Brazillian Stonehenge update Ancient Brazilian tribes ‘charted the heavens’
Did the early indigenous peoples of the rainforest look to the stars to measure time and mark the passage of the seasons? Archaeologists believe they did.
This photograph shows what is being called the tropical Stonehenge, a grouping of 127 granite blocks, each 10ft high and spaced at regular intervals around a grassy hilltop in northern Brazil. On the winter solstice, 21 December, the shadow of one of the blocks disappears, leading experts to believe the formation was used as a calendar.
“Only a society with a complex culture could have built such a monument,” said Mariana Petry Cabral, of the Amapa Institute of Scientific and Technological Research.
Actually, not much new there.
KV-63 update No mummy in Valley of the Kings tomb but mystery remains whole
The first tomb discovered in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings did not reveal its expected mummy, but egyptologists remained bent on cracking the mystery of “KV 63.”
Three thousand year-old flowers and royal necklaces were the only things Egypt’s chief archeologist Zahi Hawass saw when he lifted the lid off the last of seven coffins found in the tomb.
“It’s superb but there is no room for a mummy,” said Otto Schaden, the America archeologist who uncovered the tomb almost by chance in February, only a few feet away from “KV 62″ — the famous sepulchre of King Tut.
Bit disappointing, but not surprising. All along the tomb gave all indications of not being an actual tomb that was used, but a cache for supplies and some later, minor burials.
Early signs of elephant butchers
Bones and tusks dating back 400,000 years are the earliest signs in Britain of ancient humans butchering elephants for meat, say archaeologists.
Remains of a single adult elephant surrounded by stone tools were found in northwest Kent during work on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
Scientists believe hunters used the tools to cut off the meat, after killing the animal with wooden spears.
The find is described in the Journal of Quaternary Science.
Man, I dunno, something twice as big as a modern elephant taken out by guys with pointy sticks. . . .
Remains of old fish basin found beneath Charleston
Charleston boasts the South Carolina Aquarium but workers recently uncovered what might be called the city’s original fish tank – a wall that was likely used as a fish basin at the old city market a century ago.
When a backhoe unearthed the wall recently, preservationists thought it might be part of the old wall that once protected the city.
But that was not the case.
The unearthed section is about 30 feet long and 2 feet across and thought to be the remains of a fish basin built at the end of Market Street more than a century ago, said Eric Poplin, an archaeologist with Brockington Associates.
This weeks news from the EEF
Press report: “Museum scans mummies for clues to past”
“Two mummies from the Milwaukee Public Museum have
received computerized tomography, or CT, scans…..The scans,
performed Friday, are part of a larger effort by the Akhmim Mummy
Studies Consortium to gather images of mummies collected from
the Akhmim site in Egypt. ” [For the Akhmim Mummy Studies
Consortium, see EEFNEWS (408).].
Update on the “King Tut’s necklace shaped by fireball” story:
[For a picture of the scarab and the raw material, see the EEFBBS at
It belongs to two informative posts by Giancarlo Negro dd. Oct 2000
about Libyan Desert Glass.]
Press report about the reopening of the Coptic Museum in Cairo:
In Science of March-April 2001, there was a debate in the
letters section about whether there were Duikers in Ancient Egypt;
now available online (in HTML):
[Cp. EEFNEWS (139) - but at the time the pages were only
available for registered users.]
Online version of: Thilo Rehren and Edgar B. Pusch, “Late Bronze
Age Glass Production at Qantir-Piramesses, Egypt”, in: Science
vol. 308 (17 June 2005), pp. 1756-1758. Online in PDF (249 kB):
“Evidence for the production of glass from its raw materials in the
eastern Nile Delta during the LBA.”
– See also:
Caroline M. Jackson, “Enhanced: Glassmaking in Bronze-Age Egypt”,
in: Science vol. 208 (17 June 2005), pp. 1750-1752. Online in
– This research was announced exactly one year ago, see
EEF Forum dd June 17 and EEFNEWS (360), but at the time the
articles were not available for free.
And now back to our regularly scheduled newsblogging
Iraq, Poland to expand archaeology cooperation
Iraq an Poland are conducting talks on how to boost archaeological ties, said a senior official from Iraq’s Archaeology Department.
In a statement, Abdulkarim Fleih said the countries are working on an 11-item agreement which includes, among other things, the resumption of polish excavation activities in Iraq.
Polish scientists were active in excavating ancient Iraqi sites and they have helped shed light on little known Mesopotamian epochs and made magnificent discoveries.
The latest from Hollywood Gibson’s ‘Apocalypto’ tells story of Maya
Mel Gibson is filming “Apocalypto” in a Mexican jungle, a film which may or may not be an accurate historical portrayal of the Maya’s ancient civilization.
Regardless, historians and educators are looking forward to seeing his interpretation of the little-understood Mayan culture, which dominated Central America from as early as 600 B.C. to about 850 A.D. Scholars hold differing opinions about how and why the civilization collapsed, whether from war, drought or political failure, USA Today reported.
Couple things in there aren’t terribly relevant critiques, such as filming it in a location the Maya never lived in. That’s like ripping James Cameron for not filming Titanic in the north Atlantic in April. But one would hope it’s not totally fact-free. Hard to think of any mainline movies that have been made of South American civilizations. . .Egypt, yeah. Rome, yeah. The Maya? Terra incognita.
Homo hobbitus update
Forgot this from a few days ago but Hawks has a post on a new paper by someone who knows his microcephaly:
The new paper doesn’t give any new information about the specimens, and the suspicions raised about the nature of the sample are not new. But there is much new context here about the nature of microcephaly, its variability both clinically and genetically, and the complexity of examining it in the contexts of traditional socieities and archaeological specimens, and the problems of examining it in combination with possible dwarfism. The paper concludes that there is every likelihood that the pathways causing primary microcephaly in living people are the same ones responsible for the LB1 specimen.
Richards (the paper author) hypothesizes that the Flores specimens represent a group of H. sapiens who were dwarfed due to their island isolation — a common occurrence on islands — but not an offshoot of an earlier hominin species (e.g., H. erectus).
Also a link there to commentary by Carl Zimmer with a comment by Peter Brown, one of the discoverers.
New? Old? Did ancient Amazonians build a ‘Stonehenge’?
A grouping of granite blocks along a grassy Amazon hilltop may be the vestiges of a centuries-old astronomical observatory — a find archaeologists say indicates early rain forest inhabitants were more sophisticated than previously believed.
The 127 blocks, some as high as 9 feet, are spaced at regular intervals around the hill, like a crown 100 feet in diameter.
On the shortest day of the year — December 21 — the shadow of one of the blocks disappears when the sun is directly above it.
The view from the garbage
The secrets of life in Second Temple-era Jerusalem can be found in a trash heap
Two discs made of bone, which apparently served as buttons, are among the objects found in the municipal dump that served Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple era. These buttons were intended to be not only practical, but decorative as well. In addition the dump has yielded a handful of glass fragments, which testify to the use of prestigious objects.
However, the vast majority of finds at the dump were very much everyday objects: fragments of household utensils including cooking pots, storage jars, pottery and lamps, coins of low denominations and a large number of animal bones. The dump is located on the eastern slope of the hill where the City of David is located. It was first unearthed in 1867 by Charles Warren, and many other archaeologists excavated there after him, but they did not realize they were digging through garbage. Only in 1995 did Professor Ronny Reich, of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, and Eli Shukron, of the Antiquities Authority, who directed the dig at the site, realize it was a dump.
Interesting article. Apparently, only certain types of objects were tossed and there may be specific religious reasons for this. Example: Few stone domestic objects were found which might be explained by Jewish law at the time stating that stone utensils could not be ritually contaminated. Thus, no need to throw it out when contaminated. Also, not a single pig bone found so far. There’s some other stuff that’s interesting — apparently only food/cooking remains have been found — and too bad there’s not more info on these other things.
It should keep researchers busy for decades. The stratigraphic possibilities are endless.