian ruler Mycerinus who ruled circa 2,500 BC and was builder of one of the three Giza pyramids, an expert said. “This is the only monumental Egyptian statue ever found in the Levant – today’s Israel, Lebanon, Syria,” Amnon Ben-Tor, an archaeology professor at the Hebrew University in charge of the Tel Hazor dig, told AFP.

“It is also the only sphinx of this particular king known, not even in Egypt was a sphinx of that particular king found.” Ben-Tor said that besides Mycerinus’s name, carved in hieroglyphics between the forearms, there are symbols reading “beloved by the divine souls of Heliopolis”. “This is the temple in which the sphinx was originally placed,” Ben-Tor said of Heliopolis, an ancient city which lies north of today’s Cairo. Tel Hazor, which Ben-Tor calls “the most important archaeological site in this country,” was the capital of southern Canaan, founded circa 2,700 BC and at its peak covering approximately 200 acres and home to some 20,000 Canaanites. It was destroyed in the 13th century BC.

“Following a gap of some 150 years, it was resettled in the 11th century BC by the Israelites, who continuously occupied it until 732 BC,” when it was destroyed by the Asyrians, Ben-Tor said.

He said the find was approximately 50 centimetres (20 inches) long, and estimated the entire statue was 150 centimetres (60 inches) long and half a metre (20 inches) high”.

How, when and why it reached Tel Hazor remains a mystery.

An excavation volunteer on July 9, 2013, displays the remains of a Sphinx found in northern Israel

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Strange Prehistoric Carved Stone Balls - Atom

Five carved stone balls are part of the collection at the Ashmolean Museum that were discovered in Scotland (Kincardineshire, Aberdeenshire and Banff). The purpose of those objects is unknown and is baffling archaeologists.

They are made of different stones like sandstone and granite and they are dated back to the Neolithic period between 3000 and 2000 BC. More than 400 stones have been found in Scotland and, including the five stones of the Ashmolean Museum, they have something peculiar about them. As you can see in the picture, on the stones around the surface there are engraved symmetrical patterns.

Most of the stones are of similar size with a diameter of 70mm with the exception of a few larger ones up to 114mm in diameter. The number of knobs on the stones varies from 4 up to 33 with some of the stones also including strange spiral patterns. The stone on the image was found at Skara Brae on Orkney and dates back to 3400 to 2000 BC.

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14,000 Year-Old Burial Rituals

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports on a discovery revealing 14,000-year-old burial rituals conducted by one of the earliest human cultures living in fixed settlements in what is now Israel.

Nearly 50 years ago, archaeologists uncovered the first true gravesites in the world in Raqefet Cave in Mount Carmel, Israel. However, a more thorough excavation was recently carried out which revealed four burial sites containing a total of 29 skeletons, which contained impressions from plant stems and flowers, including mint, sage and other aromatic plants.  The research team concluded that the flowers were placed in the grave before the bodies were buried there between 13,700 and 11,700 years ago.

The new find “is the oldest example of putting flowers and fresh plants in the grave before burying the dead,” said study co-author Dani Nadel, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa in Israel.

The people who made the tombs were part of a Natufian culture that flourished in the Near East beginning about 15,000 years ago. They were the first people who transitioned from a nomadic, hunter-gathering lifestyle to a more sedentary one. They formed fixed settlements, built heavy furniture, domesticated the wolf, and began to experiment with domesticating wheat and barley. Soon after, humans evolved the first villages, developed agriculture and went on to develop some of the first empires in the world.  It is also believed that the Natufian communities are the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region, which may have been the earliest in the world.

A lot is still unknown about the Natufians and how they came to develop such a sophisticated culture.

Further research continues to try to uncover who the skeletons belonged to, what type of people they were and why the graves were decorated with flowers.

Cambodian lost city

Australian archaeologists using cutting edge remote-sensing technology have made a remarkable discovery in Cambodia – a 1,200-year-old lost city that predates the Angkor Wat temple complex.

Damian Evans, director of the University of Sydney’s archaeological research center in Cambodia, and a small team working in the Siem Reap region, were given approval to use Lidar laser technology in the remote jungles of Cambodia, the first time the airborne technology has been used for archaeological research in tropical Asia.  It works by firing rapid laser pulses at the ground below and measuring the time each pulse takes to bounce back. By repeating the process, a complete picture of the terrain emerges.

The discovery came when the Lidar data emerged on a computer screen.  “With this instrument – bang – all of a sudden we saw an immediate picture of an entire city that no one knew existed, which is just remarkable,” said Evans.

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 Ancient Underground Network of tunnels From Scotland to Turkey

Archaeologists uncovered thousands of Stone Age underground tunnels, stretching across Europe from Scotland to Turkey, perplexing researchers as to their original purpose.

German archaeologist Dr Heinrich Kusch, in his book ‘Secrets of the Underground Door to an Ancient World’ revealed that tunnels were dug under literally hundreds of Neolithic settlements all over Europe and the fact that so many tunnels have survived 12,000 years indicates that the original network must have been huge.

‘In Bavaria in Germany alone we have found 700metres of these underground tunnel networks. In Styria in Austria we have found 350metres,’ he said. ‘Across Europe there were thousands of them – from the north in Scotland down to the Mediterranean.

The tunnels are quite small, measuring only 70cm in width, which is just enough for a person to crawl through. In some places there are small rooms, storage chambers and seating areas.

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Nearly 5,000 ancient cave paintings have been discovered in Burgos, Mexico.

The red, white, black and yellow images depict humans hunting, fishing and gathering, as well as animals such as deer, lizards and centipedes.

The 4,926 paintings were discovered in 11 different sites and are thought to have been created by at least three groups of hunter gatherers.

In one cave more than 1,550 images were found, including an image of an atlatl, a Hispanic weapon used for hunting that has not been seen before in paintings in the Tamaulipas region.

The archaeologists have been unable to date the paintings, but hope to take some samples of the pigments to find out their approximate age.

The area was not previously thought to have been inhabited by ancient civilisations.

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New images of a possible lost city hidden by Honduran rain forests show what might be the building foundations and mounds of Ciudad Blanca, a never-confirmed legendary metropolis.

Archaeologists and filmmakers Steven Elkins and Bill Benenson announced last year that they had discovered possible ruins in Honduras’ Mosquitia region using lidar, or light detection and ranging. Essentially, slow-flying planes send constant laser pulses groundward as they pass over the rain forest, imaging the topography below the thick forest canopy.

What the archaeologists found — and what the new images reveal — are features that could be ancient ruins, including canals, roads, building foundations and terraced agricultural land. The University of Houston archaeologists who led the expedition will reveal their new images and discuss them at the American Geophysical Union Meeting of the Americas in Cancun.

Ciudad Blanca, or “The White City,” has been a legend since the days of the conquistadors, who believed the Mosquitia rain forests hid a metropolis full of gold and searched for it in the 1500s. Throughout the 1900s, archaeologists documented mounds and other signs of ancient civilization in the Mosquitias region, but the shining golden city of legend has yet to make an appearance.

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Wind erosion has lead to an incredible discovery through google maps.

Comparable to the Nasca Lines in size, and even more impressive in intricacy, a potential massive lost city or site has been revealed in an area of the “verneukpan” an inhospitable area of salt flats in southern Africa .

For over a year now, a young determined Dutchman has been using Google earth to map the world’s ancient sites, very much a crowd-sourced project, with over 900 place markers so far of sites that are known about and links to Wikipedia articles about them.

Archeomaps is the brainchild of Jaimy Visser. Jaimy had found that in his research he was finding many unexplained circular structures around the globe and started project “Esthar”  to try and map these as well, in the process he has found huge areas of desert with evidence of similar ancient civilizations around the globe though none quite as striking as these which bear resemblance to carvings at Knowth , Newgrange, Malta and various other prehistorical sites.

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The complex in the image is over five square miles, with less striking patterns spread over around twenty square miles at least.

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