🧐 Ancient Beat #19: Crannogs, gender roles, and King Arthur
Hi folks, welcome to issue #19 of Ancient Beat! And a special thank you to the members of my family who recently joined — I appreciate the support, guys!
Let’s get right into the latest ancient news 👇
🗞 Ancient News
Migration from Siberia Behind Formation of Göbeklitepe: Expert — A migration which started from Siberia 30,000 years ago may have influenced Göbekli Tepe. Two professors traced the spread of Siberian microblade stone tool technology to Göbekli Tepe, and genetic analysis confirmed that these people connected with the Göbekli Tepe culture via Northern Iraq. Here’s a video that goes further into the topic.
8,000-year-old Yarmukian 'Mother Goddess' Figurine Uncovered at Sha’ar HaGolan — A 20-centimeter ceramic figurine thought to depict the mother goddess was found at the Sha’ar Hagolan Yarmukian site in Israel. The Yarmukians are an 8,000-year-old neolithic culture, and one of the oldest to make ceramic pottery in the Levant. They’re known for their mother-goddess figurines, which may have been part of a fertility cult. According to Anna Eirikh-Rose, “This is one of the largest examples of the figurine found. It is of a large, seated woman with big hips, a unique pointed hat and what is known as ‘coffee-bean’ eyes and a big nose. One hand is positioned on her hip and the other one under her breast.”
Archaeologists Plan to Excavate Tomb Linked to King Arthur — For the first time, archaeologists will be removing the turf around Arthur’s Stone in Herefordshire, England. The site, which is thought to date back to between 3700 and 2700 BCE includes a mostly-eroded mound with a chamber made of nine upright stones and a 25-ton capstone. It has been linked to King Arthur since the 13th century CE. Legend states that he defeated a giant there, or that it was a site of one of his great battles.
Ornate Wooden Sculpture Unearthed at Chan Chan in Peru — Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimú Kingdom, which came into power at the end of the first millennium CE in modern-day Peru. Excavations at the site revealed a wooden sculpture of a person with a flat oval face, triangular skirt, and trapezoidal cap. It is decorated with seven vertical bands of color, as well as mother-of-pearl plates. The sculpture has not yet been dated, but the style places it between 850 and 1,470 years old — one of the oldest sculptures found on site. The sculpture was discovered alongside nectandra seeds, which are believed to be psychoactive, and have been associated with ritual human sacrifices in the Chimú culture.
Researchers Examine Neolithic Grave Goods in the Netherlands — New analysis of skeletal remains and grave goods that were found in a neolithic cemetery in the Netherlands indicated that ancient gender roles were less traditional than we once thought. The 7,000-year-old burial field at Elsloo belonged to one of the first farming communities in the Netherlands. The study found that arrowheads and stone axes had been place in women’s graves. And that graves of the elderly — particularly older women — were richly furnished with items for hunting, food prep, woodworking, and body decoration. This shows that status may have come with age, and women held positions of respect. The items in the graves were well-used, indicating that they probably belonged to the person they were buried with — hence the challenge to traditional gender roles. I recommended an article in Issue #10 that explored similar findings if you’d like to explore further.
Drought Reveals Ancient Island Near Londonderry, Northern Ireland — A drought allowed a farmer in Derry, Northern Ireland to find a previously unknown crannog made of stone. Crannogs are artificial islands built in lakes and swamps, used as dwellings and defensive positions. The site is believed to be medieval. The article isn’t great, but it links to brief BBC video with more info.
Sassanid Fire Temple Discovered in Iran — Archaeologists have discovered what is probably “the third greatest fire temple that existed in ancient Iran,” according to Meysam Labbaf-Khaniki. Considerable evidence supports this claim, including engraved plasterwork and inscriptions. The temple was dated to the Sassanid Empire (224 to 651 CE).
Jar Residues Reveal Roman Winemaking Practices — Chemists analyzed samples from 1,500-year-old Roman wine amphorae from a shipwreck. They found plant tissue, pollen, grape derivatives, and pine tar. The latter was probably used to waterproof the vessels and add flavor. The pollen shows that the grapes were grown locally.
Bronze Age Ax Uncovered in Slovakia — An early-Bronze-Age metal axe head was found in Slovakia. It is a “Saxon-type” axe, and not the first to be found in the Slovakia. It’s four inches long, with a pointed end and grooves for the handle.
Peru Home Build Vexed by 'The Neighbors'—Inca-era Mummies — Archaeologists ordered an emergency dig to examine three funeral bundles containing multiple Inca-era individuals in Peru. They also uncovered a crown, bits of copper, a silver bracelet, a decorated spoon-like implement used for coca leaf, and mollusk shells. They believe the remains are from a culture conquered by the Incas. The mechanic who found them on his property has actually known about them since 1996 when the ground collapsed as he tried to dig a latrine, but he didn’t tell authorities for fear of losing his land which was not technically his. After winning the rights to the land, he shared his discovery with the authorities.
Ayyanar Stone Idol Found Near Vellore — Residents of Thandalai Krishnapuram in India found a rare Ayyanar stone idol when clearing bushes for a pathway. Ayyanar worship took place from the Sagam age to the medieval period, and this particular idol may date back to the 8th century CE. The figure sits on a throne in a specific posture, holding a weapon called a “senndu”. A dog and boar can also be seen.
Early Knapping Techniques Do Not Necessitate Cultural Transmission — While early stone tool production techniques are commonly thought to be evidence of early cultural transmission, this is not necessarily the case. A recent study showed that modern-day participants were able to independently learn early techniques for producing core and flake tools.
An Urartian Fortress was Discovered at an Altitude of 3,300 Meters in Eastern Turkey — A ruined Iron-Age fortress, as well as a road leading to it, have been discovered on a mountain called Kara Dağ in Turkey. It is thought to have been used by the ruling class of the Urartians. The road was about a kilometer long and the fortress measured roughly 70 meters by 30 meters. According to Rafet Çavuşoğlu, “This is the first time we’ve come across a fortress of this height. I can say it’s the most important fortress we’ve found so far.”
Pre-Roman Settlement Excavated in Southern England — Remains dated to 100 BCE have been uncovered at a site in southwestern England. The bodies were placed in storage pits in a crouched position, which is unusual, since people were usually cremated or placed on rivers in Iron-Age Britain. Pottery and animal bones suggest that these people were buried with drinks and joints of meat — enough to feed the settlement for weeks. They also found that some of the animal remains were mismatched, like the head of a cow on a sheep’s body. According to Miles Russell, “We don’t know why they would have done this, to us it’s frankly bizarre, but it’s a fascinating new insight into their belief systems.”
❤️ Recommended Content
Here’s an interesting article about a rock shelter discovered in 2018 at Swaga Swaga Game Reserve in Tanzania. One site, called Amak’hee 4 has strange anthropomorphic beings with large heads. Researchers aren’t sure what the figures represent, but their best guess is that these are human bodies with stylized buffalo heads. The article goes on to explore other sites with paintings of similar large-headed beings, all of which have lines crossing their midsections and similar arrangements of hands and legs.
Here’s an article about Actun Tunichil Muknal, an important cave in Belize, which is now on my bucket list. It discusses a recent study which attempts to recreate how Maya rituals were conducted in the cave. The study suggests that the sacrifices found in the cave were done to re-enact the Maya creation story.
Here’s a follow-up on the video I shared last week about the 5,000-year-old Mound of Soğmatar. The video shares some interesting tidbits and explores the possibility that the mound is actually a ruined pyramid.
Here’s an article that explores the enigmatic mustatils of Saudi Arabia — 1,600 huge rectangular monuments mades of stone that dot the landscape. They are thought to have been used for ritual practices because large numbers of animal skulls were found in small chambers at the heads of the structures. They’re about 7,000 years old.
That’ll do it for this week! Reply to this email to share any thoughts, questions, recommendations, knock-knock jokes… I’d love to hear from you.
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! 🙏