Ancient news stories
Of all the oddities in St. Augustine, Florida, the Moorish Alhambra palace-inspired Villa Zorayda Museum may possess the oddest. Legend holds that a mummified foot wrapped in a rug was acquired from a pyramid in Egypt sometime prior to 1913. The rug itself, which depicts a large stylized feline much like an African wildcat is on display inside the castle. Experts determined the textile to be over 2,400 years old, making it arguably one of the oldest rugs in the world. An examination of the rug confirmed that it is woven entirely from cat hair.
Sorghum was domesticated from its wild ancestor more than 5,000 years ago, according to archaeological evidence uncovered by University College London archaeologists in Sudan.
At the site of an ancient Chester’s Fort in England, an artist has managed to honour history, bringing back the ghosts from the past through an installation that plays with sound and renewable energy. Called Hadrian’s Cavalry 360°, the piece is a large circle inside which visitors can stand and hear the simulated sound of 500 horses galloping, as an ode to the cavalry stationed at Hadrian’s Wall in the 2nd century. Article contains a short YouTube video of the unique device in action.
Barely four miles off the Swedish coast, in the Baltic Sea, the rocky island of Öland was once witness to a gruesome mass murder. Archaeologists uncovered skeleton after skeleton there—bodies that had initially been left unburied. Experts estimate that this mysterious massacre at Sandby borg, one of the island’s 15 ancient forts, took place in the 5th century. The fort’s 15 foot tall ramparts, which once protected 53 houses and their inhabitants, were no match for whichever assailants stormed the settlement. Now, a discovery of two gold rings and a coin at the site may hint at the motive behind what appears to have been a particularly bloody personal attack.
An ancient 4,800 year old Great Basin Bristlecone Pine known as the Methuselah Tree grows high in the White Mountains of eastern California. Named for the Biblical figure that lived for 969 years, the Methuselah Tree grows in Inyo National Forest’s “Forest of Ancients.” The exact location of Methuselah is kept secret to protect it against vandalism. Once thought to be the oldest living tree in the world, it was germinated before the Egyptian Pyramids were built.
Around 8,000 years ago, in the woodlands of what is now the eastern United States, hunter-gatherers began to make stone objects with holes drilled in them that have no parallel in any other prehistoric society. Today archaeologists call these highly polished and sometimes elaborate objects “bannerstones.” Just why they were made only during the so-called Archaic period, which ended around 3,000 years ago, has been debated by archaeologists for more than a hundred years.
Athrotaxis selaginoides, known as King Billy or King William pines, are endemic to Tasmania. The trees, which are actually conifers but not pines, have been used in an eight year study by an international research team to understand the environmental history of Australia. Core sample tree ring chronology shows the growth rate of the ancient trees, which can be used to interpret the climate and other environmental influences in Tasmania.
The postholes of a 4,000 year old Late Neolithic dwelling have been uncovered at a construction site in Denmark, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. Found on the northern island of Zealand, the outline of soil stains indicates the house measured nearly 150 feet long and more than 20 feet wide. It had two aisles where archaeologists think a wealthy family lived with their farmhands and livestock.
While excavating a refuse pit containing a mélange of burned animal bones, grape seeds, olive pits, and chickpeas, archaeologists working in the ancient Phoenician town of Porphyreon in present-day Lebanon also retrieved fragments of several ceramic female heads dating to around 2,400 years ago. Researchers reassembled the fragments and found that the heads measured around 9 x 6 inches in dimension and may have hung on a wall.
New radiocarbon dates show that a mask discovered in a valley in northwest Argentina is the oldest worked copper artifact ever found in the Andes. The 3,000-year-old mask, which depicts a stylized human face, was discovered in the grave of a man who lived at a time when Andean peoples were first beginning to practice agriculture
Over the past 50 years, though, more and more cracks have appeared in this picture. We now know settled agriculture existed for several thousand years before the emergence of the city states of the Near East and Asia. In the past few years, archaeologists have been stunned to find 11,000-year-old structures such as those at Göbekli Tepe, in what is now southern Turkey. These were built by peoples who foraged, and who also developed specialised skills, both artistic and artisanal.
Eyecatching beltbuckles worn by Xiongnu female invaders is found buried on the banks of the Yenesei River in Mongolia. Women buried in a unique ancient necropolis went to the afterlife wearing intriguingly decorated beltbuckles made of coal inlaid with jade and carnelian. They were also adorned with flame-shaped bronze decorations on their shoulders. In addition, they wore magnificent bronze beltbuckles artistically engraved and embossed depicting fantastical animals such as dragons, bulls, leopards, panthers, horses, yaks and snakes.
Sibudu, a rock shelter near Tongaat in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, has a long and diverse archaeological sequence. A new study by scientists at the University of the Witwatersrand suggests that about 58,000 years ago, Stone Age humans began to settle down, staying in one area for longer periods. The research also provides a potential answer to a long-held mystery: why older, Howiesons Poort complex technological tradition in South Africa, suddenly disappear at that time.
The Nile River spans almost 4,175 miles (6719 km), crosses nine countries throughout Africa, and is widely regarded as the longest river in the world. While all this might be considered common knowledge, the winding waters of the famous river have many intriguing facts that you might not know. Here are ten of the most fascinating ones.