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Tue, 09 Feb 2016
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Faces of ancient Mexico revealed in newfound skulls

© Ashley Humphries
Highlighted areas show regions where the prehistoric skulls came from in a study showing physical diversity among indigenous people.
Long before the arrival of European colonizers, the indigenous people of Mexico showed wide variation in their facial appearance, a diversity that perhaps has not been fully appreciated, a new study of skulls suggests.

"There has long been a school of thought that there was little physical variation prior to European contact," study researcher Ann Ross, a forensic anthropologist at North Carolina State University, said in a statement.

"But we've found that there were clear differences between indigenous peoples before Europeans or Africans arrived in what is now Mexico."

In other words, the researchers say there is not one phenotype, or bundle of physical characteristics, for all native people - contrary to earlier studies that looked at hair color, skin color and body form, and concluded that physical variation among indigenous Mexican people was modest.


New discovery shows ancient Mayans dismembered their enemies

© Nicolaus Seefeld/Uni Bonn
Scientists from the University of Bonn discover the remains of dismembered human bodies in an artificial cave in the Classic Maya city Uxul in Mexico. The image shows the artificial cave's interior during the excavations with several skulls, lower jaws and ribs.
The latest finding about the ancient Maya shows that you wouldn't have wanted to be on the bad side of the ancient culture.

Scientists from the Department of Anthropology of the Americas at the University of Bonn discovered a mass grave in an artificial cave in the historical Maya city of Uxul containing 24 individuals who were decapitated and dismembered. The bones discovered are about 1,400 years old, and the scientists assume that the victims were either prisoners of war or nobles from Uxul itself.

The team has been excavating in the historical Maya city of Uxul in Campeche, Mexico for the past five years in hopes of researching the origins and the collapse of regional states in the Maya lowlands. Their findings indicate that the artificial cave was not always a mass grave site, but was also used as a water reservoir.

"Aside from the large number of interred individuals, it already became apparent during the excavation that the skeletons were no longer in their original anatomical articulation", says archaeologist Nicolaus Seefeld.

Eye 1

NSA may have key evidence about mysterious death of UN chief Hammarskjold, says panel

America’s National Security Agency may hold crucial evidence about one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the Cold War: the cause of the 1961 plane crash which killed United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold.
America's National Security Agency may hold crucial evidence about one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the Cold War - the cause of the 1961 plane crash which killed United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, a commission of prominent jurists says.

Widely considered the UN's most effective chief, Hammarskjold died as he was attempting to bring peace to the newly independent Congo. It's long been rumoured that his DC-6 plane was shot down, and an independent commission set up to evaluate new evidence surrounding his death on Monday recommended a fresh investigation - citing radio intercepts held by the NSA as the possible key to solving the case.

"The only dependable extant record of the radio traffic, if there is one, will so far as we know be the NSA's," Commission Chairman Stephen Sedley said in his introduction to the report. "If it exists, it will either confirm or rebut the claim that the DC-6 was fired on or threatened with attack immediately before its descent."


Stonehenge was built on solstice axis, dig confirms

© Francis Dean/Rex
Archeologists found ridges, formed by Ice Age meltwater, that align Stonehenge with the solstice axis.
English Heritage says it has discovered a "missing piece in the jigsaw" in our understanding of Stonehenge, England's greatest prehistoric site. Excavations along the ancient processional route to the monument have confirmed the theory that it was built along an ice age landform that happened to be on the solstice axis.

The Avenue was an earthwork route that extended 1.5 miles from the north-eastern entrance to Wiltshire's standing stones to the River Avon at West Amesbury. Following the closure of the A344 road, which cut across the route, archaeologists have been able to excavate there for the first time.

Just below the tarmac, they have found naturally occurring fissures that once lay between ridges against which prehistoric builders dug ditches to create the Avenue. The ridges were created by Ice Age meltwater that happen to point directly at the mid-winter sunset in one direction and the mid-summer sunrise in the other.


Secret 'slave' tunnels discovered under Roman Emperor's villa

Amateur archaeologists have uncovered a massive network of tunnels under the Roman Emperor Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, Italy. The underground passageways likely allowed thousands of slaves and merchants to keep the estate running without creating any distraction at the street level.

Though similar tunnels have been discovered at the complex before, the new discovery is exciting because the passageways were not mentioned in any ancient plans of the grounds, Marina De Franceschini, an archaeologist heading the excavation who works with the University of Trento, wrote in an email. [See Photos of Hadrian's Villa and Secret Passageways]


The Roman Empire's other Hadrian's Wall? Declassified spy photos reveal 'Trajan's Rampart' that once stretched from the Danube to the Black Sea

  • Trajan's Rampart ran 60 kilometres from the Danube to the Black Sea and
    would have measured 3.8 metres tall and over eight metres thick
  • British archaeologists consider it the most easterly example of a man-made frontier barrier system in the Roman Empire
  • University of Exeter experts believe declassified photographs taken during covert surveillance may herald a new era for archaeological discovery
Declassified spy photography has uncovered a long-lost Eastern frontier built by the Romans dating from the second century AD.The site of the wall, which once stood over three metres tall with numerous forts along its length is situated in Romania.

Named Trajan's Rampart, the long wall ran 60 kilometres from the Danube to the Black Sea and isconsidered the most easterly example of a man-made frontier barrier system in the Roman Empire.Built in the mid-second century AD the wall once stood eight-and-a-half metres wide and over 3-and-a-half metres high, including at least 32 forts along its course.


Declassified spy photography (pictured) has uncovered an Eastern frontier built by the Romans dating from the second century AD. The site of the wall, which once stood over three metres tall with numerous forts along its length is situated in Romania. Here you can see the square outline of forts along its length


Who built these ancient metal pipes deep inside a mountain cave?

© io9
It's one of the great mysteries of the ancient world. Mt. Baigong in the Qinghai Province of China is crowned by a strange pyramid-like structure, full of caves that contain perfectly symmetrical, time-eaten metal pipes. They're inserted deep into the rock, and seem to feed into a nearby lake.

Could it be . . . aliens? According to Atlas Obscura, that's a common belief:
The rusty tubes, ranging from needle-size to 16 inches in diameter, reach from deep inside the mountain to a saltwater lake 260 feet away. Many of the hollow pipes are uniform in size and seem to be placed purposefully. The ancient objects are embedded deep enough into the mountain wall and floor to preclude modern human handling. The inhospitable environment surrounding the mountain sees only the occasional nomad. Unless these wanderers developed secret advanced metallurgy skills, the pipes were not formed by human hands.


Thirteenth century "vampire" remains discovered in Bulgaria

© HispanicallySpeakingNews
Remains found in Perperikon, Bulgaria.
The skeleton of a man who lived between the 13th and 14th centuries, and had an iron stake driven into his chest to prevent him from becoming a vampire was found in Bulgaria, archaeologists said.

The finding was made at the ancient urban complex in Perperikon, located in southern Bulgaria, chief archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov said.

"The man who was buried was between 35 and 40 years old. Bronze coins we found between his teeth show the period he lived in. He had an iron stake driven into the left side of his torso, between the neck and the chest," Ovcharov told the Standart news agency.

Vampire beliefs from pagan times were preserved by Orthodox Christians in the Balkans during the Middle Ages, when people thought that iron and wooden stakes could be driven into the heart of a dead person to prevent them from becoming vampires.

Another "vampire" was found in June 2012 in Sozopol, a small city on the shores of the Black Sea. An iron stake had been driven into the heart of the man, who lived in the 8th or 9th centuries.

The ritualistic driving of a stake into the heart may have been performed on people considered evil or who engaged in practices not understood by society, such as scientific or medical research, Bulgarian National History Museum director Bozhidar Dimitrov told Efe last year.

People at the time believed that after dying "these persons turned into vampires and tortured and tormented the living, and they drank their blood in the night," Dimitrov, who discovered the remains, said.


Melting snow reveals Iron Age sweater

© Marianne Vedeler/Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo.
The Iron Age tunic.
A boat neck sweater made of warm wool and woven in diamond twill was a dominating fashion trend among reindeer hunters 1,700 years ago, according to researchers who have investigated an extremely well preserved Iron Age tunic found two years ago under melting snow in Norway.

Announced last March, the finding has been detailed in the current issue of the journal Antiquity.

"Due to global warming, rapid melting of snow patches and glaciers is taking place in the mountains of Norway as in other parts of the world, and hundreds of archaeological finds emerge from the ice each year," Marianne Vedeler, from the University of Oslo, Norway, and Lise Bender Jørgensen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, wrote.


'No single center where modern day humans originated, even within Africa'- anthropologist

© YouTube Screenshot
Homo sapiens were not the only kind of humans to reside on this planet. Two experts in the field exposed to the Voice of Russia that other forms of humans died out due to poor social networking and climate. Interbreeding between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals went on hundreds and thousands of years ago, making modern humans around one percent Neanderthal according to the newest book on evolution, Lone Survivors.

"There is no single center where we originated even within Africa, our origins were kind of composite, a patchwork, Professor Chris Stringer, author of Lone Survivors and Researcher at the Natural History Museum in London said and added, "So different bits of Africa contributed to what we call today modern humans."

The new theory on how present day humans came to be, according to the book Lone Survivors, is that we came from Africa and then journeyed from there. However, we are not full bred modern humans, as we all have a microscopic percentage of Neanderthal DNA in us, if originally from Europe.

Though, Australians and New Guineans have an extra ingredient in their DNA, from an archaic human known as the Denisovans. This group was discovered in a cave in Siberia, and those with the Denisovan gene, also have Neanderthal and modern human roots tied to them.

It was more than likely that interbreeding made it possible for certain humans, who were not used to the environment, to have offspring that would survive through disease and other possible debilitating factors of the region.