Yet remarkably little is known of the beginnings of Mycenaean culture. The Pylos grave, with its wealth of undisturbed burial objects and, at its bottom, a largely intact skeleton, offers a nearly unprecedented window into this time—and what it reveals is calling into question our most basic ideas about the roots of Western civilization.—This 3,500-Year-Old Greek Tomb Upended What We Thought We Knew About the Roots of Western Civilization by Jo Marchant.
The Origin of Cities - "It may seem odd to conduct the rise of cities to ritual, inequality, and debt, and yet they play a very large role in the urban revolution." (via) [more inside]
"The more they dug, the more obvious it became that this was no ordinary place. The structures they excavated were full of ritual objects charred by sacred fires. We found the remains of feasts and a rare earthen structure lined with yellow soils. Baires, Baltus, and their team had accidentally stumbled on an archaeological treasure trove linked to the city's demise. The story of this place would take us back to the final decades of a great city whose social structure was undergoing a radical transformation." Annalee Newitz for Ars Technica: Finding North America's lost medieval city [more inside]
"This man’s skull was ritualistically transformed 9,000 years ago in Jericho. To flesh out the features on the so-called Jericho Skull, archaeologists at the British Museum have worked for more than two years to reconstruct the face of a man whose skull had been reshaped by ritual throughout his long life. While he was an infant, his head had been bound tightly with cloth to change its shape. After he died at a ripe old age, his skull was then plastered, decorated, and put on display."
"Scientific analysis reveals origins of odd 'lumps' in Anglo-Saxon grave. How did bitumen from Syria wind up in a buried Anglo-Saxon boat?" [more inside]
Making the Geologic Now is an online book in the form of a Zuihitsu, in which short chapters that are part science, part interview, part engineering, part art, part culture, and part whimsy mingle with each other to reflect upon the Anthropocene. It can be browsed on the web, downloaded for a price you choose (including free), or bought as a hardcopy.
"In a stunning discovery, a team of archaeologists in Australia has found extensive remains of a sophisticated human community living 50,000 years ago. The remains were found in a rock shelter in the continent's arid southern interior. Packed with a range of tools, decorative pigments, and animal bones, the shelter is a wide, roomy space located in the Flinders Ranges, which are the ancestral lands of the Adnyamathanha. The find overturns previous hypotheses of how humans colonized Australia, and it also proves that they interacted with now-extinct megafauna that ranged across the continent."
Peruvian shamanic whistling vessels. Being made out of clay archaeologists first thought these beautiful, ceramic sculptures were water bottles or toys until an amateur anthropologist explored their ritual use. One can just blow into the vessel but when water is added in one of the chambers and the vessel is rocked back and forth the shifting air creates an interesting sound pattern. [more inside]
“These people performed a critique of a brutal capitalistic enslavement system, and they rejected it completely. They risked everything to live in a more just and equitable way, and they were successful for ten generations."The Great Dismal Swamp straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border. From the 1600s to about the American Civil War it was a place of refuge, largely for escaped African and African-American slaves, and an important link in the underground railway. [more inside]
In the 1920s the US industrialist wanted to found a city based on the values that made his company a success – while, of course, producing cheap rubber. The jungle city that bore his name ended up one of his biggest failuresDrew Reed, Fordlandia – the failure of Henry Ford's utopian city in the Amazon, The Guardian (19 August 2016). [more inside]
"The past five or six years have seen a massive rise in one particular area of medieval studies – an area that has the potential to give back a voice to the silent majority of the medieval population. New digital imaging technologies, and the recent establishment of numerous volunteer recording programmes, have transformed its scope and implications. The first large-scale survey began in the English county of Norfolk a little over six years ago. The results of that survey have been astonishing." [more inside]
Is this Greek hilltop the 2,400-year-old burial place of Aristotle? "Greek archaeologists at Ancient Stagira, Central Macedonia, say they have found Aristotle’s tomb. Addressing the Aristotle 2400 Years World Congress, they point to the 2,400-year-old tomb as the most important finding from the 20-year excavation."
Many of history’s darkest figures were denied a formal burial place primarily to prevent their graves from becoming pilgrimage sites...... Such figures’ literal corporeal remains hold a persistent grip on our collective anxiety, their memories firmly planted in heritage discourses even as we attempt to efface their human remains from the landscape.Paul Mullins, a historical archaeologist who has previously looked at humanizing Nazi everyday life, Eva Braun's underwear, the repugnant heritage of slavery, and selfies at Auschwitz, turns his attention to Dark Heritage and the Burial of Abhorrent Bodies.
The seal was a remarkable find, bearing the name of an unknown princess and the only depiction of an ancient Israelite harp. Good enough to be depicted on Israeli coinage? Almost too good... The Trouble With the Maadana [more inside]
... conventional history teaches that the Americas were discovered by the Europeans either in 1492 by Columbus, or maybe a few hundred years earlier by the Vikings. There still seems to be an aversion among the establishment historians to even consider the idea that ancient Mediterranean peoples from the Middle East might have traveled to the Americas in the centuries before Christ. Only so-called diffusionists would have accepted a different view. And yet, there it is, this inscription in New Mexico, an undeniable witness from an ancient past telling its history ...Behold, The Los Lunas Decalogue, a fascinating "old" site south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. [more inside]
Signs of Modern Astronomy Seen in Ancient Babylon - "Scientists have found a small clay tablet with markings indicating that a sort of precalculus technique was used to track Jupiter's motion in the night sky." [more inside]
The site of the Tristán de Luna colony has reportedly been found in Pensacola: "'There were 1500 people there ... for about a two-year period' ... The colony lasted from 1559-61 and included 550 Spanish soldiers, about 200 Aztecs and an unknown number of African slaves ... The Luna colony is arguably the first European settlement and unquestionably the oldest multi-year European settlement" in the present-day United States. Just two years ago, the site of a 1567 fort built by the Juan Pardo expedition in western North Carolina [NYT] was confirmed as well. [more inside]
"The Franklin shipwreck is one of the biggest, most celebrated discoveries in 21st-century marine archaeology. It also cleaved open a nasty dispute over the facts of — and credit for — the historic find. As the news went public, the civil servants, researchers, and others who played major roles in the discovery said they found themselves elbowed to the sidelines as the political messaging machine kicked into gear." [more inside]
Just over a hundred years ago, Frederick Jury lost his brass luggage tag. A few days ago Nicola White, a mudlark, found it on the Thames foreshore. Through Twitter, Nicola, and a bunch of local and family historians, were able to put together his story. [more inside]
Yesterday, the Jamestown Rediscovery and the Smithsonian Institution announced that they had identified the remains of Capt. Gabriel Archer, Rev. Robert Hunt, Sir Ferdinando Wainman and Capt. William West, four of the earliest leaders of the Jamestowne settlement. Among Archer's remnants was a small silver box that researchers have identified as a Roman Catholic reliquary. [more inside]
Another of the dead of Duffy's Cut is being reburied in Ireland. Archaeological and historical work near Malvern, Pennsylvania has located the shantytown where 57 Irish immigrants died in 1832. Originally eight deaths were attributed to cholera, but papers located by the grandson of a railroad executive suggested the encampment was larger. Now we know that some of the victims were killed, possibly after escaping a quarantine, and their bodies are slowly being returned home. NYT article from 2010. Six-minute YT trailer for an Irish documentary (in English).
Until this year, Vermont had never formally decommissioned any roads. Ever. This has had some implications.... [via jessamyn's Twitter]
Workers renovating Emerson High School in Oklahoma City recently discovered slate blackboards, still complete with chalked lessons and drawings, which had been covered up by the installation of new boards in early December, 1917. An additional photogallery (and autoplaying video) can be found here (slightly different versions of that page here and here).
Trading Gold: Why Bronze Age Irish Used Imported Gold “The results of this study are a fascinating finding. They show that there was no universal value of gold, at least until perhaps the first gold coins started to appear nearly two thousand years later. Prehistoric economies were driven by factors more complex than the trade of commodities – belief systems clearly played a major role.” [more inside]
For the first time, "the wreckage of a slaving ship that went down with slaves aboard has been recovered." The recovery of artifacts from the 1794 shipwreck is a milestone for the African Slave Wrecks Project, a collaboration by six partner groups (including the National Museum of African-American Art and Culture and the National Parks Service) to find, document, and preserve archaeological remnants of the slave trade. Some of the objects will be included in exhibits in the NMAAHC.
Why read lengthy articles on the history of Atari when you can hear stories first-hand? Hear Nolan Bushnell (and a few others) tell all about how a little company named Syzygy became Atari, in clips both new(ish) and old; tune in for four episodes of Once Upon Atari, featuring Atari staff reminiscing about the good times and bad; and visit Alamogordo, New Mexico, home of rocket sled land-speed records and the grave of Ham, the first chimp in space, with Zak Penn as he digs for the truth behind the legend of the buried E.T. cartridges in Atari: Game Over with fans and Howard Scott Warshaw, the man who made the Atari E.T. game in five weeks. [more inside]
In 2000, Luciano Faggiano wanted to open a trattoria in Lecce, in the "boot-heel" of Italy. He bought what looked to be a modern building, but he had to open the floors in 2001 to find a leaking sewer pipes that were causing continuous humidity problems. He didn't find pipes, but a subterranean world tracing back before the birth of Jesus: a Messapian tomb, a Roman granary, a Franciscan chapel and even etchings from the Knights Templar. Instead of opening a restaurant, his family has a museum, which is also available to virtually tour on Google Maps.
Earlier this year, Underwater explorer Barry Clifford claimed to have found the Santa Maria, one of Christopher Columbus' three ships, off the coast of Haiti. But a few days ago, A UNESCO mission of experts has concluded that a shipwreck is actually from a much later period, citing the bronze or copper fasteners found on the site that point to shipbuilding techniques of the late 17th or 18th centuries, and the journal of Columbus (translated text online; Archive.org scan of the 1893 translation from the Hakluyt Society), which indicates that this wreck is too far from the shore to be the La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción. Despite this setback, Haiti will continue to search for the historic shipwreck.
Alison Atkin is a Ph.D. student in osteoarchaeology at the University of Sheffield, studying plague cemeteries. Her research is presented in this quirky, hand-drawn poster. Don't miss GIFs of the interactive panels at her blog, Deathsplanation.
"More than five centuries after Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, was wrecked in the Caribbean, archaeological investigators think they may have discovered the vessel’s long-lost remains – lying at the bottom of the sea off the north coast of Haiti."
The Corona Atlas of the Middle East uses spy satellite imagery to reveal as many as 10,000 previously unknown archaeological sites.
The Swahili Coast and its culture in the medieval period (roughly the tenth to fifteenth centuries) is relatively little studied, compared with other cultures of its size and influence, though it represents a key node in the development of global trade before the European Age of Discovery. Its history is known in broad strokes, but less is known about how the medieval Swahili lived and how they incorporated influences—from religion to architecture—from across the Indian Ocean world. Fleisher and his codirector, Stephanie Wynne-Jones of the University of York, looked for a site that would allow them to examine such questions in detail. “We had an inkling Songo Mnara would be that site,” he says, “but it has completely exceeded our expectations. --
In May 2008, while excavating around the castle, the archaeologists of Bristol University made a surprising discovery. They have unearthed two graves side by side. In both of them they have found the rests of the body of an armored knight, and above it in one grave the well preserved skeleton of a horse, while in the other the fragments of iron objects which, seen from above, resembled… a bicycle.[more inside]
Settling in for a long winter's nap? In need of a memento mori to guard against the unbridled jollity of the season? Just want to explore the wonderful world of 3D scans, osteology, and bioarchaeology on the internet a little further? Sad that Santa probably isn't bringing you a T-Rex for Christmas? Well, just peak inside... [more inside]
In September, Italian archaeologists removed a slab door in Tarquinia and entered an untouched, newly discovered Etruscan tomb (Slideshow: Entry to Tomb, Pictures of Contents) There was much excitement to find the intact tomb of a high-status man - a warrior, a prince, a man of importance, with a lance, grave goods, and the remains of his wife. Or so it was trumpeted by the discovering team and the media. A month later … the figure on the wider slab with the lance turns out to be the female, and the man was on the other slab. Whoops! Judith Weingarten writes about the assumptions made before and after the osteological analysis (and Part II). [more inside]
"But Freud had a second fear: a fear of Rome's layers. In formal treatises, he compared the psyche to an ancient city, with many layers of architecture built one on top of another, each replacing the last, but with the old structures still present underneath. In private writings he phrased this more personally, that he was terrified of ever visiting Rome because he was terrified of the idea of all the layers and layers and layers of destroyed structures hidden under the surface, at the same time present and absent, visible and invisible. He was, in a very deep way, absolutely right." [more inside]
CSI: Italian Renaissance. "Inside a lab in Pisa, forensics pathologist Gino Fornaciari and his team investigate 500-year-old cold cases." [Via]
"The stubby (or steinie) in many ways embodied all that was solid and stoic in the Canadian character. Think of the two adjectives most appropriately applied to it - "tough" and "squat" - and what it also brings to mind are the great goalies of that era, those stalwart unbreakable warriors who worked between the pipes." - Ian Coutts Brew North. [more inside]
Amateur archaeologist and "forensic hairdresser" Janet Stephens has discovered how to recreate the Seni Crines, the elaborately braided hairstyle worn by the vestal virgins. Don't miss Stephens' other classical hairstyle videos.
Historically, archaeologists have largely ignored acoustical science as a tool for archaeological discovery. This is changing with the advent of acoustic archaeology. “Could the Maya have intentionally coded the sound of their sacred bird into the pyramid architecture? I think it is possible.” Hear it for yourself in this video. While this is a pretty astounding feat of architectural engineering, it’s by no means the only example of archaeoacoustics that can be found at Chichen Itza, amongst the mayan people, or throughout the many other cultures who’ve built structures that integrate unique auditory phenomenon to stimulate the senses. [previously]/[previously] [more inside]
Searching for Doggerland. "For decades North Sea boatmen have been dragging up traces of a vanished world in their nets. Now archaeologists are asking a timely question: What happens to people as their homeland disappears beneath a rising tide?"
Golden Buddha, Hidden Copper. "Twelve years after the Taliban blew up the world-famous Bamiyan Buddhas, a Chinese mining firm -- developing one of the world's largest copper deposits -- threatens to destroy another of Afghanistan's archeological treasures." Campaign to Save Mes Aynak.
Wiki Loves Monuments: "World's largest photo contest" seeks to create a visual record of world monuments and historic sites on the Wikimedia Commons. The USA version focuses on sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Canadian version here. If you don't see your country among the 30 participating so far, you can volunteer!
A Guide to Houses No Gentleman Would Frequent, and more artifacts of history and archaeology that shed some light on the largely-unwritten world of nineteenth-century prostitution in Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and Paris, among other locales. Lest it appear too amusingly salacious, the miserable side.
The ‘Cyrus the Great Cylinder’, is an artifact of the Persian Empire from the 6th century BCE inscribed in Babylonian (Akkadian) cuneiform on a clay cylinder, which has been widely, falsely claimed as the first known recorded declaration of human rights, issued by the emperor Cyrus the Great. (Translation of the text.) A recent TED talk by Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum and host of the BBC's History of the World in 100 Objects, previously) discusses the Cylinder, and places it into historical perspective: 2600 Years of History in One Object. [more inside]
Photographs and more photographs of the ancient city of Palmyra, seat of the Palmyrene Empire and home to Queen Zenobia.
In 2008 a letter was excavated during an archaeological dig of a Peruvian colonial town abandoned for unknown reasons around the turn of the 18th Century. On the back of that letter were recorded several numbers and their names in a dead tongue, lost in the upheaval following the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Even though this may be the only remnant of an entire language, there is quite a bit that linguists can glean from these fragments. For a brief overview of the findings of research by a joint American-Peruvian research group, read here. And here is the full journal article, which places these numbers in their historical and linguistic context.
A court-mandated opening of some secret chambers at the Sree Padmanabhaswami temple in Kerala - family temple of the ruling royals of the former Kingdom of Travancore - has led to the discovery of a treasure estimated to be worth billions of dollars.
The Beer Archaeologist. "Biomolecular archaeologist" Dr. Patrick McGovern has unearthed millennia-old alcohol recipes and ancient medicinals, "by analyzing residues in ancient pottery. Now he's working with brewer Sam Calagione, (of Discovery Channel's Brew Masters, (autoplaying video)) whose pub Dogfish Head serves up beers based on recipes that are thousands of years old." (Via) [more inside]