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Posts Tagged ‘archaeologists’

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Photo: Hayam Adel/Reuters
Cat statues found near Saqqara’s necropolis are pictured in Giza, Egypt. Recently, mummified cats, birds, lion cubs, and an enormous mummified beetle have also been found.

Members of my extended family are making a trip to Egypt this year, where the youngest generation can meet relatives they have only heard about and visit famous cultural sites. Maybe a toddler will get to ride a camel, who knows?

Historic sites in Egypt are benefiting from ongoing discoveries by archaeologists, as Ruth Michaelson reports at the Guardian.

“A rare discovery of mummified big cats, cobras and crocodiles has been unveiled by Egyptian authorities.

“Egyptologists are thrilled at the cache, which includes dozens of mummified cats, 75 wooden and bronze cat statues, mummified birds, and an enormous mummified beetle three to four times the normal size. …

“Of five large mummified wildcats, two have been identified as lion cubs; the remaining three will be analysed to determine their species.

“ ‘If it’s a cheetah, a leopard, a lioness, a panther – whatever, it will be one of its kind,’ said Mostafa Waziry, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Antiquities.

“The mummified large cats were found close to the remains of an adult mummified lion discovered beneath the Saqqara necropolis in 2004, and provide more information about the ancient Egyptians’ use of animals in worship.

“Worshippers either believed that the mummified animals were deities to be worshipped, or mummified the creatures in order to offer them to the gods. ‘People would make devotional offerings in the form of animals as mummies,’ said Dr Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist and mummy expert at the American University of Cairo. …

“Ikram was elated by the new finds, which she estimated date from the Ptolemaic period that ended in 30BCE. ‘I think it’s one of the most exciting series of finds in the world of animal mummies ever,’ she said.

“Egyptian officials hope the new discoveries will spark curiosity among potential visitors to the country in the run-up to the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum close to the Saqqara necropolis. The long delayed opening is expected [in 2020], amid fervent hopes the project will help draw tourist numbers back to the highs of over 14 million visitors who came to the country in 2010, before the 2011 revolution which overthrew former autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

“Political instability and concerns about security drove down tourist numbers in the years following, dipping to record lows after the downing of Metrojet flights 7K9268 close to the resort town of Sharm el Sheikh in 2015. In recent years there has been a surge in arrivals, with 11.3 million people visiting Egypt last year, according to local news reports. The UK recently lifted a ban on flights to Sharm el Sheikh that had been in place since 2015.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Martin Lemke
The city of Bassania in Albania is no longer a legend.

There is always more to be discovered. Maybe just under our feet.

That is what some archaeologists found not long ago in Albania.

As Christina Ayele Djossa writes at Atlas Obscura, “Sometimes, rocks are more than crumbled pieces of the earth. Sometimes, they unveil clues about our planet’s ancient past or future. For archaeologists from the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre at the University of Warsaw, the rocks in Shkodër, Albania, turned out to be the ruins of the 2,000-year-old lost city of Bassania.

“Back then, Bassania was an economic and military stronghold, part of the Illyrian kingdom, which existed from 400 to 100 B.C. The ancient city contained numerous settlements and fortresses, one of which the archaeologists unearthed.

“What they found were ancient stones of a fortress guarded with large bastions and roughly 10-foot-wide stonewalls and gates. These defensive buildings, according to University of Warsaw professor Piotr Dyczek, are common in Hellenistic architecture. The team confirmed the age of the ruins by analyzing nearby coins and ceramic vessel fragments, which dated back to the time of the Illyrian kingdom. …

“But this city, and the Illyrian kingdom, ultimately fell to a Roman invasion in the beginning of the first century. This may be why it took so long for archaeologists to find Bassania. … The Polish and Albanian archaeologists also speculate that the location’s geological infrastructure has something to do with it. The ruins are found on a ‘hill locally called “lips of viper” in [the village of] Bushat, a few miles from Shkodër,’ wrote Dyczek. After years of erosion, the stone remnants look like a part of the sandstones and conglomerates that make up the hill. So to a passerby, it might look like a bunch of stones, not a structure made by humans.”

Now I want to know why any hill would be called “lips of viper.” Always more discoveries to be made.

More at Atlas Obscura, here.

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There is still so much to be discovered about the cosmos, medicine,  psychology, nature … and human history.

Claire Voon’s story at Hyperallergic about a “new” 2,800-year-old painted sarcophagus is a case in point. The colorful hieroglyphs promise to add to our knowledge.

Voon reports, “Archaeologists in Luxor have found an exquisitely decorated, millennia-old sarcophagus near the pharaonic temple of Thutmose III that still contains the remains of its ancient owner. The discovery is the most recent to emerge from the Spanish Thutmosis III Temple Project excavation, which since 2008 has explored the 18th Dynasty pharaoh’s funerary complex, situated along the west bank of the Nile. …

“Archaeologists are now starting to piece together the history of the coffin’s permanent resident. Although termites had eaten away at parts of the slim, wooden container, as the team’s head, Myriam Seco Alvarez, told El Mundo, the surface still retains a rich array of hieroglyphs that offer clues. Sarcophagi are much more than simple containers for the departed, and the pictorial script on this one records that it belonged to a man named Amenrenef, who once served as a royal court advisor.

“The images, whose bright pigments have been preserved after all this time, also depict religious figures such as the ancient goddesses Isis and Nephtys and the four sons of Horus.

“The archeologists have since removed the sarcophagus from its tomb and brought it to a lab, where it will undergo restoration. The team also plans to carry out X-ray examinations to determine the exact state of the remains inside.” More here.

Photo: Thutmosis III Temple Project
A decorated sarcophagus recently found by Spanish archaeologists near Luxor.

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Raise your hand if you were taught that one day centuries ago people in Siberia woke up and crossed a land bridge to North America and became the first Native Americans.

That’s OK as far as it goes, but history doesn’t stand still, and new discoveries suggest that before they got to North America, the Siberians stayed over on the bridge for a few thousand years. Who figured out the new chapters? Archaeologists and geneticists. And linguists.

Nicholas Wade writes in the NY Times, “Using a new method for exploring ancient relationships among languages, linguists have found evidence further illuminating the peopling of North America about 14,000 years ago. Their findings follow a recent proposal that the ancestors of Native Americans were marooned for some 15,000 years on a now sunken plain before they reached North America.

“This idea, known as the Beringian standstill hypothesis, has been developed by geneticists and archaeologists over the last seven years. …

“Though often referred to as a bridge, the now sunken region, known as Beringia, was in fact a broad plain. It was also relatively warm, and supported trees such as spruce and birch, as well as grazing animals.

Writing in the journal Science last month, John F. Hoffecker, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado, summarized the evidence for thinking the Beringian plain was the refuge for the ancestral Native American population identified by the geneticists. ‘The shrub tundra zone in central Beringia represents the most plausible home for the isolated standstill population,” he and colleagues wrote. …

“Linguists have until now been unable to contribute to this synthesis of genetic and archaeological data. The first migrations to North America occurred between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago, but most linguists have long believed that language trees cannot be reconstructed back further than 8,500 years. …

“But in 2008, Edward Vajda, a linguist at Western Washington University, said he had documented a relationship between Yeniseian, a group of mostly extinct languages spoken along the Yenisei River in central Siberia, and Na-Dene.

“The Na-Dene languages are spoken in Alaska and western Canada, with two outliers in the American Southwest, Navajo and Apache.” More here.

This is why it’s important for someone to be interested in studying mostly extinct languages spoken along the Yenisei River in central Siberia.

Map: Science, a journal, and the New York Times

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