Tag Archives | Ancient History

Prototype For Noah’s Ark Was Round Per 4,000-Year-Old Tablet

Mesopotamian tablet at British Museum

The Mesopotamian tablet at British Museum

So might there be some truth the the biblical story of Noah, his ark and the animals entering two by two? A 4000-year-old stone tablet that’s just gone on display at the British Museum suggests exactly that. Oh, and the ark was round, per this report from AP:

It was a vast boat that saved two of each animal and a handful of humans from a catastrophic flood.

But forget all those images of a long vessel with a pointy bow – the original Noah’s Ark, new research suggests, was round.

A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia – modern-day Iraq – reveals striking new details about the roots of the Old Testament tale of Noah. It tells a similar story, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle – as well as the key instruction that animals should enter “two by two.”

The tablet went on display at the British Museum on Friday, and soon engineers will follow the ancient instructions to see whether the vessel could actually have sailed.

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The Crumbling Ancient Texts That May Hold Life-Saving Cures

Loc timbuktu manuscripts amm0001rsAstonishing lost medical science being unearthed from ancient texts smuggled out of Timbuktu to avoid Al-Qaeda? It may sound like the plot of a Dan Brown potboiler but it appears to be true based on this first hand report by Amy Maxmen who went to Mali for Nautilus:

…Subjects in the collections, spanning the 13th through 17th century, include the Koran, Sufism, philosophy, law, medicine, astronomy, and more. Haidara stresses the need for climate-controlled safe-houses for the manuscripts, so that academics can begin to study the books to learn about African history. He thinks the books might also contain information about cures for maladies that persist today. “Every book has answers, and if you analyze them you can learn solutions,” he says. “Everything that exists now, existed before now.” One prime example of this constancy is a plague that has afflicted humans at least since ancient times and currently kills approximately 1.2 million people per year: malaria.

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King Tut’s Mummified Erection May Provide Angle On Ancient Religious Conflict

800px-Howard_Carter_in_the_King_Tutankhamen's_tomb

Pic: Harry Burton (PD)

King Tutankhamun’s father was Ahkenaten, who among other things instituted a new heliocentric religion that led to the persecution of Egypt’s priestly class. Tut (incidentally, my favorite honky) rolled back much of his father’s radical changes, apparently something the priests wished him to continue in death.

Via HuffPost:

Egypt’s King Tutankhamun was embalmed in an unusual way, including having his penis mummified at a 90-degree angle, in an effort to combat a religious revolution unleashed by his father, a new study suggests.

The pharaoh was buried in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings without a heart (or a replacement artifact known as a heart scarab); his penis was mummified erect; and his mummy and coffins were covered in a thick layer of black liquid that appear to have resulted in the boy-king catching fire.

These anomalies have received both scholarly and media attention in recent years, and a new paper in the journal Études et Travaux by Egyptologist Salima Ikram, a professor at the American University in Cairo, proposes a reason why they, and other Tutankhamun burial anomalies, exist.

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Happy Saturnalia To All!

SaturnaliaA celebration dear to the hearts of the Disinformation team at this time of year is Saturnalia, one of the most popular Roman festivals. It was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of social roles, in which slaves and masters ostensibly switched places, with expectantly humorous results. Saturnalia was introduced around 217 BC to raise citizen morale after a crushing military defeat. Originally celebrated for a day, on December 17th, its popularity saw it grow until it became a week-long extravaganza, ending on the 23rd. Our favorite exposition of Saturnalia has long been the Electric Sheep comic strip, no longer easily available on the web, but we dug in the crates and are pleased to bring it to you. We did find it here and in a video created from the original website posted to Funny or Die:
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Genetic Analysis Suggests Ancient Humans Interbred Extensively Neanderthals, Denisovans And An “Unknown Population”

neanderthalNature hints that modern humans have a mysterious X factor ancestor:

Genome analysis suggests there was interbreeding between modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and an unknown archaic population. Updated genome sequences from two extinct relatives of modern humans suggest that these ‘archaic’ groups bred with humans and with each other more extensively than was previously known.

The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a member of an archaic human group called the Denisovans, were presented on 18 November at a meeting on ancient DNA at the Royal Society in London. The results suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet-unknown human ancestor from Asia.

All modern humans whose ancestry originates outside of Africa owe about 2% of their genome to Neanderthals. Certain populations living in Oceania, such as Papua New Guineans and Australian Aboriginals, share about 4% of their DNA with Denisovans.

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Ancient Hunting Spear Predates Humans By 85,000 Years

spearDo the origins of civilization on Earth reach back significantly farther than we have realized? Discovery reports:

Remains of the oldest known stone-tipped throwing spears, described in a new paper, are so ancient that they actually predate the earliest known fossils for our species by 85,000 years.

There are a couple possible implications, and both are mind-blowing. The first is that our species could be much older than previously thought, which would forever change the existing human family tree.

The second, and more likely at this point, is that a predecessor species to ours was extremely crafty and clever, making sophisticated tools long before Homo sapiens emerged.

The new paper, published in the latest PLoS ONE, focuses on the newly identified stone-tipped spears, which date to 280,000 years ago. They were found at an Ethiopian Stone Age site known as Gademotta.

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Ancient Magician’s Curse Tablet Discovered In Jerusalem

curse tabletVia Live Science, what used to occur before people hired attorneys:

A lead curse tablet, dating back around 1,700 years and likely written by a magician, has been discovered in a collapsed Roman mansion in Jerusalem, archaeologists report.

The text is written in Greek and, in it a woman named Kyrilla invokes the names of six gods to cast a curse on a man named Iennys, apparently over a legal case.

Kyrilla asks the gods to ensure that “he in no way oppose, so that he say or perform nothing adverse to Kyrilla … but rather that Iennys, whom the womb bore, be subject to her…”

To obtain her goal Kyrilla combined elements from four religions. Of six gods invoked, four of them are Greek (Hermes, Persephone, Pluto and Hecate), one is Babylonian (Ereschigal) and one, Abrasax, is Gnostic. Additionally, the text contains magic words such as “Iaoth” that have a Hebrew/Judaism origin.

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Neanderthals Ate Stomach Contents Of Dead Animals (Tastes Like Cream Cheese)

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Apparently the stomach contents of dead animals tastes like cream cheese. I may have to seek something else to spread on my bagels from now on… Robin McKie reports on the real diet of Neanderthals for The Observer:

It was the tell-tale tartar on the teeth that told the truth. Or at least, that is what it appeared to do. Researchers – after studying calcified plaque on Neanderthal fossil teeth found in El Sidrón cave in Spain – last year concluded that members of this extinct human species cooked vegetables and consumed bitter-tasting medicinal plants such as chamomile and yarrow.

These were not brainless carnivores, in other words. These were smart and sensitive people capable of providing themselves with balanced diets and of treating themselves with health-restoring herbs, concluded the researchers, led by Karen Hardy at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona.

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The First Ancient Human Artists Were Women

handprints

Did women invent art? National Geographic reports:

Women made most of the oldest-known cave art paintings, suggests a new analysis of ancient handprints. Most scholars had assumed these ancient artists were predominantly men, so the finding overturns decades of archaeological dogma.

Archaeologist Dean Snow analyzed hand stencils found in eight cave sites in France and Spain. Snow determined that three-quarters of the handprints were female. Women tend to have ring and index fingers of about the same length, whereas men’s ring fingers tend to be longer than their index fingers.

“People have made a lot of unwarranted assumptions about who made these things, and why,” said Snow, whose research was supported by the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration.

Because many of these early paintings showcase game animals, many researchers have proposed that they were made by male hunters. The new study suggests otherwise.

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