Tag Archives | Archaeology

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.”

Keep reading.

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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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Priestess Tomb Confirms That Women Ruled In Ancient Peru

priestess

A society in some respects more advanced than our own? Phys.org reports:

The discovery in Peru of another tomb belonging to a pre-Hispanic priestess, the eighth in more than two decades, confirms that powerful women ruled this region 1,200 years ago, archeologists said.

The remains of the woman from the Moche—or Mochica—civilization were discovered in late July in an area called La Libertad in the country’s northern Chepan province. In 2006, researchers came across the famous “Lady of Cao”—who died about 1,700 years ago and is seen as one of the first female rulers in Peru.

“This find makes it clear that women didn’t just run rituals in this area but governed here and were queens of Mochica society,” said project director Luis Jaime Castillo. “It is the eighth priestess to be discovered,” he added. “Our excavations have only turned up tombs with women, never men.”

The priestess was in an “impressive 1,200-year-old burial chamber” the archeologist said.

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Ancient Egyptian Sphinx Mysteriously Unearthed In Israel

sphinx

Things not where they are supposed to be? Historical strangeness via CNN:

A recent discovery of part of a 4,000-year-old Egyptian sphinx has been a most unexpected find in Tel Hazor in northern Israel.

Inexplicably buried far from Egypt, the paws of a sphinx statue, resting on its base, have been unearthed with an inscription in hieroglyphs naming King Mycerinus. The pharaoh ruled in 2500 BC and oversaw the construction of one of the three Giza pyramids.

“This is the only sphinx of this king known in the world – even in Egypt. It is also the only monumental piece of Egyptian sculpture found anywhere in the Levant,” said professor Amnon Ben-Tor, the director of the excavation, referring to the region spanning the east of the Mediterranean Sea.

Tel Hazor was the capital of the city of Canaan 4,000 years ago. The question of how the sphinx got to Tel Hazor will likely remain a mystery.

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5,000-Year-Old Egyptian Jewelry’s Materials Came From Outer Space

egyptian

The International Business Times reports on the interplanetary origins of ancient human culture:

A set of funeral beads which could be the oldest iron artifacts on earth actually came from outer space, archaeologists have claimed.

The nine iron beads, which were found in a 5000-year-old Egyptian cemetery in 1911, were made from a meteorite that crashed to earth around 3200 BC, according to a study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

“These beads were made from meteoritic iron, and shaped by careful hammering of the metal into thin sheets before rolling them into tubes,” researchers noted, adding that neutron and X-ray scanning of the iron beads proved that the metal came from a meteorite.

The iron was strung into a necklace together with other exotic minerals such as lapis lazuli, gold and carnelian. The findings suggest that iron and metal works were much advanced in the ancient Egypt than previously thought.

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