🧐 Ancient Beat #21: Lost cities, immigrant uprisings, and the collapse of Mayapan
Hi folks, welcome to issue #21 of Ancient Beat! We hit a big milestone this week — I’m thrilled to say that we now have over 500 members in our community!
Thank you so much for being a part of this. I appreciate each and every one of you for trusting me with your time and attention.
Alrighty, my 528 friends, here’s the latest ancient news. 👇
🗞 Ancient News
Researchers Have Discovered a Previously Unknown Roman City ‘of Monumental Proportions’ in Northern Spain — Until recently, researchers believed that a 10-acre area in Spain was simply home to a number of archaeological sites, but it turns out that it’s actually a previously unknown Roman city located on an ancient road to Pamplona. Using various techniques, they located “buildings of monumental proportions,” streets, sidewalks, rudimentary sewer outlets, the remains of a public monument, and the reception room of a thermal bath with a mosaic. The city is thought to have existed between the 1st and 5th century. And it also became a medieval peasant village from the 9th to 13th centuries. We do not know what the city was called (in either time period).
Ancient ‘Lost’ Chamber Uncovered on Corballis Site in Donabate — While removing a large rock from his field, a farmer in Ireland uncovered an ancient souterrain structure. Apparently, a section of the tunnel has writing (possibly ogham) that dates back to at least the 12th century, and possibly as far back as the 4th century. A shaky video was taken at the time of the discovery.
Connections Between Climate Change and Civil Unrest Among the Ancient Maya — A new study showed that drought may have played a role in the turmoil faced by the Maya capital city of Mayapan between 1441 and 1461 CE. According to Douglas Kennett, “We found complex relationships between climate change and societal stability/instability on the regional level. Drought-induced civil conflict had a devastating local impact on the integrity of Mayapan’s state institutions that were designed to keep social order. However, the fragmentation of populations at Mayapan resulted in population and societal reorganization that was highly resilient for a hundred years until the Spanish arrived on the shores of the Yucatan.” In short, a drought may have escalated tensions between rival factions and eventually led to the abandonment of the city. This is remarkably similar to an article I covered in issue #17 about how drought played a role in the demise of the Himyarite Kingdom (and also created “fertile ground” for Islam).
Archaeologists Suggest that Rabana-Merquly Could Be the Lost City of Natounia — The site of Rabana-Merquly in the Zagros Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan may actually be the ancient city of Natounia, which is only known from coins minted in the 1st century CE. The site includes two settlements, a fortress with 4 kilometers of fortifications, barracks, and a Zoroastrian religious complex dedicated to the goddess Anahita. The settlements have matching rock reliefs near the entrances that depict a ruler with attire similar to that of a statue of a king of Adiabene at Hatra. Researchers therefore believe the reliefs could depict Natounissar (the founder of the Adiabene royal dynasty), which would make the site a likely candidate for Natounia.
Hidden Ancient Roman 'Bridge of Nero' Emerges from the Tiber During Severe Drought — This isn’t a new discovery, but a severe drought in Italy has revealed a bridge which usually lies beneath the waters of the Tiber River. Known as Pons Neronianus (Bridge of Nero), the origin of the bridge is unknown, but it is thought to have been built by the famous Roman emperor, Nero, who ruled from 54-68 CE. Experts say that the site of the bridge was poorly chosen, which may have led to it being dismantled in the 3rd century, with its stones being used to build a new bridge at a better location. According to Nicholas Temple, “The Pons Neronianus has potentially a double significance, as the crossing point into Rome of triumphal armies, and in the opposite direction for St. Peter’s journey to the site of crucifixion.”
More Than 1,000 Archaeological Artifacts Found in Police Drugs Search of Valencian Property — Officers in Valencia, Spain, found over 1,000 archaeological artifacts while searching a private property for drugs. The find included tiles, pots, bowls, and more, dating back to between the 12th and 18th centuries, along with some items possibly dating to ancient Roman times. The 68-year-old man who owned them has been arrested.
Military Officer’s Tomb Discovered in Egypt — The shaft tomb of an Egyptian military official who commanded battalions of foreign soldiers was found in Giza’s Abusir necropolis. The tomb was built around 500 BCE. It had a double-sarcophagus, the outer portion being made of white limestone and the inner being basalt. Also found were a scarab, 400 ushabti figurines, and two canopic jars made of alabaster. No remains were found, leading researchers to believe that the tomb was looted in the 4th or 5th century CE.
Oil Drilling Uncovers a 2,000-year-old Cemetery with Giant Urn-like Tombs in Southwest Iran — A 2,000-year-old cemetery was found in Ahvaz, Iran during an oil drilling project. It is dated to the time of the Parthian Empire (247 BCE - 224 CE). Human remains were found inside urn tombs coated with natural tar. It is situated above a river, and according to Hossein Feizi, “The fact that this type of burial is toward the river strengthens the hypothesis that this cemetery and its burials had links with Mithraism.”
150-Year-Old Beer Cave Uncovered By Iowa Utility Workers — Ok, this is not the type of news I usually cover, but it’s in my neck of the woods, so it made the cut. Utility workers in the state of Iowa uncovered a mid-19th century “beer cave” while doing underground electrical work. They hit a rock shelf, poked their heads in and found a flawless arched ceiling. The cellar is located near where a brewery once stood, and was used to keep the brews cold, as it stays right around 52 degrees Fahrenheit in every season.
A 3300-year-old Seal and a Dagger/Sword Reminiscent of Mycenaean Swords Were Discovered in the Heart of Western Anatolia — A unique 3,300-year-old seal was found, along with a sword, at Tavşanlı Höyük in Turkey. The sword is similar to Mycenaean swords. The settlement began 8,100 years ago and started to urbanize roughly 5,000 years ago. According to Erkan Fidan, “I think that Tavşanlı Höyük may be a city belonging to the Luwians, which is seen as a missing link in Anatolian history.”
Chrysalis Carving Offers Clues to Ancient Silk Production — A small stone carving of a silkworm chrysalis was found in a 5,200-year-old burial in northern China. Attributed to the Yangshao culture, the carving is expected to shed light on the origin and spread of silk.
Early Bronze Age Grave Unearthed in Slovakia — A 4,000-year-old grave was found in Slovakia during the planning for a new school. The grave held a woman on her side in a flexed position, along with bone beads, a copper bracelet, and two willow-shaped earrings.
Maya Chocolate Vessel Found in Cave — A Maya vessel was found in the Cueva de la Cruz in Mexico’s Yucatán. The vessel is 13 centimeters tall, reddish, and has decoration that makes it look a bit like a pumpkin. It dates back to the Late Preclassic period (300 BCE - 250 CE) and is thought to have held drinking chocolate, which was used in ceremonies and religious rituals.
A Great Flood May Have Helped Ancient Chinese Civilisation Expand Southward, Geologists Say — New evidence has been found supporting a Chinese legend about a deluge and the founder of China’s first dynasty. Geological evidence shows that in roughly 2300 BCE, China’s two longest rivers flooded, leading to northern conquerors heading south, and the collapse of southern tribes.
Romans May Have Destroyed Moray Metal-working Site — Lochinver Quarry in Scotland has been identified as a metal production site from the Bronze Age through the Iron Age, and it may have helped Caledonian tribes to arm themselves against the Romans. Roughly 40 iron smelting sites have been excavated to date. The site seems to have been abandoned suddenly and burned to the ground. One explanation that has recently been put forth is that it was abandoned and then burned by the Romans after Mons Graupius, where the Romans defeated 30,000 Caledonians.
Bournemouth University Uncovers Earliest English Medieval Shipwreck Site — A charter boat skipper uncovered a 13th century clinker ship off the coast England. It was carrying a cargo of Purbeck stone, including two Purbeck marble gravestone slabs which are changing our understanding of how such slabs were produced. There are no other known wrecks of seagoing ships in England from the 11th to 14th centuries, making this a particularly impressive find. It was preserved by rocks and low-oxygenated water.
Elevator Project at the Western Wall Unearths an Ancient Archaeological Trove — While working to improve accessibility in the Old City of Jerusalem, a 1st-century villa with a ritual bath was discovered five years ago, and archaeological work is now coming to a close. They peeled back many layers, finding Ottoman pipes built into a 2,000-year-old aqueduct, early Islamic oil lamps, bricks stamped with the name of Rome’s 10th Legion, and the Judean villa with fragments of frescoes and mosaics.
Monks Mound In Ancient Cahokia Was Not What Scientists Previously Thought – New Study — Paleoenvironmental analysis of the north plaza near Monks Mound in the ancient North American city of Cahokia showed that it was actually a wetland for most of the year. This makes it unlikely that it was a plaza where people would congregate. How the north plaza was used, then, is unknown.
‘Invasion' of Ancient Egypt May Have Actually Been Immigrant Uprising — The Hyksos took northern Egypt from the pharaohs for about 100 years, roughly 3,600 years ago. While it was thought that the Hyksos invaded Egypt, new analysis of the teeth of 71 individuals suggests that immigrants were welcomed in Egypt before and during Hyksos rule. This leads some researchers to believe that it may not have been an invasion; instead, Egyptian-born members of a centuries-old immigrant community may have risen up against their rulers. This is backed by the lack of evidence of fighting and destruction that would be expected from an invasion.
❤️ Recommended Content
I find cenotes, and their significance to the Maya, completely fascinating. Here’s a recent article that explores cenotes and the work of the Great Maya Aquifer project.
If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, here’s a fascinating Q&A video with the Prehistory Guys. They cover the Nesher Ramla homo group, how to identify worked flint, the Soskin configuration, cup and ring marks, and much more.
Here’s an interesting video by Ancient Architects on the 5,500-year-old Dolmens of Viera and Menga in Spain.
Here’s a short article about the Kanjera tool, which is the oldest human-made object in the Smithsonian collection.
Well, that’ll do it for this week. As always, let me know your thoughts!
And until next time, thanks for joining me.
(newish twitter: @jamesofthedrum)
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