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Battered skulls reveal violence among Stone Age women

Stone Age Skulls
© David Hunt, North Carolina State University
Skulls from a forensic anthropology lab.

Stone Age farmers lived through routine violence, and women weren't spared from its toll, a new study finds.

The analysis discovered that up to 1 in 6 skulls exhumed in Scandinavia from the late Stone Age - between about 6,000 and 3,700 years ago - had nasty head injuries. And contrary to findings from mass gravesites of the period, women were equally likely to be victims of deadly blows, according to the study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Ancient pastoralists

Linda Fibiger, an archaeologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and her colleagues focused on the late Stone Age, when European hunter-gatherers had transitioned into farming or herding animals.

Mass graves unearthed from that time in Talheim and Eulau, Germany, contained mostly males who had died in violent conflicts. As such, researchers had thought women were spared from conflicts due to their potential childbearing value, Fibiger told LiveScience.

But looking only at the aftermath of big, bloody conflicts can obscure the day-to-day realities of Neolithic farmers.

"It would be like only looking at a war zone to assess violence," Fibiger said. "That's not going to tell you what's going on in your neighborhood."
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Ancient foragers and farmers hit it off

Hunter Gatherers
© (Illustration, Left) Mauro Cutrona; (Top Right) National Museum in Belgrade; (Bottom Right) Dušan Borić
Cultural exchanges? Hunter-gatherers along the Danube River, such as those depicted in this artist's reconstruction, maintained their own traditions but also adopted those of incoming farmers. Thus, this hunter-gatherer burial included both beads typical of foragers and those associated with farmers (such as those used to make the necklace, upper right.)
Perhaps there was peace in the valley, after all. Thousands of years ago, foragers and early farmers in the Balkans lived in peaceful coexistence, according to a new study of skeletal remains. But this cozy picture, which includes cultural exchange and also apparently intermating, may not apply to the spread of farming everywhere, other researchers caution.

The transition from hunting and gathering to farming was one of the most momentous upheavals in human prehistory. That transition marks the beginning of the Neolithic period, which started nearly 11,000 years ago, when people of the Near East domesticated plants and animals and settled down in sedentary communities with permanent houses. In Europe, meanwhile, roving foragers of so-called Mesolithic cultures continued to hunt, fish, and gather wild plants. The Neolithic apparently first spread from Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) to Greece and the Balkan region sometime after 8500 years ago. Researchers have long debated what happened when foragers and farmers came face to face. Did they make war, make peace, or simply ignore each other?
Hiliter

'Largest' Scottish ancient artworks revealed

Scottish rock art
© Hermedia
One of the 28 cup marked stones found on Swordale Hill, Evanton, some of which measure 10ft across.

A retired silversmith has ­uncovered the largest collection of ancient rock art ever found in the Highlands on a remote hill overlooking the Cromarty Firth.

The carved rocks - some ­almost 10ft across - have been discovered scattered across a hillside near Evanton, in ­Ross-shire.

Douglas Scott, the amateur archaeologist who has recorded the remarkable find, believes the "cup-marked" rocks - dating from up to 5,000 years ago to the Neolithic or Bronze Age - form part of a "ritual centre of some significance" where ancient people worshipped the sun and performed rites connected to the ­underworld.

Mr Scott, 64, from Tain, has found and recorded a total of 28 carved rocks on Swordale Hill - Druim Mor in Gaelic - and lodged his remarkable discovery with the Highland Historic Environment Record and the Royal Commission on Ancient ­Monuments.
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The rock-cut cave temples of Badami, India

Karnataka
© Google Map
The red A indicates the location of Badami, India, famous for its sandstone cave temples.
Dr. S.N. Prasad of Mysore, India was kind enough to let us post some of his images from a recent trip to the Badami cave temples. Located in Karnataka, India, they're an example of Indian rock-cut architecture. In other words, they are structures or statues, carved from solid natural rock.

When you see the photos below, you'll be amazed at this practice, especially when you think about how old they are. They date from the late 6th to 7th centuries.

The town of Badami, India lies at the mouth of a ravine with rocky hills on either side. The cave temples are carved out of the soft sandstone of these hill cliffs.

At the cave entrance is a verandah (mukha mandapa) with stone columns. It leads to a columned main hall (maha mandapa) and then to a small square shrine cut deep into the cave.
Pharoah

Luxor necropolis among new Egyptian finds

Egypytian Statues
© Waleed Abu al-Khair/Al-Shorfa
Statues are displayed outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
In an archaeological find Egyptian experts are calling very important, an Italian mission -- headed by Angelo Sesana and working in the mortuary temple of Amenhotep II on Luxor's west bank -- recently discovered a necropolis containing tombs dating back to the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period (roughly 1075-664 BCE).

Amenhotep II, son of King Thutmose III and Merytre-Hatshepsut, was the seventh pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.

"The site of the discovery is located near the Ramesseum temple, one of the most important funerary temples not only in Egypt but in the world," said Niazi Ali, a professor of pharaonic antiquities at Cairo University's Faculty of Archaeology.

Mission members have found a number of burial chambers, with a well in front of each and remnants of wooden sarcophagi containing some skeletal remains, Ali said. The sarcophagi are believed to be made of decay-resistant wood.

A set of funereal articles commonly used during that period -- jewellery, toiletries and food left for the deceased to consume in his second life -- also were found at the site, along with a number of canopic jars containing the mummified internal organs of the deceased.

"Amenhotep II is known for his great interest in building funerary temples, and the tombs were likely built for athletes and warriors, whom he held in great esteem, particularly horse riders and archers," Ali said.

Officials immediately transferred the new findings to the antiquities warehouse in Luxor for lab tests, repairs and restoration, said Gamal Abdel Hakim, an archaeological site supervisor at the Egyptian Antiquities Authority.

They will be prepared for display, first at the Egyptian Museum, in the near future, and later at the Luxor Museum, Abdel Hakim said.
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Ancient tombs discovered along Silk Road

Ancient Tomb
© hasachai | Shutterstock
The ancient Silk Road is home to many archaeological sites.
Along the ancient trade route known as the Silk Road, archaeologists have unearthed 102 tombs dating back some 1,300 years - and almost half of the tombs were for infants.

The surprising discovery was made in remote western China, where construction workers digging for a hydroelectric project found the cluster of tombs. Each tomb contains wooden caskets covered in felt, inside of which are desiccated human remains, as well as copper trinkets, pottery and other items buried as sacrificial items, according to UPI.

"The cluster covers an area of 1,500 square meters (1,794 square yards) on a 20-meter high (66 feet) cliff, an unusual location for tombs," said Ai Tao from the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, as quoted in the Indian Times.
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Half-million-year-old human jawbone found

Jawbone
© Mirjana Roksandic
An ancient hominin jawbone unearthed in a Serbian cave may be more than half a million years old.
Scientists have unearthed a jawbone from an ancient human ancestor in a cave in Serbia.

The jawbone, which may have come from an ancient Homo erectus or a primitive-looking Neanderthal precursor, is more than 397,000 years old, and possibly more than 525,000 years old. The fossil, described today (Feb. 6) in the journal PLOS ONE, is the oldest hominin fossil found in this region of Europe, and may change the view that Neanderthals, our closest extinct human relatives, evolved throughout Europe around that time.

"It comes from an area where we basically don't have anything that is known and well- published," said study co-author Mirjana Roksandic, a bioarchaeologist from the University of Winnipeg in Canada. "Now we have something to start constructing a picture of what's happening in this part of Europe at that time."
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35 Ancient pyramids discovered in Sudan necropolis

Sudan Pyramid_1
© Vincent Francigny/SEDAU
Among the discoveries are pyramids with a circle built inside them, cross-braces connecting the circle to the corners of the pyramid. Outside of Sedeinga only one pyramid is known to have been built in this way.

At least 35 small pyramids, along with graves, have been discovered clustered closely together at a site called Sedeinga in Sudan.

Discovered between 2009 and 2012, researchers are surprised at how densely the pyramids are concentrated. In one field season alone, in 2011, the research team discovered 13 pyramids packed into roughly 5,381 square feet (500 square meters), or slightly larger than an NBA basketball court.

They date back around 2,000 years to a time when a kingdom named Kush flourished in Sudan. Kush shared a border with Egypt and, later on, the Roman Empire. The desire of the kingdom's people to build pyramids was apparently influenced by Egyptian funerary architecture.

At Sedeinga, researchers say, pyramid building continued for centuries. "The density of the pyramids is huge," said researcher Vincent Francigny, a research associate with the American Museum of Natural History in New York, in an interview with LiveScience.

"Because it lasted for hundreds of years they built more, more, more pyramids and after centuries they started to fill all the spaces that were still available in the necropolis."
Question

Richard III: The mystery of the king and the car parking lot

The line snakes around the block, hundreds of people wrapped up against the early autumn chill. The crowd waits patiently as a sensibly-dressed, middle-aged woman wanders along the queue, handing out flyers and apologizing for the delay.

"He's been waiting hundreds of years," says one woman, gesturing towards the archway up ahead with a smile. "It won't kill us to hang on for half an hour."

"He" is Richard III, one of the most famous kings of England, remembered by school children and Shakespeare aficionados alike as a notorious villain, hunchbacked and hateful, accused of killing his own nephews, the "Princes in the Tower," to usurp the throne, and whose whereabouts were, until recently, a complete mystery.

The history books record that in August 1485, Richard - the last English king to die in battle - rode out from Leicester, in central England, to the Battle of Bosworth Field. There he met his end; his body was returned to the city days later, ignominiously lashed to a packhorse.

While other monarchs might have been granted all the pomp and ceremony of a state funeral, as a defeated warrior, Richard was accorded no such regal treatment. Instead his naked remains were put on display to prove to supporters and opponents alike that he really was dead, before being hastily buried in a nearby church.
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Destined to destroy ourselves: Amazing artifacts and alternate history

When one thinks about the ancient world, the visions that often come to mind are of antiquated people, doing antiquated things, with antiquated contraptions. Building the pyramids with ropes and crude wooden pulleys, or sucking back fumes from a hole in ground in order to consult an oracle. These things seem laughably quaint to us with our computer programmed machines and Science™.

But what if our ancestors had actually progressed along further than we might think? I'm one of a growing number people who believe that we, as the human race, have reached a level of technology comparable to our current level long before now, and several times at least. There are many others who, for some years now, have been not been content with history as it has been reported, and are curious as to whether or not we've not reached even more advanced levels of technology before being "reset", or perhaps damning ourselves to the Stone Age again through bad decisions.

Why would anyone begin to believe such a thing? After all, our history books, our sciences, are infallible, aren't they?

Artifacts

Not clay pottery or stone tools. Strange artifacts, tools we can't quite figure out. Objects made from "future" material, or designed in such a way that they couldn't possibly have belonged to the civilizations we see as so quaint. Some of them we still can't figure out. Artifacts such as these:
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