Using the skulls of your enemies to build a tower sends one powerful message—even if the structure winds up measuring a scant 15 feet in height. In 1809, midway through the first Serbian uprising against the Ottoman Empire, Turkish general Hurshid Pasha gathered 952 rebel skulls for this grisly project near the city of Niš. All but 58 were later removed and given dignified funerals, but thanks to the Serbian government’s preservation efforts, you can still see the building today.
March 3, 2014
Richard Daugherty, a Washington State University archaeologist who led the excavation of the Ozette village site, “the Pompeii of America,” and numerous other key Northwest finds, died Saturday of bone cancer. He was 91.
Starting in the 1970s, Daugherty worked closely with the Makah tribe during the 11-year Ozette excavation on Washington’ Olympic Peninsula, setting a new standard for native and archaeological cooperation, said Allyson Brooks, state historic preservation officer.
“He really set the path for archaeologists and Native Americans to work together instead of in opposition,” she said. “That’s a big deal.”
Not sure many readers will recognize the name. I wouldn’t have were I not around here. People may or may not have heard of Ozette except as part of college courses either, but it was a pretty spectacular site. It doesn’t get as much recognition for a number of reasons not least its location; this is a relatively unexciting area for the general public (and most archaeologists for that matter). And it had no monumental architecture and was occupied until the 20th century so it didn’t have that really ancient feel to it.
An underground chamber containing 130 ancient Greek statues was discovered in Athens 25 years ago. But no one, apart from the finders, has cared enough to battle the bureaucracy that has prevented the hatch from being opened and the remarkable treasures from being recovered. So what has stopped the Ministry of Culture from retrieving such precious relics of the past? Apparently the obstacle is as simple as the fact that the mysterious underground chamber lies on private property and no one wants to get involved.
The chamber was discovered in Athens when two friends found an opening in the ground in an area that was being excavated to lay the foundations for a new building. After throwing some burning paper in the opening they saw that there were stairs leading further under the surface. So they went down with the help of two lit candles.
I dunno, sounds a bit fishy to me.
February 19, 2014
An early Bronze Age woman buried in prehistoric woodlands near Inverness suffered from tooth rot and dental decay, according to osteoarchaeologists investigating her molars, incisors and jaw.
Aged between 40 and 44 at the time of her death, her remains, found in a cist originally disturbed while an access track was being created at Cullaird Wood two years ago, are believed to point to a sporty woman who died at some point between 1982 and 1889 BC.
Despite widespread attrition, a recession of her left jaw bone and a dental pulp infection which completely exposed two of her tooth roots, her dental disease would have only caused “mild pain”, according to her finders.
Heavy wear is quite common in preagricultural populations, not so much when you get to agriculture because the foods are generally softer with not as much grit and tough plant foods.
Another 88 spam comments that never made it through so some poor schlub sitting in a hovel in Russia or China wasted his or her time.
February 18, 2014
It is the largest, most complete mammoth tusk found to date in Seattle, and the news since it was found Tuesday during excavation for a new apartment complex had not only transfixed local residents but made national news.
The tusk is believed to be 22,000 to 60,000 years old. Carbon dating will provide a more accurate figure.
“She’s going to be a girl,” predicted Julie Stein, the museum’s executive director, about whether the tusk came from a male or female mammoth.
I’m not sure if there were archaeologists on-site monitoring or not, I’ve heard it both ways. Way too early for any human associations (probably) but still kind of cool. Odd that it’s only an isolated tusk though.
More photos and a bit more information — they’re of various ages and in apparently good health. The photos do suggest they were purposefully laid to rest, but not in any apparent pattern. Very odd but very cool.
Oh, there’s a video at the link but it’s in Spanish.
February 17, 2014
Archaeologists and chemists tracing ancient British diets have found that more than 99% of the earliest farmer’s cooking pots lacked sea food residues.
Studies of old rubbish dumps and dirty dishes have revealed that, 6,000 years ago, ancient Britons gave up their passion for fish to begin a love affair with milk. The change by ancestors from hunter-gathers to farmers is one of the most intensively researched aspects of archaeology.
Now a large-scale investigation of British archaeological sites dating from around 4,600BC to 1,400AD by the University of Bristol and Cardiff University has examined millions of fragments of bone and analysed over 1,000 cooking pots.
Archaeologists on Friday announced the discovery of “an exceptional” ancient burial site under an apartment building in Mexico City containing the remains of 12 dogs, animals that had a major religious and symbolic significance to the Aztec peoples of central Mexico.
Previously, the remains of dogs have been found accompanying human remains or as part of offerings, experts with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH, said in a statement. But this is the first time a group of dogs has been found buried together at one site.
I’ve never heard of this sort of thing. Usually you find dogs buried with humans or in buildings — probably a sacrifice of some sort — but not all together like this. The article gives a long time frame so it’s unclear if they were all buried at once or over that 100-and-some year period. The photo doesn’t give much evidence although they seem to have been carefully placed in the grave rather than just tossed in. Will need more evidence of context, age and sex, and any other associations (like a temple structure) to learn anything more. I’d like to think they were something like ‘temple dogs’ that were kept and then buried when they died, much like the Apis bulls in Egypt; but more likely they were sacrificed for attendance to dead humans.
February 13, 2014
Over the last several years, Ortman’s colleagues at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), including Professor Luis Bettencourt, a co-author of the study, have developed mathematical models that describe how modern cities change as their populations grow. For example, scientists know that as a population increases, its settlement area becomes denser, while infrastructure needs per capita decrease and economic production per capita rises.
Ortman noticed that the variables used in these equations, such as cost of moving around, the size of the settled area, the population, and the benefits of people interacting, did not depend on any particular modern technology.
“I realized that if these models are adequate for explaining what’s going on in contemporary cities, they should apply to any settlements in any society,” he said. “So if these models are on the right track, they should apply to ancient societies too.”
Trouble is, it’s difficult to get at population sizes for, you know, non-living people. We have derived data that we think might work — I think they used pottery density here — but I’m not sure those are all that accurate.