January 29, 2015

Tut, Tut update

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 7:56 pm

Archaeologists Want Egyptian Officials Charged for Damage to Tutankhamen’s Burial Mask

Outraged over what appears to be serious damage to one of Egypt’s ancient treasures — scratches and a layer of glue on the golden burial mask of Tutankhamen — a group of Egyptian archaeologists said on Friday that they planned to file charges against officials at the state-run Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Monica Hanna, an archaeologist with the group, Egypt’s Heritage Task Force, confirmed the damage during a visit to the museum on Friday and told Agence France-Presse that officials must be held responsible.

Three of the museum’s conservators confirmed to The Associated Press this week that workers had been ordered to do impromptu repair work on the mask some months ago, after the boy king’s blue and gold braided beard came loose as workers replaced a light bulb in its case, and a hasty decision was made to glue it back on using epoxy, which might be impossible to remove.

The hands have it

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 7:53 pm

Early Human Ancestors Had Tool-Using Hands

Matthew Skinner and Tracy Kivell of the University of Kent, and their colleagues from University College London, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and the Vienna University of Technology, have found skeletal evidence that supports the archaeological evidence for tool use by Australopithecus africanus, an early human ancestor. The team members examined the internal spongey bone structure, called trabeculae, of modern human hands, and the trabecular bone structure in the hands of chimpanzees, and they found clear differences between the two.

Indiana Jones reboot?

Filed under: Indiana Jones — acagle @ 1:28 pm

Looks like it: Proof That Chris Pratt Is Perfect for Indiana Jones

Chris Pratt’s ongoing quest for fortune and glory continues. After a star-making 2014 that included lead roles in two of the biggest AND best movies of the year (Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie) and the procuring of another lead gig in what’s sure to be one of 2015’s biggest and hopefully best movies (Jurassic World), a new report claims that Pratt is wanted by Disney to play Indiana Jones in a franchise reboot.

I have to admit I’m not really sure about this. I saw Guardians and really liked him in that, but he doesn’t seem like he could really pull off the ’smartness’ of Indy. Yes? No? Indiana as Ford played him was less the buff hero type and more the professor-first, adventurer-second, and the fact that he didn’t really come off as a superhero type was what made the character work. He has to be a little nerdy for it to work, IMO. You have to believe at some level that he really could “Walk it through Mayan” first.

But please, movie people, at least run the screenplay by me first so we don’t end up with PEOPLE SWINGING THROUGH TREES WITH MONKEYS AGAIN.

January 28, 2015

And older still!

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 7:53 pm

Oldest human remains outside of Africa found in Israel

Researchers say they’ve found evidence of modern man’s exodus out of Africa. Scientists say a newly unearthed skull in Israel is roughly 55,000 years old. It is the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens outside of Africa, and proof that modern man set up shop in Middle East before colonizing the European continent.
“It’s amazing,” lead study author Israel Hershkovitz, an anthropologist at Tel Aviv University, told the Guardian. “This is the first specimen we have that connects Africa to Europe.”

Don’t have much to add.

More virtues of waiting?

Filed under: Egypt, Mummies — acagle @ 7:51 pm

Oldest known gospel retrieved from mummy mask, researchers claim

While the rich and royal members of ancient Egyptian society were buried in mummy masks of flaked gold and other precious metals, common people were forced to construct theirs with recycled pieces of paper. Recently, archaeologists found what they believe to be the world’s oldest piece of scripture in the mask of mummy from the first century.

Researchers say the new scrap of spiritual papyrus is a portion of the the Gospel of Mark, the second chapter of the New Testament. The gospel scroll fragment dates to approximately 90 AD. Scientists were able to zero in on the paper’s age by analyzing handwriting, comparing it to the other texts found in the mask, and (most convincingly) via carbon dating.

I dunno, it’s a neat thing to do, but they do end up destroying the masks themselves in the process even though the constituent components — the pieces of paper — are preserved and read.

Mummies update

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 7:45 pm

Archaeologists and experts say two mummies in the Vatican Museum are fakes

“These mummies are important evidence of the phenomenon of falsification that managed to regularly fool collectors and sometimes scholars,” said Alessia Amenta, Egyptologist and curator of the Vatican Museum’s department for the antiquities of Egypt and the Near East.
Scientists at the Vatican Museum’s diagnostic laboratory for conservation and restoration have been analysing the two mummy forgeries for the last year, and say they can finally reveal the techniques charlatans used to pass them off as real. They present their research on Thursday in Rome, finally unmasking the myth of these two mini mummies, which were long believed to be of a child, animal or possibly a falcon.

If it weren’t for the dating of the resin and other things it wouldn’t necessarily make them “fakes” since a lot of later “mummies” turned out to be fakes, of a sort, in ancient times: the embalmers would occasionally screw up the bodies and include parts from other bodies in the wrappings and hand them over as complete. Quite a few animal mummies have also been found to have just a few bones of (usually) the animal in question, but molded to look like the critter. Yes, there was a profit motive involved.

January 27, 2015

Bring on the kittehs. . . .

Filed under: Agriculture, Egypt — acagle @ 4:04 pm

Ancient Egyptian Kitten Skeletons Hint at Earlier Cat Domestication

The skeletons of six cats, including four kittens, found in an Egyptian cemetery may push back the date of cat domestication in Egypt by nearly 2,000 years.

The bones come from a cemetery for the wealthy in Hierakonpolis, which served as the capital of Upper Egypt in the era before the pharaohs. The cemetery was the resting place not just for human bones, but also for animals, which perhaps were buried as part of religious rituals or sacrifices. Archaeologists searching the burial grounds have found everything from baboons to leopards to hippopotamuses.

Really hard to say what’s going on. “Domestication” doesn’t necessarily mean “pets” as they may have been hanging around for a long time subsisting on the various rodents associated with agriculture, or even food stored by regular hunter-gatherers. That doesn’t necessarily mean they were all tame and friendly and rubbing around peoples’ legs. Plus, a lot of the cats were bred specifically to kill as part of religious sacrifices, which strikes us as not acting very kitty-friendly, even though they would have been truly domesticated. But then, as Ive often said, these “origins” questions can be vexing.

The Dark Light Ages?

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 10:50 am

Good review of a book on the so-called Dark Ages (Medieval). The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews “God’s Philosophers”

How the myths that led to the creation of “The Most Wrong Thing On the Internet Ever” is well documented in several recent books on the the history of science. But Hannam wisely tackles it in the opening pages of his book, since it would be likely to form the basis for many general readers to be suspicious of the idea of a Medieval foundation for modern science. A festering melange of Enlightenment bigotry, Protestant papism-bashing, French anti-clericism, and Classicist snobbery have all combined to make the Medieval period a by-word for backwardness, superstition and primitivism, and the opposite of everything the average person associates with science and reason.

Hannam sketches how polemicists like Thomas Huxley, John William Draper, and Andrew Dickson White, all with their own anti-Christian axes to grind, managed to shape the still current idea that the Middle Ages was devoid of science and reason. And how it was not until real historians bothered to question the polemicists through the work of early pioneers in the field like Pierre Duhem, Lynn Thorndike, and the author of my astrolabe book, Robert T. Gunther, that the distortions of the axe-grinders began to be corrected by proper, unbiased research.

He weakens things a bit by calling the current research (which he agrees with) “unbiased” but none of this was really new to me in general outline although many of the details were. One bit to note, regarding Galileo and his generation:

Hannam gives the context for all this in suitable detail in a section of the book that also explains how the Humanism of the “Renaissance” led a new wave of scholars, who sought not only to idolize and emulate the ancients, but to turn their backs on the achievements of recent scholars like Duns Scotus, Bardwardine, Buridan, and Orseme. Thus many of their discoveries and advances were either ignored and forgotten (only to be rediscovered independently later) or scorned but quietly appropriated. The case for Galileo using the work of Medieval scholars without acknowledgement is fairly damning. In their eagerness to dump Medieval “dialectic” and ape the Greeks and Romans – which made the “Renaissance” a curiously conservative and rather retrograde movement in many ways – they discarded genuine developments and advancements by Medieval scholars. That a thinker of the calibre of Duns Scotus could become mainly known as the etymology of the word “dunce” is deeply ironic.

This is fairly typical: to distinguish one’s own work, it’s common to tear down the work of the previous generation. The New Archaeology made a big deal out of making the culture historians out to be totally unscientific collectors of interesting objects and tinkerers with chronology, while they, in contrast, were enlightened Scientific Anthropologists.

I may snag Hannam’s book. Currently I’m reading Asbridge’s history of the Crusades which has really changed my views (which were admittedly rather 2-dimensional) of the period. Also made me appreciate my life, given the horrors and deprivations the typical soldier around the turn of the last millennium faced.

UPDATE: On the subject of the Crusades, one bit of the book really kind of disturbed me. Seems during the 5th (I think) Crusade, they had to ferry knights to shore (at Damietta) from some of the larger ships to some smaller craft. Apparently, one knight mistimed his jump to the smaller boat and, being weighed down by mail, etc.. . . . drowned. Can you imagine that? You leave your home to travel for months on a Holy Crusade to fight for Christ and then before you even set foot in the Holy Land, you die jumping from one boat to another.

January 26, 2015

I’m afraid I couldn’t not post this

Filed under: Forensic archaeology — acagle @ 8:21 pm

Mysterious Murder Of 724-Year-Old Italian Warlord Solved By Analyzing His Poop

Okay, I just linked to that one for the headline. The better story is HERE

A study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science has finally solved the sudden and unexplained death of Cangrande I della Scala.

The Italian warlord (who was also a patron of famed poet Dante) was born in 1291, eventually becoming the most powerful ruler in the history of Verona when he took charge in 1311. In 1329, the victorious warrior was planning to take over yet another territory, the Treviso region, but following his success, he fell violently ill — some stories blame it on drinking toxic spring water.

On July 22, 1329, he died at the age of 38. Rumors quickly spread that the triumphant king had been poisoned.

Cangrande’s body was exhumed in 2004, 675 years after his death, and was found to be extremely well preserved. In fact, along with signs of arthritis, tuberculosis and possible cirrhosis, researchers also found regurgitated food in his throat and traces of fecal matter in his colon and rectum.

They found medicinal herbs in his colon along with a plant pollen said to be poisonous. Photos show the “mummy” which is in really pretty good condition without(?) having been deliberately preserved. Interesting to compare the coffin carving with what’s really inside, too.

Yet another thing I’ve never heard of

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 8:15 pm

Moat ruins found in Japan may be part of a burial mound for an ancient emperor

Archaeologists in Japan have unearthed a huge stone-paved moat in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, which they believe is part of a burial mound for an ancient emperor. The finding adds to a string of fascinating discoveries in the small village of Asuka, from pyramid-like structures to multiple carved granite stones in peculiar shapes dotted across the region.
According to The Asashi Shimbun, the remnants of the moat, which were found at the archaeological site of Koyamada, measure 48 meters (158ft) in length and 3.9 (13ft) to 7 meters (23ft) in width. The moat is lined with 40-centimeter quartz diorite boulders along its northern slope, while the southern slope is covered with flagstones stacked in a staircase pattern, and the bottom is covered with smaller rocks.

They reconstructed it (“artist’s conception”) to look much like the stepped pyramid at Saqqara. Pretty significant structure, too.

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