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Sun

A demon ate the sun: Myths and superstitions inspired by solar eclipses

© Chaiyapak Mankannan
A temple statue in Thailand of the demon Rahu, believed to cause eclipses by eating the sun or moon.
The first and only total solar eclipse of 2016 will roll across the sky this week. Total solar eclipses - when the moon's shadow blocks the sun entirely - are spectacular events, highly anticipated by astronomers, astrophotographers and casual spectators alike.

But it wasn't always that way.

The gradual darkening of the sun was once cause for alarm, linked to evil auguries or the activity of the gods. Throughout history, cultures around the world sought to provide context and explanation for eclipses, and like the eclipses themselves, the legends attached to the events were dramatic.

Archaeology

Oldest examples depicting 'tree of life' motifs unearthed in Domuztepe Mound, Turkey


Tree of life motif found on vases and jars at the Domuztepe Mound, Turkey
Archaeologists have unearthed vessels portraying "tree of life" motifs during excavation works in the Domuztepe Mound in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş, which is considered to be the biggest settlement in the region since the usage of the term "Near East."

"Tree of Life" Unearthed

Directed by Hacettepe University Archaeology Department academic Dr. Halil Tekin under the allocation of the Kahramanmaraş Museum Directorate, the excavations were launched in 2013 as Hurriyet reports.

Culture and Tourism Ministry officials and university students have participated in the work, which originally started in 1996 as part of a British-American joint project and has been continued by Turkish academics since 2013. The investigation has covered some very significant artifacts. Dr. Halil Tekin stated that the most fascinating find in the Domuztepe Mound is undoubtedly the early examples of a tree motif, known as the "tree of life" in ancient Near East archaeology, with cumulative motifs. "The origin of this tree, which has become used as a Christmas tree in the Christian world throughout time, is here, namely in Mesopotamia. The earliest known example of it is in Domuztepe," Tekin said as Hurriyet reports , pointing out the cultural significance of the tree of life motifs. "It is not an ordinary tree. It is related to a faith system, a burial tradition," he added.

Wolf

Why Eclipses Frightened Ancient Civilizations And How They Responded To Them

© Hélène Adeline Guerber
The wolves Skroll and Hati pursuing the sun and moon in Norse legend. An eclipse was said to occur if they got close enough to their prey.
Total solar eclipses have inspired wonder and awe throughout history, with the first known reference to an eclipse dating back about 5,000 years. But when the moon passes between Earth and the sun and darkens skies across the United States on Aug. 21, there will be one major difference between modern-day skywatchers and ancient cultures that witnessed the same celestial phenomenon: We'll have much less fear.


Comment: According to some contemporary astrologists this particular eclipse will have some rather interesting ramifications however:

Massive change in the US - What astrologers see in eclipses that most don't


For many ancient peoples, solar eclipses were a reason to be afraid - very afraid.

"We have ample historic and ethnographic information from a variety of cultures that give[s] us a pretty good idea of how people responded to these things worldwide," said astronomer E.C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. [Christopher Columbus to Thailand's Kings: 11 Curious Stories About Eclipses]

Ancient peoples depended heavily on the seasonal changes reflected in the annual movements of the sun, Krupp told Live Science. They would have seen a solar eclipse as a major disturbance of the cosmic order, at the very least, and quite possibly as the end of the world, he said.

Comment: Perhaps we're not so different from our ancestors after all...

Authorities advise on possible "Lizard Man" and "Bigfoot" sightings during solar eclipse


Pharoah

Discovery: Three ancient tombs in Egypt

© AFP
A sarcophagus from one of the three tombs found at burial grounds south of Cairo.
Archaeologists have discovered three tombs that date back around 2,000 years in southern Egypt. They were found in burial grounds in the Al-Kamin al-Sahrawi area in Minya province, south of Cairo.

The tombs contained a collection of different sarcophagi, or stone coffins, as well as clay fragments.

Egypt's antiquities ministry said the discovery "suggests that the area was a great cemetery for a long span of time". One of the tombs, which was reached through a shaft carved in rock, contained four sarcophagi that had been sculpted to depict a human face. In another, excavators found six burial holes, including one for the burial of a small child.

Clay fragments found at the site date the tombs between the 27th Dynasty, founded in 525BC, and the Greco-Roman era, which lasted between 332BC and the 4th Century.

Ali al-Bakry, head of the mission, said one of the tombs contained bones believed to be the remains of "men, women and children of different ages". "These tombs were part of a large cemetery for a large city and not a military garrison as some suggest," he said.

In a statement, the antiquities ministry said that "works are under way in order to reveal more secrets". This work follows previous excavation at the site, which began in 2015.
© AFP
Sarcophagi which were discovered in a cemetery dating back about 2,000 years.

Archaeology

Archaeoacoustics: How the science of sound helps us understand ancient cultures

© CC BY SA 3.0
The theatre at Aspendos, Turkey is famous for its magnificent acoustics. Even the slightest sound made at the center of the orchestra can be easily heard as far as the upper most galleries. It is the best preserved and most complete example of a Roman theatre.
In this article, I will introduce the subject of archaeoacoustics and ancient "musical instruments". As we will see, these can be used in conjunction with a number of ancient sites from around the world.

The Archaeoacoustics Field of Study

Archaeoacoustics is the use of acoustical study within the wider scientific field of archaeology. This includes the study of the acoustics at archaeological sites, and the study of acoustics in archaeological artifacts. Over the last 40 years it has become increasingly obvious that studying the sonic nature of certain areas of archaeology can help us understand ancient cultures. Archaeoacoustics is an interdisciplinary field, it includes various fields of research including: archaeology, ethnomusicology, acoustics and digital modelling. These form the larger field of music archaeology.

One of the leading research groups publishing new papers on archaeoacoustics is SB Research Group (SBRG). SBRG is a multidisciplinary university project supported by University of Trieste, Italy "that aims to study from 2010 the architecture, geometry, shape and materials of ancient structures in Europe".

Comment: See also:


Bad Guys

New docs reveal Kissinger's 'secret deal' led to Japan allowing US nuclear weapons on Okinawa

© Ndan Smialowski / AFP
Japan gave the US official consent to bring nuclear weapons to Okinawa shortly before the 1969 bilateral accord, which led to the occupied island's 1972 return to Japanese rule, according to a recently declassified US document.

The US memorandum of understanding, dated November 17, 1969, shows that senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official Hiroto Tanaka told White House National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger that "the Japanese have no disagreement with the US" on bringing nuclear weapons to Okinawa on an emergency basis, The Japan Times reported.

Although it is well known that Japan and the US reached a secret deal on nuclear weapons in exchange for Okinawa's reversion, the declassified document proves for the first time that Tokyo delivered its stance using an official diplomatic channel.

Cookie

106-year-old fruitcake found in historic Antarctic expedition hut - might still be good

© Antarctica Heritage Trust
This 106-year-old fruitcake, believed to be brought by the ill-fated Scott Terra Nova expedition, was recently found in Antarctica is surprisingly good shape.
A 100-year-old fruitcake was recovered on Cape Adare in Antarctica. Newly discovered artifact of South Pole expedition in 'excellent condition'

Move over, Twinkies. You've been bested in the "food that refuses to decompose" department, and the contest wasn't even close.

Conservators with the New Zealand-based Antarctic Heritage Trust recently discovered a 106-year-old fruitcake in Antarctica's oldest building, a hut on Cape Adare.

Dig

Stone slab uncovered in Spain with symbols no one can read

© Leonardo García Sanjuán and Marta Díaz-Guardamino / Antiquity 2017
At 1.5m high and 85cm wide, the stela of Montoro is an imposing artefact. It is a stone slab covered in engravings thought to date from the Iron Age. The symbols themselves are all more or less recognisable as letters from extinct languages. But no one can read what the symbols say.

Archaeologist Leonardo García Sanjuán of the University of Seville began studying the stela after reading a short notice on the discovery published in the Montoro Archaeological Museum newsletter. He could see that there was something unusual about it, and went out to see it with his colleague Marta Díaz-Guardamino at Southampton University in the UK.

The slab had first been unearthed by a farmer ploughing his field in Montoro in southern Spain in 2002. He dumped it in a heap of other stones at the side of the field and thought nothing more about it. Two years later, a couple of rangers from the regional government's environmental department discovered it and noticed a series of strange markings covering one of its sides.

Archaeology

4500-year-old grave of Siberian noblewoman has links to Native Americans

© Unknown
The intriguing find of the remains of a 'noblewoman' from the ancient Okunev Culture was made in the Republic of Khakassia. Her treasures include an incense burner decorated by solar symbols, 1,500 beads that once adorned her costume, and 100 pendants made from animal teeth.

The Okunev people are seen as the Siberian ethnic grouping most closely related to Native Americans. In other words, it was ancestors of the Okunevs who populated America, evidently using primitive boats to venture to the ice-covered Beringia land bridge some 12,600 years ago.

The mysterious ancient culture was 'unparalleled' in Siberia in terms of its artistic richness and diversity, according to experts. Undisturbed by pillaging grave robbers, the burial site of the woman, also containing the remains of a child, offers a wealth of clues about the life of these ancient people.

The head of the expedition Dr Andrey Polyakov said the grave of the 'noblewoman' dated back to the Early Bronze Age, between the 25th and 18th centuries BC.

'For such an ancient epoch, this woman has a lot of items in her grave,' he said. 'We have not encountered anything like this in other burials from this time, and it leads us to suggest that the items in her grave had some ritual meaning.

© Boris Dolinin, Elena Sibiryakova
The Okunev Steles - anthropomorphous stone columns several meters tall - are the most widely known monument attributed to this culture.
For more on this topic, go here.

Archaeology

Evidence etched in stone: A compelling argument for lost high tech in ancient Egypt

© Dendera Temple
Grinding stone, Dendera Temple, Egypt
Most people know of the great construction achievements of the dynastic Egyptians such as the pyramids and temples of the Giza Plateau area as well as the Sphinx. Many books and videos show depictions of vast work forces hewing blocks of stone in the hot desert sun and carefully setting them into place. However, some of these amazing works could simply not have been made by these people during the time frame that we call dynastic Egypt.

Up until the 7th century BC there was very little iron present in Egypt, as this material only became commonly used once the Assyrians invaded at that time; in fact, the ancient Egyptians regarded iron as an impure metal associated with Seth, the spirit of evil who according to Egyptian tradition governed the central deserts of Africa. A few examples of meteoric iron have been found which predate the Assyrians, but this consists largely of small ornamental beads.

The very basic problem that arises is that we find at many of the ancient sites in Egypt finely crafted works in basalt, granite, quartzite and diorite which are very hard stones that can't be shaped efficiently even by hardened iron tools. For most of the history of Egypt, the tools used to shape stone consisted of hardened bronze, which is much softer than iron. In this article, we will see examples of ancient hard stone workmanship which simply could not have been created during the dynastic Egyptian time frame of about 2500 to 1500 BC, when most academics believe they were made. Only a few examples will be discussed, and far more can be seen and read about in my Lost Ancient Technology Of Egypt book.
© Unknown
For more on this topic, go here.

Comment: What is evidenced in the article is the level of precision craftsmanship and how it was achieved by an ancient civilization thousands of years old offering a legacy that has lasted through time.