ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered a slice of Georgian history on the former site of the Royal Infirmary hospital.
Pottery, bits of bottle, coins and buttons from the 18th century were found by workers at what is now Edinburgh University’s High School Yards.
A dig took place after contractors drafted in to lay utilities uncovered a series of outer walls from the old Royal’s Surgical Hospital, which was built on the site in 1738. Among the highlights was a sixpenny piece dating from 1816 and the reign of George IV.
High School Yards was once the site of Blackfriars Monastery, which was founded in 1230 by King Alexander II.
The monastery and church were destroyed in 1558 by a mob, who were followers of John Knox’s reformation. Stone from the ruined buildings was quickly reused for other buildings.Read the full article in scotsman.com
A gruesome discovery first came to light in winter 2007 in looters holes at an excavation site in Lake Xaltocan, a drained lake in the northern basin of Mexico where Georgia State University’s Christopher Morehart and his wife were studying ancient agricultural technologies and how people interacted with their environment.An unexpected find
What they had found was unexpected and has led to some startling speculation. Up to 200 severed heads were located in ghoulish rows at what would have been a small, unremarkable shrine in an agricultural setting, rather than the more typical, if no less disturbing, larger temple complexes.
“My wife and I were noticing that they were cranial material,” Morehart recounted the initial moments of discovery. “She put her hand in the dirt, felt like she had a big shard, and it was the entire frontal of a cranium. My very easy, straightforward agricultural study just took a turn to being a more complex study.”Christopher Morehart (left), assistant professor of anthropology, leads an excavation at a site of human sacrifice in Mexico.
Morehart, with fellow researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the support of the National Geographic Society, has been working at the Xaltocan site ever since this 2007 discovery to learn more about the location where human sacrifice took place.
Further excavation from that initial research revealed at least 31 individuals had been sacrificed, with their skulls lined up toward the east.A time of sacrifice and war
It is clear that these people had been sacrificed and decapitated at a time between AD 660 and 890. This coincided with the collapse of nearby Teotihuacan and the later rise of the Aztec, known as the Epiclassic period.
Among the important markers of this period is evidence for the “collapse” of Classic Maya culture in the southern lowlands, including frequent images of warfare and sacrifice.
Human sacrifice took place throughout the region during that period, both at Teotihuacan and in the later Aztec Empire, but most of those rituals happened at great pyramids within cities and were tied to state powers.
The researchers found figures similar to deities worshipped in the region, such as Tlaloc, the god of rain and water, buried with the skulls.
“There was a ritual going on where offerings were being given to gods associated with the Earth, gods associated with rain and also integrating human sacrifice, which at the same time has connotations of violence, conflict and warfare,” Morehart said.
Some of the skulls had been purposely flattened or elongated while the victims were children – an ancient ritual known as cranial deformation while others were found with finger bones inserted into the eye sockets but the significance of this remains unknown.
Christopher Morehart, said that so far, between 150 and 200 adult skulls – which were carefully arranged in rows facing east towards the rising sun – had been excavated from fields that stand on a former lake bed.
Physical anthropologist Abigail Meza Penaloza of the Institute of Anthropology at Mexico’s National University said her team was still cleaning and assembling the skulls, but had a confirmed count of 130 so far, all of which appear to be of adult males.
Ms Meza Penaloza said it was the first find of its kind, both because of the location – a small, artificial mound built in the middle of an agricultural field – and the kind of decapitations carried out there. She said mass sacrifices had been documented at temple inaugurations of temple closings, but never in the middle of fields.Artefact depicting the Pre-Columbian water god Tlaloc, found at the human sacrifice site at Lake Xaltocan, Mexico.
Image: Christopher Morehart Rituals continued after the sacrifices end
The researchers found pollen that has been connected to both ceremonially significant flowers and the burning of incense. They have found that people continued to conduct rituals at the spot even after the period of sacrifices.
As later and different peoples arrived in the area, they most likely recognized the sacred significance of the site. They did not continue human sacrifice, but performed rituals and even directed a major canal right through the shrine.
Even today, it’s a site of ritual as Morehart’s team found evidence of contemporary rituals such as burying “spell bags” at the site in 2012.
“It’s a fascinating area in terms of long-term continuity and ritual, and it fits very well into my interests into understanding how people interact with their environment in multiple ways,” Morehart said. “This provides us with insight into how religion and practices are also relevant in understanding how people interact with their environment.”
During 2012, Morehart used the support of a National Geographic Society grant to dig further, finding even more skulls that are still under analysis by researchers at UNAM.Depiction of a tzompantli (“skull rack”), right half of image; associated with the depiction of Aztec temple dedicated to the deity Huitzilopochtli. From the 1587 Aztec manuscript, the Codex Tovar. Image: Wikimedia Commons, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0
Source: Georgia State UniversityMore Information
- Human Sacrifice During the Epiclassic Period in the Northern Basin of Mexico Latin American Antiquity, Volume 23, Number 4 / December 2012
- Christopher T. Morehart, Abigail Meza Peñaloza, Carlos Serrano Sánchez, Emily McClung de Tapia and Emilio Ibarra Morales [paid access]Christopher T. Morehart (2012) Mapping ancient chinampa landscapes in the Basin of Mexico: a remote sensing and GIS approach, Journal of Archaeological Science Volume 39, Issue 7, July 2012, Pages 2541–2551
- For more about anthropology at Georgia State, visit cas.gsu.edu/anthropology.
- Epiclassic (AD 800 – 1000) – term used to refer to the events that characterize the transition between the end of the Late Classic period and the beginning of the Postclassic. Among the important markers of this period is evidence for the “collapse” of Classic Maya culture in the southern lowlands, including frequent images of warfare and sacrifice. At the sites of Dos Pilas, Aguateca, and Punta de Chimino in the Petexbatún region of Guatemala there is evidence for defensive fortifications in response to large-scale warfare as well as significant environmental degradation. By contrast, in the northern lowlands (the Yucatán Peninsula), this period sees the flourishing of Maya culture at sites like Uxmal, Sayil, and Chichén Itzá. Here, the Epiclassic period is marked by increasing evidence for contact with cultures from the Gulf Coast and Central Mexico.
In central Mexico, the Epiclassic is the period during which important centres like Cholula, Cacaxtla, and Xochicalco rise to prominence. There is evidence for a continuity of rituals similar to those practised at Teotihuacan. Many Epiclassic centres may have had populations that included the descendants of prominent lineages and refugees from Teotihuacan. [ Kansas Uni chronology ] For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
What came first: the bipedal human ancestor or the grassland encroaching on the forest? A new analysis of the past 12 million years’ of vegetation change in the cradle of humanity is challenging long-held beliefs about the world in which our ancestors took shape – and, by extension, the impact it had on them.
The research combines sediment core studies of the waxy molecules from plant leaves with pollen analysis, yielding data of unprecedented scope and detail on what types of vegetation dominated the landscape surrounding the African Rift Valley (including present-day Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia), where early hominin fossils trace the history of human evolution.
“It is the combination of evidence both molecular and pollen evidence that allows us to say just how long we’ve seen Serengeti-type open grasslands,” said Sarah J. Feakins, assistant professor of Earth sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study, which was published online in Geology.
Feakins worked with USC graduate student Hannah M. Liddy, USC undergraduate student Alexa Sieracki, Naomi E. Levin of Johns Hopkins University, Timothy I. Eglinton of the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule and Raymonde Bonnefille of the Université d’Aix-Marseille.A century long debate
The role that the environment played in the evolution of hominins—the tribe of human and ape ancestors whose family tree split from the ancestors of chimpanzees and bonobos about 6 million years ago—has been the subject of a century-long debate.
Among other things, one theory dating back to 1925 posits that early human ancestors developed bipedalism as a response to savannas encroaching on shrinking forests in northeast Africa. With fewer trees to swing from, human ancestors began walking to get around.Rainforests had already disappeared
While the shift to bipedalism appears to have occurred somewhere between 6 and 4 million years ago, Feakins’ study finds that thick rainforests had already disappeared by that point—replaced by grasslands and seasonally dry forests some time before 12 million years ago.
In addition, the tropical C4-type grasses and shrubs of the modern African savannah began to dominate the landscape earlier than thought, replacing C3-type grasses that were better suited to a wetter environment. (The classification of C4 versus C3 refers to the manner of photosynthesis each type of plant utilizes.)Cross-referenced findings
While earlier studies on vegetation change through this period relied on the analysis of individual sites throughout the Rift Valley—offering narrow snapshots—Feakins took a look at the whole picture by using a sediment core taken in the Gulf of Aden, where winds funnel and deposit sediment from the entire region. She then cross-referenced her findings with Levin who compiled data from ancient soil samples collected throughout eastern Africa.
“The combination of marine and terrestrial data enable us to link the environmental record at specific fossil sites to regional ecological and climate change,” Levin said.
In addition to informing scientists about the environment that our ancestors took shape in, Feakins’ study provides insights into the landscape that herbivores (horses, hippos and antelopes) grazed, as well as how plants across the landscape reacted to periods of global and regional environmental change.
“The types of grasses appear to be sensitive to global carbon dioxide levels,” said Liddy, who is currently working to refine the data pertaining to the Pliocene, to provide an even clearer picture of a period that experienced similar atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to present day. “There might be lessons in here for the future viability of our C4-grain crops,” says Feakins.
Source: University of Southern CaliforniaMore Information
- Northeast African vegetation change over 12 m.y. Geology, G33845.1, first published on January 17, 2013, doi:10.1130/G33845.1 Sarah J. Feakins, Naomi E. Levin, Hannah M. Liddy, Alexa Sieracki, Timothy I. Eglinton, and Raymonde Bonnefille.
Researchers from Royal Holloway and the Sandia National Laboratories along with 13 other universities across the United States and Europe, challenge the belief that a large impact or airburst comet or asteroid caused a significant and abrupt change to the Earth’s climate and terminated the Clovis culture. They argue that other explanations must be found for the apparent disappearance.There was no impact
In simple terms, comet explosions did not end the prehistoric Clovis culture in North America 13,000 years ago, the research is published in the journal Geophysical Monograph Series.
The researchers point to the twin issues of both appropriately sized impact craters from that time period having yet been discovered, nor any unambiguously “shocked” materials found.
In addition, proposed fragmentation and explosion mechanisms “do not conserve energy or momentum,” a basic law of physics that must be satisfied for impact-caused climate change to have any validity, the authors write.
Physics-based models that support the impact hypothesis are in general absent, and those that do exist, contradict the asteroid-impact hypothesizers.
The authors also charge that “several independent researchers have been unable to reproduce reported results” and that samples presented in support of the asteroid impact hypothesis were later discovered by carbon dating to be contaminated with modern material.Clovis and nano-diamonds The hallmarks include lumps of glasslike carbon (top), carbon spherules (middle, in cross section), and magnetic grains rich in iridium (bottom). A layer of carbon-rich sediment (arrow) found here at Murray Springs, Ariz.©Cannon Microprobe
Clovis is the name archaeologists have given to the earliest well-established human culture in the North American continent. It is named after the town in New Mexico, where distinct stone tools were found in the 1920s and 1930s.
Sandia lead author Mark Boslough is a well respected expert on all things extra-terrestrial and comet related, and has come to the fore as a public voice since his physics based predictions of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact on Jupiter were shown to be absolutely correct.
In the Clovis case, Boslough felt that his ideas were taken further than he could accept when other researchers claimed that the purported demise of Clovis culture in North America was the result of climate change produced by a cluster of comet fragments striking Earth.
In a widely reported press conference announcing the Clovis comet hypothesis in 2007, proponents showed a National Geographic animation based on one of Boslough’s simulations as inspiration for their idea.
Confronted by apparently hard asteroid evidence, as well as a Nova documentary and an article in the journal Science, all purportedly showing his error in rebutting the comet hypothesis, Boslough ordered carbon dating of the major evidence provided by the opposition: nanodiamond-bearing carbon spherules associated with the shock of an asteroid’s impact. The tests found the alleged 13,000-year-old carbon to be of very recent formation.
While this raised red flags to those already critical of the impact hypothesis, “I never said the samples were salted,” Boslough said carefully. “I said they were contaminated.”
That find, along with irregularities reported in the background of one member of the opposing team, was enough for Nova to remove the entire episode from its list of science shows available for streaming, Boslough said.
“Just because a culture changed from Clovis to Folsom spear points didn’t mean their civilization collapsed,” he said. “They probably just used another technology. It’s like saying the phonograph culture collapsed and was replaced by the iPod culture.”
Clovis is the name archaeologists have given to the earliest well-established human culture in the North American continent. Clovis people were probably not the first people in the American continents but seem to have been the first big game hunters of the Paleoindian tradition. Their Clovis technology demise coincides with the extinction of the continents megafauna. However, the following technological culture, called Folsom, clearly shows that people were not ‘wiped out’, but rather altered stone technology to the new form.
Co-author Professor Andrew Scott from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway has remarked that “The theory has reached zombie status, and whenever we are able to show flaws [in the theory] and think it is dead, it reappears with new, equally unsatisfactory, arguments.”
The researcher hopes new versions of the theory will be more carefully examined before they are published.
Source: University of Royal Holloway London/Sandia National LaboratoriesMore Information Boslough, M., et al. (2012), Arguments and evidence against a Younger Dryas impact event, in Climates, Landscapes, and Civilizations, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 198, edited by L. Giosan et al. 13–26, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2012GM001209.J. R. Marlon, P. J. Bartlein, M. K. Walsh, S. P. Harrison, et al. Wildfire responses to abrupt climate change in North America. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, DOI: 10.1073_pnas.0808212106
- Pringle, H., 2008, Firestorm from space wiped out prehistoric Americans. The New Scientist. vol. 194, no. 2605, pp. 8-9.
- West, A., and A. Goodyear, 2008, The Clovis Comet: Part I:Evidence for a Cosmic Collision 12,900 Years Ago. Mammoth Trumpet. v. 23, no. 1, pp. 1–4.
- “The Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis”. Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved 2012-04-15.
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.Xaltocan was a pre-Columbian city-state and island in the Valley of Mexico, located in the centre of Lake Xaltocan, part of an interconnected shallow lake system which included Lake Texcoco. The site was originally settled by the Otomi people. Map of the Valley of Mexico at the time of the Spanish Conquest showing the location of lake Xaltocan. Image: Wikimedia Commons
According to new anthropological research from The University of Texas at Austin, Wichita State University and Washington State University, 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.Tracking the biological comings and goings of the Otomí
Using ancient DNA (aDNA) sampling, Jaime Mata-Míguez, an anthropology graduate student and lead author of the study, tracked the biological comings and goings of the Otomí people following the incorporation of Xaltocan into the Aztec empire. The study, published in American Journal of Physical Anthropology, is the first to provide genetic evidence for the anthropological cold case.Otomi skull. Image: Lisa Overholtzer, Wichita State University
Learning more about changes in the size, composition, and structure of past populations helps anthropologists understand the impact of historical events, including imperial conquest, colonization, and migration, Mata-Míguez says. The case of Xaltocan is extremely valuable because it provides insight into the effects of Aztec imperialism on Mesoamerican populations.
Historical documents suggest that residents fled Xaltocan in 1395 AD, and that the Aztec ruler sent taxpayers to resettle the site in 1435 AD. Yet archaeological evidence indicates some degree of population stability across the imperial transition, deepening the mystery. Recently unearthed human remains from before and after the Aztec conquest at Xaltocan provide the rare opportunity to examine this genetic transition.Sampling 25 bodies recovered from patios
As part of the study, Mata-Míguez and his colleagues sampled mitochondrial aDNA from 25 bodies recovered from patios outside excavated houses in Xaltocan. They found that the pre-conquest maternal aDNA did not match those of the post-conquest era. These results are consistent with the idea that the Aztec conquest of Xaltocan had a significant genetic impact on the town.
Mata-Míguez suggests that long-distance trade, population movement and the reorganization of many conquered populations caused by Aztec imperialism could have caused similar genetic shifts in other regions of Mexico as well.
In focusing on mitochondrial DNA, this study only traced the history of maternal genetic lines at Xaltocan. Future aDNA analyses will be needed to clarify the extent and underlying causes of the genetic shift, but this study suggests that Aztec imperialism may have significantly altered at least some Xaltocan households.
Source: The University of Texas at AustinMore Information
- The Otomi
- The Genetic Impact of Aztec Imperialism: Ancient Mitochondrial DNA Evidence From Xaltocan, Mexico - Jaime Mata-Mı´guez, Lisa Overholtzer, Enrique Rodrı´guez-Alegrı´a, Brian M. Kemp and Deborah A. Bolnick
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