🧐 Ancient Beat #22: Fossilized footprints, tsunamis, and ancient recycling
Hi folks, welcome to issue #22 of Ancient Beat! Lots of interesting happenings this week, so let’s get right into it. Here’s the latest ancient news. 👇
🗞 Ancient News
Ice Age Human Footprints Discovered in Utah Desert — Archaeologists chanced upon ancient tracks while driving to a hearth site in Utah. With the help of radar, they uncovered 88 footprints of adults and children who appear to have been walking in shallow water. The area hasn’t been wetland for at least 10,000 years, and the researchers estimate that the footprints are 12,000 years old, but more research needs to be done. Interestingly, one of the nearby hearth sites is where the oldest evidence of tobacco use was found. I’m excited to hear more — reliable dating could have big implications in the debate about the age of the White Sands footprints.
Archaeologists May Have Discovered the Palace of Genghis Khan's Grandson — A palace has been found in Van Province in Turkey. Remains of glazed roof tiles, bricks, tri-color-glazed ceramic pottery, and porcelain have been unearthed, and some of the roof tiles have S-like symbols which were a “power symbol” of the Mongol Khans. The tiles, along with historical records, have led some researchers to believe that this might be the palace of Hulagu Khan (12-17-1254 CE), Genghis Khan’s grandson.
A Batavian Cavalry Mask Was Found on the Battlefield of Roman Comrades — A corroded plate that was found 4 years ago has been identified as part of a rare Batavian cavalry mask from the 1st century. Researchers believe it was probably worn by a Batavi horseman in the Batavi War of 69 CE. The Batavi were such fierce fighters that Rome granted them an exemption from tax and tribute in return for their military service.
High-status Danish Vikings Wore Exotic Beaver Furs — Not much is known about the specific furs worn by Vikings, other than that fur was an important commodity in general. A recent study of six high-status graves showed that grave goods included skins from domestic animals, while clothing was made from wild animals — a weasel, a squirrel, and beavers. The fact that beavers are not native to Denmark indicates that their fur was a luxury item acquired through trade, and that it was probably a status symbol. If you’ve ever felt a beaver pelt, you know why.
1,850-year-old Bronze Roman Coin Discovered on Israeli Beach — A bronze coin from either 144 or 145 CE was found in the Mediterranean off of Israel. It shows the Roman emperor Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Pius on one side. The other side has a crab, the zodiacal sign of Cancer, and a woman who is thought to be the moon goddess, Luna. This coin comes from a series of coins, one for each sign of the zodiac.
Ancient Europeans Farmed Dairy—But Couldn’t Digest Milk — A genetic change that allowed adults to digest lactose was acquired by ancient populations separately. It was previously thought that people who were able to digest lactose got better nutrition, had more children, and therefore the genetic ability spread. But a new study suggests that disease and famine may have made lactose intolerance deadly, rather than just uncomfortable, driving natural selection for the genetic trait. This is because fluid loss, which is an effect of lactose intolerance, can be devastating when malnourished. They found that periods of famine and disease closely matched jumps in lactose persistence.
The 3,200-year-old Perfume of Tapputi, the First Female Chemist in History, Came to Life Again — A scent formula that was written on a clay tablet 3,200 years ago in Mesopotamia has been recreated. It was originally created by Tapputi, the first known female perfumer and chemist.
A 164 Square Meter Heracles Mosaic Found in Alanya, Turkey — 164-square-meter mosaic depicting the labors of Hercules was unearthed a couple of years ago in the ancient city of Syedra in Turkey. Now that it has been covered with soil again to conserve it for future studies, it has been announced to the public.
Over 460 Ancient Tombs Discovered in North China's Hebei — More than 460 tombs were uncovered in Hebei province of China, along with 2,400 cultural relics. The relics included bronze weapons, bronze containers, and jade items.
Day at Sea Yields Archaeological Surprise for Family in Zawara — A family spending a day at sea found an amphora from the 1st century BCE. The clay jar, which was used to transport wine and olive oil, is remarkably well-preserved.
Modern Herpes Variants May Be Linked to Bronze Age Kissing, Study Finds — In case you were wondering, the earliest known case of herpes dates back to 1,500 years ago, and an analysis of the DNA showed that it can be traced to a bronze-age migration from Eurasia to Europe. The interesting part? Apparently, kissing was not a cultural norm in Europe until it arrived from Asia, probably leading to increased spread of the disease. The first written record of kissing comes from a bronze age manuscript from south Asia.
Your Neanderthal Genes May Prevent You From Metabolizing Drugs Efficiently — A recent genetic study showed that two of the most important genetic variants responsible for eliminating drugs (and presumably other toxins) in the body actually come from Neanderthals. 20% of modern Europeans carry these variants.
First Archaeological Dig Begins at Site Believed to be Joshua's Tomb — An archaeological dig has begun at the 4,000-year-old site of Khirbet Tibnah in the West Bank, which is thought to hold the tombs of the biblical Joshua and Caleb. So far, a bent Roman spearhead, pottery, and 18 coins have been found.
Stunning Discovery Of 1,000-Year-Old Knight’s Sword From Reign Of Poland’s First King Bolesław The Brave — Three history buffs in Poland located a 1,000-year-old sword in the general vicinity of where Piasts and Bohemians once battled. It is about a meter long and appears to be a knight’s sword. It would have been incredibly valuable at the time, with an estimate worth of “several villages.” It does not appear to be a burial gift, so it’s unknown why the sword was left there.
Traces of Royal Path Found During Excavation at Ho Dynasty Citadel — A green stone embankment and slate paving were found at a Ho Dynasty citadel in Vietnam, which researchers believe to be the king’s “Royal Path.” If true, they say this could be the key to locating the main palace.
Illegal Dig Reveals Rare Ancient Mass Grave in Turkey — A burial pit was found in eastern Turkey, with the remains of 27 people. Initial dating puts the burial at about 1,600 years old. Lachrymatory bottles (for catching mourners’ tears) and spindle whorls were also found. This is the first time that so many skeletons were found in a single grave in the region.
4,000-year-old Shell Tool Site Found in Taiwan is Oldest in Pacific — The oldest shell tool site in the Pacific region was recently found Taiwan. The site dates back 4,200 years. It was found when ancient sarcophagi, shell mounds, ash pits, and archaeological relics were unearthed during renovations of a shop. Evidence of shell processing has been found in large quantities, leading researchers to believe that this was a shell tool manufacturing site. The evidence includes finished and unfinished products, processing waste, and tools.
Evidence of Third-Century A.D. Tsunami Uncovered in Spain — Excavation of a Roman-era public building in modern-day Seville has revealed that a tsunami destroyed coastal settlements in southern Spain between 197 and 225 CE. The site is 25 miles inland but the archaeologists identified deposits of sand, silt, and shells, along with widespread damage and renovations. They believe this could only have been caused by a tsunami.
Floors in Ancient Greek Luxury Villa Were Laid With Recycled Glass — Chemical analysis of the tesserae of a 5th-century mosaic located at the site of Halikarnassos in modern-day Turkey has shown that ancient Greeks used recycled glass in their mosaics. This particular mosaic has geometric patterns and motifs from Greek mythology and Virgil’s works. Of seven glass pieces that were analyzed, six were recycled glass. This is probably due to a shortage of glass caused by closed or rerouted trade routes as the Roman Empire waned.
Ancient Southwestern Desert People Ate More, Larger, Fish Than Previously Thought — It was previously thought that Ancestral Pueblo people rarely ate fish, as the remains of fish are rare at archaeological sites in central New Mexico. But a new study found that eating fish was actually common practice, and the fish that they ate were larger, healthier fish. According to Jonathan Dombrosky, this indicates that, “Fishes were targeted when fish communities were healthy and stable." This is yet another indication of how in-tune ancient peoples were with their environment. It reminds me of a shell midden in Spain that I covered in issue #9 — these people from 8,000 years ago chose not to eat mollusks below the size of 20mm, which also happens to be the minimum size specified by modern regulations to guarantee long-term species survival.
❤️ Recommended Content
The Younger Dryas has become somewhat of a buzzword, and for good reason — it had a huge impact on ancient humans. In this video, Ancient Architects discusses the Impact Hypothesis, and why it isn’t necessarily correct. I don’t think his evidence precludes an impact, but he makes some interesting points.
That’s it for this week! Those footprints were such a cool (and lucky) find — can’t wait to hear more on that. As the debate rages on about when humans came to the Americas, where do you stand?
Until next time, thanks for joining me.
(newish twitter: @jamesofthedrum)
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