Linguists have recently reconstructed what a 6,000 year-old-language called Proto-Indo-European might have sounded like. This language was the forerunner of many European and Asian languages, and now you can listen to how it may have sounded. Proto-Indo-European (PIE) was spoken by a people who lived from roughly 4500 to 2500 B.C. The question became, what did PIE sound like? As linguists have continued to discover more about PIE, this sonic experiment is periodically updated to reflect the most current understanding of how this extinct language would have sounded when spoken some six thousand years ago. Since there is considerable disagreement among scholars, no one version can be considered definitive.
Tag Archives | Anthropology
For the Incas, coca and alcohol served simultaneously as keys to the sacred and tools of coercion and control, National Geographic fascinatingly reports:
The bodies of 13-year-old Llullaillaco Maiden and her younger companions Llullaillaco Boy and Lightning Girl (three Inca mummies found near the lofty summit of Volcán Llullaillaco in Argentina) have revealed that mind-altering substances played a part in their deaths and during the year-long series of ceremonial processes that prepared them for their final hours.
Under biochemical analysis, the Maiden’s hair yielded a record of what she ate and drank during the last two years of her life. This evidence seems to support historical accounts of a few selected children taking part in a year of sacred ceremonies—marked in their hair by changes in food, coca, and alcohol consumption—that would ultimately lead to their sacrifice.
Her surging consumption of both coca and alcohol, which were then controlled substances not available for everyday use, show she appears to have been selected for sacrifice a year before her actual death: “We suspect the Maiden was one of the acllas, or chosen women, selected around the time of puberty to live away from her familiar society under the guidance of priestesses.”
The 3,300-year-old Dream Book, via the British Museum:
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The meaning of dreams is a subject that fascinated the ancient Egyptians. This hieratic papyrus, probably dates to the early reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC).
On each page of the papyrus a vertical column of hieratic signs begins: ‘if a man sees himself in a dream'; each horizontal line describes a dream, followed by the diagnosis ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and then the interpretation. For example, ‘if a man sees himself in a dream looking out of a window, good; it means the hearing of his cry’. Or, ‘if a man sees himself in a dream with his bed catching fire, bad; it means driving away his wife’.
It is uncertain who the original owner was, but it passed into the hands of the scribe Qeniherkhepshef. The Dream Book was part of an archive, including a wide variety of literary, magical and documentary material, which passed down through [his] family.
On the French isle of Corsica, the chilling prehistoric occult practice of dream hunting, performed by psychically-gifted individuals called mazzeri, is still done by a small number today. Drawing from descriptions by anthropologist Dorothy Carrington, TerraCorsa reveals:
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The activities of the mazzeri stem from the Corsican hunting and foodgathering peoples of the pre-Neolithic times (before about 6000 B.C.)
The mazzeri are dream-hunters, who go out at night to kill an animal. They recognize in the face of the animal someone known to him, nearly always an inhabitant of his village. The next day he will tell what he has seen and the person mentioned will die in the space of time running from three days to a year, and always within an uneven number of days. If an animal is only wounded by the mazzere, then the person it represents will meet an accident or illness, but not death.
To be a mazzere it is necessary to have a psychic gift that opens the door to the parallel world.
Perhaps heightening the mystery is the mind-bending possibility that Indonesia many thousands of years ago may have been home to a species of little people distinct from humans. Have they been hiding? Via the Jakarta Post:
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Rangers patrolling the Way Kambas National Park (TNWK) in Lampung claim to have sighted dozens of pygmies in a number of areas across the park. Allegedly the pygmies sport dreadlocks, measure no more than 50 centimeters tall and do not wear clothing.
“The first sighting was on March 17…When the rangers were about to approach them, they immediately hid behind trees and vanished. They ran very fast” said TNWK spokesman Sukatmoko.
He added that several rangers patrolling the park claimed the pygmies were seen moving to the PT Nusantara Tropical Fruit (NTF) plantation. “Apparently, many fruit trees are grown in the NTF plantation area. The pygmies might have entered the plantation for food,” said Sukatmoko.
Imagine going swimming in the (now drained) lake, not knowing what lay below. Via Live Science:
Archaeologists have unearthed a trove of skulls in Mexico that may have once belonged to human sacrifice victims. The skulls, which date between A.D. 600 and 850, are “potentially evidence of the largest mass human sacrifice in ancient Meso-America.”
[The site is] in a now drained lake called Lake Xaltocan. To date, more than 150 skulls have been discovered there, as well as a shrine with incense burners, water-deity figurines and pottery suggesting a ritual purpose.
The findings shake up existing notions of the culture of the day, because the site is not associated with Teotihuacan or other regional powers. The shrines and the fact that sacrifice victims were mostly male suggest they were carefully chosen, not simply the result of indiscriminate slaughter of a whole village.
The secret portal has yet to be unsealed, but an electromagnetic survey suggests it houses treasure chambers filled with gold. Who’s going to try to get it and end up with an Incan curse? Heritage Daily reports:
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This discovery was made possible thanks to a French engineer, David Crespy, who in 2010 noticed the presence of a strange “shelter” located in the heart of the city, at the bottom of one of the main buildings. For him, there was no doubt about it, he was looking at a “door”, an entrance sealed by the Incas.
It is indeed an entrance, blocked by the Incas at an undetermined moment of history. In April 2012, an electromagnetic survey not only confirmed the presence of an underground room, but several. Just behind the famous entrance, a staircase was also discovered. The two main paths seem to lead to specific chambers. [The electromagnetic survey also revealed] a large quantity of gold and silver.
The BBC reports on an almost-musical language:
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On a Spanish island, an ancient whistling language that once seemed to be dying out is now undergoing a revival. Silbo gomero or Gomeran whistle is an ancient language the locals have assured me is still in use.
This method of communication, in which the Spanish language is replaced by two whistled vowels and four consonants, has a peculiarity perfectly suited to this landscape of deep valleys and steep ravines. It has the ability to travel up to two miles, much further and with less effort than shouting.
It is known that when the first European settlers arrived at La Gomera in the 15th Century, the inhabitants of the island – of North African origin – communicated with whistles. The arrival of the Spanish, the locals adapted the whistling language to Spanish. So the most likely theory is that the whistle came with the settlers from Africa, where there are records of other whistled languages.
Via Mind Hacks, a brief tour of cultural sex taboos:
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The Cuna of Panama approve of sexual relations only at night in accordance with the laws of God. The Semang of Malaysia believe that sex during the day will cause thunderstorms and deadly lightning, leading to drowning of not only the offending couple but also of other innocent people. And the West African Bambara believe that a couple who engage in sex during the day will have an albino child.
Sometimes, sex is prohibited in certain places. The Mende of West Africa forbid sexual intercourse in the bush, while the Semang condemn sex with camp boundaries for fear that the supernatural will become angry. Among the Bambara, engaging in sexual relations out of doors will lead to the failure of crops.
Sex taboos can also apply to certain activities. Often, sex prohibitions are associated with war or economic pursuit. The Ganda of Uganda forbid sexual intercourse the night before battle.
It’s amazing to me to see how our perceptions of the Neanderthals have changed over the last 200 years, give or take. Once thought to be brutish, slow creatures, we now know that they had art, burial rituals, language and possibly even religion. Now, some scientists think that they may have been sailors as well – thousands of years before such things were thought to have occurred:
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Neanderthals and other extinct human lineages might have been ancient mariners, venturing to the Mediterranean islands thousands of years earlier than previously thought.
This prehistoric seafaring could shed light on the mental capabilities of these lost relatives of modern humans, researchers say.
Scientists had thought the Mediterranean islands were first settled about 9,000 years ago by Neolithic or New Stone Age farmers and shepherds.
“On a lot of Mediterranean islands, you have these amazing remains from classical antiquity to study, so for many years people didn’t even look for older sites,” said archaeologist Alan Simmons at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.