It is one of Britain’s most intriguing archeological mysteries.
When two almost perfectly preserved 3,000-year-old human skeletons were dug up on a remote Scottish island, they were the first evidence that ancient Britons preserved their dead using mummification.
The scientists who uncovered the bodies also found clues that one of them – a man buried in a crouching position – was not a single individual, but had in fact been assembled from the body parts of several different people.
The discovery began a 10-year investigation into what had led the bronze-age islanders to this strange fate.
Now, a new study using the latest in DNA technology has found that the two skeletons together comprise the remains of at least six different individuals, who died several hundred years apart.
Children playing near a hillside gravel mine found the first graves. One ran home to tell his mother, who was skeptical at first—until the boy produced a skull.
Because this was Griswold, Connecticut, in 1990, police initially thought the burials might be the work of a local serial killer named Michael Ross, and they taped off the area as a crime scene. But the brown, decaying bones turned out to be more than a century old. The Connecticut state archaeologist, Nick Bellantoni, soon determined that the hillside contained a colonial-era farm cemetery. New England is full of such unmarked family plots, and the 29 burials were typical of the 1700s and early 1800s: The dead, many of them children, were laid to rest in thrifty Yankee style, in simple wood coffins, without jewelry or even much clothing, their arms resting by their sides or crossed over their chests.
Except, that is, for Burial Number 4.
Bellantoni was interested in the grave even before the excavation began. It was one of only two stone crypts in the cemetery, and it was partially visible from the mine face.
Scraping away soil with flat-edged shovels, and then brushes and bamboo picks, the archaeologist and his team worked through several feet of earth before reaching the top of the crypt. When Bellantoni lifted the first of the large, flat rocks that formed the roof, he uncovered the remains of a red-painted coffin and a pair of skeletal feet. They lay, he remembers, “in perfect anatomical position.” But when he raised the next stone, Bellantoni saw that the rest of the individual “had been completely…rearranged.” The skeleton had been beheaded; skull and thighbones rested atop the ribs and vertebrae. “It looked like a skull-and-crossbones motif, a Jolly Roger. I’d never seen anything like it,” Bellantoni recalls.
Subsequent analysis showed that the beheading, along with other injuries, including rib fractures, occurred roughly five years after death. Somebody had also smashed the coffin.
The other skeletons in the gravel hillside were packaged for reburial, but not “J.B.,” as the 50ish male skeleton from the 1830s came to be called, because of the initials spelled out in brass tacks on his coffin lid. He was shipped to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, in Washington, D.C., for further study. Meanwhile, Bellantoni started networking. He invited archaeologists and historians to tour the excavation, soliciting theories. Simple vandalism seemed unlikely, as did robbery, because of the lack of valuables at the site.
Finally, one colleague asked: “Ever heard of the Jewett City vampires?”
In 1854, in neighboring Jewett City, Connecticut, townspeople had exhumed several corpses suspected to be vampires that were rising from their graves to kill the living. A few newspaper accounts of these events survived. Had the Griswold grave been desecrated for the same reason?
In the course of his far-flung research, Bellantoni placed a serendipitous phone call to Michael Bell, a Rhode Island folklorist, who had devoted much of the previous decade to studying New England vampire exhumations. The Griswold case occurred at roughly the same time as the other incidents Bell had investigated. And the setting was right: Griswold was rural, agrarian and bordering southern Rhode Island, where multiple exhumations had occurred. Many of the other “vampires,” like J.B., had been disinterred, grotesquely tampered with and reburied.
In light of the tales Bell told of violated corpses, even the posthumous rib fractures began to make sense. J.B.’s accusers had likely rummaged around in his chest cavity, hoping to remove, and perhaps to burn, his heart.
Headquartered in a charming old schoolhouse, the Middletown Historical Society typically promotes such fortifying topics as Rhode Island gristmill restoration and Stone Wall Appreciation Day. Two nights before Halloween, though, the atmosphere is full of dry ice vapors and high silliness. Fake cobwebs cover the exhibits, warty gourds crowd the shelves and a skeleton with keen red eyes cackles in the corner. “We’ll turn him off when you start talking,” the society’s president assures Michael Bell, who is readying his slide show.
The first ever Etruscan pyramids have been located underneath a wine cellar in the city of Orvieto in central Italy, according to a team of U.S. and Italian archaeologists.
Carved into the rock of the tufa plateau –a sedimentary area that is a result of volcanic activity — on which the city stands, the subterranean structures were largely filled. Only the top-most modern layer was visible.
“Within this upper section, which had been modified in modern times and was used as a wine cellar, we noticed a series of ancient stairs carved into the wall. They were clearly of Etruscan construction,” David B. George of the Department of Classics at Saint Anselm, told Discovery News.
As they started digging, George and co-director of the excavation Claudio Bizzarri of the Parco Archeologico Ambientale dell’Orvietano noted that the cave’s walls were tapered up in a pyramidal fashion. Intriguingly, a series of tunnels, again of Etruscan construction, ran underneath the wine cellar hinting to the possibility of deeper undiscovered structures below.
After going through a mid-20th century floor, George and Bizzarri reached a medieval floor. Immediately beneath this floor, they found a layer of fill that contained various artifacts such as Attic red figure pottery from the middle of the 5th Century B.C., 6th and 5th century B.C. Etruscan pottery with inscriptions as well as various objects that dated to before 1000 B.C.
Climate change likely means problems for our future, but it’s also capable of doing damage to the past. A 500-year-old Alaskan site was first revealed as the ice melted, but now erosion is pulling the site into the sea.
The site, known as Nunalleq, belongs to that of the Yup’ik Eskimos culture, which once dominated an area of land roughly the size of Minnesota. They have remained largely absent from the archaeological record until artifacts began appearing out of the ground near the village of Quinhagak. It’s kind of an archaeological catch-22: if the warmer climate hadn’t melted the ice, we likely never would have discovered the site in the first place. But that same process is destroying the soil just as quickly as archaeologists can uncover its secrets.
Workers have discovered hundreds of bones belonging to Ice Age animals, including mammoths, mastodons and glyptodons, while digging to build a wastewater treatment plant north of Mexico City.
The bones could be between 10,000 and 12,000 years old and may include a human tooth from the late Pleistocene period, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said on Thursday.
Tusks, skulls, jawbones, horns, ribs, vertebrae and shells were discovered 65 feet deep in Atotonilco de Tula, a town in the state of Hidalgo, as workers built a drain, the institute said.
These remains belong to a range of species including mastodons, mammoths, camels, horses, deer and glyptodons, the armadillo’s ancestor. Some bones may belong to bison, while others have not been identified.
Archeologists have worked for the past five months to recover the bones.
“It is the largest and most varied discovery of extinct megafauna found together in the Mexico basin,” archeologist Alicia Bonfil Olivera said in a statement.
The results of recent research suggests that ancient, or prehistoric, builders of the monumental structures found in such diverse places as Ireland, Malta, southern Turkey and Peru all have a peculiarly common characteristic — they may have been specially designed to conduct and manipulate sound to produce certain sensory effects.
Beginning in 2008, a recent and ongoing study of the massive 6,000-year-old stone structure complex known as the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum on the island of Malta, for example, is producing some revelatory results. Like its related prehistoric temple structures on Malta, this structure features central corridors and curved chambers. But this structure is unique in that it is subterranean, created through the removal of an estimated 2,000 tons of stone carved out with stone hammers and antler picks. Low voices within its walls create eerie, reverberating echoes, and a sound made or words spoken in certain places can be clearly heard throughout all of its three levels. Now, scientists are suggesting that certain sound vibration frequencies created when sound is emitted within its walls are actually altering human brain functions of those within earshot.
“Regional brain activity in a number of healthy volunteers was monitored by EEG through exposure to different sound vibration frequencies,” reports Malta temple expert Linda Eneix of the Old Temples Study Foundation, “The findings indicated that at 110 Hz the patterns of activity over the prefrontal cortex abruptly shifted, resulting in a relative deactivation of the language center and a temporary shifting from left to right-sided dominance related to emotional processing and creativity. This shifting did not occur at 90 Hz or 130 Hz……In addition to stimulating their more creative sides, it appears that an atmosphere of resonant sound in the frequency of 110 or 111 Hz would have been “switching on” an area of the brain that bio-behavioral scientists believe relates to mood, empathy and social behavior. Deliberately or not, the people who spent time in such an environment under conditions that may have included a low male voice — in ritual chanting or even simple communication — were exposing themselves to vibrations that may have actually impacted their thinking.” 
The city states of the ancient Mayan empire flourished in southern Mexico and northern Central America for about six centuries. Then, around A.D. 900 Mayan civilization disintegrated.
Two new studies examine the reasons for the collapse of the Mayan culture, finding the Mayans themselves contributed to the downfall of the empire.
Scientists have found that drought played a key role, but the Mayans appear to have exacerbated the problem by cutting down the jungle canopy to make way for cities and crops, according to researchers who used climate-model simulations to see how much deforestation aggravated the drought.
“We’re not saying deforestation explains the entire drought, but it does explain a substantial portion of the overall drying that is thought to have occurred,” said the study’s lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate modeler at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in a statement. [Dry and Dying: Images of Drought]
Via: Daily Tech
For scientists the evolution debate regarding man is far from over. No, not that debate — the debate among researchers largely involves where the earliest primates (which predate the hominids that surveyed the Pleistocene plains of Africa) evolved, and also where humans migrated early in their history.
A newly published study [abstract] in the prestigious peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal offers both the oldest confirmed human skull fossil, and evidence of early migration from mankind’s likely evolution location (in Africa) to a new home in Southeast Asia.
Researchers traveled to a cave near Tam Pa Ling in the Annamite Mountains where a 16,000-year-old human skull was discovered in the early 1900s. Searching deeper, they found a skull that was dated (using direct uranium dating) to a maximum age of 63,000 years ago. Combined with luminescent (which measures stored energy from solar heat/radiation in the crystalline component of soil buried in dark locations) and carbon dating of the surrounding sediments, it was determined that the individual — whose gender was not determined in the work — lived between 46,000 and 51,000 years ago.
The woman, probably about 25 years old, was buried some 2,500 years ago and found in 1993. She probably belonged to the Pazyryk tribe, nomads who inhabited the area for centuries. Kept cold in the permafrost, she was, say the scientists, well enough preserved that one can see intricate tattoos of animals and what appear to be deities.
“Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated and the most beautiful,” said Natalia Polosmak, the lead researcher, in an interview with The Siberian Times. “It is a phenomenal level of tattoo art. Incredible.”
The remains of hundreds of warriors have resurfaced from a Danish bog, suggesting that a violent event took place at the site about 2,000 years ago.
Discovered in the Alken Enge wetlands near Lake Mossø in East Jutland, Denmark, the skeletal remains tell the story of an entire army’s apparent sacrifice.
Following work done in 2009, archaeologists have so far unearthed the hacked bones of more than 200 individuals.
Skeletal remains include a fractured skull and a sliced thighbone. An abundance of well preserved axes, spears, clubs and shields have been also unearthed.
“It’s clear that this must have been a quite far-reaching and dramatic event that must have had profound effect on the society of the time,” project manager Mads Kähler Holst, professor of archaeology at Aarhus University, said.
Showing distinct weapon marks, the Iron Age bones can be found all over a large area.
By Alan Boyle/ NBC News
A Roman trading ship from the time of the Caesars has been discovered off the coast of Italy, reportedly in such good condition that some of the food may still be preserved inside the storage jars.
Following up on a tip from local fishermen, police divers used a remotely operated vehicle to locate the ship, which was preserved within layers of mud at a depth of 230 feet (70 meters) in the waters near the port city of Genoa. The ship is thought to date back to sometime between the 1st century B.C. and the 2nd century — when Julius Caesar and his imperial heirs held sway in Rome.
Discovery News’ Rossella Lorenzi reports that the ship sank on a trade route between Spain and central Italy with a cargo of more than 200 jars, known as amphorae. Some of the jars were caught in fishing nets, which led to the underwater search. Tests indicated that the jars contained pickled fish, grain, wine and oil.
A team of archaeologists using ground penetrating radar have found an underground chamber that could finally answer some of the mysteries of Pumapunku.
Did ancient aliens or ancient humans build Pumapunku? What exactly was the building’s purpose? What did the building look like and how did it end up destroyed? Where did the knowledge and skill to build and carve the blocks come from? It is these questions among many others that archaeologists have not been able to answer regarding the site that leaves us with a huge mystery. But a new discovery could be about to change all of that .
Using ground penetrating radar, a team of archaeologists have discovered a large underground anomaly that is only 60 feet from the Pumapunku foundation. The team believes that the anomaly is a man-made chamber versus a natural one and is the only one detected so far from the radar scans. Head archaeologist Domingo Mendoza stated that the team is convinced the chamber is most likely a tomb but there is no direct proof of this just yet.
In a statement to a local newspaper, head archaeologist Dr. Mendoza gave the following details of the discovery:
A team of Russian scientists have recently completed testing on the dashka stone also termed the Map of the Creator, and found that the large stone slab is indeed a genuine ancient carved artifact displaying the local area.
Is the Dashka Stone (also termed the Map of the Creator) real? Does it prove that there was an advanced ancient civilization in the Ural Mountains thousands of years ago? According to a team of scientists from Bashkir State University that is exactly what they have found. Recent research and testing on the large stone slab have proven that it is indeed an ancient map carving of the area that is thousands of years old.
The team announced their findings recently and this is what they found:
- The rock has been dated to around 120 million years old. (a pair of ancient shells locked into the slab confirmed this) The slab is 5 feet tall, 3.5 feet wide and 6 inches thick. It weighs approximately a little over one ton.
- The slab is composed of three layers that most scientists believe would not occur naturally. The three layers are dolomite ceramic, diopside glass and then a thin layer of porcelain.
- The surface of the slab is covered with a 3-D map of a section of the Ural Mountains. The slab shows no signs of tool usage meaning it was hand-carved but the age cannot be dated on when the carving was done.
Two unidentified, possible pyramid complexes have been located with satellite imagery from Google Earth.
One of the complex sites contains a distinct, four-sided, truncated, pyramidal shape that is approximately 140 feet in width. This site contains three smaller mounds in a very clear formation, similar to the diagonal alignment of the Giza Plateau pyramids.
The second possible site contains four mounds with a larger, triangular-shaped plateau. The two larger mounds at this site are approximately 250 feet in width, with two smaller mounds approximately 100 feet in width. This site complex is arranged in a very clear formation with the large plateau, or butte, nearby in a triangular shape with a width of approximately 600 feet.
The sites have been documented and discovered by satellite archaeology researcher Angela Micol of Maiden, North Carolina. Angela has been conducting satellite archaeology research for over ten years, searching for ancient sites from space using Google Earth. Angela is a UNC Charlotte alumnus and has studied archaeology since childhood. Google Earth has allowed her to document many possible archaeological sites, including a potential underwater city off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula that has sparked the interest of scientists, researchers and archaeologists. Angela is also a board member of the APEX Institute, founded by archaeologist William Donato, who is pioneering underwater archaeological research in the Bahamas. Angela has been assisted by Don J. Long, fellow APEX researcher and colleague.
The sites have been verified as undiscovered by Egyptologist and pyramid expert Nabil Selim. Nabil’s discoveries include the pyramid called Sinki at Abydos and the Dry Moat surrounding the Step pyramid Complex at Saqqara. Nabil has stated the smaller 100 foot “mounds”, at one of the proposed complex sites, are a similar size as the 13th Dynasty Egyptian pyramids, if a square base can be discovered.