🧐 Ancient Beat #79: Dark earth, sunken temples, and a 476,000-year-old wooden structure
Hello, friends! Welcome to issue #79 of Ancient Beat. I’ve got a couple of doozies for you this week, but first, a couple of questions:
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Anywho, here’s the latest ancient news. 👇
🗞 Ancient News: Top 5
World's Oldest Wooden Structure Made by Ancient Humans is 476,000 Years Old — It turns out that ancient hominins were building structures before Homo sapiens were so much as a twinkle in their eyes. Evidence of a 476,000-year-old wooden structure has been uncovered in the Kalambo River basin of Zambia. The evidence comes in the form of “two interlocking logs joined transversely by an intentionally cut notch.” If the researchers are right about this being a structure, then this is the earliest known wooden structure ever discovered. They postulate that it could have been a raised platform or walkway to deal with the area’s intermittent flooding, or perhaps a shelter. Obviously, it’s very rare for wood to last half a million years, so this is a really special discovery, and it means that ancient humans were doing some truly impressive woodworking, of which we knew nothing. The find is much older than the earliest Homo sapiens remains discovered to date, but it’s unclear what species of hominin built it. According to experts, the discovery suggests that ancient humans weren’t strictly nomadic, though I’d argue that it’s very possible for nomads to build structures at favored camps, etc. It also shows advanced skill, creativity, and tool use. I love this discovery. It really gets the imagination going — what other types of structures were our ancestors making that have since rotted away? Fun fact: Until now, the earliest wooden discovery was a 400,000-year-old spear found in the UK.
Archaeologists Find 1,500-Year-Old Gold Treasure Beneath Pagan Temple — 35 gold pieces have been discovered within the post holes of an ancient pagan house of worship in Vingrom, Norway. The find dates to 1,500 years ago. Each gold piece is about the size of a fingernail and very thin. They are engraved with men and women wearing grand outfits. According to Nicolai Eckhoff, “Despite the fact that the gold nuggets are so small, the motifs have a striking richness of detail. Usually the woman is dressed in a side dress, sometimes with a tow and a cape, and the man has a shorter skirt so that the feet are visible. He can also wear a cape, and both can wear jewelry, different hairstyles and hold different things like drinking cups, wands or rings in the hands or have hands to point to different gestures.” This type of gold piece is very rare. Examples are usually found under places of worship, and they may have mythical or ritual meaning. According to Eckhoff, “It is suggested that the gold nuggets with couple motifs reflect the hierogamy myth, the holy wedding between the habit god Frøy and the jotun daughter Gerd, or that they may have been used as an offering when celebrating a wedding or in fertility rituals.” They could also be a form of temple money.
Sunken Temple and Sanctuary from Ancient Egypt Found Brimming with 'Treasures and Secrets' — Underwater archaeologists discovered a sunken temple linked to Amun and a sanctuary linked to Aphrodite in a canal on the coast of Egypt. The temple collapsed during an earthquake and tidal waves in the mid-2nd century BCE. Within the temple, they found silver-made ritual instruments, gold jewelry, a djed pillar, and alabaster containers for perfumes and unguents. They also found underground structures supported by posts and beams. The Greek sanctuary had imported bronze and ceramic objects, as well as weapons that indicate the presence of Greek mercenaries.
Remarkably Well-Preserved 2,500-Year-Old Canoe Discovered in Swiss Lake — A well-preserved, 39-foot (!) dugout canoe from the Early Iron Age has been discovered in Lake Neuchâtel, Switzerland. It’s made from an oak trunk and dates to between 750 and 520 BCE. It is one of the largest and most complete canoes of its kind ever discovered in Switzerland.
Ancient Amazonians Intentionally Created Fertile 'Dark Earth' — Most of the Amazon’s soil is acidic and low in nutrients, making it very difficult to use for agricultural purposes. That said, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sites with incredibly rich, ancient soils. It’s known as “dark earth” or “terra preta” and it has been the subject of debate for quite some time: Was the soil purposefully created or was it the accidental byproduct of ancient cultures? A new study claims that ancient peoples intentionally created the carbon-rich terra preta by adding food, charcoal, and waste to the soil for generations. According to the study, modern practices in the Amazon include creating middens of food scraps and charcoal that decompose and are then used to plant their crops. Since Amazonian cultures — the Kuikuro were the focus of this study — are intentionally doing this today, the researchers believe it was likely to have been intentional in the past too. Comparing modern and ancient sites, they then found similarities in the spatial structure of the dark earth. Both had concentrations in the center of the settlement that stretched out to the edges like the spokes of a wheel. And the composition of the soil was also similar. According to Samuel Goldberg, “Because we see this correspondence between the two time periods, we can infer that these practices that we can observe and ask people about today, were also happening in the past.” Fun fact: Each ancient terra preta site sequesters several thousand tons of carbon.
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