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Thursday, 31 December 2009

Ancient life and ancient death, 2009

Appalachian geologist investigates Homo sapiens’ oldest known trackways
Bulgaria Archaeologist Finds Unique Golden Chariot from Ancient Thrace

Today:

  1. Ancient objects found on remote Mokumanamana 'an archaeological mystery'
  2. "Unexpected" Man Found Amid Ancient Priestesses' Tombs
  3. Bulgaria Archaeologists Find Unique Cult Complex at Perperikon
  4. ‘Early man used crude version of sat-nav system’
  5. Ancient Pacific islanders brought to light
I must admit these are a lot of article, but they are all so interesting! I hope you read them and enjoy them!

Ancient objects found on remote Mokumanamana 'an archaeological mystery'

Researchers on a rare expedition to a now uninhabited rocky outpost north of the main Hawaiian islands found a partially finished human stone carving and the remnants of what may be a craftsman's workshop.

The inhospitable island lacks fresh water, trees that would provide cover, and is continually buffeted by wind. It's frequented by seabirds, but is otherwise desolate save for the ruins of ancient heiau, or shrines, that line the top of a ridge running along the spine of the island.

"It's somewhat of an archaeological mystery as to how people survived on this island in the past and constructed these huge monuments," Kikiloi said yesterday.

The newly discovered carving resembles other stone figures found on Mokumanamana.

Kikiloi said it's not clear what the images were used for, but they're unlike any other objects in the Hawaiian islands.

In general in Hawaiian tradition, he said, images are often used as a focal point during prayer and worship of gods. The partially unfinished figure found on this trip has a blank face, as though the artist didn't gotten around to carving facial features. It also appears that its left arm has broken off.

Kikiloi believes Hawaiians built the shrines there because Mokumanamana was considered the gateway to the afterlife.

Mokumanamana lies on the Tropic of Cancer. This means the sun — which represents life and death in Hawaiian tradition — goes directly over the island on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

source

My comment: Another very interesting article, mostly because of the question how the people did survive on the island. The answer might be that during that time, the island was different? Or maybe even it wasn't an island? Just speculating here, but why not...

"Unexpected" Man Found Amid Ancient Priestesses' Tombs

John Roach, National Geographic News, September 18, 2009

In an "unexpected" discovery, a rattle-wielding elite male has been found buried among powerful priestesses of the pre-Inca Moche society in Peru, archaeologists announced Monday. (pictures)

Surrounded by early "smoke machines" as well as human and llama bones, the body was among several buried inside a unique double-chambered tomb that dates back to A.D. 850, said archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, of the Catholic University of Peru in Lima.

The tomb contained a wooden coffin decorated with a copper lattice and a gilded mask, sitting on a raised platform.

The Moche people were a fragmented society of farmers who occupied the arid coasts of Peru from about A.D. 100 to 1000. (See a Peru map.)

The site has so far yielded seven royal priestess burials, an indication of the powerful role of women in Moche society, Castillo said.

The funerals in Moche, Castillo noted, were cause for celebration and allowed for the seamless transition of power from one ruler to the next. Living priestesses probably performed such burials at annual festivals held at San José de Moro.

At the newly explored tomb, the team found a ramp that led into the first chamber, which contained the bones of a young human male on one side and those of a llama in a corner. The human and the llamas "could have been sacrificed for the purpose of the burial," Castillo said.

A sealed door closed off the entrance to the second chamber. Inside that second room, painted red and yellow, the archaeologists found the remains of two females and a male in simple burials.

The trio may have been sacrifices, but for now the team is unsure of their exact roles.

Another unidentified young male sat cross-legged in the room, and a lone mask lay out in the open.

The mask is similar to the one found on the elite male's coffin, making Castillo suspect the mask might have been left behind from another coffin that had been mysteriously removed.

Inside the elite male's coffin, his bones, a mask, a long stick with hanging bells, and other metal objects were in disarray. The jumble suggests the coffin had endured a long, bumpy journey before arriving at the tomb complex, Castillo added.

For starters, the long stick with bells looked remarkably similar to a rattle held by a well-known archetype in Moche art.

The archetype is known as Aia Paec, or "Wrinkle Face," a central figure in burial scenes. He's often depicted lowering a coffin into a tomb alongside another human-like character named Iguana.

Alongside Iguana and a female, probably one of the priestesses, Aia Paec is also depicted in some scenes presenting a decorative shell to a leader. According to Castillo, Aia Paec and Iguana were roles that living people would have inherited. When the person who had played a role died, he or she would be buried and a new person in the living world would take on the part.

So many of the known Moche elite burials are female that some archaeologists believe women dominated the Moche power structure.

But because both men and women rulers are represented in Moche artwork, it's hard to believe that the civilization was "strictly ruled by women," Castillo said.

"I think it would be more possible to have societies where women power is allowed alongside male power," he added.

The idea of the newfound male as a supporting figure in an important female's burial would better fit Bourget's notion that late Moche society was transitioning to a power structure ruled by kings surrounded by influential women.

The tomb complex's layout, he said, suggests a king's, or kings', tomb surrounded by satellite tombs for priestesses.

Such a power structure was prevalent in coastal Peru's succeeding cultures, the Chimú and later the Lambayeque, he noted.

Excavation leader Castillo, however, said that the newfound male could instead be part of a more complex burial layout that would put the Moche man on equal footing with the priestesses.

source

My comment: That's right, girl-power! I really cannot comment since I'm not familiar with the Moche, but I find it very interesting how they celebrated at funerals. This is similar to Thracian funerals I think and also to the tribe in the last article. It's very interesting how tribes with such behaviour have other similarity in their social structure.

Bulgaria Archaeologists Find Unique Cult Complex at Perperikon

Archaeology | September 16, 2009, Wednesday

A team led by Bulgarian archaeologist Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov has uncovered an enormous cult complex at the ancient Thracian city of Perperikon in the Rhodoppe Mountains.

The complex consists of at least 9 altars each 2 meters in diameter located on an area of 12 square km. They are dated back to about 1 500 BC thanks to objects discovered around them, which is about the time of Ancient Egypt and the civilization of Mycenae and Minoan Crete. This is the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age.

On those altars, the ancient Thracians practiced fire rituals; similar rituals were practiced at about the same time in Ancient Egypt, on the island of Crete, and in the Hittites state in Asia Minor.

Professor Ovcharov, who gave a special press conference in the southern city of Kardzhali Wednesday, said the discovery of the cult complex may lead to the discovery of a connection between Ancient Thrace and the Minoan Crete civilization.

One of the altars Ovcharov's team found is built of stone plates with thickness of 1,5-2 meters; this is believed to be the largest altar in Southeast Europe. source

My comment: Eh, I so want to visit Perperikon. Like, really! Shame on me that it's close and I still have not seen it. Anyway, the similarities between Minoan and Egyption civilizations are no coincidences - I think it becomes more and more clear that those were very similar if not same people - the old inhabitants of Europe, the pelasgians. Interestingly enough, greek historians say that Thracians were the most numerous people on world after Indian, which implies that they considered all the non-greek people to be Thracians. As for Egypt, there are so many unbelievable evidences of language links between Thrakia (Thracia ) and Egypt!

‘Early man used crude version of sat-nav system’


In a new research, a scientist has found that prehistoric man navigated his way across England using a crude version of a satellite navigation system, which was based on stone circle markers.

He found that the prehistoric man was able to travel between settlements in England with pinpoint accuracy, thanks to a complex network of hilltop monuments.

These covered much of southern England and Wales and included now famous landmarks such as Stonehenge and The Mount. New research suggests that they were built on a connecting grid of isosceles triangles that “point” to the next site. Many are 100 miles or more away, but GPS co-ordinates show all are accurate to within 100 metres.

This provided a simple way for ancient Britons to navigate successfully from point A to B without the need for maps. “To create these triangles with such accuracy would have required a complex understanding of geometry,” said Brooks.

Brooks analyzed 1,500 sites stretching from Norfolk to north Wales. These included standing stones, hilltop forts, stone circles and hill camps.

Brooks found that they all lie on a vast geometric grid made up of isosceles triangles. Each triangle has two sides of the same length and point to the next settlement. source
My comment: Awesome, right?

Ancient Pacific islanders brought to light

December 21, 2009
(PhysOrg.com) -- A find of 60 headless skeletons summer 2009 may reveal the identity of the people who first inhabited the Pacific Ocean archipelago Vanuatu 3000 years ago.

When a team of archaeologists began excavating an old coral reef in Vanuatu in 2008 and 2009, they soon discovered it had served as a cemetery in ancient times. So far, 71 buried individuals have been recorded, giving new information on the islands’ inhabitants and their funeral rites.

Relatives did not treat their dead gently. Besides being headless, some of them had had their arms and legs broken, in order to fit into the coral reef cavities. Ravn suggests they may have been left to rot first, and buried later as skeletons.

Vanuatu is a nation of 83 islands, located 1,750 kilometres east of Australia. The soil contains remnants from a violent volcano eruption, believed to have taken place exactly 3000 years ago. Scientists have found no sign of human activity predating this event.

“The way these people are buried, bears witness of a body concept which is different from the whole-body concept in Europe the last 5000 years,” says Mads Ravn.

“There was no sharp divide between life and death, and the dead were participating in the present. A few decades ago in Bali and other Pacific islands, people were putting their ancestors’ skulls on display in their homes,” he adds.

This may explain why the Vanuatu skeletons are headless. One was found with five skulls on his chest, and Ravn believes the heads may have been used in ancestral rituals.

The islanders usually removed the volcanic ash before burying their dead under ashes and sand. Each grave is marked with a pottery jar decorated with intricate patterns, possibly stamped by small pieces of worked bone. The ceramic also depicts faces and eyes, perhaps images of their ancestors.

The skeletons’ DNA profiles should be ready later this winter, and the scientists hope to uncover kinship links among the dead. But there are already some findings of their health condition.

“People were suffering from gout and caries - both diseases associated with the good life. But we can tell from our samples that the inhabitants were laborious and strong. ” says Ravn.

“They were most probably fair skinned of Asian origin, unlike the present day Melanesians, whose skin is dark. The original settlers probably travelled on, or mixed up with the Melanesians that arrived later,” “But future DNA studies and isotopic analyses may later confirm that”, Ravn says.

source
My comment: That really sounds amazing! I can't wait for those DNA analysis, to check if those guys were really with Asian origin. Anyway, a great discovery! And not the burial rituals - this so interesting. I recently learned that Thracians didn't stigmatize suicide. And now exposing skulls of the ancestors. It looks like ancient societies had very different understanding of what death is.

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