Tag Archives | Archeology

Is Archaeology Better Off Without Religion?

“Archaeologists used to be obsessed with religion. Now they can’t be bothered with it. Is the field worse off?” asks Rose Eveleth at Aeon:

In her first year teaching at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, Leann Pace taught a class called Near Eastern Archaeology. Thirty years ago, the course would probably have been called ‘Biblical Archaeology’, as it focuses on regions important in the birth of the major Western religions. One day, a student raised her hand and asked: ‘Why do we care about the origins of this small group of people anyway?’

Photo: Ori (CC)

Photo: Ori (CC)

 

Pace told me she was shocked. ‘It was one of those moments when a student wrings you to the core,’ she said. She expected students to ask challenging questions. She expected students to feel like the class was undermining their faith, or favouring one religion over another. She was not prepared for students who didn’t understand why anyone would focus on the region at all.

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Zahi Hawass Has Never Heard of Gobekli Tepe

Some of you may have seen Zahi Hawass, former reality TV star, throw his toys out of the proverbial pram at the mere mention of Robert Bauval and his Orion Correlation theory prior to a speaking event in Cairo. He later returned to the event to take questions from the audience along with disinformation® author Graham Hancock. When an audience member asks Hawass about the now famous megalithic site at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, Hawass, who trained as an archeologist, says he’s never heard of the place and then refuses to give it any consideration whatsoever. Watch it and squirm:

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The Myth of the Megalith

Eusebius@Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Eusebius@Commons (CC BY 2.0)

via The New Yorker:

Baalbek, Lebanon, is the site of one of the most mysterious ruins of the Roman Empire, a monumental two-thousand-year-old temple to Jupiter that sits atop three thousand-ton stone blocks. (The pillars of Stonehenge weigh about a fortieth of that.) The blocks originated in a nearby limestone quarry, where a team from the German Archaeological Institute, in partnership with Jeanine Abdul Massih, of Lebanese University, recently discovered what they are calling the largest stone block from antiquity, weighing one thousand six hundred and fifty tons and matching those that support the temple. Its provenance is more shadowy than one might expect of a three-million-pound megalith. Nobody seems to know on whose orders it was cut, or why, or how it came to be abandoned.

Baalbek is named for Baal, the Phoenician deity, although the Romans knew the site by its Greek name, Heliopolis.

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Ancient Peruvian Astronomy Lab Uncovered

So this is awesome: archaeologists have found an ancient astronomy lab where it’s speculated that ancient people would track star movement.

Peruvian archaeologists found carvings that depict the stars and have lasted thousands of years. Silvia Depaz/Andina/Peru This Week

Peruvian archaeologists found carvings that depict the stars and have lasted thousands of years. Silvia Depaz/Andina/Peru This Week

via International Business Times:

Archeologists have stumbled upon a site where ancient people observed the stars thousands of years ago in Peru, a country famous for using drones to help uncover and map archeological treasures, as Reuters reported.

Excavators working on a complex at Licurnique, in the country’s northern region, have uncovered evidence of an “astronomical laboratory,” that dates back between 3,500 and 4,000 years, according to Peru This Week.

“Astronomical [observations] were engraved on a flat-surface rock, which were used to track stars,” its report said. It added that the petroglyphs were likely used in forecasting rain and weather patterns to help farmers. “It is worth exploring without a doubt.”

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Nine new Dead Sea Scrolls found

Portion of column 19 of the Psalms Scroll (Teh...

Portion of column 19 of the Psalms Scroll (Tehilim) from Qumran Cave 11. The Tetragrammaton in paleo-Hebrew can be clearly seen six times in this portion. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What else is gathering dust in storage?

via The Times of Israel

An Israeli scholar turned up the previously unexamined parchments, which had escaped the notice of academics and archaeologists as they focused on their other extraordinary finds in the 1950s. Once opened, the minuscule phylactery parchments from Qumran, while unlikely to yield any shattering historic, linguistic or religious breakthroughs, could shed new light on the religious practices of Second Temple Judaism.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has been tasked with unraveling and preserving the new discoveries — an acutely sensitive process and one which the IAA says it will conduct painstakingly, and only after conducting considerable preparatory research.

Phylacteries, known in Judaism by the Hebrew term tefillin, are pairs of leather cases containing biblical passages from the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy.

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Mystery Shrouds the Ancient Oshoro Circle

The Oshoro Circle has puzzled academics and laymen alike for years.

via The Japan Times s-oshoro01

In 1861 at Oshoro, southwestern Hokkaido, a party of herring fishermen, migrants from Honshu, were laying the foundation for a fishing port when they saw taking shape beneath their shovels a mysterious spectacle — a broad circular arrangement of large rocks, strikingly symmetrical, evidently man-made. What could it be? An Ainu fortress?

They would have been astonished to learn, as in fact they never did, that the Oshoro Stone Circle is a relic from a time before even war — let alone fortresses — likely existed in Japan.

Oshoro today is part of the city of Otaru, on its western fringe, 20 km from the city center and 60 km west of Sapporo.

The Late Jomon period (circa 2400-1000 B.C.) was an age of northward migration. The north was warming, and severe rainfall was ravaging the established Jomon sites, primarily in the vicinity of today’s Tokyo and Nagoya.

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Found: Medieval City in Cambodia

Fans of lost civilizations, this one's for you, courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald:
Archaeologists using revolutionary airborne laser technology have discovered a lost mediaeval city that thrived on a mist-shrouded Cambodian mountain 1200 years ago. The stunning discovery of the city, Mahendraparvata, includes temples hidden by jungle for centuries - temples that archaeologists believe have never been looted. An instrument called Lidar strapped to a helicopter which criss-crossed a mountain north of the Angkor Wat complex provided data that matched years of ground research by archaeologists. The research revealed the city that founded the Angkor Empire in 802AD. The University of Sydney's archaeology research centre in Cambodia brought the Lidar instrument to Cambodia and played a key role in the discovery that is set to revolutionise archaeology across the world...
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Hands-on Tikal

Embraer 110 Bainderante small twin-turboprop

The Embraer 110 Bainderante doesn’t look exactly brand-new. Later on I’ll read that this small twin-turboprop was last produced in 1990, which means that the one we were flying on was at least 23 years old, though I’d say a few more. The din inside is deafening, so even if I wanted to say some (famous) last words to my wife, she wouldn’t hear them. It’s strange how we shy away from risk at home, wear seatbelts religiously, pay insurance on this and that, but throw all caution to the wind when traveling to exotic places. The thing is, Tikal remains a difficult place to reach, and even when flying in, the airport of Santa Elena is about seventy minutes away by bus from the archeological marvel.

Once inside the minibus a guide tells us that the Petén, the vast region that makes up Northern Guatemala, used to be all jungle, but then was deforested only to find out, after what must have been a herculean task, that the soil was not suitable for farming: too thin, sitting on top of limestone ridges.… Read the rest

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Newly Found Mayan Calendar Goes Far Beyond 2012

MayanCalender

Wikimedia Commons (CC)

World to end on December 21st, 5012? Brian Vastag writes in the Washington Post:

The ancient Mayans were masters of time, keepers of good calendars. And now we have one of their timekeepers’ workrooms to prove it.

In a striking find, archaeologists in Guatemala report the discovery of a small building whose walls display  calendars that destroy any notion that the Mayans predicted the end of the world in 2012. This calendar spans some 7,000 years — heading much farther into the future than the supposed doomsday date.

The newly found calendars, which track the motion of the moon, Venus and Mars, provide an unprecedented glimpse into how these storied sky-gazers — who dominated Central America for nearly 1,000 years — kept such accurate track of months, seasons and years.

“What they’re trying to do is understand the large cycles of cosmic time,” said William Saturno, the Boston University archaeologist who led the expedition.

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5,000 Years of Sustainability

Rice FieldWhile we currently venerate technology as the panacea for our catastrophic environmental ills, what if we could contextually approach and learn from sustainable civilizations that thrived in the distant reaches of North America’s past? Jude Isabella writes on Archeology:

A re-evaluation of evidence along North America’s western coast shows how its earliest inhabitants managed the sea’s resources stone walls serve as evidence that early peoples cultivated the intertidal zones to build clam gardens and fish traps

When the tide is out, the table is set. —Tlingit proverb

The tide is going out at Gibsons Beach, in the Strait of Georgia on Canada’s west coast. When the tide is low, it’s easy to spot rock walls in the intertidal zone, the area of shore land that’s exposed during low tide and hidden when the tide is in. A person can look at this beach for years and never understand that apparently random scatterings of piled rocks were actually carefully constructed to catch food from the sea.

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