🧐 Ancient Beat #80: New languages, strange fowling practices, and 60-seater latrines
Welcome to issue #80 of Ancient Beat! Can you believe it’s almost October already? 🤯 I wouldn’t believe it if the leaves weren’t already falling.
Okay… how to smoothly transition from that random comment into the important stuff…?
The trees are dropping their leaves. I’m gonna drop some knowledge. Here’s the latest ancient news. 👇
(Nailed it. 😎)
🗞 Ancient News: Top 5
New Language Identified at Turkey's Hittite Capital — Excavations at the site of Boğazköy-Hattusha in Turkey have revealed a previously unknown language. Most of the 30,000+ tablets found there over the past century are written in the Hittite language, with a few passages here and there in Luwian, Palaic, and Hattic. But this text refers to the “language of the land of Kalašma” — Kalašma being located near Bolu, Turkey at the edge of Hittite territory. This is an important find, but perhaps not unexpected, as Daniel Schwemer notes, “The Hittites were uniquely interested in recording rituals in foreign languages.” The language has not yet been deciphered, but it appears to belong to the family of Anatolian-Indo-European languages.
9,500-Year-Old Baskets and 6,200-Year-Old Sandals Found in Spanish Cave — The earliest direct evidence of basketry among Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in southern Europe was recently identified in organic materials found at Cueva de los Murciélagos in Spain in the 19th century. A new study analyzed 76 objects made of organic materials dating to 9,500-6,200 years ago. According to Francisco Martínez Sevilla, “The quality and technological complexity of the basketry makes us question the simplistic assumptions we have about human communities prior to the arrival of agriculture in southern Europe.” They also found a unique set of organic tools from early Neolithic farming communities, including sandals and a wooden mace.
Excavation and Restoration of New Rooms in the Pyramid of Sahura in Abusir — Excavations have revealed eight new chambers in the Pyramid of Sahura in Abusir, Egypt. Sahura was the second king of the Fifth Dynasty (2400 BCE). These chambers, which are likely to be storage rooms intended to hold royal burial objects, were predicted (but not discovered) over a century ago, but the predictions were pooh-poohed. Speaking of pooh-poohing…
Large Roman Public Latrine With 60 Wooden Seats Discovered In Beit She’an, Israel — Four latrines, each with 60 seats, were found in Beit She’an, Israel. These latrines are the largest ever found in Israel. While a 60-seat toilet sounds unpleasant at best, the building the latrines were in actually sounds pretty nice. It had mosaics, wall paintings, columns with capitals, ornate stairs, and partial roofing for ventilation. According to Walid Atrash, “People would sit and chat with each other while attending to their ‘business’, and it is quite possible that all the city’s problems were solved there.” There was a deep sewer channel beneath the seats and water was used to flush out the waste. There was also a channel of clean water near the foot for rinsing sponges and cleaning the body.
Evidence of Neolithic Bird Hunting in Upper Mesopotamia — Researchers analyzed animal remains at Göbekli Tepe and Gusir Höyük from around 9000 BCE. They found animals ranging from aurochs to hares to fish, but their focus was on birds. There were large numbers of birds at both sites, which were mainly hunted in autumn and winter when flocks migrated across the region. Göbekli Tepe boasted a whopping 84 bird species, including lots of small passerine (perching) birds, which surprised the researchers. According to Nadja Pöllath, “We do not know exactly why they hunted so many small passerine birds at Göbekli Tepe. Due to their low live weight, the effort exceeds the meat yield by far. Perhaps they were simply a delicacy that enriched the menu in autumn, or they had a significance that we cannot deduce yet from the bone remains.” The inhabitants of Gusir Höyük, however, pursued (almost exclusively) two types of birds — and not a single bone belonged to waterfowl. According to Joris Peters, “Gusir Höyük is the only Neolithic community in Upper Mesopotamia known to us that deliberately avoided wetlands and riverine landscapes when fowling, although they were present. Our results suggest that this was a cultural peculiarity of the Neolithic people inhabiting Gusir Höyük.” The researchers suspect that certain birds were hunted for reasons beyond meat — perhaps symbolic or ritual purposes.
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