Herodotus Returns

Second Neolithic Venus discovered at Orkney
July 26, 2010, 5:59 pm
Filed under: Scotland | Tags: , , , , ,

An article of mine from Heritage Key:

The Venus of Orkney, a 4,500-year-old Neolithic sandstone figurine hailed as Scotland’s earliest depiction of a human face, has been a darling of British archaeology since it was excavated last year on the remote island of Westray. Now, the Venus, which earned a nomination at the recent British Archaeology Awards, will have to share the limelight – archaeologists at the Links of Noltland site on Westray have uncovered a second remarkable Neolithic figurine, less than 100 feet from where the Venus was discovered.

Read the rest of the Heritage Key article here.

Here’s a photograph I took last year at the archaeology museum in Ankara, Turkey of a fertility figure excavated at the fantastic Neolithic site of Catalhoyuk. This statuette dates back roughly 8,000 years.

And another of a similar ‘Venus’ figurine excavated at Malta. This one goes back 23,000 years.

Hundreds other Venus figures similar to these two have been excavated all over Europe. The pendants found at Orkney are considered to be in the same ‘family’ in form and function.


Australian aboriginal rock art pushes back contact date with Southasia
July 24, 2010, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Australia, Rock Art | Tags: , , , , ,

Makassan traders arrived at the Australian coasts as early as the mid-1600s

Australian archaeologists have found rock art dating from the early 1600s that shows the arrival of south Asian ships. That obviously undermines the popular belief that the continent was completely disconnected from the outside world until British fleets arrived ‘Down Under’ in 1788.

Historians and archaeologists have speculated that visits to the northern parts of Australia from Southeast Asian ships have been happening for hundreds of years before European settlements.

Traders from Makassar (in what is now Indonesia) visited the coast of northern Australia dry and smoke the trepang – or sea cucumber – they caught, before taking their catch back to the Makassar and other Southeasian markets, where it was highly valued. At the hight of the ancient trepang trade, large fleets of Macassan ships would sail to Arnhem Land and stay for the entire monsoon season. The trade lasted up to the end of the 19th century.

Dr Stewart Fallon at ANU now radiocarbon dated the beeswax snake above the dug out canoe to between 1624 and 1674AD, meaning that this is a minimum age for the sailing vessel painting. The rock art evidence dates the visits back as early as the 17th century.

More from Heritage Key.

More on Bering Language Bridge
July 15, 2010, 8:55 am
Filed under: Native Americans, Siberia

Here’s another good article on the research which ties Siberians to Native Americans linguistically, which I posted on recently. It cites how words associated with the canoe led to the breakthroughs. The charming part of the story is the Yukon-based natives ‘forging cultural and political’ ties with the few hundred Siberians who speak Ket. In April, apparently, they sent ambassadors to Moscow to meet with their long-lost linguistic brothers. What I wouldn’t have given to see that meeting.

The collection of articles by Vajda and other experts details a multitude of clear connections — nouns, verbs and key grammatical structures — between the language spoken by the Ket people of Russia’s Yenisei River region and dozens of languages used by North American aboriginal groups.

The newly recognized link has prompted the Yukon-based Arctic Athabaskan Council to begin forging cultural and political ties with Russia’s tiny population of Ket speakers. They live 8,000 kilometres west of Whitehorse and are separated from their linguistic cousins in North America by some 10,000 years of history.

University of Alberta linguist Jack Ives writes in the essay collection that “the question of just how such a distribution arose — with a separation between Siberia and northwestern North America involving thousands of kilometres — is simply fascinating.”

Full article here.

Ballooner discovers Bronze age graves
July 15, 2010, 8:26 am
Filed under: Bronze Age, England | Tags:

The crop circles

Bronze Age burial mounds brought to light by a drought were spotted by a hot air ballooner in Britain.

Hot air balloon pilot Michael Wolf, of Reading Road, Wallingford, was training another pilot near North Stoke when they spotted several dark circles in a farmer’s field.

Crops had grown at different speeds because of ancient ditches hidden beneath the soil which once surrounded prehistoric burial mounds.

The site dates back 3,500 years but is hidden under fields and normally cannot be seen.

The 52-year-old said: “In twelve years of ballooning, I have never seen anything as clear as this. It was like looking down on a map.

“I have flown over this field before, and never seen any marks. The hot weather must have created absolutely perfect conditions for seeing the marks.”

He added: “There were seven or eight big circles. It was absolutely fantastic.”

More here.

Help find Genghis Khan’s Tomb
July 13, 2010, 8:58 am
Filed under: Mongolia | Tags: ,

Cool article from Wired about how National Geographic Digital Media is recruiting internet surfers the world over to assist in an archaeological survey for Gengis Khan’s tomb in Mongolia.

By combining the use of high tech tools and crowdsourcing, their small team of explorers, led by Albert Lin, turns into a team of thousands working together to identify possible tomb locations. This is done by having the general public studying satellite images and identifying the features we see. There’s no way the small team would have enough time to search the entire area themselves, so our help is invaluable. It’s amazing how helpful we can be without being experts on satellite imagery. It’s very easy to spot rivers and roads, and pretty intuitive to spot modern structures, such as yurts, and signs of ancient or buried structures, such as burial mounds or odd land patterns. Then, combining this information with real-time data and maps, the expedition gets a clearer picture of the different areas of Mongolia.

More on helping find Genghis Khan’s tomb.

Two 4,300-year-old tombs discovered at Saqqara
July 9, 2010, 3:24 am
Filed under: Egypt | Tags: , , , ,

The false door of the unearthed tomb of Shendwas, ...

Two tombs of Old Kingdom ancient Egyptian royal scribes – a father and son – have been unearthed in Saqqara. The photos of the tomb paintings are remarkable. Forty-three-hundred years old and they look like they were painted yesterday. True time capsules. I saw some tombs in Luxor last year that were similar. The tomb of a royal scribe called Roy, in a necropolis called the Tombs of the Nobles was all but perfect. (see photo after excerpt).

The tomb includes two false doors with colorful paintings depicting the two people buried there, a father and a son who served as heads of the royal scribes, said Abdel-Hakim Karar, a top archaeologist at Saqqara.

“The colors of the false door are fresh as if it was painted yesterday,” Karar told reporters.

Humidity had destroyed the sarcophagus of the father, Shendwas, while the tomb of the son, Khonsu, was robbed in antiquity, he said.

Also insribed on the father’s false door was the name of Pepi II, whose 90-year reign is believed to be the longest of the pharaohs. The inscription dates the double tomb to the 6th dynasty, which marked the beginning of the decline of the Old Kingdom, also known as the age of pyramids.

Associated Press has some good coverage on the story, featuring beautiful photos and plenty of face time with Grand Wizard of Antiquity, Zahi Hawass.

Link between ancient asian and north american languages

Genetic evidence supports the fact that people – at least during one migration – arrived in the Americas via the Bering land bridge between Siberia and and modern-day Alaska. Now, one researcher is teasing out linguistic evidence. Edward Vajda, of the University of Washington, is revealing connections between the language of the isolated Ket people of central Siberia and about 45 different Native American languages. Here’s an excerpt from an article I found, but I recommend you read the whole article – pretty fascinating stuff.

The importance of studying a disappearing language goes far beyond a personal linguistic interest, Vajda explained.

“It’s a new way to understand human prehistory before there were historians to write it down. Isolated languages like Ket have developed features that are very unusual and interesting, and they help us to understand the human mind and human language ability.”

“We linguists should not be the focus of attention here,” Vajda added. “What is important are the languages and especially the Native communities themselves.”

The rest of the article, here.