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Friday, 4 September 2009

Fun from the past, June 2009-ancient dentists and mercury pollution in Peru

Read here for an interesting article on the crystal skulls of the Maya (and what amazed me-elephant masks in some cruel games-where on earth did they know what an elephant is???)

  1. Ancient Gem-Studded Teeth Show Skill of Early Dentists
  2. Mercury Pollution's Oldest Traces Found in Peru
  3. Fire and water reveal true age of ancient relics
  4. Space rock yields answers about origins of life on Earth
Short stories:
  1. Rare burial ritual identified in Iran's Sialk
  2. A million-year-old mammoth skeleton found in Serbia: report

Ancient Gem-Studded Teeth Show Skill of Early Dentists

jeweled teeth (grills) picture

May 18, 2009—

Ancient peoples of southern North America 2500 years ago went to "dentists"—among the earliest known—to beautify their chompers with notches, grooves, and semiprecious gems, according to a recent analysis of thousands of teeth examined from collections in Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (such as the skull above, found in Chiapas, Mexico).

Scientists don't know the origin of most of the teeth in the collections, which belonged to people living throughout the region, called Mesoamerica.

But it's clear that people—mostly men—from nearly all walks of life opted for the look, noted José Concepción Jiménez, an anthropologist at the institute, which recently announced the findings.

"They were not marks of social class" but instead meant for pure decoration, he commented in an e-mail interview conducted in Spanish.

In fact, the royals of the day—such as the Red Queen, a Maya mummy found in a temple at Palenque in what is now Mexico—don't have teeth decorations, Jiménez said.

The early dentists used a drill-like device with a hard stone such as obsidian, which is capable of puncturing bone.

"It's possible some type of [herb based] anesthetic was applied prior to drilling to blunt any pain," Jiménez said.

The ornamental stones—including jade—were attached with an adhesive made out of natural resins, such as plant sap, which was mixed with other chemicals and crushed bones, Jiménez said.

The dentists likely had a sophisticated knowledge of tooth anatomy, Jiménez added. For example, they knew how to drill into teeth without hitting the pulp inside, he said.


My comment: Ok, what I really don't understand is that how they decided this was done for decoration. If the queen didn't have it, then it's either something only men do, or it wasn't any decoration at all. The "dentist" was a dentist and s/he was fixing the teeth of those people. Because obviously there were dental cavities even back then. I don't understand why people tend to simplify so much our past. Yes, it could be decoration as well, but it could be religious stuff too. Or it could be a mark of some achievement. Who knows. What I find extremely amazing is that the dentist knew how not to hurt the nerve and how to do a mixture that will keep the teeth healthy. That's the real discovery. The other stuff are just speculations.

My comment:

Mercury Pollution's Oldest Traces Found in Peru

John Roach
May 18, 2009

Demand for the mercury compound vermilion was strong enough to support a large-scale mercury mining industry in the Andes as far back as 1400 B.C., according to a new study.

A bright red pigment, vermilion was used in ancient Andean rituals and is frequently found adorning gold and silver ceremonial objects in ancient burials of kings and nobles in South America.

The find extends the record of New World mercury production back by more than 2,000 years and provides the first evidence of preindustrial mercury pollution, said geologist Colin Cooke, a Ph.D. student at Canada's University of Alberta and lead author of the study.

Mercury, a toxic heavy metal used to extract silver and gold from ore in a process called amalgamation, comes from the mineral cinnabar, which is crushed to make vermilion pigment.

Historical records kept by colonists from Spain, which ruled Peru from the 16th to 19th centuries, show that, by the late 16th century, liquid mercury was widely used to extract silver—one of the colonial economy's mainstays—from ore in the Andes.

Increasing levels of mercury pollution in sediments from two nearby lakes indicated the ancient mercury mining. The mining had started long before the Chavín culture—which Cooke described as "the cradle of complex Andean culture"—peaked, between 800 B.C. and 400 B.C. in central Peru.

The new study suggests that both mining and metallurgy might spur the rise of complex society. Preferential access to exotic goods such as cinnabar and gold would have supported the rise of early leaders, Cooke said.

The Chavín, and later the Inca, covered themselves in vermilion for ceremonial purposes, Burger said. The pigment was also used to decorate gold objects such as burial masks.

By 1450, long after the Chavín had collapsed and as the Incas were expanding their reach, levels of mercury pollution in the lakes had spiked more than tenfold and the type of pollution recorded there shifted from cinnabar dust to mercury vapor, Cooke's study shows.

This suggests the mercury was being heated, though it's unclear why.

Cooke said there is no evidence that the Inca were using mercury as part of the silver or gold extraction process. Rather, he said, they may have been experimenting with how to produce vermilion paint more efficiently.

But Burger believes the shift from dust to vapor likely correlates with the transition to colonial mining practices, which included smelting, even though the radiocarbon dates suggest that transition happened about a century before Spanish arrival. "Radiocarbon dates are really not sufficiently precise to distinguish between the late Inca and the early colonial," Burger said.

The three-millennia-long mercury mining tradition at Huancavelica—including a 450-year colonial history that earned the mine its nickname Mina de la Muerte (Mine of Death)—has likely left behind a poisonous legacy in this central Peruvian highland region, Cooke believes.

My comment: Ok, I suggest your read this article in original, since it's extremely interesting, but also quite long. I shortened it a great deal, cutting some very interesting parts and I guess I made it little bit unclear on parts. Anyway, I'd like to point out some very interesting moments. First, people actually knew how to use mercury to extract ore 2500 years ago. I find this quite astonishing. What did western civilization do at that time? Ok, this question has a complicated answer, but do you realise how far back in time this is? How did the learn about this process?! And why the hell did they need all this gold. Which of course reminds me of the Thracian gold that has probably the same age, I wonder where did the take all that gold from.

The other thing which I find very interesting is that they painted themselves in one of the most dangerous neuro-toxins. I don't know what the concentration of mercury was, but it should have had profound effects on the people using it. And it should have killed a lot of them! Then why did they use it?! Very very interesting!

Fire and water reveal true age of ancient relics

Fire and water are all that is needed to unlock the internal clocks' of archaeological remains and accurately reveal their age, say scientists. The research, published online today in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, will help archaeologists date remains that are thousands of years old, and also reveal where other techniques go wrong.

Dating methods are of paramount importance in the earth and environmental sciences, palaeontology, archaeology, and art history. Fired clay material such as bricks, tile and ceramics represent an important sample of the remains unearthed at archaeological digs, but they are notoriously hard to date accurately. Carbon 14 dating, which can be used on bone, does not work with ceramics, and those techniques that do exist are extremely complex.

Now a team of scientists from the Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh have found a surprisingly simple way to get around this issue.

From the moment they are fired, ceramics begin to absorb moisture from the environment which causes them to gain mass. Using a technique they call rehydroxilation dating' researchers led by Dr Moira Wilson from the University of Manchester found that heating a sample of the relic to extreme temperatures causes this process to be reversed all the moisture it has gained since it was fired is lost again.

The more weight a sample loses during heating, the more moisture there was to start with, and so the older the relic. After heating, Wilson and her team used an extremely accurate measuring device to monitor the sample as it began to recombine with moisture in the atmosphere. They then used a law to predict how long it would take for all the water lost in heating to be reabsorbed, and so reveal the true age of the sample.

To test their new technique the scientists teamed up with the Museum of London and tried it out on samples of know age. They successfully dated brick samples from the Roman, medieval and modern periods, and the method was so accurate that it looks to become the way in which such artefacts are dated in the future, according to Wilson.

So far, the technique has been used with specimens that are as much as 2000 years old, but has the potential to be used on much older artefacts, says Wilson, even those dating back 10,000 years.

What's more, the technique has revealed a flaw in previous dating verdicts. When clay objects are submitted to extreme temperatures, and moisture removed, this internal clock' is reset. That means that objects that have been subjected to extreme heat, such as those dating back to the WWII Blitz are often, in truth, much older.

. source
My comment: Ok I know most people wouldn't appreciate this, but I just had to put it in the spotlight, because if this new method is that good, it could really change the face of archaeology, since ceramics are often all we get from an ancient culture. With the one big exclusion, that probably cities that were objects of great fires, maybe will date earlier than they should, but I guess this is a risk that we have to take. But the technique is so simple, it's beautiful! They only have to test different materials and ways to do ceramics, to check their law is precise enough.

Space rock yields answers about origins of life on Earth

June 3rd, 2009 By Wanda Vivequin

( -- Formic acid, a compound implicated in the origins of life, has been found at record levels on a meteorite that fell onto a frozen Canadian lake in 2000.

The U of A scientist found levels of formic acid that were four times higher than had previously been recorded on a meteorite. Formic acid is one of a group of compounds dubbed "organics" because they are rich in carbon. This compound is also commonly associated with ants and bees because of its presence in their venom.

Herd said the delivery of formic acid and other carboxylic acids to the early Earth by meteorites like the one that fell on Tagish Lake in northern British Columbia would have provided the components needed for life, especially the fatty acids that are an important part of cell walls.

He said the ultimate source of formic acid may be interstellar space as this and related compounds have been observed astronomically in cold, molecular clouds as well as in comets. source

My comment: Ok, just a little comment on this. I don't get why people continue this race to decide whether the source of life-compounds is Earth or Space. I think that there were plenty of experiments already that proved that organic molecules are easy to obtain both on Earth and in Space. Then what is the news here-for me, only that organic molecules are very widely spread. I think there was news recently that they observed such molecules in a nebula or other space object. Then, what are we discussing at all? Life is universal! Accept it and mover forward.

Rare burial ritual identified in Iran's Sialk
Mon, 11 May 2009 09:54:54 GMT

Archeologists have discovered a mysterious burial ritual performed 9,000 years ago in Iran's Sialk Mound located in the center of the country.

“In this 9,000-year-old practice, four bodies were burned at a heat of 400 to 700 degrees. The ash and remains of the bodies were then buried in a jar,” said Hassan Fazeli, the director of Iran's Archeology Research Center.

“A burial ritual encompassing burning has never been observed in Iran,” he claimed. “It makes the rare discovery of great importance.”

The Sialk Mound, located in the city of Kashan, is believed to be the origin of human technology, industry and religious thought in Iran. source
Zoran Markovic of Serbia's Nature museum said the skeleton "is extremely well preserved, with only a slightly damaged skull.

A million-year-old mammoth skeleton found in Serbia: report

June 3rd, 2009
A finely preserved skeleton of a mammoth, believed to be one million years old, was uncovered near an archaeological site in eastern Serbia, local media reported on Wednesday.

"We believe the skeleton is about one million years old, based on the layers of the grounds where it has been found," Markovic told B92 television.

Experts estimated that the mammoth was over four metres tall (13 feet), possibly weighing up to 10 tonnes.

The animal could have died near the Danube on its way from northern Africa and to southern Europe, B92 reported. source

1 comment:

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