🧐 Ancient Beat #32: Hidden caves, royal halls, and 8,200-year-old bunions
Hi folks, welcome to issue #32 of Ancient Beat! Today, I monetized the newsletter. And I’ll admit, it was a pretty scary thing to do!
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Here’s the latest ancient news. 👇
🗞 Ancient News (Top 5)
More Than Two-Dozen Ancient Buddhist Temples and Murals Have Been Found in an Indian Tiger Reserve — This one is a doozy. Over two dozen previously unrecorded Buddhist caves from the 2nd to 5th centuries have been discovered in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in India. Also found were 26 temples (9th-11th century), 46 sculptures, 2 votive stupas, 24 Brahmin inscriptions, 19 water structures (2nd-15th century), stone board games, and coins. This was all found in one month of exploration. The last time the Indian government explored this area was in 1938, and much was discovered then as well. The researchers noted that the archeological focus in India has been on cities and states, while forests have often been somewhat neglected. They also noted that, “The most startling finding is the remains of the Buddhist structures in the region where a Hindu dynasty ruled. It suggests religious harmony, but who built these Buddhist structures is not yet known.” Check out the photos in the article, it’s like something out of Indiana Jones. And apparently, the team had to hightail it out of there several times to avoid wild animals. 😳
Ancient Footprints Reveal 'Irish Sea Serengeti' — Hundreds of ancient human and animal footprints have been found on Formby Beach in England. The oldest human footprint on the 31 different footprint beds is 8,200 years old. The young man had a “tailor’s bunion” which can come from sitting down a lot while barefoot. The oldest tracks at the site are from 9,000 years ago, and they belong to aurochs, red deer, roe deer, wolves, lynxes, etc. According to the researchers, up to about 6,000 years ago, there were a lot of animal tracks, but as of about 5,500 years ago, it was mostly humans, deer, and dogs. The most recent prints are from about 1,000 years ago. According to Jamie Woodward, “So what we're seeing - through the footprints - is a landscape transforming with sea-level rise, and also with the arrival of agriculture that probably put a lot more pressure on this ecosystem.”
Royal Hall of the First Kings of East Anglia has been Discovered in Suffolk — A 1,400-year-old timber hall has been discovered in Rendlesham, England. It is located within the context of a 123-acre settlement that has been investigated continuously since 2008. The hall was one of several, and was where the first kings of the East Angles would have received tribute, feasted, administered justice, and so forth. It is 75 feet long and 33 feet wide. Animal bones, jewelry, pottery, and glass fragments were also found. According to Christopher Scull, “The results of this season’s excavation are of international importance. Rendlesham is the most extensive and materially wealthy settlement of its date known in England, and excavation of the Hall confirms that this is the royal residence recorded by Bede,” Bede was a monk and the “Father of English History.”
Link Between Changes in Evolution and Climate Discovered — A new study of lake sediment showed that in the last 620,000 years, there were three distinct phases of climate variability in Eastern Africa which coincided with shifts in hominin evolution and dispersal. From 620,000-275,000 BP there was a pretty stable humid climate, but a series of “pulses” interrupted the phase, which affected the habitats, so hominins had to adapt. This likely caused the appearance of distinct hominin groups, both geographically and anatomically. This would be when our ancestors separated from archaic groups. Dramatic climate swings from 275,000-60,000 BP caused environmental shifts, which coincided with the gradual transition from the Acheulean technologies of Homo erectus to more advanced tools. This is also when we get the first evidence of Homo sapiens in eastern Africa, which is accompanied by many social, technological, and cultural innovations. The period from 60,000-10,000 BP had the most extreme fluctuations and was the most arid. The researchers believe this led Homo sapiens to head out of Africa and disperse globally.
Lidar Reveals Lost Landscape Containing Hundreds of Ancient Monuments — Sites dating back to prehistory, and all the way up to WWII, have been identified in the Białowieża Forest of Poland using LIDAR. The finds include 577 burial barrows, 246 charcoal kiln sites, 54 tar plants, 19 complexes of ancient farmland, 51 semi-dugouts, 17 war cemeteries, and 2 fortified structures. Several of the mounds have been excavated, and they mostly date to the 2nd-5th centuries CE, during a period of Roman influence. One of the fortified structures is 36 meters long, with a small embankment, and they found Slavic pottery there from the Middle Ages. The other has a diameter of 17 meters and was used from the 4th-3rd centuries BCE, and again in the 7th-10th centuries CE.
🗞 Ancient News (Deep Dive)
“Falcon Shrine” Discovery Contains Previously Unkown Ancient Rituals — The excavation of a religious complex in the ancient port city of Berenice Troglodytica in Egypt has led to discoveries about the Blemmyes, a nomadic Eastern Desert people who appeared in the written record in the 7th century BCE. The complex, called the “Falcon Shrine” is from the 4th to 6th centuries CE, when the city was partially occupied by the Blemmyes. They found harpoons, cube-shaped statues, and a stele with inscriptions about religious activities. They also found 15 falcons, which were buried with their eggs, something which indicates a previously unknown ritual. According to Joan Oller, “All of these elements point to intense ritual activities combining Egyptian traditions with contributions from the Blemmyes, sustained by a theological base possibly related to the worshipping of the god Khonsu (the ancient Egyptian god of the Moon).”
7,000-Year-Old Fish Traps Discovered in the Norwegian Mountains — The mountain lake Tesse in Norway is drained every summer to produce power, and this time, a pattern of short wooden poles was discovered. It turns out that they were fish traps from 5000 BCE. At least three trapping chambers were found, with guiding fences that led the fish into the traps. From there, they could easily be fished out. Excavation is planned for the spring.
Stone Spheres Could be from Ancient Greek Board Game — Small stone spheres ranging from 4,500 to 3,600 years old have been found at settlements around the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas for years. Theories of their purpose have included sling stones, tossing balls, record-keeping systems, and so forth. But new analysis separated the stones into two groups, one large and one small, which indicates that they were probably actually used as counters in a board game. Stone slabs have also been found with cup marks where the stones may have been placed. If they are from a board game, it would be one of the oldest ever found. The researchers plan to use AI to figure out how the game was played.
7,000-Year-Old Herders’ Camp Found on Mountaintop — A late Neolithic seasonal settlement was discovered in the Talesh Mountains of Iran. It is 7,000 years old. Pottery sherds, animal bones, and stone tools were found at the site. The discovery shows that herders were using mountaintop pastures, and sheds light on the pastoral habits of the region.
Detailing a Disastrous Autumn Day in Ancient Italy — We all know of the famous volcanic eruption that buried Pompeii, but Mount Vesuvius had an earlier eruption that occurred 4,000 years ago. This covered the village of Afragola, near present-day Naples in Italy, and preserved the site, including its plants. According to Tiziana Matarazzo, “The site is exceptional, because Afragola was buried by a gigantic eruption of Vesuvius, and it tells us a lot about the people who lived there, and the local habitat. In this case, by finding fruits and agricultural materials, we were able to identify the season of the eruption, which is usually impossible.” It was autumn, and the people had been collecting food stores from the nearby woods before they fled.
3,600-year-old sauna found in Nijmegen; Unique on mainland Europe — A sauna dating to 3,600 years ago was found a while back in Nijmegen-Noord in the Netherlands, but it has only recently been identified as such. The find includes sweatlodges and cold water baths. This is unique because early saunas were previously only found in Great Britain and Ireland. The saunas used hot clay balls for heat instead of stones due to the resources available nearby.
Burial Bundles Uncovered in Peru — Burial bundles were found near Lima, Peru while workers were constructing a gas pipeline. The oldest burials were probably from the Huaura culture 800 years ago. Other burials may be from the Chancay culture 600 years ago. Pottery and clay figurines which may represent goddesses were also found in some of the burials.
Huge, Exquisite, Song Dynasty Stone Murals Found in China — Two large murals on the side of a stone bridge have been excavated at the archaeological site of Zhouqiao in China. Have a look at the photos in the article — they’re quite striking. The murals date to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Excavations continue, but they are estimated to be roughly 400 square meters in size.
12,000-Year-Old Public Building Discovered in Southeastern Türkiye — A 12,000-year-old structure has been discovered in Mardin, Turkey. Due to its size, it is thought to be a public building.
Archaeologists Unearth Ancient “Fridge” in Roman Legionary Fortress — A container used for storing food has been discovered at the 1st-century Roman legionary fortress of Novae, which was located on the empire’s border in modern-day Serbia. It is made of ceramic plates and is recessed below the floor. Inside, researchers found ceramic vessels, small baked bone fragments, charcoal, and a bowl.
Archaeological Settlements Dating Back to 3,000 Years Unearthed in Qurayyat — A large number of settlements have been found near Qurayyat, Oman. Some of the settlements date back as far as 3,000 years. Many of the stone buildings are large and either square or rectangular.
Egyptian Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Inscriptions in the Temple of Esna — Several inscriptions have been found at the Temple of Esna in Egypt, thanks to restoration work. According to Mustafa al-Waziri, “The drawings and inscriptions that were revealed are of great importance, as they represent the cycles of the sun and moon gods in the night and day during their journey in the other world.”
Bronze Age Workshop Settlement Excavated in Erimi — A Bronze-Age workshop that was primarily used for the production of dyed textiles was found in the village of Erimi in Cyprus.
Mysterious 1,800-Year-Old Roman Marble Inscription Found in the Ancient City of Aigai Deciphered — An 1,800-year-old marble slab was discovered in the ancient site of Aigai in Turkey in 2005. It has an inscription on it that had not been deciphered until now. Apparently, the inscription discusses a messenger who was sent to the Roman Emperor to convey complaints about taxes that were being collected on goat skins. The emperor fixed the taxes and said he would punish any tax collectors who did not take heed. The inscription shows the importance of goat skin to the economy of Aigai, which is the Greek word for “goat”. The fact that the messenger got an audience with the emperor also indicates the importance of the city.
44 Gold Coins Hidden During Arab Conquest of Israel Found in Country's North — About 1,400 years ago, someone stuffed 44 gold coins into the foundations of a wall in what is now Banias, Israel, possibly as soldiers of the Umayyad Caliphate approached. The article goes into some really interesting history of Banias, which was a sacred site in ancient times.
2,000-Year-Old Entertainment and Game Venues Uncovered in the Antakya Ancient Hippodrome — At the ancient hippodrome in the modern-day city of Antioch, Turkey, researchers found two places used as game venues. Bone dice (a topic I covered in issue 25), game stones, pottery, and a piece of a wind instrument were found.
Archaeologists Identify Obsidian Mines Exploited by the People of Teōtīhuacān — Over 500 obsidian mines have been located about 31 miles from Teotihuacan in Mexico, in the Sierra de las Navajas. I’ll be honest, I saw this story last week, but I didn’t know if it was really “news” — it seems to me that 500 mines would have to be discovered over a long period of time. That being said, it is making headlines and the researchers have been able to shed light on obsidian mining operations, as well as how it was transported and refined.
1800-Years-Old Military Medal Found in Perrhe Ancient City in Turkey — An 1,800-year-old bronze military medal depicting the head of Medusa was unearthed in the ancient city of Perrhe in Turkey. It probably would have been worn by an honored soldier during military ceremonies, either on his uniform or shield.
Ancient Ruin Site Confirms Western Han Dynasty Rule in Yunnan — A ruin from the Dian Kingdom (279-109 BCE) was found in China’s Yunnan province. Ancient buildings, a road, and graves were discovered, along with over 2,000 artifacts, including sealing clays, bamboo slips, tiles, and jade ware.
2,000-Year-Old Roman Copper Bowl Found Corroded by Pesticides — Pollution is a bummer, but we rarely think of it in the context of archaeology. Smog is terrible for ruins, both because of the soot and corrosive chemicals that abrade the material. And now we know that even buried artifacts aren’t getting out unscathed. According to a new study, a 2,000-year-old bronze bowl that was found on a farm in Kent, England has a type of corrosion that goes beyond what we might usually expect. The green corrosion on it contained chlorobenzenes, and the brown corrosion contained diethyltoluamide, or DEET. In other words, here’s another thing to add to the long list of damage done by pesticides. The article goes on to discuss neanderthals and how their use of fire in caves actually contaminated the caves with heavy metals… and may have even contributed to their extinction.
Upcycling in the Past: Viking Beadmakers' Secrets Revealed — A new study shows that Viking beadmakers used surprisingly sophisticated methods to repurpose Roman glass mosaics. To form white, opaque beads, it has been assumed that they used white cubes from the mosaics. But it turns out they would crush gold-gilded, transparent cubes, remelt them at a low temperature, stir them to trap air as bubbles, and then wrap the glass around a piece of iron to form beads. The tiny remnants of gold (after it had mostly been salvaged) along with the bubbles, created opaque white beads. The process was quick and didn’t use much wood. Their distinctive blue beads used a similar process, but the trick was to dilute chemical concentrations in the blue glass. Long story short, the Viking beadmakers were experts at what they did, and much more advanced than we gave them credit for.
New Data Reveals Severe Impact of European Contact with Pacific Islands — According to a new study, the island of Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga had a 70-86% decline in population after Europeans made contact in the 19th century. It went from between 50,000 and 60,000 down to about 10,000 in a period of 50 years. This is likely due to new pathogens being introduced.
❤️ Recommended Content
Ok, this 1-star review of the ancient site of Butrint in Albania was pretty good, “Yes it is old, but so is my grandmother and I do not ask for money to look at her.” 😂
I came across a new headline about a 1-mile-long canal built 1,400 years ago by First Nations people in Alabama, USA. Turns out it was found in June so I couldn’t really include it in the news above, but it’s fascinating. Here’s a nice little quote from Victor Thompson, “I think one of the things that [this discovery] belies is the incredibly engineered landscape that exists among the Native peoples of the Gulf Coast… The thing [it has in common with other irrigation canals] is that they required knowledge of hydro-engineering and large-scale labor… To me, it speaks to a more collective sort of labor project, rather than one that is driven top-down.”
Have a look at this beautiful aerial photography of some ancient sites in the UK.
Interested in how this technology we call the “written word” came to be? I found this article super interesting. And it’s pretty important stuff — without it, we wouldn’t have Ancient Beat! 😱
How about those Buddhist caves in India? I love being reminded that there is still so much left to explore on our little planet. 😃
Please let me know your thoughts on the new free/paid tiers — I’m eager for your feedback. And until next time, thanks for joining me.
(newish twitter: @jamesofthedrum)
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