Thousands of years ago in Hierapolis (now Turkey), tourists visited a temple named Plutonium built at a cave thought to be a gateway to the underworld. Magically, large and small animals would drop dead at the entrance to the cave while priest somehow survived. This isn't legend, it's reality. And now scientists have determined why. From CNN:
Research published by the journal of Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences in February shows that a fissure in the earth's surface, deep beneath the site, emits carbon dioxide at concentrations so high it can be deadly.
Using a portable gas analyzer, Hardy Pfanz and his team of volcanologists found CO2 at levels ranging from 4-53% at the mouth of the cave, and as high as 91% inside -- more than enough to kill living organisms...
Pfanz's research adds another possibility: the fact that the animals and priests are different heights. CO2 is a heavier than oxygen, therefore it settles lower, forming a toxic gas lake above the ground. "The nostrils of the animals were way in the gas lake," he says, whereas the priests stood taller, above the gas lake.
Above: digital rendering of the temple Read the rest
Meet Cheddar Man. He's from just north of Glastonbury, circa 8,000 B.C.
Tom Booth, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum who worked on the project, said: “It really shows up that these imaginary racial categories that we have are really very modern constructions, or very recent constructions, that really are not applicable to the past at all.”
Yoan Diekmann, a computational biologist at University College London and another member of the project’s team, agreed, saying the connection often drawn between Britishness and whiteness was “not an immutable truth. It has always changed and will change”.
Love that smile! If you're British, you've reportedly got about a 10% chance of descending from this guy's tribe. I suppose the more intellectually kempt white supremacists can remind themselves he isn't really black in the modern pseudoscientific or culturally-significant sense, but you know that's not how they feel about these things.
The instantly self-owning strategy among the crypto-racist morons of British punditry is to find white people who don't actually look like him in an attempt to suggest he's basically a Somerset lad with a tan.
Which he is. Read the rest
This board game was found in Poprad, Slovakia inside a German prince's tomb that dates to 375 C.E. Now, researchers at Switzerland's Museum of Games are trying to figure out how to play it. From Smithsonian:
It’s likely the board is designed to play Latrunculi or Ludus latrunculorum, which translates as “Mercenaries” or the “Game of Brigands” or some variant. That game was originally derived from an ancient Greek game called petteia which is referenced in the works of Homer. There are a handful of vague descriptions of how the game was played in ancient sources, but researchers have not successfully figured out the complete set of rules so far, though many gamers have come up with their own guesses.
“There were plenty of board games in ancient times with many variants, but reconstructing the playing technique is a very complicated process that only top experts can solve,” Karol Pieta, the archaeologist in charge of the dig, tells the Spectator.
Legend has it that after filming, it was too expensive to move and too valuable to leave for rival filmmakers to poach—so DeMille had it buried.
In the 1980s, director Peter Brosnan and a group of young filmmakers set out to find the ruins. Over 30 years later, excavations began, and have since turned up a trove of historical artifacts including an entire sphinx broken into pieces. Everyday relics—prohibition liquor bottles, makeup, and tobacco tins—have also been found, shedding light on what life was like for the cast and crew in 1923.
There's also a recent documentary on the subject, titled "The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille." (Hollywood Reporter)
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Ask any archaeologist, and you'll learn that the tools of their trade are simple and universal: a pointing trowel for excavation; a brush for removing dust from finds; side arms to fend off Nazi grave robbers; and a large constellation of satellites.
That last item joined the toolkit back in 1984, when NASA's Tom Sever (who is not a Hall of Fame pitcher, and must be sick of being asked if he is) convened an archaeological summit to offer up images and other goodies from his agency. And with that, the field of space archaeology was.
In roughly the same year, the Tooth Fairy delivered a children's book about ancient Egypt to one Sarah Parcak, age 5, of Bangor Maine. An early childhood obsession with pharaonic culture is common amongst future Egyptologists, and Sarah's began then. Read the rest
According to a lawsuit (PDF) filed Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice, craft retailer Hobby Lobby illegally imported thousands of Iraqi artifacts, intentionally mislabeled them and lied about their origins.
Though a consultant to the company estimated the artifacts' value at $11,820,000, an invoice shows Hobby Lobby paid $1,600,000 for them in deals with the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Shipment of these artifacts, which were labeled “ceramics” and “samples,” totaled more than $2,000 and thus require formal entry. Hobby Lobby continued with the deal even though an expert advised the company the artifacts were likely looted and carried "considerable risk." Hobby Lobby did not attempt verify the legal custodian or origin of 5,513 of the artifacts at any point, according to the suit.
NBC News reports that Hobby Lobby has agreed to return its stolen loot.
In a statement, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green acknowledged "regrettable mistakes" that he chalked up to inexperience.
"We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled," Green said, adding that the firm fully cooperated with the investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Hobby Lobby markets itself as a Christian company and famously took the government to court to secure a religious exemption from providing insurance plans that covered birth control.
Hobby Lobby found the tablets it'll happily pay forhttps://t.co/nr9wDjwZJM
— Rob Beschizza (@Beschizza) July 5, 2017
Evidence of cannibalism among past human species goes back almost one million years. But what made our ancestors eat each other? Probably not so much our nutritional value as it's sorely lacking, says University of Brighton archaeologist James Cole. From Erika Engelhaupt's article in National Geographic:
“When you compare us to other animals, we’re not very nutritional at all,” says study author James Cole of the University of Brighton, who published his work Thursday in Scientific Reports.
According to his estimates, boars and beavers pack about 1,800 calories into each pound of muscle compared with a measly 650 calories from a modern human. That’s about what would be expected based on our overall size and muscularity compared to other animals, he says.
So, Cole asks, if humans aren’t especially valuable in terms of prey, why eat them? After all, unless they are sick or dying, they wouldn’t be easy to hunt.
“You have to get together a hunting party and track these people, and then they aren’t just standing there waiting for you to stab them with a spear,” says Cole.
Instead, Cole argues that perhaps not all ancient cannibalism was for filling bellies; it may have also served various social functions for early humans and their ancestors...
“I agree with [Cole] that Paleolithic cannibalism was probably more often practiced as a ‘choice’ rather than mere ‘necessity,’” (says anthropologist Silvia Bello of the Natural History Museum in London). “I think, however, that to find the motivation of the choice is a very difficult matter.”
Behold the 540 million-year-old fossil remains of the earliest-known human ancestor! Saccorhytus was "likely an egg-shaped creature that ate and expelled from the same gaping orifice," just like Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon.
Read the rest
"This may represent the primitive beginnings of a very diverse range of species, including ourselves," said co-author Simon Conway Morris, a professor at Britain's University of Cambridge. Saccorhytus belongs to a broad category of organisms called deuterostomes, and is the most ancient specimen unearthed so far...
The sack-like animal's most distinctive feature is a large -- relative to the rest of its body -- mouth ringed by concentric circles of raised bumps. It probably ate by engulfing food particles and microscopic creatures. Intriguingly, the researchers did not find anything corresponding to an anus.
Tomorrow, you can bid to own the earliest known stone tablet carved with the Ten Commandments. The two-foot-square, 115 pound marble stone was discovered in 1913 near Yavneh, Israel. The inscription is dated circa 300-830 CE and the tablet is in one piece, so unfortunately it's probably not the original Ten Commandments delivered by God on Mount Sinai and promptly smashed by Charleston Heston. Opening bid is $220,000. From Heritage Auctions:
Read the rest
The details of the Yavneh Stone's discovery are related in an article by Y. Kaplan and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi in the 1947 Journal of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society. According to Mr. Kaplan's account, this extraordinary artifact was rediscovered in 1913, during the excavation of a railroad line along the southern coastal plain of Palestine. The discovery was made near Yavneh, an historic city called Jabneel in the Hebrew Bible. The workmen who found it did not recognize its importance and either sold or gave it to a local Arab man of some means, who set the stone into the threshold of a room leading to his inner courtyard, with the inscription facing up. Due to foot traffic, several words on the center left side of the tablet were blurred over time.
In 1943, thirty years after his father acquired it, the man's son sold the stone to Mr. Kaplan, who immediately recognized its importance as an extremely rare "Samaritan Decalogue," one of five such extant stone inscriptions dating to before the Muslim invasion of the seventh century CE...
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) granted export approval for this piece in perpetuity to the Living Torah Museum in a letter dated 20 March, 2005.
Peruvian archaeologists and activists have joined with the indigenous Harakmbut people to find legendary Incan lost cities. If they find them soon enough, traditional Harakmbut lands leased to an American oil company might be designated off-limits to drilling. Read the rest
In northwest China, archaeologists dug up an ancient corpse in a burial shroud of cannabis plants. The fellow was buried approximately 2,400 to 2,800 years ago. Archaeologist Hongen Jiang and colleagues described the discovery as an "extraordinary cache" of well-preserved plants. From National Geographic:
Thirteen cannabis plants, each up to almost three feet long, were placed diagonally across the man's chest, with the roots oriented beneath his pelvis and the tops of the plants extending from just under his chin, up and alongside the left side of his face.
This discovery adds to a growing collection of archaeological evidence showing that cannabis consumption was "very popular" across the Eurasian steppe thousands of years ago, says Jiang.
...This is the first time ever that archaeologists have recovered complete cannabis plants, as well as the first incidence of their use as a "shroud" or covering in a human burial, says Jiang.