Everything you wanted to know about pre-Columbian Central America but were afraid to ask lest your heart get ripped out and offered to Quetzalcoatl
The Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies is your one-stop shop for pre-Columbian Central America awesomeness. There are so, so many wondrous things on that site, I don't quite know where to begin. I suppose John Pohl's scholarly introduction is a natural place to start. But maybe you just don't have time to read anything and just want to dive into pretty, pretty pictures. Perhaps the most user-friendly databases are Justin Kerr's photographs Maya Vases (e.g. 1, 2, 3) and Pre-Columbian Portfolio (e.g. 1, 2a, 2b, 3). From there you can delve into the collection of Linda Schele's photographs (e.g. 1, 2) and drawings (e.g. 1, 2, 3). There are more image databases but let me direct you to the collection of old Maya, Aztec and Mixtec books which are simply stunning (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4 [last link pdf]). You can read more about Mayan and Mixtec codices and download high resolution versions of the entire books. There are also Maya dictionaries, glyph guides, linguistic maps and a who's who. There is also classic Mayan and Aztec poetry in translation. I'm telling you, that's not even half of what this amazing site has to offer.
Archaeologists find a pottery fragment with the oldest known example of written Hebrew at the Elah Fortress(YT) in Israel - or maybe not [more inside]
Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple? "Predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, Turkey's stunning Gobekli Tepe upends the conventional view of the rise of civilization."
Witches of Cornwall. "Macabre evidence of age-old spells surfaces in an archaeologist's front yard." [Via]
Akhetaten (a.k.a. Amarna) was the city built by Pharaoh Akhenaten, famous for his monotheistic beliefs and his queen, Nefertiti and son, Tutankhamun. The Amarna Letters has translations of correspondence sent to the Akhenaten, but a trove of it was found at the Amarna site. During his reign a distinctive style of art rose to prominence, only to vanish after his death. The Boston MFA has 40 objects from the era in its collection. Perhaps the most famous of the cultural artifacts of Akhenaten is the Great Hymn to Aten (hieroglyphics, four different English translations: 1, 2, 3, 4). This poem was set to music by Philip Glass for his opera Akhnaten (information about the opera). Some see direct parallels between The Great Hymn to Aten and Psalm 104. Though it was billed as a new beginning, like many utopias, Amarna was no haven for the regular folk who lived there.
What caused the Viking Age? It has long been a source of, er, conflict among Nordic scholars. A new study ($ub-only) suggests the Viking Age was triggered by a shortage of women (lack of).
A Jared Diamond-like theory of history - did earthquakes contribute to the rise of ancient civilizations? Thirteen of 15 major ancient civilizations were clustered mostly along tectonic boundaries. "It's not a connection that seems to make much sense at first glance. But you can't ignore the pattern--look at a map, and it just jumps out at you." (Abstract). [more inside]
Mayan Ruins Filter: Possible Portal to the Underworld found in Mexico. Included in the underwater tunnels (video) are two underground temples and human bones - possibly the remains of human sacrifices. [more inside]
Lost Tribes of the Green Sahara. "How a dinosaur hunter uncovered the Sahara's strangest Stone Age graveyard."
England's Rock Art. "Amongst the outcrops and boulders of northern England keen eyes may spot an array of mysterious symbols carved into the rock surfaces. These curious marks vary from simple, circular hollows known as 'cups' to more complex patterns with cups, rings, and intertwining grooves. Many are in spectacular, elevated locations with extensive views but some are also found on monuments such as standing stones and stone circles, or within burial mounds. The carvings were made by Neolithic and Early Bronze Age people between 3500 and 6000 years ago." [Via Life in the Fast Lane]
Mundo Maya Online is chockfull of illustrated articles about various aspects of Mayan history and culture. Learn about the Mayan calendar, read Mayan legends, explore Mayan history, archaeology and the natural environment they thrived in. Mundo Maya also has articles about the daily life of the modern Mayans and the handicrafts they make.
The Devastation of Iraq's Past. "Since the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in April 2003, the international press has accorded considerable space to the country's imperiled ancient heritage. Much of this coverage, however, has been devoted to the museum, the impressive campaign to recover its stolen works, and the continued struggle to reopen its galleries. Only occasional, anecdotal reports—mostly from the first year of the conflict—have borne witness to large-scale plunder of archaeological sites, to which the damage is irreversible."
Viking invasion ends as longship sails home. The Sea Stallion From Glendalough, a replica Viking longboat (previously), is returning to Denmark.
Avebury. A short, trippy 8mm film shot around the Neolithic stone circles and henge at Avebury, Wiltshire. [Via BB]
Ancient Buddhist Paintings From Bamiyan Were Made Of Oil, Hundreds Of Years Before Technique Was 'Invented' In Europe. [Via MonkeyFilter.] [more inside]
"Curse Tablets are small sheets of lead, inscribed with messages from individuals seeking to make gods and spirits act on their behalf and influence the behaviour of others against their will. The motives are usually malign and their expression violent, for example to wreck an opponent’s chariot in the circus, to compel a person to submit to sex or to take revenge on a thief. Letters and lines written back to front, magical ‘gibberish’ and arcane words and symbols often lend the texts additional power to persuade. In places where supernatural agents could be contacted, thrown into sacred pools at temples, interred with the dead or hidden by the turning post at the circus, these tablets have survived to be found by archaeologists."
Excavation Starts at Stonehenge - "The two-week dig will try to establish, once and for all, some precise dating for the creation of the monument." [more inside]
A South African paleoanthropologist on vacation on the island of Palau in Micronesia has discovered thousands of bone fragments of very small people estimated at between 900 and 2900 years old. He and his colleagues have just published a paper on their findings, which would appear to damage the claim that the bones discovered on Flores Island, Indonesia in 2004 and attributed to homo floresiensis (or "Hobbits") were not a unique and extinct branch of the human family, but rather pygmy-like peoples. However it also knocks a hole in the claim that the Flores bones were merely all unusually small humans suffering from microcephaly due to iodine deficiency. Naturally, the scientists who originally discovered the Hobbits on Flores aren't too thrilled about either of these theories. (Previous discussions here and here)
Texas Beyond History is a comprehensive web site covering the last 10,000 years of human occupation of (what is now called) Texas. A small section of the site was previously posted on Metafilter. via archaeolog.
Answers Research Journal is a new "professional peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework." Current Volume. Call for Papers.
The rock art of the Tassili culture is found throughout North African mountains, the Tassili n'Ajjer. The rock art of Europe is well known around the world. Lesser known but just as amazing and less well-understood is the rock art of North Africa. (prev.,prev.) This tradition is thought to have developed independently of European rock art although researchers agree about very little else about it. This art hearkens back to a time when the Sahara's climate was milder and more wet. This rock art has often been compared to the pre-Nguni San rock art of Southern Africa. There are of course people who believe that aliens did it. The more research that is done about this area and its archaeology, the more we may have to rethink our ideas about the Sahara. . Sadly enough, like many archaeological sites it is becoming endangered.
Apotropaios contains much fascinating information about the (here, mainly British and Irish) folk magic practice of concealing objects in buildings for ritual protection purposes. Yes, mummified Ceiling Cat is averting your evil. One aspect of the practice, the deliberate concealment of garments, has provided us with insight into ordinary costume of bygone days.
O Hammers, Head : discussion of a freakish reference in Philodemus's On Methods of Inference, found in the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. [more inside]
Wharram Percy [1996 vintage Web] was a Yorkshire Wolds village that survived for more than a millennium before being suddenly depopulated. Was it plague, Viking raids or William the Conqueror's Harrying of the North that drove the people from the land? No, it seems it was the sheep. The main link provides an overview of some of the findings about the village and medieval English peasant life [BBC radio programme] emerging from the decades of archaeological research into Wharram Percy.
The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has a nice collection of online exhibits, including ones on Roman glassmaking, the ancient history of wine, and a history of body modification. (Other exhibits have appeared on Mefi previously.)
Archaeology Magazine lists its top ten discoveries of 2007, with nine runners up. Among the discoveries listed are the discovery of Nebo-Sarsekim tablet that confirms some of the details of the Biblical book of Jeremiah (while casting doubt on other details), evidence that chimpanzees used basic stone tools 4,000 years ago that suggests that the primates may have passed "cultural" information through generations, and evidence of Polynesian chickens in Chile that may confirm Francisco Pizarro's report of chickens in Peru.
Why humans started huddling together in cities is still shrouded in mystery but if the question is ever settled the answer will probably be found in Çatalhöyük, a settlement of five to eight thousand located in what is now Turkey that came into existence around 7500 BC. The current head archaeologist of the Çatalhöyük Project is Ian Hodder, one of the leading lights in postprocessual archaeology, who summarized his finding in a recent article in Natural History Magazine. The Çatalhöyük Project website is a treasure trove of information about the ancient settlement. [more inside]
Scientists find a 'mummified' Hadrosaur in North Dakota "He looks like a blow-up dinosaur in some parts," said Phillip Manning, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester in England who is leading the inquiry. "When you actually look at the detail of the skin, the scales themselves are three dimensional. . . . The arm is breathtaking. It's a three-dimensional arm, you can shake the dinosaur by the hand. It just defies logic that such a remarkable specimen could preserve." [more inside]
Chocolate and the Beer of the Ancients. New archaeological evidence suggests that primitive beer brewers were the first to discover the goodness of chocolate.
Ever wonder how flaked stone tools such as the famous 12,000 year old Clovis spear points were made? A series of videos from youtube user flintknappingtips leads you through primary shaping, blank preparation, blank shaping, thinning, and fluting of a Clovis point. Total manufacturing time is about 40 minutes. Unscrupulous flintknappers have sold such replicas for tens of thousands of dollars (PDF), leading to a micro-business of stone tool authentication, after which, naturally, fake authentication papers started to appear came to light.
King Tut's face revealed to the world The face of Egypt's most famous ancient ruler, King Tutankhamun, has been put on public display for the first time.
"Proposition. We are all archaeologists, even if we don't realize it. An archaeological sensibility - working on what is left of the past, heritage, museums, collecting culture, antiques, retro styling, family genealogy, local history, tourists visiting the past - is a vital part of the contemporary zeitgeist. Archaeography and Archaeographer are photoblogs that explore the connections between photography and archaeology." Mining a similar vein is The Nonist's Archeography Project.
7 Deserted Wonders of the (Post)Modern World. 7 More Deserted Wonders of the Modern World. 7 Submerged Wonders of the World. 7 Underground Wonders of the World.
The Por-Bazhyn Fortress (meaning “clay house” in Tuvan) is believed to have been built in the 8th century CE at the behest of the Uighur kagan Mo-yen-çur. Its remains occupy a 3.5 ha location on a spectacular island location in Lake Tere-Khol in the south west part of the Republic of Tuva. This summer a project to excavate and ultimately preserve the site began [Embedded video] (attracting some notable visitors). Via
Derinkuyu wasn't discovered until 1965, when a resident cleaning the back wall of his cave house broke through a wall and discovered behind it a room that he'd never seen, which led to still another, and another. Eventually, spelunking archeologists found a maze of connecting chambers that descended at least 18 stories and 280 feet beneath the surface, ample enough to hold 30,000 people. [flickr]. [wiki].
Open access articles at Antiquity, a quarterly review of world archaeology. Recent project reviews cover Aztec cities, earliest rice domestication, and Pleistocene rock art in Egypt. There's lots to read.
Re-thinking the "cradle of civilization". New discoveries at dig sites in Middle Asia are challenging the archaeological worlds idea that civilization began in Mesopotamia. Sites in modern-day Iran and Russia suggest that a vast network of societies together constituted the first cities, along with the potential discovery of a new writing system.
What was Jiroft? An ancient civilization in what is now southern Iran that was lost to history until very recently. Many beautiful artifacts have been dug up. It is claimed that writing originated with the Jiroft civilization and that this is the legendary kingdom of Aratta, subject of one of the world's oldest works of literature, Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta. There is dispute over both. Either way, it certainly was a commercial hub as early as 3000 B.C. The site has been extensively plundered in recent years, but is so rich in artifacts that excavations can go on for decades.
Not to be outdone by the appearance of the Octosquid (previously), other cephalopods have undearthed 900-year-old hidden treasures from the Koryo Dynasty and are taking up residence in the Monterey Bay (Bugmenot works for this last link). Squirrels are also getting in on the action.
Longboat! The Sea Stallion, a reconstruction of a ship scuttled off Roskilde will sail from Denmark to Dublin, where tests on timbers from the wreck show the original was built in the mid-eleventh century. (Pillaged from a centre of Irish learning)
The Etruscan civilization flourished in central Italy around the 6th century BC before the rise of the Roman Empire. Known for high art and high living, some say the Etruscans were influential in molding Roman and western civilization, however it has always been an enigma on where the Etruscans originally came from. DNA evidence has probably solved the mystery, confirming what Greek historian Herodotus first said over 2,500 years ago.