Archive for Ancient History & Culture

The Hidden Underworld of Giza

A vast network of underground chambers and water tunnels have been discovered beneath several of the world’s most well-known pyramids, including the Great Pyramid on Egypt’s Giza Plateau.

For centuries these ancient tunnels have remained hidden and off-limits to everyone but a select few. But now they are coming into the Light and what is being found raises even deeper questions.

See full article by Kathy J. Forti (with pictures)

Caves, drugs, and art

 

pattern

An abstract pattern engraved in a piece of ochre found at Blombos Cave in South Africa. Image: Chris S. Henshilwood.

 

Abstract art goes back a long way. The earliest examples are around 73,000 old and consist of abstract patterns engraved into pieces of ochre by natives of what is now South Africa. During the last ice age, around 40,000 year ago, European artists also left abstract designs, this time on the walls of caves.

What is striking about these early manifestations of abstract expression is that the patterns drawn were the same across cultures and locations: there are dots, cross-hatchings, circles, wavy lines and, in particular, spirals. These geometric patterns resemble what people report seeing when they are in altered states of consciousness, causing researchers to suggest that much of early abstract art was inspired by drugs.

Apart from scandalising the Daily Mail this idea also poses a question: why would people across continents and ages all favour patterns seen during drug induced hallucinations over the many others they could have chosen to paint? What makes drug induced visions so compelling? A recent paper by computer scientists from Japan suggests that the answer might hinge on an interesting interplay between the mathematics of pattern formation and a mechanism that generates a sense of value and meaning.

The geometric patterns seen in visual hallucinations were first studied scientifically in the 1920s by the German-American psychologist Heinrich Klüver. Klüver experimented with peyote, a cactus whose psychoactive ingredient mescaline played an important role in the shamanistic rituals of many central American tribes. Popping peyote buttons in the lab Klüver noticed the repeating geometric shapes and classified them into four types, which he called form constants: tunnels and funnels, spirals, lattices including honeycombs and triangles, and cobwebs.

vis-hallu

Computer generated representations of Klüver’s form constants. The top two images represent a funnel and a spiral as seen after taking LSD, the bottom left image is a honeycomb generated by marijuana, and the bottom right image is a cobweb. Image from What Geometric Visual Hallucinations Tell Us about the Visual Cortex by Paul C. Bressloff.

When it comes to understanding pattern formation in nature scientists often look to the work of Alan Turing, better known as WWII code-breaker and father of modern computer science. To explain the formation of the stripes and spots we see on animal coats Turing considered a system of two chemical agents (loosely speaking, one for each colour in a two-coloured animal coat) which diffuse through a medium (the cells making up an animal embryo) but also interact with each other in a specific way. Writing down the equations describing this process Turing found that once the system is nudged out of equilibrium it polarises. Rather than forming a uniform mixture the agents arrange themselves in a variety of possible patterns (see How the leopard got its spots for more detail).

 

Read further: https://plus.maths.org/content/caves-drugs-and-art

Sprawling Maya network discovered under Guatemala jungle

Researchers have found more than 60,000 hidden Maya ruins in Guatemala in a major archaeological breakthrough.

Laser technology was used to survey digitally beneath the forest canopy, revealing houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications.

The landscape, near already-known Maya cities, is thought to have been home to millions more people than other research had previously suggested.

The researchers mapped over 810 square miles (2,100 sq km) in northern Peten.

Archaeologists believe the cutting-edge technology will change the way the world will see the Maya civilisation.

“I think this is one of the greatest advances in over 150 years of Maya archaeology,” said Stephen Houston, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at Brown University.

Mr Houston told the BBC that after decades of work in the archaeological field, he found the magnitude of the recent survey “breathtaking”. He added, “I know it sounds hyperbolic but when I saw the [Lidar] imagery, it did bring tears to my eyes.”

Full article: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42916261

Divers Found The World’s Largest Underwater Cave, And It’s Full of Maya Secrets

After 10 months of intensive exploration, scientists in Mexico have discovered the world’s largest flooded cave system – and it’s truly an underwater wonderland.

Spanning an incredible 347 kilometres (216 miles) of subterranean caverns, this branching, sunken labyrinth isn’t just a natural spectacle – it’s also an important archaeological find that could reveal lost secrets of the ancient Maya civilisation.

“This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world,” says underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

“It has more than a hundred archaeological contexts, among which are evidence of the first settlers of America, as well as extinct fauna and, of course, the Maya culture.”

De Anda heads up the Great Maya Aquifer Project (GAM), a research effort which for decades has explored underwater caves in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, located on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula.

The region hosts a stunning 358 submerged cave systems, representing some 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) of flooded freshwater tunnels hidden under the surface.

read here: http://www.sciencealert.com/world-s-largest-flooded-cave-discovered-under-mexico-yucatan-sac-actun

Mysterious Void Discovered in Egypt’s Great Pyramid

Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza—one of the wonders of the ancient world, and a dazzling feat of architectural genius—contains a hidden void at least a hundred feet long, scientists announced on Thursday.

The space’s dimensions resemble those of the pyramid’s Grand Gallery, the 153-foot-long, 26-foot-tall corridor that leads to the burial chamber of Khufu, the pharaoh for whom the pyramid was built.

However, it remains unclear what lies within the space, what purpose it served, or if it’s one or multiple spaces.

The void is the first large inner structure discovered within the 4,500-year-old pyramid since the 1800s—a find made possible by recent advances in high-energy particle physics. The results were published in the journal Nature.

“This is definitely the discovery of the century,” says archaeologist and Egyptologist Yukinori Kawae, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. “There have been many hypotheses about the pyramid, but no one even imagined that such a big void is located above the Grand Gallery.”

Source: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/11/great-pyramid-giza-void-discovered-khufu-archaeology-science/

Mathematical secrets of ancient tablet unlocked after nearly a century of study

The tablet could have been used in surveying, and in calculating how to construct temples, palaces and pyramids.

At least 1,000 years before the Greek mathematician Pythagoras looked at a right angled triangle and worked out that the square of the longest side is always equal to the sum of the squares of the other two, an unknown Babylonian genius took a clay tablet and a reed pen and marked out not just the same theorem, but a series of trigonometry tables which scientists claim are more accurate than any available today.

The 3,700-year-old broken clay tablet survives in the collections of Columbia University, and scientists now believe they have cracked its secrets.

The team from the University of New South Wales in Sydney believe that the four columns and 15 rows of cuneiform – wedge shaped indentations made in the wet clay – represent the world’s oldest and most accurate working trigonometric table, a working tool which could have been used in surveying, and in calculating how to construct temples, palaces and pyramids.

The fabled sophistication of Babylonian architecture and engineering is borne out by excavation. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, believed by some archaeologists to have been a planted step pyramid with a complex artificial watering system, was written of by Greek historians as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Daniel Mansfield, of the university’s school of mathematics and statistics, described the tablet which may unlock some of their methods as “a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius” – with potential modern application because the base 60 used in calculations by the Babylonians permitted many more accurate fractions than the contemporary base 10.

Read more: Mathematical secrets of ancient tablet unlocked after nearly a century of study

Ancient stone carvings confirm how comet struck Earth in 10,950BC, sparking the rise of civilisations

Ancient stone carvings confirm that a comet struck the Earth around 11,000BC, a devastating event which wiped out woolly mammoths and sparked the rise of civilisations.

Experts at the University of Edinburgh analysed mysterious symbols carved onto stone pillars at Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey, to find out if they could be linked to constellations.

The markings suggest that a swarm of comet fragments hit Earth at the exact same time that a mini-ice age struck, changing the entire course of human history.

Scientists have speculated for decades that a comet could be behind the sudden fall in temperature during a period known as the Younger Dryas. But recently the theory appeared to have been debunked by new dating of meteor craters in North America where the comet is thought to have struck.

However, when engineers studied animal carvings made on a pillar – known as the vulture stone – at Gobekli Tepe they discovered that the creatures were actually astronomical symbols which represented constellations and the comet.

The idea had been originally put forward by author Graham Hancock in his book Magicians of the Gods.

Source: Ancient stone carvings confirm how comet struck Earth in 10,950BC, sparking the rise of civilisations

Massive Ancient Statue Discovered Submerged In Mud In Cairo

Archaeologists suspect that the damaged statue, more than 25 feet tall, depicts Ramses II — aka Ozymandias. One of English literature’s most famous poems describes a broken, forgotten statue of him.

Source: Massive Ancient Statue Discovered Submerged In Mud In Cairo : The Two-Way : NPR

The Mysterious Origins of Civilization

Filmed in New York, December 2016, a month before John was diagnosed with cancer. Please show your support for this great man and for his work by making a donation to his crowdfunding campaign, The John Anthony West Project, here: https://fundly.com/john-anthony-west-…

Filmed, produced and edited by Dave Steffey. Additional camera by Bill Cote.

Discovery Could Rewrite History of Vikings in New World

POINT ROSEE, Canada It’s a two-mile trudge through forested, swampy ground to reach Point Rosee, a narrow, windswept peninsula stretching from southern Newfoundland into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Last June, a team of archaeologists was drawn to this remote part of Canada by a modern-day treasure map: satellite imagery revealing ground features that could be evidence of past human activity.

The treasure they discovered here—a stone hearth used for working iron—could rewrite the early history of North America and aid the search for lost Viking settlements described in Norse sagas centuries ago.

To date, the only confirmed Viking site in the New World is L’Anse aux Meadows, a thousand-year-old way station discovered in 1960 on the northern tip of Newfoundland. It was a temporary settlement, abandoned after just a few years, and archaeologists have spent the past half-century searching for elusive signs of other Norse expeditions.

The confirmed discovery of a Norse camp at L’Anse aux Meadows proved that the Viking sagas weren’t entirely fiction. A second settlement at Point Rosee would suggest that the Norse exploration of the region wasn’t a limited undertaking, and that archaeologists should expand their search for evidence of other settlements, built 500 years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

“For a long time, serious North Atlantic archaeologists have largely ignored the idea of looking for Norse sites in coastal Canada because there was no real method for doing so,” says Bolender. “If Sarah Parcak can find one Norse site using satellites, then there’s a reasonable chance that you can use the same method to find more, if they exist. If Point Rosee is Norse, it may open up coastal Canada to a whole new era of research.”

Read whole article: Discovery Could Rewrite History of Vikings in New World

Five hundred new fairytales discovered in Germany

A whole new world of magic animals, brave young princes and evil witches has come to light with the discovery of 500 new fairytales, which were locked away in an archive in Regensburg, Germany for over 150 years. The tales are part of a collection of myths, legends and fairytales, gathered by the local historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (1810–1886) in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz at about the same time as the Grimm brothers were collecting the fairytales that have since charmed adults and children around the world.

Last year, the Oberpfalz cultural curator Erika Eichenseer published a selection of fairytales from Von Schönwerth’s collection, calling the book Prinz Roßzwifl. This is local dialect for “scarab beetle”. The scarab, also known as the “dung beetle”, buries its most valuable possession, its eggs, in dung, which it then rolls into a ball using its back legs. Eichenseer sees this as symbolic for fairytales, which she says hold the most valuable treasure known to man: ancient knowledge and wisdom to do with human development, testing our limits and salvation.

Von Schönwerth spent decades asking country folk, labourers and servants about local habits, traditions, customs and history, and putting down on paper what had only been passed on by word of mouth. In 1885, Jacob Grimm said this about him: “Nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear.” Grimm went so far as to tell King Maximilian II of Bavaria that the only person who could replace him in his and his brother’s work was Von Schönwerth.

Von Schönwerth compiled his research into a book called Aus der Oberpfalz – Sitten und Sagen, which came out in three volumes in 1857, 1858 and 1859. The book never gained prominence and faded into obscurity.

Source: Five hundred new fairytales discovered in Germany | Books | The Guardian

Storm God Worship: Ancient Cult Complex Discovered in Israel

A massive cult complex, dating back about 3,300 years, has been discovered at the site of Tel Burna in Israel.

While archaeologists have not fully excavated the cult complex, they can tell it was quite large, as the courtyard alone was 52 by 52 feet (16 by 16 meters). Inside the complex, researchers discovered three connected cups, fragments of facemasks, massive jars that are almost as big as a person and burnt animal bones that may indicate sacrificial rituals.

The archaeologists said they aren’t sure who was worshipped at the complex, though Baal, the Canaanite storm god, is a possibility. “The letters of Ugarit [an ancient site in modern-day Syria] suggest that of the Canaanite pantheon, Baal, the Canaanite storm god, would have been the most likely candidate,” Itzhaq Shai, a professor at Ariel University who is directing a research project at Tel Burna, told Live Science in an email. [See Images of the Cult Building and Related Artifacts]

The researchers said they can’t rule out that a female deity, such as the ancient war goddess Anat, was worshipped there, Shai said.

Cultic discoveries

Fragments of facemasks, like this one, were discovered in the 3,300-year-old cult complex at Tel Burna.
Credit: Photo courtesy Professor Itzhaq Shai.

The artifacts include fragments of two masks. “The burna mask fragments, both of noses, are quite interesting, because they are quite large, although as seen in [a photo], they were clearly meant to be worn,” Shai said.

“It is difficult to determine exactly who the masks are depicting and whether it is a specific image. In general, masks are known to have been used in cultic ceremonies and processions.”

The three connected cups, which were found in the cultic complex, were likely imported from Cyprus, the researchers say. The artifacts’ use remains a mystery. “In the past, joint vessels similar in concept as the one found here have been considered as cultic objects,” said Shai.

Dvory Namdar, of Hebrew University, is currently analyzing the walls of the vessels to determine what was put in them, something that may shed light on their purpose Shai said. “Residue analysis is currently being conducted in order to further understand what this vessel may have been used for,” said Shai.

Giant vessels, scarabs and more …

The researchers also found massive “pithoi” vessels (large storage jars), some almost as big as a person. “Along the eastern edge of the exposed area of the building, a row of sunken pithoi, with several smaller vessels found inside of them, were found,” said Shai. Two of the vessels were imported from Cyprus, as indicated by their design.

“The pithoi were likely used as storage for tithes brought to the cultic complex, although this is also being further analyzed through residue analysis.” A tithe, in this instance, would be goods given to the cultic complex by those who used or lived near it.

The complex yielded many other finds, including a cylinder-shaped seal, goblets, chalices, broken figurines that look part-human and part-animal, and even a scarab, an artifact with an Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription on it.

 

via Storm God Worship: Ancient Cult Complex Discovered in Israel.

Viking Blacksmith’s Grave Uncovered in Norway

The spectacular remains of what appears to be a Viking grave, most likely belonging to a blacksmith, has been uncovered in Sogndalsdalen, Norway (as reported by NRK). The grave was found by Mr Leif Arne Norberg, under a series of stone slabs in his back garden. Mr Norberg had been carrying out landscaping works when he suddenly spotted a blacksmith’s tongs, followed soon afterwards by a bent sword. On closer examination it quickly became apparent that he had stumbled upon a remarkable Viking Age find.

Archaeologists from Bergen University and the County’s Cultural Department were called to the scene and the remains were subsequently excavated. The finds recovered from the grave suggest that it probably dates from the 8th or 9th century AD. They included various pieces of metalwork, a tongs, a sword and an axe, all of which will be conserved before being put on display at the University Museum of Bergen. Personally I can’t wait to find out more information about this exciting discovery.

via Viking Blacksmith’s Grave Uncovered in Norway | Irish Archaeology.