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Ancient Texts Tell Tales of War, Bar Tabs

Ancient Text
© The Schøyen Collection MS 2063, Oslo and Londo
In addition to the inscription this stele depicts King Nebuchadnezzar II standing beside a ziggurat he built at Babylon. The tower is dedicated to the god Marduk. This is one of only four known depictions of Nebuchadnezzar known to exist, and the best preserved.

A trove of newly translated texts from the ancient Middle East are revealing accounts of war, the building of pyramidlike structures called ziggurats and even the people's use of beer tabs at local taverns.

The 107 cuneiform texts, most of them previously unpublished, are from the collection of Martin Schøyen, a businessman from Norway who has a collection of antiquities.

The texts date from the dawn of written history, about 5,000 years ago, to a time about 2,400 years ago when the Achaemenid Empire (based in Persia) ruled much of the Middle East.

The team's work appears in the newly published book Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection (CDL Press, 2011).
Sherlock

UK: Cockerel figurine found in Cirencester Roman dig

A Roman cockerel figurine thought to have been made to accompany a child's grave has been unearthed in Gloucestershire. The 1,800-year-old enamelled object was found during an archaeological dig at one of Britain's earliest-known burial sites in Cirencester. It is thought the bronze cockerel, which is 12.5cm high, could have been a message to the gods.
© Cotswold Archaeology
The object had been placed close to the head of a child in a Roman grave

Archaeologist Neil Holbrook said it was a "most spectacular" find. The elaborately-decorated cockerel is believed to be Roman, probably dating back to the 2nd Century AD. According to experts, religious significance was given to the cockerel by the Romans and the artistic subject is known to be connected with Mercury, the messenger to the gods. They said it was Mercury who was also responsible for conducting newly-deceased souls to the afterlife.
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Found Coins May Unveil a Lost Viking

Viking Find
© The Trustees of the British Museum.
The largest items in the hoard, including some of the ingots and hacksilver pieces, and all of the coins.
A hoard of silver found by a metal detector has provided intriguing new clues to a previously unknown Viking king, the British Museum announced on Wednesday.

Found some 16 inches beneath the surface of a field in Silverdale, a village in north Lancashire, UK, the hoard materialized as Darren Webster, a 39-year-old stonemason, lifted a lead box signalled by his detector.

A shower of 201 pieces of silver revealed an abundance of arm-rings, brooch fragments, ingots and coins.

Viking Arm Ring
© The Trustees of the British Museum.
Silver arm-ring with punch decoration.
"I had a very good idea what it was. The coins, the bracelets, I knew it was possibly Viking, more than likely Viking," Webster told the Lancashire Evening Post.

Indeed, the treasure, possibly buried by a Viking warrior before he went into battle, includes coins which evoke Viking kings such as Alfred the Great, who reigned from 871 to 899. At that time, the Vikings were fighting the Anglo-Saxons to keep control of the North of England.
Sherlock

Scotland: Historical probe after Stirling Castle landslide

A section of wall below Stirling Castle that collapsed last week is now the subject of an archaeological investigation. The wall was on a steep bank above the Butt Well and had been built to retain garden terraces created in the 1490s. Archaeologists are using the collapse as an opportunity to investigate fragments of one of Scotland's oldest gardens, made for James IV.
© Unknown
The wall was on a steep bank above Butt Well

Members of Stirling Local History Society (SLHS) are leading the work. The society had organised a survey of the adjacent King's Knot last summer - and said it was already planning studies of the wider landscape around the castle. Archaeologist Stephen Digney, who co-ordinated the work at the Knot, said: "The terraces link the castle to the Knot garden below. "This fortuitous landslip presents a further step towards wider studies of the castle landscapes, which are of European importance."
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Prehistoric Wood Hints at Life Before Lake Huron

Ancient Wood
© Tane Casserley, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA
Anthropologist John O'Shea stands next to a piece of wood, thought to be a prehistoric tool, recovered from the bottom of Lake Huron.

An ancient piece of wood found at the bottom of Lake Huron hints at time, about 8,900 years ago, when this area was dry land where ancient hunters may have lived.

The piece of wood measures about 5-feet, 6-inches (1.7 meters) and seems to have been a tool of some kind.

"The first thing you notice is that it appears to have been shaped with a rounded base and a pointed tip," said John O'Shea, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. "There's also a bevel on one side that looks unnatural, like it had to have been created. It looks like it might have been used as a tent pole or a pole to hang meat."

A more-detailed analysis is under way to determine if this is indeed the case. Using carbon dating - which looks at a radioactive form of carbon in a sample to determine its age - the wood was estimated to be about 8,900 years old.
Cow Skull

Ancient Offering Discovered Beneath Pyramid of the Sun

Green Mask
© INAH
A detailed green stone mask unearthed beneath Mexico's Pyramid of the Sun may be a portrait of a specific individual.

Archaeologists in Mexico have uncovered a small treasure trove of items that may have been placed as offerings to mark the start of construction on the Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun almost 2,000 years ago.

The offerings include pieces of obsidian and pottery as well as animal remains. Perhaps most striking are three human figurines made out of a green stone, one of which is a serpentine mask that researchers think may have been a portrait.

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest structure in Teotihuacan, an archaeological site northeast of Mexico City that dates back to about 100 B.C. The city remained populated for hundreds of years, and the residents likely started to build the Pyramid of the Sun around A.D. 100.

Beheaded human remains, possibly sacrifices, were found nearby in the Pyramid of the Moon in 2004.
Blackbox

The disappearance of the elephant caused the rise of modern man 400,000 years ago

© Tel Aviv University
This photo shows the dig at Qesem Cave.
Elephants have long been known to be part of the Homo erectus diet. But the significance of this specific food source, in relation to both the survival of Homo erectus and the evolution of modern humans, has never been understood - until now.

When Tel Aviv University researchers Dr. Ran Barkai, Miki Ben-Dor, and Prof. Avi Gopher of TAU's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies examined the published data describing animal bones associated with Homo erectus at the Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov in Israel, they found that elephant bones made up only two to three percent the total. But these low numbers are misleading, they say. While the six-ton animal may have only been represented by a tiny percentage of bones at the site, it actually provided as much as 60 percent of animal-sourced calories.

The elephant, a huge package of food that is easy to hunt, disappeared from the Middle East 400,000 years ago - an event that must have imposed considerable nutritional stress on Homo erectus. Working with Prof. Israel Hershkovitz of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, the researchers connected this evidence about diet with other cultural and anatomical clues and concluded that the new hominids recently discovered at Qesem Cave in Israel - who had to be more agile and knowledgeable to satisfy their dietary needs with smaller and faster prey - took over the Middle Eastern landscape and eventually replaced Homo erectus.

The findings, which have been reported in the journal PLoS One, suggest that the disappearance of elephants 400,000 years ago was the reason that modern humans first appeared in the Middle East. In Africa, elephants disappeared from archaeological sites and Homo sapiens emerged much later - only 200,000 years ago.
Magnify

Oman: 5,000-Year-Old Burial Sites Discovered in Sohar

5,000 years old in Sohar
© Supplied
A site where the burial places were discovered in Sohar.
An area of 600sqkm has been covered and many new sites have been found, expert says

Muscat: At least 5,000 year old burial sites have been discovered by archaeologists during the two-year-long Sohar Heritage Project, according to a press release from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture on Sunday.

The ministry-run project, which has carried out major survey within Sohar town and surrounding areas, is mainly funded by the industrial sector in the this port town.

"An area of 600sqkm has been covered and many new sites have been found that will shed light on Oman and its glorious past," informs to Biubwa Ali Al Sabri, Director of Excavation and Archaeological Sites at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture.

She added that many of the sites found in Sohar are burial sites belonging to the Wadi Souq period (1900- 1100 BC). "Also older sites that are as old as 5000 years have been found and a distinctive pattern can be seen within the area that stretches from Liwa to Gyal as Shabol," pointed out the Omani archaeology expert.
Magic Wand

The Existence of Female Shamans: Solving the Mystery of a 35,000-Year-Old Statue

© thomas-stephan.com
The Lion Man found in the Stadel cave. The Paleolithic figurine, carved out of mammoth ivory, was found on the eve of World War I. Archeologists have been puzzling over its meaning ever since. Indeed, they haven't even decided on its gender. But new pieces found recently may help researchers solve the mystery.
Archeologists have discovered previously unknown fragments of a figurine known as the "Lion Man," and are piecing it back together. Could the 35,000-year-old statue actually represent a female shaman? Scientists hope to resolve a decades-long debate.

Using a hand hoe and working in dim light, geologist Otto Völzing burrowed into the earth deep inside the Stadel cave in the Schwäbische Alb mountains of southwestern Germany. His finds were interesting to be sure, but nothing world-shaking: flints and the remnants of food eaten by prehistoric human beings.

Suddenly he struck a hard object -- and splintered a small statuette.

It was 1939 and Völzing didn't have much time. He had just been called up to serve in the military and World War II was about to begin. He quickly packed the pieces into a box and the excavation, which was being financed by the SS, was terminated on the same day.

For the next 30 years, little heed was paid to the pieces. But then, they were reassembled to create one of the most impressive sculptures of the Paleolithic Age.

Called the Lion Man, it is fashioned from the tusk of a mammoth and stands about 30 centimeters (12 inches) tall. Its creator polished it with saliva and leather -- and an experiment showed that it likely took the sculptor about 320 hours to carve the figure.

Copies of the famous ice age treasure are now on display in New York and Tokyo. The original, however, is heavily damaged -- and no one knows exactly what it looks like. Many fragments were overlooked in the cave when the prewar dig was so abruptly terminated. The figure achieved its current form in 1988. It consists of 220 parts, but about 30 percent of the body is still missing. Large segments of the surface have broken off.

Comment: If you haven't read Laura Knight-Jadczyk's book "The Secret History of the World", you'll want to get it to see how she follows the threads of Shamanism back to the Paleolithic "witches." Also, check out Witches, Comets and Planetary Cataclysms and The Golden Age, Psychopathy and the Sixth Extinction.

Pharoah

Big Question for 2012: The Great Pyramid's Secret Doors

Giza
© Nina/Creative Commons
The Great Pyramid of Giza.

Will the mystery over the Great Pyramid's secret doors be solved in 2012?

I dare say yes. After almost two decades of failed attempts, chances are now strong that researchers will reveal next year what lies behind the secret doors at the heart of Egypt's most magnificent pyramid.

New revelations on the enduring mystery were already expected this year, following a robot exploration of the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum.

But unrest in Egypt froze the project at its most promising stage, after it produced the first ever images behind one of the Great Pyramid's mysterious doors.

Now the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), once led by the controversial yet charismatic Zahi Hawass, is slowly returning to granting permits for excavations and archaeological research.

"As with other missions, we have had to resubmit our application to be allowed to continue. We are currently waiting for the various committees to formalise the approval," project mission manager Shaun Whitehead, of the exploration company Scoutek UK, told Discovery News.

"Once we're allowed to continue, I have no doubt that we can complete our work in 2012," he added.

Built for the pharaoh Cheops, also known as Khufu, the Great Pyramid is the last remaining wonder of the ancient world.
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