Ancient news stories

Neanderthals Made A Mysterious 180,000-Year Cave Pilgrimage
21st December 2016 mysteriousuniverse.org | Ancient

Researchers at the University of Southampton have published research which shows evidence that a particular cave on the island of Jersey in the English Channel was used as a shelter by Neanderthals. What makes this find fascinating and mysterious is the fact that the same cave was used for over 180,000 years as a shelter as Neanderthals migrated due to shifts in climate.

Dental hygiene, caveman style
21st December 2016 | eurekalert.org | Ancient

Bits of wood recovered from a 1.2-million-year-old tooth found at an excavation site in northern Spain indicate that the ancient relatives of man may have use a kind of toothpick. Toothbrushes were not around yet, if the amount of hardened tartar build-up is anything to go by.

Megalodon Tooth May Have Inspired Mayan Creation Story
21st December 2016 mysteriousuniverse.org | Ancient

Megalodon is the extinct species of giant shark that is considered to be at the top of everyone’s all-time greatest predator list. Its name in ancient Greek means “big tooth” because big tooth fossils are the primary proof of its existence.

Tibetan dogs can survive at high altitudes, thanks to ancient breeding with wolves
19th December 2016 | sciencemag.org | Ancient, Animal Life

Tibetan mastiffs thrive where most dogs and people can’t: in the thin, frigid mountain air above 4000 meters. A new study suggests they acquired this talent by interbreeding with gray wolves that already ranged to such heights more than 20,000 years ago. Intriguingly, Tibetan people received their high-altitude fitness via the same mechanism—by interbreeding with now extinct humans known as Denisovans.

The Intergalactic Battle of Ancient Rome
18th December 2016 | smithsonianmag.com | Ancient

A long time ago, in a world not so far away, a young man who longed for adventure was swept up in a galactic war. Forced to choose between two sides in the deadly battle, he befriended a group of scrappy fighters who captained… three-headed vultures, giant fleas and space spiders?

Nearly 2,000 years before George Lucas created his epic space opera Star Wars, Lucian of Samosata (a province in modern-day Turkey) wrote the world’s first novel featuring space travel and interplanetary battles. True History was published around 175 CE during the height of the Roman Empire.

Mystery of London fog that killed 12,000 finally solved
18th December 2016 | usatoday.com | Ancient

The decades-old mystery of what caused a killer fog that claimed the lives of thousands of people here appears to have been solved by a team of international scientists.

Saved by Shakespeare’s Father, a Series of Medieval Murals Is Finally Restored
18th December 2016 hyperallergic.com | Ancient

A group of wall paintings in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Guild Chapel should have been destroyed in 1563, but John Shakespeare had them covered in limewash instead, preserving them for centuries.

Repatriating the Past: Filling the Holes in Egypt’s History Left by Looting – Katie A. Paul, The Antiquities Coalition
18th December 2016 | heritagedaily.com | Ancient

Upon entering the Egyptian Museum as tourists scan the cases of “wonderful things,” one case containing a stunning sarcophagus stands out. It’s eye catching not only because of the beauty of the artifact, but also because the label describing its location says “United States of America.” No, this is not a reproduction—it’s a stolen antiquity that was trafficked out of Egypt, and one of the few looted pieces that has made its way home.

Emergency in Mali as looters are plundering ancient treasures
18th December 2016 | newscientist.com | Ancient

It’s plunder on a mighty scale. An archaeological emergency will be declared in Mali today as ancient sites are destroyed and its heritage flows out of the country.

A ‘Stonehenge,’ and a Mystery, in the Amazon
17th December 2016 | nytimes.com | Ancient

As the foreman for a cattle ranch in the far reaches of the Brazilian Amazon, Lailson Camelo da Silva was razing trees to convert rain forest into pasture when he stumbled across a bizarre arrangement of towering granite blocks.

“I had no idea that I was discovering the Amazon’s own Stonehenge,”


Alt: The mystery of the ‘Amazon Stonehenge’: 1,000-year-old Megalithic stone circle in Brazil hints that ancient civilizations were more sophisticated than first thought

Ancient Mayan Superhighways Found in Guatemalan Rain Forest
17th December 2016 mysteriousuniverse.org | Ancient

Is there anything the Mayans didn’t do? If you said “Build the world’s first superhighways,” give your Magic 8-Ball another shake and try again because a new study has found evidence in Guatemala of a 2,000-year-old network of roads covering over 240 km (150 miles) that was used by the Mayans there for travel and for transporting goods.

Earth’s driest desert once had lakes
17th December 2016 | bbc.com | Ancient, Earth

The driest desert on Earth may once have had lakes and wetlands, scientists report.

They have found the remnants of freshwater plants and animals buried in the arid plains of Chile’s Atacama Desert.

This watery period dates to between 9,000 and 17,000 years ago.

Greenland was ice-free. Scientists worry it could be again
17th December 2016 | futurity.org | Ancient, Earth

For a period about a million years ago Greenland wasn’t covered in ice. Researchers say the discovery suggests it’s possible the ice sheet could go away again.

Before now, scientists didn’t know whether Greenland’s ice sheet was so stable that it would just weather any climate changes, or if there were ever a period in which Greenland was, if not verdant, at least a bit rocky.

Earliest Europeans Did Not Use Fire for Cooking, Researchers Say
17th December 2016 | sci-news.com | Ancient

Europe’s earliest humans did not use fire, but had a balanced diet of meat and plants — all eaten raw, according to a team of researchers led by Karen Hardy of the University of York and the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Oldest early human footprints suggest males had several ‘wives’
16th December 2016 | newscientist.com | Ancient

Three has become five. Laetoli in northern Tanzania is the site of iconic ancient footprints, capturing the moment – 3.66 million years ago – when three members of Lucy’s species (Australopithecus afarensis) strode out across the landscape.

Now something quite unexpected has come to light: the footprints of two other individuals.


Alt: ‘Lucy’ Species May Have Been Polygynous

New Research Suggests Monogamy Killed the Penis Bone in Humans
16th December 2016 gizmodo.com | Ancient

Although we call erections “boners,” anyone who has basic familiarity with human anatomy knows our slang deceives us—for unlike most mammals, men have no penis bones. For decades scientists have wondered, “Why? No? Penis Bone?” A new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society might finally answer the mystery of what killed the penis bone: monogamy.

Did Neanderthals Believe in God? Child’s Grave Might Hold the Key
16th December 2016 | haaretz.com | Ancient

We aren’t sure whether they could speak, let alone intone liturgy over their dead in the light of controlled fires, but a child’s burial site in Spain suggests they might well have, say archaeologists.

News stories covering history, archaeology, ancient Egypt, and mysteries of the past.