Tag Archives | Archaeology

Anthropology unlocks clues about Roman gladiators’ eating habits

anthropology

via Phys.org:

Roman gladiators ate a mostly vegetarian diet and drank ashes after training as a tonic. These are the findings of anthropological investigations carried out on bones of warriors found during excavations in the ancient city of Ephesos.

Historic sources report that gladiators had their own diet. This comprised beans and grains. Contemporary reports referred to them as “hordearii” (“barley eaters”).

In a study by the Department of Forensic Medicine at the MedUni Vienna in cooperation with the Department of Anthropology at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern, bones were examined from a gladiator cemetery uncovered in 1993 which dates back to the 2nd or 3rd century BC in the then Roman city of Ephesos (now in modern-day Turkey). At the time, Ephesos was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and had over 200,000 inhabitants.

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Storm God Worship: Ancient Cult Complex Discovered in Israel

The foundations of the ancient cult complex in Israel were made of field stone (shown here). Credit: Photo courtesy Professor Itzhaq Shai.

The foundations of the ancient cult complex in Israel were made of field stone (shown here).
Credit: Photo courtesy Professor Itzhaq Shai.

via Live Science:

A massive cult complex, dating back about 3,300 years, has been discovered at the site of Tel Burna in Israel.

While archaeologists have not fully excavated the cult complex, they can tell it was quite large, as the courtyard alone was 52 by 52 feet (16 by 16 meters). Inside the complex, researchers discovered three connected cups, fragments of facemasks, massive jars that are almost as big as a person and burnt animal bones that may indicate sacrificial rituals.

The archaeologists said they aren’t sure who was worshipped at the complex, though Baal, the Canaanite storm god, is a possibility. “The letters of Ugarit [an ancient site in modern-day Syria] suggest that of the Canaanite pantheon, Baal, the Canaanite storm god, would have been the most likely candidate,” Itzhaq Shai, a professor at Ariel University who is directing a research project at Tel Burna, told Live Science in an email.

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‘Vampire grave’ found in Bulgaria

The skelton with an iron spike through the chest, which was supposed to stop the dead rising Photo: Rex

The skeleton with an iron spike through the chest, which was supposed to stop the dead rising Photo: Rex

via The Telegraph:

A “vampire grave” containing a skeleton with a stake driven through its chest has been unearthed by a man known as “Bulgaria’s Indiana Jones”.

Professor Nikolai Ovcharov – a crusading archaeologist who has dedicated his life to unearthing mysteries of ancient civilisations – said that he had made the discovery while excavating the ruins of Perperikon, an ancient Thracian city located in southern Bulgaria, close to the border with Greece.

The city, inhabited since 5,000 BC but only discovered 20 years ago, is believed to be the site of the Temple of Dionysius – the Greek God of wine and fertility. And among the finds at the site, which includes a hilltop citadel, a fortress and a sanctuary, are a series of “vampire graves”.

On Thursday Professor Ovcharov announced that he had found a remarkably-preserved Medieval skeleton at the site in what he termed “a vampire grave”.

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Ancient Animals: Fossils Could Be Remnants of the Earth’s Earliest Animals

Strange multicellular spherical fossils dating back 600 million years were discovered in South China'sDoushantuo Formation. Credit: Lei Chen and Shuhai Xiao

Strange multicellular spherical fossils dating back 600 million years were discovered in South China’sDoushantuo Formation.
Credit: Lei Chen and Shuhai Xiao

via Live Science:

A series of mysterious spherical fossils found in southern China may be remnants of some of the world’s earliest animals.

A new study finds that these controversial fossils are not likely to be bacteria or single-celled protists; their cells, preserved for more than 600 million years in rock, are too complex and differentiated. Instead, the fossils may be multicellular algae, or even the embryosof ancient animals.

“The real value of these fossils is that we now have some direct evidence about how this transition from single-celled organisms to things like animals and plants occurred in the evolutionary past,” said study researcher Shuhai Xiao, a geobiologist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. [See images of the strange spherical fossils]

Multicellular and differentiated

The bizarre fossils, known as Megasphaera, come from a rock layer in southern China called the Doushantuo Formation.

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700-year-old skeleton couple were uncovered still holding hands

These lovebirds have held hands for the past 700 years. | Credit: University of Leicester Archaeological Services

These lovebirds have held hands for the past 700 years. | Credit: University of Leicester Archaeological Services

via Live Science:

The skeletal remains of two lovebirds were uncovered, after being locked in a romantic embrace for the past 700 years.

Archeologists found the happy couple holding hands in an earthen grave during an excavation of a “lost” chapel in Leicestershire, England, researchers reported Thursday (Sept. 18).

“We have seen similar skeletons before from Leicester where a couple has been buried together in a single grave,” Vicki Score, University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) project manager, said in a statement.

Double graves are not that unusual. But it’s surprising that the two bodies were buried at the so-called “lost” chapel of St Morrell, only recently discovered by a local historian and a team of researchers, instead of at the local church. [8 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]

“The main question we find ourselves asking is why were they buried up there?

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1,000 Unmarked Bodies Found Buried Below University Of Mississippi

bodies_msOddly, the developers’ renderings do not include the massive stacks of corpses of mental patients, slaves, and Civil War casualties which will form the buildings’ base. Via the Huffington Post:

Burial sites found on a college campus have created a potential nightmare for administrators. While surveying land for a new parking lot at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, officials made a grisly discovery: more than 1,000 bodies thought to have been patients at the old Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum.

The unnamed, century-old graves present a problem for the university, whose expansion plans could be halted over the cost of relocating the bodies.

It’s possible there could be more unmarked graves belonging to tuberculosis patients, former slaves, or even Civil War dead. Experts think that future additions to the medical center and other buildings on campus will have to be reconsidered.

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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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King Tut’s Body Spontaneously Combusted

mummyfireHoly Flaming Mummies, Batman! If “Burning Mummy” doesn’t become a stoner rock band name by next week I’m going to be very disappointed.

Via Raw Story:

Egyptologist Chris Nauton, the director of the Egypt Exploration Society, and a team of car crash investigators ran computer simulations that lend credence to the increasingly accepted theory that Tutankhamun was killed in a chariot accident. The simulations showed that the injuries scaling down one side of his body are consistent with a high-speed collision.

But it is the possibility of a botched mummification and its consequences that really interest Nauton.

“Despite all the attention Tut’s mummy has received over the years the full extent of its strange condition has largely been overlooked,” he said. “The charring and possibility that a botched mummification led the body spontaneously combusting shortly after burial was entirely unexpected, something of a revelation in fact.”

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Tattoos May Have Originated As A Form Of Ancient Medicine

ancient form of medicineDid decorating the body begin as a form of mystical medicine 5,000 years ago? Archaeology Magazine writes:

Perhaps the most famous tattooed ancient man is Ötzi the Iceman, who died high in the Italian Alps more than 5,000 years ago.

It is Ötzi’s body, almost perfectly preserved by the snow and ice after his death, that provides unique evidence of early medicine. Ötzi is covered with more than 50 tattoos of lines and crosses made up of small incisions in his skin into which charcoal was rubbed. Because they are all found on parts of the body that show evidence of wear and tear—the ankles, wrists, knees, Achilles tendon, and lower back, for example—it’s thought that Ötzi’s tattoos were therapeutic, not decorative or symbolic.

When Ötzi was first studied, archaeologists were shocked because they had never before seen Copper Age tattoos, and because acupuncture as a treatment for joint distress, rheumatism, and arthritis was thought to have originated in Asia more than 2,000 years later.

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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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