🧐 Ancient Beat #14: Exposed underwater city, Neanderthal art, and ancient penis graffiti
Hi folks, welcome to issue #14 of Ancient Beat. I sent issue #13 out on Monday since I was on vacation last week — if you missed that, here’s the link.
Now, let’s get right into the latest ancient news 👇
🗞 Ancient News
Archaeologists Rush to Investigate 3,400-Year-Old City Emerging From Tigris River — A severe drought caused the emergence of a 3,400-year-old city from the Tigris river in Iraq earlier this year. Archaeologists acted quickly, finding large buildings, a massive fortification with walls and towers, a multi-story storage building, and an industrial complex. Huge amounts of goods could have been stored here, indicating its importance in the region. The team also found many artifacts, including over 100 cuneiform tablets. The site was excellently preserved despite being underwater, thanks to the earthquake that destroyed the city around 1350 BCE. "The extensive city with a palace and several large buildings could be ancient Zakhiku – believed to have been an important center in the Mittani Empire (ca. 1550-1350 BC)."
Man-made Viking-era cave discovered in Iceland — A previously unknown man-made cave from the Viking era has been excavated in Iceland. Man-made caves in the region were first found in 2018, but the latest discovery was a much larger cave connected to the wider cave system. The cave may have served as a stall for cattle and horses.
Penis graffiti and explicit insult carved into ancient stone 'raises eyebrows' at Roman fort — A stone at Vindolanda, a Roman fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall in the UK, recently made headlines. It was found by volunteer archaeologist, Dylan Herbert who wanted to remove the stone because he kept tripping over it. The stone features a penis and an inscription that translates to “Secundinus, the shitter”. It is thought to have been carved in the 3rd century CE by a Roman soldier who was clearly very committed to the insult, given how deeply it was carved. Phallus carvings are actually surprisingly common, this being the 13th found in Vindolanda alone. “Only after we removed the mud did I realize the full extent of what I'd uncovered, and I was absolutely delighted.”
Archaeologists discover passageways in 3,000-year-old Peruvian temple — At least 35 interconnected underground passageways have been found below the 3,000-year-old Chavin de Huantar temple in Peru. According to John Rick, "It's a passageway, but it's very different. It's a different form of construction. It has features from earlier periods that we've never seen in passageways."
New segment of Hasmonean aqueduct to Jerusalem exposed in capital neighborhood — For about 2,000 years, the city of Jerusalem (and particularly the Temple Mount) got a good portion of its water from a 21-kilometer aqueduct. A new segment of this structure has recently been exposed. This feat of ancient engineering, initiated by Hasmonean kings, had a gradient of only one meter per kilometer. According to Ya’akov Billig, “It amazes us to think how they managed in antiquity to make accurate measurements of elevation along such a long distance, choosing the route along the mountainous terrain and calculating the necessary gradient, all without the modern sophisticated instruments we have today.”
Archaeologists unearth an Aztatlán burial site — Thanks to a ruptured pipe, burials were found in a natural mound in Mazatlan, Mexico. The mound was covered with rammed shell debris, and there is evidence that structures were built on top. Aztatlán-style glass was also found within. The site dates back to approximately 900 CE — a tumultuous time in the region.
Egypt displays trove of newly discovered ancient artifacts — 2,500-year-old artifacts recently unearthed at Saqqara in Egypt are now being displayed in a makeshift exhibit at the foot of the Step Pyramid of Djoser. The enormous find includes 250 sarcophagi and 150 bronze statues — one being a headless statue of Imhotep, the chief architect of Pharaoh Djoser.
Severed head of Maya maize god unearthed in Palenque — While conducting restoration work at a palace complex in Palenque, Mexico, the team found a receptacle containing the stuccoed stone head of the Maya god of maize. It had been deposited in a small pond — an environment probably intended to represent the entrance to the Maya underworld. The head had likely been placed on a tripod that, “was positioned in an east-west orientation to symbolize the birth of the corn plant with the first rays of the sun.”
Lost Maya city discovered in the Yucatan — A city from roughly 600-900 CE was found in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in 2015, and the results of the excavation have now been announced. The city, now known as Xiol, includes newly restored Puuc-style structures, palaces, plazas, carved stone heads, stone alters, rich funerary deposits, and a ceremonial complex with a platform and small pyramid. It’s also near a cenote, which was probably used for offerings. The 9th century CE was a time when Maya polities collapsed, which is a likely reason for the abandonment of this city.
Famous rock art cave in Spain was used by ancient humans for over 50,000 years — Cueva de Ardales in Spain is famed for over 1,000 works of prehistoric art, including what became some of the first evidence that Neanderthals were capable of creating art. A recent study involving radiometric dating showed that the cave was used for artwork and burials for over 50,000 years (sporadically), starting with Neanderthals 65,000 years ago. Sapiens followed about 35,000 years ago until the beginning of the Copper Age. According to the authors, “Our research presents a well-stratified series of more than 50 radiometric dates in Cueva de Ardales that confirm the antiquity of Palaeolithic art from over 58,000 years ago. It also confirms that the cave was a place of special activities linked to art, as numerous fragments of ochre were discovered in the Middle Palaeolithic levels.”
❤️ Recommended Content
I recently covered the discovery of settlements and roadways in the Bolivian Amazon dating to between 500 and 1400 CE. Here's an excellent video on the topic if you’d like to dig deeper.
Here’s an article about the Caminho de Peabiru — a 4,000 km network of paths in South America connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is thought to have been built around 500 CE, though theories vary. Interestingly, “Guarani legends even say that the network of paths is a reflection on Earth of the Milky Way,” giving it special significance.
I’ve often heard that Göbekli Tepe was intentionally buried, but as it turns out, this may not be the case. Learn more in this video.
Please reply to this email (or comment if you’re on my Substack) with questions, suggestions, or just to say hello. This newsletter is very much a work-in-progress, so I’d appreciate your input!
Until next time, thanks for joining me.
(newish twitter: @jamesofthedrum)
P.S. If you like what you’re seeing, please consider sharing it with a friend. It would mean a lot! 🙏