🧐 Ancient Beat #29: Hidden hieroglyphs, Nefertiti's mummy, and a very old tooth
Happy Friday, folks! And welcome to issue #29 of Ancient Beat. It’s been a busy week on my end and there were lots of happenings in the world of archaeology, so I’m sending this a little later than usual. 😅 Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?
Here’s the latest ancient news. 👇
🗞 Ancient News
Queen Nefertiti's Mummy May Have Been Found, Says Leading Archaeologist — The famous Zahi Hawass has announced that he believes the mummy that he is currently studying to be that of none other than Queen Nefertiti. His exact quote was, “I'm sure I'll reveal Nefertiti's mummy in a month or two.” Nefertiti lived between 1270 and 1330 BCE. She was the wife of Akhenaten, and the two are known for a religious revolution in Egypt which focused on the worship of one god — the sun disc, Aten. Some, including Hawass, believe that she ruled after the death of her husband.
What Ancient Dung Reveals About Epipaleolithic Animal Tending — A new study is shedding light on the transition from hunting and gathering to farming and herding. Researchers analyzed dung spherulites, which are tiny calcium carbonate clumps in dung. They found that between 12,800 and 12,300 years ago, hunter-gatherers at Abu Hureyra, an archaeological site in Syria that has been occupied for thousands of years, burned dung as fuel. And they may have kept animals near their dwellings — possibly sheep. This supports a small body of evidence that ancient peoples may have tended animals before they cultivated plants, which goes against mainstream thought. According to the authors of the study, “We were surprised when we realized that hunter-gatherers were bringing live animals to Abu Hureyra between 12,800 and 12,300 years ago and keeping them outside of their hut. This is almost 2000 years earlier than what we have seen elsewhere, although it is in line with what we might expect for the Euphrates Valley.”
Georgian Archaeologists Find 1.8-Million-Year-Old Human Tooth — A 1.8-million-year-old tooth was found near Orozmani in Georgia, only 20 kilometers from where human skulls of the same age were found at the turn of the millennium. Together, these are the oldest human remains ever found outside of Africa. And this new find solidifies that this area may have been a place where humans settled, making it the oldest known settlement in Europe, and possibly anywhere outside of Africa. No word on what species it belonged to, but Homo erectus seems likely.
New 249 Hieroglyphs Found in Hattusa and They Will Brighten the Hittite Period — Apparently this discovery took place in mid-August, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it and it’s a good one. While taking photos with students in the impressive (seriously, take a look at the photo in the article), 80-meter-long Yerkapı Tunnel at the site of Hattusa (the ancient capital of the Hittite Empire) in Turkey, a member of the excavation team found symbols on the stone walls that everyone else had missed. The symbols are estimated to have been drawn 3,500 years ago, and they are thought to describe deities. Makes a lot of sense to me since caves — including artificial caves like this — were important to our ancestors in terms of their spiritual practices. The discovery should give researchers a better understanding of what the tunnel was used for and why it was so important to the Hittites. It also indicates that hieroglyphics were widely used, rather than being primarily used in seals and monumental inscriptions. According to Andreas Schachner, “We have determined a total of 249 Anatolian hieroglyphs here, but they are not all different from each other. We can divide them into 8 groups in total. Since they are written with paint, we need to interpret them more in a graffiti style. We think they were done quickly.”
Has the Maya Kingdom of Sak Tz’i’ Been Found? — On private land in southern Mexico, a fortified Maya settlement has been found which was occupied from 750 BCE until 900 CE. The site measures 100 acres and includes a 45-foot-tall pyramid, plazas, temples, reception halls, ceremonial centers, a ball court, and a palace. Also found was a wall panel from roughly 775 CE that records the names of rulers, battles, rituals, and a creation myth replete with a flood and a water serpent. The site is thought to be the capital of the Sak Tz’i’ Dynasty.
Another Illegal Dig Unearths Archaeological Discovery in Egypt's Giza — An illegal dig in the area of Mit Rahina (the site of the ancient city of Memphis), Egypt led authorities to a big find. The three looters, who have since been arrested, dug a hole which led authorities to ancient tunnels leading to two rooms. The rooms are limestone and engraved with hieroglyphics. According to Hussein Abdel Basir, “It seems the new discovery dates to the era of the New Kingdom in Pharaonic history and the era of Ramses II… and it may lead to a temple or a cemetery.” Ramses II reigned from 1279-1213 CE.
Archaeologists Discover Giant Stone Jars in India — You may remember the giant stone jars that were discovered in the Assam region of India earlier this year. Well, a new paper reports seven more stone jars found not too far away in the Saipung Reserved Forest of Meghalaya, India. In general, the stone jars (and the accompanying circular flat stones) have varying sizes and shapes, but they show up in clusters. The researchers say that the sites are usually located on a flat section on the summit of a hill, near sandstone outcrops. And some of the sites have artificially-excavated twin oblong ponds with a stone slab at the center. According to the researchers, “A small-scale excavation of four jars in the East Jaintia Hills have helped to provide key insights on the mortuary practices of the people who made and used these stone jars. Material evidence from the excavation clearly suggests that the stone jars are visible relics which were erected on top of a pit where the post-cremated cultural materials of the dead are buried. Such significant findings bear relevance to the further understanding of stone jar sites within the broader context of Northeast India and Southeast Asia.”
A Massive Railroad Project in Mexico Has Led to the Discovery of the Ancient Maya City of Paamul II — An archaeological survey was conducted between Playa del Carmen and Tulum in Mexico in preparation for a railroad. They found over 300 buildings, some of which were over 8 meters tall. They’ve recognized the site as Paamul II. This isn’t the first thing that has come to light in preparation for the railroad. An incredible 25,000 “immovable assets” have been found in total, including roads, buildings, and bones.
Archaeologists in Prague Uncover Ancient Neolithic Structure — A roundel, a section of which was discovered by accident in the 1980’s, is being excavated on the outskirts of Prague in the Czech Republic. Roundels are circular enclosures in Europe that were built between 4900 and 4600 years BCE, making them the oldest known monumental buildings in Europe. This particular roundel, which dates back 7,000 years and measures 180 feet in diameter, is very well-preserved. It even has intact remains of postholes that held the central structure. It also has three entrances, which is unusual. According to Miroslav Kraus, “[One] theory is that it could have been used as an economic centre, a centre of trade. It could also have been a centre of some religious cult, where rites of passage or rituals connected to the time of year were performed.” This is a unique opportunity since they’ve been able to uncover almost the entire structure.
Archaeologists Find 1,000-Year-Old Maya Settlement in Central Belize — Collapsed Maya dwellings dating back 1,000 years were discovered at a Mennonite farming community in Belize. The pottery at the site dates it to between 250 and 600 CE, the Early Classic Period, which was the peak of urbanism, large-scale construction, and monumental inscriptions in the Maya world. Plaster floors, vessels for cooking, eating, and storage, chert agricultural tools, and grinding tools were also found. This seems to have been an agricultural community, though they didn’t clear all of the land nearby, as evidenced by bones of forest animals. A building that may have been a place of meeting and/or ceremony was also found. It contained 15 stemmed points made of the highest-quality, nonlocal chert, which may have been used as offerings. And there is a large platform mound with four structures on the top — probably homes of the elite.
Prehistoric Remains Discovered in Underwater Cave in Mexico — A skeleton was found 1/3 of a mile into an underwater limestone cave on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico. For obvious reasons, it is assumed that the remains date to before the cave was flooded — about 8,000 years ago.
Archaeologists Unearth Blocks of Halloumi Cheese Preserved for 2,600 Years — Blocks of halloumi cheese dating to between 688 and 525 BCE were found at the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt by archaeologists opening a set of ancient pots. It is well-preserved, but it is unclear whether it is edible — apparently no one has been brave enough to do a taste-test. Similar pots have also been found nearby, but they have not yet been opened.
Israeli Archeologists Find 4,000-Year-Old Village in Ramallah — A 4,000-year-old village was discovered by archaeologists near Ramallah in the State of Palestine. Roman and Mamluk coins, pottery from several eras, and human remains have been found. Palestinians are outraged by the excavation, as they believe it to be “part of Israel's systematic policy of targeting archaeological areas in the West Bank and appropriating Palestinian antiquities since 1967”, according to the article.
Archaeologists Find Ornamental Bronze Wall Plate in Eastern Türkiye — In last week’s issue, we discussed findings from a midden at Ayanis Castle in Turkey, which was built in the reign of King Rusa II (680-639 BCE). Well, now they’ve found a bronze plate which would have served as an architectural embellishment. The artifact (photo in article) is in one piece, unlike other specimens found. Fascinating to consider the tastes of ancient people. Someone once looked at a wall in the castle and thought, “I know what this wall needs…” And now we’re talking about it thousands of years later.
Ancient Remains Found at Glencore’s Project in Argentina — Human remains were found by a mine worker at Mina El Pachón in Calingasta, Argentina while he was going about his road cleaning duties. The skull, femur, humerus, radius, ulna, and various hand and foot bones were identified as belonging to a man from a tribe that has lived in the area since about 700 CE.
Coin Hoard Uncovered from Islamic Era — Hundreds of coins from different parts of the Islamic Era were found near the temple of Esna in Egypt. They also found coin molds and weights, indicating that there may have been a mint or weighing house nearby.
Archaeology Breakthrough: Father and Sons Unearth Real Life Game of Thrones Treasure — If you’re having visions of iron thrones, don’t get too excited — their title is pure clickbait. With the help of his metal detector, a man found a coin in a field in Harrogate, England. His sons then came to investigate and found 20 more coins and a gold ring. The find is dated to the 1470’s and is believed to have been deposited by a soldier during the War of the Roses. Most of the coins are not particularly valuable, but according to Nigel Mills, “The gold coin may have functioned as a lucky charm because of the depiction of the Holy Trinity.”
Traces of Native American Village Found in Florida — Archaeologists have found pottery and postholes under a 19th-century house in St. Augustine, Florida in the US. The finds are from the First Nations village of Palica.
Remains of Up To 100 Children Found in Dig at Ancient Welsh Burial Site — Several hundred skeletons, a third of which were young children, have been found in Haverfordwest, Wales. It is believed to be the burial ground for the friary of St. Saviours, which dates back over 600 years. The friary’s existence is known thanks to detailed financial records kept by the church.
Decorative Heater Unearthed at 16th-Century Castle in Poland — Excavations at the site of Zelechów castle, a 16th century wooden castle in Poland, have revealed the base of a masonry stove and beautifully decorated tiles with geometric, plant, and animal patterns, as well as some mythological creature and coats of arms. The stove would have provided heat for the court. And since the tiles were found among burnt beams, it seems that the castle burned down. Evidence of feasting was also found.
3,700-Year-Old Domed Oven Found at Troy Excavation Site Closely Related to Anatolian Culture — Ah, Troy. Such a fascinating place. Archaeologists have discovered a 3,700-year-old domed oven there, which lends even more strength to Manfred Osman Korfmann’s (a previous lead in the excavations) claim that Troy was in fact an Anatolian culture.
Archaeologists Discover Ice Age Human Settlement in Pilanduk Cave, Palawan— New dating at Pilanduk Cave on Palawan Island in the Philippines has shown that humans were there 20,000-25,000 years ago. According to Janine Ochoa, the study found, “New radiocarbon dates that securely place the age of human occupation of Pilanduk Cave at the LGM (Last Glacial Maximum)/Last Ice Age at ca. 20,000-25,000 years ago and evidence for shifting foraging behaviors (ecological and behavioral flexibility) of modern humans occupying changing tropical environments (climate and environmental changes) across ca. 40,000 years on Palawan Island.” Finds also include evidence for specialized deer hunting and freshwater mollusk foraging.
Long Melford Archaeologists Unearth 2,000-Year-Old Dog Skull During Excavation of Rare Iron Age Building Site — A possible archaeological site was identified at a soccer (perhaps I should say “football”) field in Long Melford, England back in 2011. Now, a recent dig has confirmed Iron Age activity. They found a trench which was left by the foundations of a building, and which was filled with Gallo Belgic pottery dating to to between 20 and 50 CE — right around the time that Romans arrived in the area. They also found the skull of a terrier-like dog. Due to its placement and the lack of other bones, this is thought to have been buried deliberately, which may point to the ritual and iconographic significance of dogs in this area. According to Kenneth Dodd, “Terrier-type dogs were very popular hunting dogs. They may have had significance to the Iron Age inhabitants, as well as the Romans, so it’s a very significant find.”
DNA Reveals Donkeys were Domesticated 7,000 Years Ago in East Africa — Domestication is such an interesting topic IMO. Until now, we haven’t had a clear picture of donkey domestication. But a new study is filling in the gaps by analyzing 207 genomes from donkeys in 31 countries dating as far back as 4,000 years. They found that donkeys were first domesticated 7,000 years ago (3,000 years before horses) in East Africa. They found that all donkeys go back to a single domestication event, perhaps in the Horn of Africa, in roughly 5000 BCE — a time when the Sahara was becoming more arid. The researchers believe that people may have domesticated donkeys to help them carry loads across the expanding desert. According to Emily Clark, “As humans, we owe a debt of gratitude to the domestic donkey for the role they play and have played in shaping society.”
❤️ Recommended Content
Here’s a face-palm of a one-star review if I’ve ever seen one. Regarding the Temple of Vesta in Rome, “All I saw was a pile of old dirt and rocks.” 😑
If you’re interested in Çatalhöyük (and who isn’t?), here’s a brief article about Boncuklu Mound in Konya, Turkey. According to Douglas Baird, “Boncuklu Mound was dated to 9200 BC and 11,200 years ago, suggesting that it is approximately 2,000 years older than Çatalhöyük. This indicates that Boncuklu Höyük is the direct ancestor of Çatalhöyük.”
Here’s a cutesy article about the ancient origins of some modern conveniences that we take for granted. Really didn’t expect to see automatic doors on the list — dating back to the 1st century. 🤯
Here’s an interesting article about Kirkhellaren Cave on the Island of Sanna. The cave is one of Norway’s oldest meeting places, dating back 10,000 years. If nothing else, check out the photo of the cave — it’s no wonder ancient people gathered there.
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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