The Maya civilisation is well-known for its elaborate temples, sophisticated writing system, and mathematical and astronomical developments, yet the civilisation’s origins remain something of a mystery.
A new University of Arizona study to be published in the journal Science challenges the two prevailing theories on how the ancient civilisation began, suggesting its origins are more complex than previously thought.
Anthropologists typically fall into one of two competing camps with regard to the origins of Maya civilisation. 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 civilisation developed as the result of direct influences from the older Olmec civilisation and its centre of La Venta.Excavations at Ceibal. Photo by Takeshi Inomata, University of Arizona. Focusing on the beginning
It’s likely that neither of those theories tells the full story, according to findings by a team of archaeologists led by UA husband-and-wife anthropologists Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan.
“We really focused on the beginning of this civilisation and how this remarkable civilisation developed,” said Inomata, UA professor of anthropology and the study’s lead author.
In their excavations at Ceibal, an ancient Maya site in Guatemala, researchers found that Ceibal actually pre-dates the growth of La Venta as a major centre by as much as 200 years, suggesting that La Venta could not have been the prevailing influence over early Mayan development.
That does not make the Maya civilization older than the Olmec civilization – since Olmec had another centre prior to La Venta – nor does it prove that the Maya civilisation developed entirely independently, researchers say.A broader cultural shift
What it does indicate, they say, is that both Ceibal and La Venta probably participated in a broader cultural shift taking place in the period between 1,150-800 B.C.
“We’re saying that the scenario of early Maya culture is really more complex than we thought,” said UA anthropology graduate student Victor Castillo, who co-authored the paper with Inomata and Triadan.
“We have this idea of the origin of Maya civilisation as an indigenous development, and we have this other idea that it was an external influence that triggered the social complexity of Maya civilization. We’re now thinking it’s not actually black and white,” Castillo said.
There is no denying the striking similarities between Ceibal and La Venta, such as evidence of similar ritual practices and the presence of similar architecture – namely the pyramids that would come to be the hallmark of Mesoamerican civilisation but did not exist at the earlier Olmec centre of San Lorenzo.
However, researchers don’t think this is the case of simply one site mimicking the other. Rather, they suspect that both the Maya site of Ceibal and the Olmec site of La Venta were parts of a more geographically far-reaching cultural shift that occurred around 1,000 B.C., about the time when the Olmec centre was transitioning from San Lorenzo to La Venta.Researches are challenging the two prevailing theories on how the ancient Maya civilisation began. Photo by Takeshi Inomata, University of Arizona. Major social change
“Basically, there was a major social change happening from the southern Maya lowlands to possibly the coast of Chiapas and the southern Gulf Coast, and this site of Ceibal was a part of that broader social change,” Inomata said. “The emergence of a new form of society – with new architecture, with new rituals – became really the important basis for all later Mesoamerican civilisations.”
The Science paper, titled “Early Ceremonial Constructions at Ceibal, Guatemala, and the Origins of Lowland Maya Civilization,” is based on seven years of excavations at Ceibal.
Additional authors of the paper include Japanese researchers Kazuo Aoyama of the University of Ibaraki, Mito and Hitoshi Yonenobu of the Naruto University of Education, Tokushima.
“We were looking at the emergence of specific cultural traits that were shared by many of those Mesoamerican centres, particularly the form of rituals and the construction of the pyramids,” Inomata said. “This gives us a new idea about the beginning of Maya civilization, and it also tells us about how common traits shared by many different Mesoamerican civilisations emerged during that time.”
Source: University of Arizona
University of Arizona. Researchers question origin theories of Maya civilisation. Past Horizons. April 26, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/researchers-question-origin-theories-of-maya-civilisation
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Lynchburg’s historic Old City Cemetery, Virginia’s oldest public burial ground, has launched its biggest effort to date to find and identify unmarked graves in its midst.
On Friday, a backhoe was brought in to peel back the topsoil along a mysteriously blank patch of grass in the cemetery’s Confederate soldier section.
Research had suggested there could be about 90 unmarked graves there, likely belonging to soldiers who fell victim to smallpox during the war.
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A set of petroglyphs including one which depicts a priest or “wise man” has been recorded by archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). These rock cut images were found on the slopes of Cerro del Bonnet in the Mexican state of Veracruz.
The pecked stone petroglyphs are thought to be about 500 years old and were discovered in January 2013 by members of the local farming community.Dancing figure, (left) with a circular earplug wearing a long flapping loincloth. Shaman figure (right) surrounded by symbols related to the divination and astronomy. Images: Maria Eugenia Maldonado / INAH
The priest or shamanic figure measures 1.40 m high by 50 cm wide. He is represented with his eye closed and mouth open and wears a zoomorphic helmet with a cape and underskirt decorated with triangles, a girdle and ankle bracelets and an ear plug. Around him there are symbols related to divination and astronomical elements and near the top of the stone there are two concentric circles that could have held a chalchihuitl (precious green stone – Literally “Heart of the Earth”).A constellation?
On a higher slab, lies a further though much cruder anthropomorphic figure (50 cm high by 20 cm wide) facing to the right. This time, depicted with mouth and eye open and also wearing an ear plug, the figure seems to be dancing as the máxtlatl (loincloth) lifts up at the front.
Unlike the shaman, this figure is schematically drawn. No hands are represented and the feet seem to be wearing shoes. It is possible that this figure represents a constellation rather than a human being.Unknown meaning Spiral and plant element. The designs may have been created 500 years ago. Image: Maria Eugenia Maldonado / INAH
One of the final elements on the petroglyph panels is a spiral whose terminal is intersected by a rough horizontal line which in turn is cut by a vertical line that divides into two lines ending in what has been suggested to represent a flower or leaf.
Although the iconographic style of the petroglyphs is not known in the Huasteca region, the symbols appear to be reinterpretations of known elements used by agricultural cultures, such as the zoomorphic helmet character which is reminiscent of the Teayo Castle sculptures, or the “Lord of Death” monolith discovered in the Las Flores Cinco Poblados.
“An important aspect to investigate is the location and function of all possible petroglyphs, because by observing the horizon and solar events it may represent a means of marking events in the agricultural year. “added archaeologist Maria Eugenia Maldonado.
“The study of petroglyphs in the region is still in it’s infancy, but becoming more important for understanding the cosmology and beliefs of the societies that inhabited this area. Such findings contribute to increasing knowledge of the cultural development of the Huasteca Veracruzana“, Maldonado concluded.
Source: INAHMore Information Huasteca VeracruzanaHumberto Besso-Oberto G., El Señor de la Muerte, Las Flores-Cinco Poblados, Álamo-Temapache, Veracruz. In Spanish. Arqueología: Revista de la Coordinación Nacional de Arqueología del I.N.A.H. Vol. 1 Cite this article
INAH. Shaman petroglyph recorded in Veracruz. Past Horizons. April 24, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/shaman-petroglyph-recorded-in-veracruz For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Past climate change varied remarkably between regions. This is demonstrated in a new study coordinated by the international Past Global Changes (PAGES) project, which reconstructed temperature over the past 1000 to 2000 years.
It is the first comprehensive temperature reconstruction on a continental scale. One of its main findings is that a general cooling trend, caused by different factors (e.g. orbital-driven insolation and changes in solar and volcanic activity), was ubiquitous across all continental-scale regions and was reversed by a distinct warm trend beginning at the end of the 19th century.
The scale of this project is impressive. Some 80 researchers from all over the world collaborated on the study, which has just been published in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience. In one of the widest-ranging efforts yet undertaken to reconstruct climate across the globe, the international author team evaluated data from all continents to track the evolution of temperatures over the past one to two millennia.The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch (1790s): An oil painting by Sir Henry Raeburn in the National Gallery of Scotland.
This major project was initiated and coordinated by the Past Global Changes (PAGES) organization. PAGES was established in 1991 to facilitate international research into understanding climatic and environmental dynamics by studying the past. The program receives funding mainly from the Swiss and US national science foundations. In 2006, ambitious scientists in the PAGES network decided to organize an initiative to reconstruct the climate of the last 2000 years in unprecedented quality.
The first results of the collective effort have now been published. “A key aspect of the consortium effort was to engage regional experts who are intimately familiar with the evidence for past climate changes within their regions,” says Heinz Wanner, emeritus professor at the University of Bern and one of the original architects of the PAGES 2k Network.
“Several mathematical procedures were applied to reconstruct the continental temperature time series and they were compared to assess the extent to which the main conclusions of the study stood up to the different analytical approaches.” Previous attempts to reconstruct temperature changes focused on hemispheric or global-scale averages, which are important, but overlook the pronounced regional-scale differences that occur along with global changes, he points out.Natural climate archives and documentary sources
For the present study, “Continental-scale temperature variability during the last two millennia“, the researchers drew up temperature curves for large regions at seven continents, using 511 local temperature records. These were based on the analysis of tree rings, pollen, corals, lake and marine sediments, ice cores and stalagmites as well as historical documents.
In most cases the data used were highly resolved, attesting to short-term variations over decades or less, rather than smoothing over centuries. In Africa, there were too few records to accurately determine long-term temperature changes for that continent. Nevertheless, the expansive new dataset will undoubtedly be used in future studies, including for comparisons with the output of climate models used to help project future climate change.
The evolution of temperature across all the continents was noticeably more similar within the hemispheres than between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. “Distinctive periods, such as the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age stand out, but do not show a globally uniform pattern,” says professor Heinz Wanner.
By around 1500 AD temperatures did indeed fall below the long-term mean everywhere. However, in the Arctic, Europe and Asia this temperature drop occurred several decades earlier than in North America and the Southern Hemisphere. These new findings will certainly stimulate vibrant discussions within the research community, Wanner believes.Long-term cooling trend reversed
The most consistent feature across the regions over the last 2000 years was a long-term cooling trend, which was likely caused by a combination of factors such as an overall increase in volcanic activity, a decrease in solar irradiance, changes in land cover, and slow changes in earth’s orbit. This cooling only came to an end toward the end of the 19th century.
The warming during the last century has reversed this long-term cooling, the study found. It remained cold only in Antarctica. An analysis of the average temperatures over 30-year periods indicates that interval from 1971-2000 was probably warmer than any other 30-year period in the last 1400 years.
Cooler 30-year periods between the years 830 and 1910 AD were particularly pronounced during weak solar activity and strong tropical volcanic eruptions. Both phenomena often occurred simultaneously and led to a drop in the average temperature during five distinct 30- to 90-year intervals between 1251 and 1820.
Warming in the 20th century was on average twice as large in the northern continents as it was in the Southern Hemisphere. During the past 2000 years, some regions experienced warmer 30-year intervals than during the late 20th century. For example, in Europe the years between 21 and 80 AD were possibly warmer than the period 1971-2000.
Source: University of Bern
- Continental-scale temperature variability over the last 2000 years», PAGES 2k Consortium, Nature Geoscience, in print (doi:10.1038/NGEO1797)
University of Bern. Past climate change varied remarkably between regions. Past Horizons. April 22, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/past-climate-change-varied-remarkably-between-regions For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
A rallying call fitting of King Arthur calling his legendary knights to battle issued across the historic lands of Avalon yesterday, as Britain was urged to rekindle its romance with its ancient king….
Hard as it may be to believe in the West Country, at the heart of Arthurian legend, experts addressing a conference in Glastonbury yesterday said it was high time that the hunt for England’s king was extended north, even crossing the border into Scotland…..Read more on this conference on www.thisissomerset.co.uk Footsteps of King Arthur: Glastonbury, 19 April 2013
Combatants are squaring up to do battle over the fate of a Yorkshire field more than 1,000 years after they say an earlier battle was fought there that helped to change the course of British history. Rival groups have issued a call to arms over the future of what some historians claim is the true site of the “forgotten” Battle of Fulford in September 1066. Local historians are fighting a rearguard action over developers’ plans to build 600 homes on a field near York which they say is the site of the historic battle.
The Battle of Fulford is where an invading Viking army defeated an Anglo-Saxon force led by the northern earls, Edwin and Morcar. Historians say the battle is important because the defeat forced the Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, to march his army north to fight and defeat the invaders at the Battle of Stamford Bridge five days later. Although victorious, Harold’s forces suffered losses at Stamford Bridge and were exhausted after the march, and the campaign in the north diverted the king’s attention away from the south coast, where William of Normandy launched his invasion.Read the Full article here: independent.co.uk
More on the battle for the battle : http://www.battleoffulford.org.uk/ For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Chinese archaeologists have reported in China’s state news agency Xinhua that the tomb they are currently excavating in east Jiangsu Province might be the final resting place of an infamous and tyrannical emperor killed during an uprising in AD 618.Workers at a site in Yangzhou uncovered more than they bargained for: the tomb of Emperor Yang from the Sui dynasty. Image: CNTV
The grave of the notorious Emperor Yang of Sui would be an amazing discovery according to the Chinese archaeologists, though they do urge caution.Tomb had been relocated
Shu Jiaping, who leads Yangzhou’s institute of archaeology, told Xinhua that researchers are “still not sure whether it was the Emperor’s final resting place, as historical records said his tomb had been relocated several times.”
However, a gravestone excavated from the tomb that measure 20 metres square, seems to confirm the emperor’s identity, while an inscription relating to the year of his death matches with historical accounts.
The tomb was discovered last year at a construction site and adjoined another tomb that archaeologists say may belong to the Empress.
Artefacts unearthed from the tomb included a gold-jade belt and a loop-shaped copper handle.Sui Yangdi, Emperor of Sui. Yen Li-pen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons A tyrant
Yang Guang, or Emperor Yang of Sui, was the second and last monarch of the short-lived Sui Dynasty (AD581-618).
Yang forced millions of workers to build palaces and luxurious pleasure gardens. His legacy does however include the Grand Canal, which was later extended to connect Beijing and Hangzhou in the world’s longest artificial waterway.
Known as a tyrant in China’s history, the emperor was killed during a mutiny in 618 AD, which marked the end of the Sui Dynasty and may explain the relatively small scale of the tomb, researchers said.
Shu did comment that the discovery does suggest that another mausoleum, 6 kilometres from the construction site is not the final resting place of the Emperor. It had long been thought to be Yang’s burial site since the Qing Dynasty (AD1644-1911)
Compared with this modest structure that has sadly been looted in the past, the “fake mausoleum” occupies an area of 30,000 sq metres and has magnificent memorial arches, tomb doors and walls.
Tomb of the notorious Emperor Yang of Sui found. Past Horizons. April 21, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/tomb-of-the-notorious-emperor-yang-of-sui-found For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Newly-discovered food recipes from a 12th century Durham Priory manuscript have been found to pre-date the earliest known ones by 150 years. The recipes are to be recreated at a Durham University event later in the month.
The Latin manuscript mainly consists of recipes for medical ointments and cures and was compiled and written at Durham Cathedral’s priory around 1140. The work was recently been re-examined and found to contain the food recipes, which experts believe are amongst the oldest in the western medieval culinary tradition, preceding the previously known examples from circa 1290. The manuscript is now held at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University.Recipes for sauces
Dr Giles Gasper from Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS), said:
“Some of the medical potions in this book seem to have stood the test of time, some emphatically haven’t! But we’re looking forward to finding out whether these newly-discovered recipes have done so and whether they also possess what you might call a certain Je Ne Sais Quoi – or Quidditas, to use the Latin.
“The recipes were noticed recently by Professor Faith Wallis, an expert in medical history and science and an international member of IMEMS. She immediately realised the significance of these recipes, since they so markedly pre-dated the previously earliest-known ones by a century and a half. I encouraged her to translate them and send them to our colleague, food historian Caroline Yeldham who could best work out how to interpret the instructions with a view to recreating them.
“The recipes are for sauces to accompany mutton, chicken, duck, pork and beef. There’s even a seasonal version of the chicken recipe, charmingly called “hen in winter”. We believe this recipe is simply a seasonal variation, using ingredients available in the colder months and specifying “hen” rather than “chicken”, meaning it was an older bird as it would be by that time of year. The sauces typically feature parsley, sage, pepper, garlic, mustard and coriander which I suspect may give them a middle eastern, Lebanese feel when we recreate them. According to the text, one of the recipes comes from the Poitou region of what is now modern central western France. This proves international travellers to Durham brought recipes with them.”Cookery workshop Outside Blackfriars Restaurant. Image: University of Durham
The recipes are now to be used as part of a cookery workshop for history, English and archaeology Master of Arts (MA) students from Durham. They will be attempting to recreate the sauces and dishes for the first time in hundreds of years. This workshop will take place on April 25th at Blackfriars Restaurant in Newcastle, led by Caroline Yeldham and Andy Hook, Blackfriars’ owner.
The same recipes will then be recreated for lunch the following Saturday, April 27th, to accompany a lunchtime lecture in the banqueting hall of the restaurant by Professor Chris Woolgar entitled “Food In Medieval England.” Prof Woolgar has been invited by IMEMS to speak as part of an on-going series of historical lectures on food at Blackfriars.
Andy Hook said: “We’re delighted to be continuing our relationship with Durham University and IMEMS with this latest lecture. It’s an intriguing thought that we’ll be tasting food that hasn’t been experienced for hundreds of years”.
Source: University of Durham
- Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
- MA in Medieval & Renaissance Studies – University of Durham
University of Durham. Newly-discovered 12th century recipes to be recreated. Past Horizons. April 20, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/newly-discovered-12th-century-recipes-to-be-recreated
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The abiding influence of ancient Egypt on the world’s cultures is explored in the newest exhibition at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Ptolemaic Period, mummy mask. Image: ©2013 Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University.
“Echoes of Egypt: Conjuring the Land of the Pharaohs” takes visitors on a journey through the millennia from ancient Egypt to its echoes in later civilizations around the world.
“For thousands of years and across thousands of miles, ancient Egypt has echoed around the world as cultures from ancient Africa and across the Mediterranean, to medieval Europe and the Middle East, to modern North America have adopted and adapted the style, symbolism, and ideas of ancient Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs,” write the exhibition organizers.
In art, architecture and literature, the ancient Egyptian world has been re-imagined in later cultures through objects created thousands of years apart which is a powerful testament to the fascination the civilization inspired.
The exhibition is curated by Colleen Manassa, Associate Professor of Egyptology in Yale’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Manassa also directs an on-going archaeological expedition in Egypt, the Moalla Survey Project.
Visitors enter the exhibit through a scaled-down reproduction of the Egyptianizing gateway, or pylon, that is the entrance to New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery. Designed by Henry Austin in 1839, the structure mirrors monuments that would have been found in the ancient Nile Valley, but was constructed in New Haven in 1848.
“Dignified and beautifully proportioned, it [the gateway] is symbolic of an attitude toward the dead and their part in the hereafter, expressive, but respectful and reverential, which arose in the valley of the Nile centuries before Christianity and is consequently so detached from modern creeds, prejudices or sentiments that it can appeal to any belief.”
— Denison Olmstead, Professor of Astronomy and Natural Philosophy at Yale University, July 18, 1845, at the laying of the cornerstone of the New Haven City Burial Ground (Grove Street Cemetery) gatewayBroadsheet Announcement of a Mummy Unwrapping. Image: ©2013 Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University.
A centrepiece of the exhibition is a diorama of Mummy mania showing a scene from a 19th-century “mummy unwrapping” event in Philadelphia, complete with a mummy from the Barnum Museum and an invitation to the event from the American Antiquarian Society. Mummies in the exhibition are treated not as oddities but examples of the Egyptian fascination with regeneration through decay. Additional highlights include a display on the meaning and changing uses of hieroglyphs, and another on Egyptosophy, the embracing of the magical and religious symbolism of ancient Egypt by later cultures.
Previously unexplored aspects of Egyptian revival include objects from the ancient Sudan made in Egyptian style and a 13th-century Italian sphinx that has been reproduced using 3D printing technology.
The exhibition is on view until the 4th January, 2014, and is thoroughly documented in an excellent website: http://echoesofegypt.peabody.yale.edu that features most of the objects along with descriptive text.
Source: Yale UniversityMore Information
- Conjuring the Land of the PharaohsFor information about hours and admission, visit the Yale Peabody Museum website.
Yale University. ‘Echoes of Egypt’ reveals impact across the millennia. Past Horizons. April 20, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/echoes-of-egypt-reveals-impact-across-the-millennia
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Excavations at the Palatine Hill in Rome have unearthed the first Temple of Jupiter Stator, or Jupiter the Stayer and the remains of a prestigious dwelling near the sacred area in front of the Porta Mugonia, dating to the second and first century BC. Experts suggest it may have been House of Caesar
Romulus supposedly built the temple after a battle at the Roman Forum against the Sabines during which the Romans had to retreat uphill on the Via Sacra.
Read the whole article on www.italymag.co.uk
Ancient caves in danger of being lost to the sea could become a major tourist attraction if they can be saved.
That is the belief of Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance, who will call on the Scottish Government to recognise the ongoing work to preserve the historically significant landmarks.
The Wemyss Caves at East Wemyss date back to Pictish times and contain several important carvings from between the fifth and ninth centuries.
In fact, it is thought there are more ancient drawings there than anywhere else in Scotland. A complex of seven natural caves, it is believed they were occupied by Christian hermits during the 11th century.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problems of Erosion Trust (SCAPE), an organisation committed to the research and promotion of Scotland’s coast, is planning to digitally preserve the interior of the caves.
SCAPE officer Joanna Hambly believes the project will create a digital resource that will bring the caves and the carvings to both local and global audiences.
Who are SCAPE? find out more here about protecting coastal heritagethecourier.co.uk
The Wemyss Caves Society was formed in May 1986 in order to protect and save as much of the Wemyss Caves and their unique drawings as possible. There are seven Open Sundays from April to September inclusive from 2-4.30pm
A retaining pier wall, four shrines and an unusual circular structure dating to over 1000 years old, have recently been found by archaeologists of the National Institute of anthropology and history (INAH) in the pre-Hispanic site of Tabuco in Veracruz.A pre-Columbian port
According to María Eugenia Maldonado Vite, responsible for the archaeological rescue excavation, these remains represent a mooring pier or dock where goods and maritime traffic would land and be controlled by elites. If this is the case, then it represets the first discovery of a pre-Columbian port on the Gulf Coast.
“This evidence changes our perception of the settlement, as previously it was only known as a ceremonial area and even the toponymic naming of ‘Tabuco’ repesents a portable altar with conical roof in the language of the Tuxpan,” said the archaeologist.
Tabuco is located on the southern bank of the Tuxpan River 5 km from the sea, on a narrow strip of land between the river and to the south are the mangroves of Tumilco.
This Huastec site was explored in the 1940s by Gordon Ekholm, who carried out some initial investigations and determined the dates for occupation at between the Protoclassic (100BCE-AD250) and the early Postclassic (AD900-1200).
The investigations at this site is part of a larger archaeological project south of the Huasteca Veracruzana, looking at the system of polity in this pre-Columbian border region. The Tuxpan River is considered the boundary between the Huasteco and the Totonacos.Large plastered ramp and wall – part of the early Tuxpan port. Images: María Eugenia Maldonado / INAH. Excavation results
The excavations began in October 2012 and the first thing that came to light was a large dump of ceramic fragments, animals remains, large amounts of oyster shell and obsidian.
In the northeast section of the excavation a wall was uncovered which was built on large slabs of beach rock and coated in white plaster from powdered shells. This acts as the retaining wall of the great platform and has so far been measured to 15 metres in length. However, the structure continues on a slope towards the shoreline and is likely part of a pier for transferring goods to and from river boats.
Parallel to the wall were three circular shrines, 3 metres in diameter and constructed in the same materials. To the west, the team uncovered a large circular structure of 15 metres in diameter and 60 cm in height, possibly with a function related to the elites occupation because of a fire pit that was located at the top. In addition there is a stairway and a ramp that leads to a plaster floor, which also relates to a pre-Hispanic dock or berth.Large circular structure. Images: María Eugenia Maldonado / INAH. Control of trade
This all contributes to the theory that this ceremonial centre had the function of controlling maritime traffic in the area of the river and the mangroves. Some scholars have suggested it was an important port, where the marketplace was so large that the 15th century Aztec Triple Alliance made a serious effort to hold it as a tributary province, an area also important for cotton production, a resource that could not be planted in the Highlands.
Across most of the floor surfaces is a layer of organic matter, which represents traces of an ancient flood and may explain why this area was abandoned for occupation and adapted into a pier.
Also, in this area the team uncovered 50 burials of men, women and children, placed in both extended and flexed positions. They were found at different levels cut from the surface and shows the area served as a cemetery in the final phase of occupation.
The precise dating of all the strata remains unclear, however, most artefacts are from the early Postclassic period (AD 900-1200 ) and suggest a short lived activity of less than a hundred years.
The large number of ceramic fragments located in the area will contribute to the pottery typology for the region.
Source: INAHMore Information
- Notas Arqueológicas sobre el Valle de Tuxpan Gordon F. Ekholm Rev. Jarocha No. 39 Págs. 4, 5, 6,7.Notes on the Archaeology of the Tuxpan Valley and Neighboring Areas”
INAH. First discovery of a pre-Columbian port on the Gulf Coast. Past Horizons. April 16, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/first-discovery-of-a-pre-columbian-port-on-the-gulf-coast For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
The Maya are famous for their complex calendric systems and now one calendar, the Maya Long Count, is empirically calibrated to the modern European calendar, according to an international team of researchers.A temple and part of the ancient Maya city of Tikal, Guatemala. Image: Douglas Kennett Long Count calibration
The Long Count, counts days from a mythological starting point and the date is comprised of five components that combine a multiplier times 144,000 days – Bak’tun, 7,200 days – K’atun, 360 days – Tun, 20 days – Winal, and 1 day – K’in separated normally by dots.
The Long Count calendar however fell into disuse long before Europeans had significant contact with the Maya – and methods of tying it to the modern European calendar were problematic.
Douglas J. Kennett, professor of environmental archaeology at Penn State said, “Methods of tying the Long Count to the modern European calendar used known historical and astronomical events, but when looking at how climate affects the rise and fall of the Maya, I began to question how accurately the two calendars correlated using those methods.”
The researchers found that the new measurements mirrored the most popular method in use, the Goodman-Martinez-Thompson (GMT) correlation, initially put forth by Joseph Goodman in 1905 and subsequently modified by others. In the 1950s scientists tested this correlation using early radiocarbon dating, but the large error range left open the validity of GMT.
“With only a few dissenting voices, the GMT correlation is widely accepted and used, but it must remain provisional without some form of independent corroboration,” the researchers report in the current issue of Scientific Reports.
A combination of high-resolution accelerator mass spectrometry carbon-14 dates and a calibration using tree growth rates showed the GMT correlation is correct.Elaborately carved wooden lintel or ceiling from a temple in the ancient Maya city of Tikal, Guatemala, that carries a carving and dedication date in the Maya calendar. Image: Courtesy of the Museum der Kulturen Placing the Maya into other calendar systems
Archaeologists want to place the Long Count dates into the European calendar so there is an understanding of when things happened in the Maya world relative to historic events elsewhere. Correlation also allows the rich historical record of the Maya to be compared with other sources of environmental, climate and archaeological data calibrated using the European calendar.
They hit on the idea of carbon-dating, which measures the age of organic material from residue of carbon-14, an isotope that decays at a steady rate. The researchers then measured tree growth by tracking annual changes in calcium uptake by the trees, which is greater during the rainy season.
The amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere is incorporated into a tree’s incremental growth. Atmospheric carbon-14 changes through time, and during the Classic Maya period oscillated up and down.
The researchers took four samples from an elaborately carved wooden lintel or ceiling from a temple in the ancient Maya city of Tikal, Guatemala, that carries a carving and dedication date in the Maya calendar and used annually fluctuating calcium concentrations evident in the incremental growth of the tree to determine the true time distance between each by counting the number of elapsed rainy seasons. The researchers used this information to fit the four radiocarbon dates to the wiggles in the calibration curve. Wiggle-matching the carbon-14 dates provided a more accurate age for linking the Maya and Long Count dates to the European calendars.
The carvings recount the key event when Tikal’s king, Jasaw Chan K’awiil I, defeated Yich’aak K’ahk, known as “Claw of Fire,” who headed a rival kingdom at Calakmul, 55 miles away.Calculations further complicated
“The complication is that radiocarbon concentrations differ between the southern and northern hemisphere,” said Kennett. “The Maya area lies on the boundary, and the atmosphere is a mixture of the southern and northern hemispheres that changes seasonally. We had to factor that into the analysis.”
The researchers final results mirror the GMT European date correlations indicating that the GMT was on the right track for linking the Long Count and European calendars.
Using a technique called accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), the team concluded the tree was cut down and carved between AD 658-696. which closely matches that of a decades-old benchmark for Mayan dating, the so-called Goodman-Martinez-Thompson method, which provides a date estimate for the big victory to around AD 695-712.
The discrepancy between the two dates may find an explanation in the wood itself, Kennett’s team believes as the huge lintel beam was taken from a tree called the sapotilla, which has a hard wood requiring years to strip and carve before being set into position..
Events recorded in various Maya locations “can now be harmonized with greater assurance to other environmental, climatic and archaeological datasets from this and adjacent regions and suggest that climate change played an important role in the development and demise of this complex civilization,” the researchers wrote.
Source: Pennsylvania State UniversityMore Information
- Douglas J. Kennett, Irka Hajdas, Brendan J. Culleton, Soumaya Belmecheri, Simon Martin, Hector Neff, Jaime Awe, Heather V. Graham, Katherine H. Freeman, Lee Newsom, David L. Lentz, Flavio S. Anselmetti, Mark Robinson, Norbert Marwan, John Southon, David A. Hodell, Gerald H. Haug. Correlating the Ancient Maya and Modern European Calendars with High-Precision AMS 14C Dating. Scientific Reports, 2013; 3 DOI: 10.1038/srep01597
- Douglas Kennett at Pennsylvania State University
- Maya Calendar Correlations
Pennsylvania State University. C14 dates tied into Maya long count. Past Horizons. April 15, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/our_url) For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
A team of Inrap archaeologists recently uncovered an exceptionally preserved necropolis dating to the 4th – 3rd centuries BC in Buchères, north central France.Tomb containing two burials and a sword, dating to 4th century BCE. © Denis Gliksman, Inrap
The team uncovered fifteen spectacular funerary enclosures, quadrangular, circular and horseshoe in shape dating from both the pre Celtic Bronze Age and early Iron Age.La Tène warriors
Two sets of tombs belong to the early European Iron-age, La Tène culture.
Of the 14 tombs excavated so far, archaeologists have unearthed five that contain warriors. These men are armed with a sheathed sword and spear and two of them have shields made of wood and leather (which has rotted away, leaving only the iron edge and central spine).
In the burials that contained women all wear necklaces and bronze bracelets showing clear gender separation in grave both sexes are buried with large chest brooches of iron or bronze, sometimes decorated with coral. Significantly, there are no children contained within these graves.An exceptional complex
This exceptional funerary complex is a very rare find for the area and differs from the few others found in the region. For example, less than 1 km from the Buchères necropolis the 4th-3rd centuries BC dead were buried in underground silos. A little further north, in the Marne, the graves from this period did not contain dishes, storage vessels or meat to accompany the dead to the afterlife.Photo gallery
Source: INRAPMore Information
INRAP. La Tène warriors unearthed in France. Past Horizons. April 15, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/la-tene-warriors-unearthed-in-france For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
by Abdel-Rahman Sherief
Antiquity smuggling has witnessed an unprecedented surge in the two years since the 25 January Revolution since it is an easy way to make immediate money, even if it is on the account of Egypt’s heritage and history.
Given that a small, wooden, carved Pharaonic statue or a marble bust can be sold for a large sum of US dollars, there are many who take advantage of this immediate influx of cash that can immediately improve their standard of living.
This situation provoked a few young Egyptians to start a public effort to try to stop this loss of historical artefacts by launching the independent “Stop the heritage drain” movement, which posts and publicises photos of the missing pieces on the internet on their Facebook page. “The Ministry of Antiquities must declare the theft of antiquities to stop the smugglers from being able to market the stolen pieces internationally,” Yasmin El-Dorghamy, movement cofounder, said.
The facebook group can be found here:https://www.facebook.com/StopTheHeritageDrain?fref=ts
read the whole article by Abdel-Rahman Sherief here on www.dailynewsegypt.com
For years, few were interested in unearthing what lay beneath old gallows and scaffolds. But, in Germany, growing interest in “execution site archaeology” is throwing much light on how the executed died and the executors lived.
The skeletons were found near Alkersleben, not far from the eastern German city of Erfurt, where the counts of Kevernburg punished criminals over 700 years ago.
Read the full article on www.spiegel.de
Rock art and human burials found in a Sumatran cave will allow a better understanding of the prehistoric human occupation of Southeast Asia.
Professor Truman Simanjuntak, from the Jakarta-based Indonesian National Centre for Archaeology described his team’s important findings to researchers (whom he hopes to collaborate with) at the recently established Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS), Wollongong University in Australia.Some very impressive finds
He revealed that his archaeological team excavating in Sumatra at a large and deeply stratified limestone cave has unearthed “some very, very impressive finds” dating to the Neolithic period onwards and assigned on the basis of biological characteristics to early Austronesian speaking peoples – Indonesia’s first farming communities.
Among the finds is the first example of rock art in Sumatra and the discovery of 66 human burials dating back about 3000 years.
“Sixty-six is very strange,” Prof Simanjuntak said, adding that they have never found such a big quantity of burials.Intense human occupation
“It means that this cave was occupied intensely by humans and they continued to occupy it for a very, very long time,” he said.
These findings shed new light on the complex cultural behaviours of Indonesia’s first farming communities, who lived in the limestone caves of Harimau and used them as a burial place and a “workshop” for tool-making activities.
The researchers have recorded previously unknown cave paintings in Harimau a key discovery given the long standing belief that rock art traditions did not exist in prehistoric Sumatra. While the identity of the image makers is still in doubt, based on similarities between the ancient rock art and pottery decorations (i.e., chevron and fish bone motifs), the paintings may date to the Neolithic period.
With much of the cave still to be excavated, researchers are excited about the secrets they might hold.
“There are still occupation traces deeper and deeper in the cave, where we have not excavated yet. So it means the cave is very promising,” Professor Simanjuntak said, adding that his archaeological team has uncovered evidence of a potentially far older history of occupation at Harimau Cave, which could open up new and intriguing avenues of research.
Source: University of WollongongMore Information
- Centre for Archaeological Science
- Sixth Austronesian and Papuan Languages and Linguistics conference, 2013
University of Wollongong. Sumatran cave yields ancient art and 66 human burials. Past Horizons. April 12, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/sumatran-cave-yields-ancient-art-and-66-human-burials For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Maurizio Forte a professor at Duke University, uses satellite photos and high-tech imaging technology to look at the remains of a Roman villa hidden below ground. Using this remote data, his students are creating a virtual replica of the building.
Forte’s work involves less traditional archaeological skills as he will work in a new Smith Warehouse lab being designed for him and other visual artists and scientists as well as spending time within the impressively named Immersive Virtual Environment facility where he can examine virtual ruins in Turkey, China, Italy and elsewhere. He wants to bring ancient civilizations back to life, and simulate them with an unusual level of detail and accuracy.
He realises that technology used in innovative ways can be a catalyst for new ideas and by combining the talents of people with different backgrounds and approaches it is possible to share knowledge and take a different approach from the traditional views.
“His work depends on teamwork and he really values collaboration,” said Carla Antonaccio, chair of the classics department. Though trained in Roman archaeology, what Forte does is not bound by a particular place or culture, allowing a free and radical approach to studying the past.Different approaches
Forte’s brand of visual, virtual archaeology is attracting different students to archaeology as well – with backgrounds in computer and environmental science as well as visual arts and architecture.
At least one core principle remains, however. In piecing an ancient community back together, either in person or virtually, Forte makes the distinction between re-creating it and simulating it. He isn’t re-creating these ancient communities; rather, he and his students are applying their knowledge of these ancient places and peoples to make their best – but educated – guess about the design and how people lived. And how much easier if you can immerse yourself in the virtual world.
The work they do remains public domain, an interactive, digital textbook of sorts for use by other scholars and any who want to explore that data.
“Any scientific approach uses inferences and hypothetical analyses,” he said. “We cannot reconstruct the past, but we can simulate it because the past itself is fluid. Our job is to be open to multiple interpretations and perspectives.”
Source: Duke University
Duke University. Cyber Archaeology examines ancient cultures. Past Horizons. April 12, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/cyber-archaeology-examines-ancient-cultures For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
A team of archaeologists from the University of Southampton have used the latest in digital imaging technology to record and analyse carvings on the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) statue Hoa Hakananai’a.
James Miles, Hembo Pagi and Dr Graeme Earl from the Archaeological Computing Research Group at the University of Southampton teamed up with archaeologist Mike Pitts to examine the statue at the Wellcome Trust Gallery in the British Museum.
Dr Earl explains: “The Hoa Hakananai’a statue has rarely been studied at first hand by archaeologists, but developments in digital imaging technology have now allowed us to examine it in unprecedented detail.”
Hoa Hakananai’a was brought to England in 1869 by the crew of HMS Topaze and is traditionally said to have been carved around AD1200. Rapa Nui is home to around 1,000 similar statues, but Hoa Hakananai’a is of particular interest because of the intricate carvings on its back.
It is popularly believed that around AD1600 the Rapa Nui islanders faced an ecological crisis and stopped worshipping their iconic statues. They turned instead to a new birdman religion, or cult. This included a ritual based around collecting the first egg of migrating terns from a nearby islet, Motu Nui. The ‘winner’, whose representative swam to the islet and then back with the egg, was afforded sacred status for a year.
Hoa Hakananai’a survived this shift in religious beliefs by being placed in a stone hut and covered in carved ‘petroglyphs’, or rock engravings, depicting motifs from the birdman cult. As such, it may be representative of the transition from the cult of statues to the cult of the birdman.
The team from the University of Southampton examined Hoa Hakananai’a using two different techniques: Photogrammetric Modelling; which involved taking hundreds of photos from different angles to produce a fully textured computer model of the statue, capable of being rotated in 360 degrees; and Reflectance Transformation Imaging; a process which allows a virtual light source to be moved across the surface of a digital image of the statue, using the difference between light and shadow to highlight never-seen-before details.
James Miles, a PhD student at Southampton, comments: “Despite the wonders of modern technology, creating accurate, detailed geometric models of these kinds of complex surfaces remains a painstaking task. We have more work to do but the virtual versions already provide a more interactive way of studying Hoa Hakananai’a.”
Using these techniques, the team made some fascinating discoveries, perhaps the most significant being the apparently simple recognition that a carved bird beak is short and round, not long and pointed as previously described: this allowed the two birdmen on the back to be marked as male and female, unlocking a narrative story to the whole composition relating to Rapa Nui’s unique birdman cult. They also realised that the statue is one of the few on Easter Island that did not stand on a platform beside the shore. It is now believed to have always stood in the ground, where it was found, on top of a 300 metre cliff.
Pitts comments: “Study of the tapering base suggests that rather than being the result of thinning to make it fit into a pit, as often suggested, it is more likely part of the original boulder or outcrop from which it was carved. This may also explain why, as we now see it in the British Museum, it appears to lean slightly to the left – its uneven end resulted in its being incorrectly set into its 19th century plinth.”
Other observations from the digital imaging include:
- When it was half-buried by soil and food debris, small designs known as komari, representing female genitalia, were carved on the back of the head.
- At a later date, the whole of the back was covered with a scene showing a male chick leaving the nest, watched by its half-bird, half-human parents – the story at the heart of the birdman ceremony, recorded in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
- A round beak on the right birdman in the scene described above. This can be read as a sign of female gender, and confirmation of the male / female bird ‘parents’. The female birdman is matched by the female komari on the right ear of the statue, and the male on the left by a paddle on the left ear – a symbol of male authority.
- A rounded shape near the lower part of the right birdman, possibly the egg the male chick hatched from. Another possibility is the ring clutched in the two birdmen’s arms has been re-imagined as an egg.
- Faint indications of fingers around the navel, which may have once been more prominent, but later removed.
It’s hoped the imaging carried out by the University of Southampton’s Archaeological Computing Research Group will open new debate on the significance of the engravings of Hoa Hakananai’a.
The photogrammetry model was created with Agisoft PhotoScan software and analysed in MeshLab; the RTIs were made and viewed with open source software produced by Universidade do Minho and Cultural Heritage Imaging, using equipment funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.
Source: University of SouthamptonMore Information
- Archaeological Computing Research Group, University of Southampton http://acrg.soton.ac.uk/blog/3169/
University of Southampton. Hoa Hakananai’a – Rapa Nui statue tells a new story. Past Horizons. April 12, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/hoa-hakananaia-rapa-nui-statue-tells-a-new-storyFor Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
The Late Palaeolithic site of Ouriakos is located on the south-eastern coast of the island of Limnos in the northern Aegean. It was discovered in 2006 during the construction of a car park close to the beach which removed part of a sand dune.
The site is partly located on a Pleistocene calcarenite marine terrace, some 10m above present sea level, delimited by two seasonal streams. A profile along the right bank of the southern stream shows a buried dark clayey palaeosoil that developed above the calcarenite, containing chipped stone artefacts at its top, and which was sealed by a sand dune.
Surface collections made in 2008–2010 on the exposed archaeological surface , and the excavations that followed in 2009–2012, revealed that the site extends for some 1500m⊃2;.
The lower part of this deposit yielded a few unidentifiable bone fragments, a burnt sample of which was AMS-dated to 10 390±45 uncal BP/10 564–10 124 cal BC at 2σ (GrA-53229), suggesting that the site was settled during an advanced period of the Younger Dryas cold oscillation (c. 11 000–10 000 uncal BP; Lowe et al. 2001: tab. 3). Ichipped stone artefacts were recovered.read the full project Gallery report on www.antiquity.ac.uk
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