Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

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Archive for the ‘Archaeology’ Category

Remote-Scanning Techniques Revolutionize Archaeology

Posted by Anonymous on July 31, 2012

The Discovery ProgrammeThe Glauberg is a hot spot for archaeologists. For decades, researchers have been studying the hill in the central German state of Hesse, where people settled some 7,000 years ago.

Over the millennia, the plateau was inhabited by Celts and Alemanni and, in the Middle Ages, people there built castles that reached for the sky. Accordingly, researchers have found plenty of artifacts. In 1996, they made the sensational discovery of an almost perfectly preserved statue of a Celtic warrior, which is now known as the Celtic Prince of Glauberg.

It was thought unlikely that the mound would yield any more big surprises. At least that was the assumption until people with flying lasers showed up. They flew an airplane over the Glauberg multiple times, sending pulses of light to the ground and measuring their echoes. This “light detection and ranging” technology, known as LIDAR, helps scientists record differences in altitude down to just a few centimeters. Trees and bushes are no obstacle to accurate measurements — they can simply be calculated out later with a computer. What remains is a three-dimensional image of the naked earth’s surface, including geometric formations that betray any structures that might be hidden underground.

The researchers were fairly stunned by what the remote-sensing technology turned up on the Glauberg. At first glance, they recognized around a dozen potential burial mounds that they hadn’t known about before. “We went and took a closer look at five of them,” says Axel Posluschny. “They were all burial mounds.”

via Remote-Scanning Techniques Revolutionize Archaeology – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

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Hoard of Crusader gold found in ruins

Posted by Anonymous on July 30, 2012

A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University has uncovered a hoard of real-life buried treasure at the Crusader castle of Arsur (also known as Apollonia), a stronghold located between the ancient ports of Jaffa and Caesarea, in use from 1241 to its destruction in 1265. The hoard, composed of 108 gold coins, mostly dinars dated to the Fatimid Period (ca. 900 to 1100 AD), was discovered in a pot by a university student. The coins bear the names of sultans and blessings, and usually include a date and a mint name that indicates where a coin was struck.

This fascinating find is the first of its kind, says Prof. Oren Tal, director of the excavation and Chairman of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures. “The scientific value is unprecedented. This is the first hoard of gold coins that we have in Israel that we can date to the Crusader period.”

Prof. Tal believes that the coins provide an important clue to how large-scale economic transactions were made in the Crusader period. “They were not afraid to use older coins in order to complete large transactions and run large-scale businesses,” he said, indicating that this “pot of gold” may be one of a group hidden in the castle, remnants of Arsur’s role as a business center where industrial and agricultural goods were traded.

According to Prof. Tal, the discovery adds to the debate over gold circulation during the time of the Crusades, a series of military incursions into the region to establish Christianity. It puts Fatimid-period coins, minted by Egyptian Sultans in the 10th and 11th centuries, in a Crusader context. Their use of gold from an earlier period is somewhat surprising, given the importance placed on coin minting.

Typically, societies mint their own coins, especially for the completion of large transactions, because it impacts more than just economics — it has marketing and public relations value. From a social and political standpoint, the minting of coins shows that a culture has the wealth and ability to make its own currency, feeding into a sense of independence as a people, cultural self-definition, and a collective identity, explains Prof. Tal.

Though historically priceless, the actual cash value of the coins is difficult to pin down, says Prof. Tal. A document found in the Cairo Genizah hints at the worth of the hoard, suggesting that two gold dinars, the face value on the coins that were found, can provide sufficiently for an extended family for one month.

Assuming the extended family includes a father, mother, sons, daughters, and their spouses and children, this could include 12 to 24 people. If 20 people can make their living for a month on two gold coins, the horde that was discovered could sustain 50 families for 30 days, or five families for approximately one year, all depending on the standard of living. …

via Hoard of Crusader gold found in ruins.

There are thousands of pots of gold like this waiting to be discovered. There could be one in your own backyard.

Posted in Archaeology | Leave a Comment »

Ancient Life-Size Lion Statues Baffle Scientists

Posted by Anonymous on July 27, 2012

lionTwo sculptures of life-size lions, each weighing about 5 tons in antiquity, have been discovered in what is now Turkey, with archaeologists perplexed over what the granite cats were used for.

One idea is that the statues, created between 1400 and 1200 B.C., were meant to be part of a monument for a sacred water spring, the researchers said.

The lifelike lions were created by the Hittites who controlled a vast empire in the region at a time when the Asiatic lion roamed the foothills of Turkey.

“The lions are prowling forward, their heads slightly lowered; the tops of their heads are barely higher than the napes,” write Geoffrey Summers, of the Middle East Technical University, and researcher Erol Özen in an article published in the most recent edition of the American Journal of Archaeology.

The two lion sculptures have stylistic differences and were made by different sculptors. The lion sculpture found in the village of Karakiz is particularly lifelike, with rippling muscles and a tail that curves around the back of the granite boulder.

“The sculptors certainly knew what lions looked like,” Summers told LiveScience in an interview. He said that both archaeological and ancient written records indicate that the Asiatic lion, now extinct in Turkey, was still very much around, some even being kept by the Hittites in pits.

Curiously the sculpture at Karakiz has an orange color caused by the oxidization of minerals in the stone. Summers said that he doesn’t believe it had this color when it was first carved. (Aerial Photos Reveal Mysterious Stone Structures)

The story of the discovery of the massive lions began in 2001, when Özen, at the time director of the Yozgat Museum, was alerted to the existence of the ancient quarry by a man from Karakiz village and an official from the Ministry of Culture. An extensive search of the area was undertaken in spring 2002 with fieldwork occurring in the following years.

Looters, however, beat the archaeologists to the catch. The Karakiz lion was found dynamited in two, likely in the mistaken belief that it contained hidden treasure. “There’s this belief that monuments like this contain treasure,” said Summers, explaining that the dynamiting of monuments is a problem in Turkey. “It makes the Turkish newspapers every month or so.”

The second lion, found to the northeast of the village, had also been split in two. As a result of this destruction both lion sculptures, which originally were paired with another, now mainly have one lion intact.

The danger of new looting loomed over the researchers while they went about their work. In the summer of 2008 evidence of “fresh treasure hunting” was found at the ancient quarry along with damage to a drum-shaped rock that, in antiquity, was in the process of being carved. …

via Ancient Life-Size Lion Statues Baffle Scientists : Discovery News.

Great headline, but after reading this, I wouldn’t say the scientists are baffled by these lion statues. Perhaps they are baffled by the stupidity of treasure hunters in Turkey, though.

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Ancient ‘mistake’ led to humans

Posted by Anonymous on July 27, 2012

http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201207/r977971_10669156.jpgMore than 500 million years ago a spineless ocean-dwelling creature experienced a dramatic change to its DNA, which may have led to the evolution of vertebrates, says a new study.

The good news is that these ancient DNA doublings boosted cellular communication systems, so that our body’s cells are now better at integrating information than even the smartest smartphones.

The bad part is that communication breakdowns, traced back to the very same genome duplications of the Cambrian Period, can cause diabetes, cancer and neurological disorders.

“Organisms that reproduce sexually usually have two copies of their entire genome, one inherited from each of the two parents,” says Professor Carol MacKintosh, co-author of a study appearing today in the Royal Society journal Open Biology.

“What happened over 500 million years ago is that this process ‘went wrong’ in an invertebrate animal, which somehow inherited twice the usual number of genes. In a later generation, the fault recurred, doubling the number of copies of each gene once again.”

MacKintosh, of the College of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee, says such duplications also happened in plant evolution. As for the progeny of the newly formed animal, they remarkably survived and thrived.

“The duplications were not stable, however, and most of the resulting gene duplicates were lost quickly – long before humans evolved,” she says. But some did survive, as MacKintosh and her team discovered.

Her research group studies a network of several hundred proteins that work inside human cells to coordinate their responses to growth factors and to insulin, a hormone. Key proteins involved in this process are called 14-3-3.

Cambrian ancestor

For this latest study, the scientists mapped, classified and conducted a biochemical analysis of the proteins. This found that they date back to the genome duplications, which occurred during the Cambrian.

The first animal to carry them remains unknown, but gene sequencing shows that a modern day invertebrate known as amphioxus “is most similar to the original spineless creature before the two rounds of whole genome duplication,” says MacKintosh. “Amphioxus can therefore be regarded as a ‘very distant cousin’ to all the vertebrate (backboned) species.”

The inherited proteins appear to have evolved to make a “team” that can tune into more growth factor instructions than would be possible with a single protein.

“These systems inside human cells therefore behave like the signal multiplexing systems that enable our smartphones to pick up multiple messages,” says MacKintosh.

The downside of multiplexing

The teamwork may not always be a good thing, though. The researchers propose that if a critical function were performed by a single protein, as in amphioxus, then its loss or mutation would likely be lethal, resulting in no disease.

If multiple proteins are working as a team, however, and one or more becomes lost or mutated, the individual may survive, but could still wind up with a debilitating disorder and pass it onto the next generation. Such breakdowns could help to explain how diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, are so entrenched in humans. …

via Ancient ‘mistake’ led to humans › News in Science (ABC Science).

Posted in Archaeology, Biology | Leave a Comment »

Medieval lingerie discovery pushes invention of the bra back by 500 years

Posted by Anonymous on July 26, 2012

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A team of Austrian archaeologists has discovered four bras from the 1400s. It reveals that women wore the garment some 500 years before fashion historians thought it was invented.

About 2,700 textile fragments were found in Castle Lengberg in Tyrol, Austria, by researchers from the University of Innsbruck. The garments were discovered stuffed inside a vault in the building’s south wing. Alongside fragments of a male codpiece, lots of shoes, and some shirts, archaeologists discovered four linen bras.

They resemble modern bras because they have distinctly cut cups. One of the most well-preserved pieces of underwear looks like the longline bra of the 1950s, as it has an extra piece that extends down to the bottom of the ribcage. Like a corset, six eyelets on the left side of the body would be used to fasten the garment with lace.

Another bra has two broad shoulder straps and a possible back strap (it hasn’t been preserved, but partially-torn edges suggest its existence). It’s elaborately decorated with needle-lace, sprang-work (an early form of knitting), and finger-loop-lace.

Two of the more fragmented specimens appear to be a combination of a bra and a short shirt, as they have additional cloth above the cups to cover the décolleté. They also have lacework for decoration.

Until now, historians placed the invention of the bra with either French corset-maker Herminie Cadolle in the late 1700s, or Mary Phelps Jacob who was awarded an US patent for the “technology” in 1914.

There were some medieval texts that referred to bra-like garments — sometimes mentioning pockets for the breasts or shirts with bags — but until now, there has been no physical evidence for the underwear.

Fibre samples of two of the bras were sent to the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zürich to be Carbon-14 dated. All results confirmed that the lingerie is from the 1400s. They were most likely sealed in the vault in around 1485, when renovations were made to the castle. …

via Medieval lingerie discovery pushes invention of the bra back by 500 years (Wired UK).

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Mystery of Lost Roman City Solved: Ancients Greened the Desert?

Posted by Anonymous on July 20, 2012

A well at Palmyra excavated by archaeologists.Today it’s a mirage-like expanse of monumental ruins. But under the Roman Empire, Palmyra was a trading metropolis, according to historical and archaeological evidence.

Despite nearly a century of research, though, a key question remains unanswered: How did this city of 200,000 thrive in the middle of an infertile Syrian desert?

Once a required stop on caravan routes that brought Asian goods west to eager Romans, Palmyra (map) has “always been conceived as an oasis in the middle of the desert, but it’s never been quite clear what it was living from,” said Michal Gawlikowski, the retired head of the University of Warsaw’s Polish Mission at Palmyra.

And what an oasis: Among the ruins are grand avenues lined with columns, triumphal arches, and the remains of an ancient market where traders once haggled over silk, silver, spices, and dyes from India and China. (Download Palmyra wallpaper.)

To find out what made it all possible, archaeologist Jørgen Christian Meyer began a four-year survey of the 40 square miles (104 square kilometers) just north of Palmyra in 2008. The area was targeted for its mountainous terrain, which channels precious rainwater to otherwise dry streambeds—making the region marginally less hostile to agriculture.

Through ground inspections and satellite images, the archaeologists eventually found outlines of more than 20 farming villages within a few days’ walk of the city—adding to about 15 smaller settlements previously uncovered by other researchers to the west of Palmyra.

Crucially, the researchers also found traces of extensive networks of man-made reservoirs and channels to capture and store the rainfall from sudden, seasonal storms, said Meyer, of the University of Bergen in Norway. …

via Mystery of Lost Roman City Solved: Ancients Greened the Desert?.

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Mona Lisa’s Skeleton Found?

Posted by Anonymous on July 20, 2012

Site-zoom

D’Aquino and colleagues had to dig through a foot of concrete before they unearthed a brick crypt containing the bones.

The bone hunt, which began last year, aims to possibly reconstruct Lisa’s face in order to see if her facial features match that of the iconic painting hanging at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Indeed, most scholars believe that the Mona Lisa, known as La Gioconda in Italian or La Joconde in French, is the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, a member of a minor noble family of rural origins who married the wealthy merchant Francesco del Giocondo.

The ambitious project is led by Silvano Vinceti, president of a private organization known as the National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage.

Known for controversial claims, like that letters and numbers are hidden inside the Mona Lisa painting, Vinceti has based his search in the convent on documents found by historian Giuseppe Pallanti some years ago.

“Lisa Gheradini did exist and lived a rather ordinary life,” Pallanti, who is not involved in the project, told Discovery News.

The historian traced back Lisa’s life from her birth on June 15, 1479, to her death at the age of 63.

NEWS: Mona Lisa’s Smile Hides Da Vinci’s Technique

In his research, Pallanti found several important documents, such as Francesco del Giocondo’s will. There, the merchant asked his younger daughter, Marietta, to take care of his “beloved wife,” Lisa.

At that time, Marietta, one of Lisa and Francesco’s five children, had become a nun, thus she brought her mother to the nearby convent of Sant’Orsola.

Lisa remained there until her death, according to a document known as a “Book of the Dead,” found by Pallanti in a church archive.

“Lisa di Francesco Del Giocondo died on July 15, 1542 and was buried in Sant’Orsola,” the document stated.

The record noted that the whole parish turned out for her funeral, showing that Lisa was rather famous among Florentine society.

Vinceti said that the newly discovered bones will undergo radiocarbon dating, hystological analysis and DNA testing.

“If the bones turn to be those of a female skeleton there will be two possibilities: Either they belong to the noblewoman Maria del Riccio or they belong to Lisa Gherardini. According to historic records, only these two women, who were not nuns, were given special burials in the convent,” Vinceti told the local daily La Nazione.

Eventually, comparisons will be made with the DNA of Bartolomeo and Piero, Lisa’s children who are buried in the church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence.

via Mona Lisa’s Skeleton Found? : Discovery News.

Posted in Archaeology, Art | Leave a Comment »

Sci-Fi Experiment Dominion: Dinosaurs vs. Aliens Is Far Smarter Than You Think

Posted by Anonymous on July 20, 2012

Tackling stimulating subjects like mass extinction and resource wars with nary a human character in sight, Grant Morrison and Barry Sonnenfeld’s Dominion: Dinosaurs vs. Aliens is a cerebral sci-fi experiment that’s far more ambitious than it sounds.In other words, the cross-platform project — with comics, motion comics and a movie trilogy in the works — is the opposite of what its sensational title implies.

Sonnenfeld, whose kinetic cinematography for Coen brothers classics like Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing, executive production of cult TV standout The Tick and helming of oddball film franchises like The Addams Family and Men in Black have carved him a Hollywood niche matched in peculiarity by Tim Burton and only a few others, said Morrison’s done wonders working with the project’s giant reptiles.

“It is amazing how he has created specific characters, emotion and culture for the dinosaurs, without using dialog,” Sonnenfeld told Wired.

Rather than simply a Cretaceous showdown of spectacular conflict between two expendable entertainment standbys, Dinosaurs vs. Aliens serves as a philosophical treatise on manifest destiny, genocide and indigenous revolt. Instead of another popcorny blockbuster thrown onto Hollywood’s disposable entertainment pile, it’s a pointed critique of overreaching civilization at the edge of oblivion.

But that’s what you should expect from outliers like Sonnenfeld and Morrison, whose exemplary work on comics — from the obscure Animal Man, Doom Patrol to the established Superman, Batman, Justice League, X-Men — have redefined the form. The pair’s work in comics, film and television typically drags what pop culture considers “normal” through the looking glass and into the engrossing zone. …

via Sci-Fi Experiment Dominion: Dinosaurs vs. Aliens Is Far Smarter Than You Think | Underwire | Wired.com.

Posted in Aliens, Archaeology, Science Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Neanderthals in northern Spain had knowledge of plants’ healing qualities, study reveals

Posted by Anonymous on July 19, 2012

An international team of researchers, led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the University of York, has provided the first molecular evidence that Neanderthals not only ate a range of cooked plant foods, but also understood its nutritional and medicinal qualities.

Until recently Neanderthals, who disappeared between 30,000 and 24,000 years ago, were thought to be predominantly meat-eaters. However, evidence of dietary breadth is growing as more sophisticated analyses are undertaken.

Researchers from Spain, the UK and Australia combined pyrolysis gas-chromatography-mass spectrometry with morphological analysis of plant microfossils to identify material trapped in dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from five Neanderthals from the north Spanish site of El Sidrón.

Their results, published in Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature this week, provide another twist to the story — the first molecular evidence for medicinal plants being used by a Neanderthal individual.

The researchers say the starch granules and carbohydrate markers in the samples, plus evidence for plant compounds such as azulenes and coumarins, as well as possible evidence for nuts, grasses and even green vegetables, argue for a broader use of ingested plants than is often suggested by stable isotope analysis.

Lead author Karen Hardy, a Catalan Institute of Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) Research Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and an Honorary Research Associate at the University of York, UK, said: “The varied use of plants we identified suggests that the Neanderthal occupants of El Sidrón had a sophisticated knowledge of their natural surroundings which included the ability to select and use certain plants for their nutritional value and for self-medication. While meat was clearly important, our research points to an even more complex diet than has previously been supposed.”

Earlier research by members of this team had shown that the Neanderthals in El Sidrón had the bitter taste perception gene. Now trapped within dental calculus researchers found molecular evidence that one individual had eaten bitter tasting plants.

Dr Stephen Buckley, a Research Fellow at the University of York’s BioArCh research facility, said: “The evidence indicating this individual was eating bitter-tasting plants such as yarrow and camomile with little nutritional value is surprising. We know that Neanderthals would find these plants bitter, so it is likely these plants must have been selected for reasons other than taste.”

Ten samples of dental calculus from five Neanderthals were selected for this study. The researchers used thermal desorption and pyrolysis gas-chromatography-mass spectrometry to identify both free/unbound and bound/polymeric organic components in the dental calculus. By using this method in conjunction with the extraction and analysis of plant microfossils, they found chemical evidence consistent with wood-fire smoke, a range of cooked starchy foods, two plants known today for their medicinal qualities, and bitumen or oil shale trapped in the dental calculus. …

via Neanderthals in northern Spain had knowledge of plants’ healing qualities, study reveals.

Posted in Archaeology, Biology | Leave a Comment »

Ancient pre-Inca tomb found in northern Peru

Posted by Anonymous on July 17, 2012

Ancient discovery: archaeologists found hundreds of artefacts in the tomb.Human remains and jewellery were found on July 4 along with the tomb, which was likely the final resting place of a member of the aristocracy of the Sican or Lambayeque elite, according to head researcher Carlos Wester La Torre.

A gold earflap, a silver-plated crown, and some 120 silver and copper ornaments that served as emblems of power, along with 116 pieces of pottery and seashells, were found in the tomb.

The tomb was located in a burial chamber about six metres deep in the Chotuna-Chornancap sanctuary near Chiclayo, at the same location where the remains of a Sican priestess were found in October.

“This discovery is very important because we now know one of the elite classes of Lambayeque culture,” said Mr Wester La Torre, speaking from Chiclayo, capital of the Lambayeque region.

The Sican culture, also referred to as the Lambayeque culture, worshipped the Sican Lord.

It emerged between the years 700 and 750, remaining in force until 1375 and reaching its high point between 900 and 1100.

At that time, there were about seven to eight Sican lords representing heavenly powers on Earth, complete with masked face, upturned eyes and pointed ears. …

via Ancient pre-Inca tomb found in northern Peru | ABC Radio Australia.

Posted in Archaeology | Leave a Comment »

 
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