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Thu, 08 Jun 2023
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How old is Gobekli Tepe? (updated)

Enclosure E, outside the main excavation area.
© Prehistory Decoded
Enclosure E, outside the main excavation area.
In an earlier post I suggested the earliest phase of construction of GT could be in the Younger Dryas period. This is because enclosure D is so well crafted and so large, that it is unlikely to have been the first construction of its kind. Other enclosures must have preceded it, acting as templates or precursors for its design.

Given that ground penetrating radar scans show that other large structures remain to be uncovered, and that the enclosures excavated so far represent only 5-10% of the site, it seems unlikely we have excavated the oldest parts already. This idea is reinforced by the existence of enclosure E outside the main excavation area. It seems to be a rougher and less precise example than enclosure D, and so could be a precursor. Since it is missing its walls and pillars, it is possible they were re-used in the construction of enclosure D.

But what about scientific evidence? Let's consider the facts. Regarding radiocarbon dates, the earliest radiocarbon dates reported so far for Göbekli Tepe are (Dietrich, 2013);

1. A measurement (KIA-44149) on charcoal particles from within mortar that binds the wall of enclosure D, from between pillars 41 and 42 in the north-west of the wall, with a (95.4%) calibrated radiocarbon age of 9,530 ± 200 BCE.

2. A measurement (UGAMS-10796) from a hearth just outside and north-east of enclosure D close to the bedrock, with a radiocarbon age (95.4%) of 9,530 ± 200 BCE.

Both of these measurements have been re-calibrated using the latest radiocarbon calibration curve (Reimer et al., 2020). Clearly, they are in excellent agreement.

Bad Guys

Ukraine 2014: The tipping point of terror

Part I of a CAM investigation into the origins of the Ukraine War: U.S. and NATO involvement in the February 2014 Coup and Maidan Massacre, and their historical antecedents

kyiv protesters
© nbcnews.com
Anti-government protesters clash with police in Kyiv on February 20, 2014.
As I write, the world is on the edge of nuclear and humanitarian crises after a year of the Ukraine "proxy" war with Russia. No single event can be seen as the sole cause, but the most dramatic lurch in the story was the "Revolution of Dignity" in Ukraine in November 2013 to February 2014, notably the horrific massacre of protesters and police in Maidan (Independence) Square on February 20, 2014.

Without dismissing the large sectors of Ukrainian society with legitimate grievances against corruption and stagnation, this was a bloody coup d'état, engineered largely by the U.S. over years with parts played by NATO puppets and local proxies. Viktor Yanukovych was elected in internationally recognized fair elections, and new elections were planned to occur within a year. But powerful interests and a large section of the public believed it could not wait as he could not be trusted. And he was chased out of the country like a hunted animal.

And, like all "color revolutions," despite the underlying legitimate grievances, it was no true upheaval or revolution at all, it was simply local elites of the same class switching their allegiances to another external power. As Ukrainian political researcher Volodymyr Ishchenko describes, four groups gained power after the violent 2014 coup: "the oligarchic opposition, the NGOs, the far right and Washington-Brussels."[1]

Many protesters congregated in Maidan Square from late November to February, sparked by the governments reticence to agree to the EU association agreement and its clauses on economic reform. Initially peaceful, the protests experienced periodic escalations in violence, often precipitated when things were settling down.


Millenniums-old tiger-patterned ritual weapon unearthed in east China

tiger-patterned axe-shaped stone relic
© Xinhua
This undated image combination shows file photos and sketches of a tiger-patterned axe-shaped stone relic unearthed at the Dinggeng Relics Site in Wuxi City, east China's Jiangsu Province.
Archaeologists found an extremely rare stone relic, an axe-shaped weapon used for rituals in ancient China, engraved with a tiger pattern, in Wuxi City in east China's Jiangsu Province. The relic dates back some 4,500 years, during the Liangzhu Culture period.

According to an expert consultation meeting held Saturday on the archaeological site of Dinggeng Relics Site, 16 archaeologists from home and abroad said it was the first time they had seen such a tiger-patterned stone relic, which they believed to be a symbol of power.


First ancient DNA from the Swahili civilization discovered by researcher

The site of tombs along the Swahili Coast
© Chapurukha Kusimba, University of South Florida
The site of tombs along the Swahili Coast in East Africa where University of South Florida anthropologist Chapurukha Kusimba and colleagues opened graves to study ancient DNA.
A University of South Florida anthropologist has uncovered the first ancient DNA from the Swahili Civilization, prosperous trading states along the coast of East Africa dating back to the 7th century.

From Kenya to Mozambique, Chapurukha Kusimba, a USF professor of anthropology, dedicated 40 years to studying the ancestry of those who built the civilizations - a debate that many Swahilis feel robbed them of their heritage for centuries.

"This research has been my life's work - this journey to recover the past of the Swahili and restore them to rightful citizenship," Kusimba said. "These findings bring out the African contributions, and indeed, the Africanness of the Swahili, without marginalizing the Persian and Indian connection."

Published in Nature, this work examines the DNA of 80 individuals from as long as 800 years ago - making it the first ancient DNA uncovered from the Swahili Civilization.

As part of his decades-long research, Kusimba, a Kenya native, spent time with the people of Swahili to gain their trust before receiving their approval to complete cemetery excavations. To respect the remains, Kusimba finished the sampling and re-burial process all in one season.


Study reveals first osteological evidence of severed hands in ancient Egypt

Severed Hands
© Stefanović, D

The severed right hands were discovered by archaeologists in three pits in the courtyard of the Hyksos palace at Avaris/Tell el-Dab'a in north-eastern Egypt.

The palace dates from the 15th Dynasty (1640-1530 BC), during which time the Lower and Middle Egypt up to Cusae was ruled by the Hyksos kings, marking the first period in which Egypt had foreign rulers.

Although the practice of placing severed hands is documented in tomb inscriptions and temple reliefs from the New Kingdom onwards, this is the first example of an osteological analysis using physical evidence.

Anatomical markers indicate that the hands are from at least 12 adults, belonging to 11 males and possibly one female. Once the attached parts of the forearm were removed, the hands were deposited in the pits with the fingers wide-splayed, primarily on their palm-facing sides.

The positioning of the hands on their palmar surfaces with splayed fingers may have been caused by taphonomic reasons, or they may have been due to their deliberate placement.


Yak milk consumption among Mongol Empire elites

Yaks graze in modern day Mongolia.
© Alicia Ventresca-Miller
Yaks graze in modern day Mongolia.
For the first time, researchers have pinpointed a date when elite Mongol Empire people were drinking yak milk, according to a study co-led by a University of Michigan researcher.

By analyzing proteins found within ancient dental calculus, an international team of researchers provides direct evidence for consumption of milk from multiple ruminants, including yak. In addition, they discovered milk and blood proteins associated with both horses and ruminants. The team's results are published in Communication Biology.

The study presents novel protein findings from an elite Mongol Era cemetery with exceptional preservation in the permafrost. This is the first example of yak milk recovered from an archaeological context.

Previous research indicates that milk has been a critical resource in Mongolia for more than 5,000 years. While the consumption of cattle, sheep, goat and even horse milk have securely been dated, until now, when people began drinking milk from yaks has been difficult to determine. Understanding when and where humans domesticated this iconic species has been limited to rarely recovered yak remains and artistic depictions of yaks. However, whether these are wild or domestic is unclear.

The discovery of an elite Mongol era cemetery in northern Mongolia was surprising to the researchers.


Researchers use 21st century methods to record 2,000 years of ancient graffiti in Egypt

Simon Fraser University researchers are learning more about ancient graffiti — and their intriguing comparisons to modern graffiti — as they produce a state-of-the-art 3D recording of the Temple of Isis in Philae, Egypt.
SFU geography professor Nick Hedley.
© Simon Fraser University
SFU geography professor Nick Hedley.
Working with the University of Ottawa, the researchers published their early findings in Egyptian Archaeology and have returned to Philae to advance the project.

"It's fascinating because there are similarities with today's graffiti," says SFU geography professor Nick Hedley, co-investigator of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-funded project. "The iconic architecture of ancient Egypt was built by those in positions of power and wealth, but the graffiti records the voices and activities of everybody else. The building acts like a giant sponge or notepad for generations of people from different cultures for over 2,000 years."

As an expert in spatial reality capture, Hedley leads the team's innovative visualization efforts, documenting the graffiti, their architectural context, and the spaces they are found in using advanced methods like photogrammetry, raking light, and laser scanning. "I'm recording reality in three-dimensions — the dimensionality in which it exists," he explains.


'A total fiasco in all aspects': 20 years on, how the illegal invasion of Iraq backfired on the US

© Joe Raedle/Getty Images
155 mm howitzers • February 20, 2003 • Iraqi border in Kuwait
In March 2003, then President George W Bush approved the military attack, with major repercussions for US politics, and global perceptions of the country...

Twenty years ago, the world was shaken by one of the major geopolitical events of this century. On the morning of March 20, 2003, the US officially launched its illegal invasion of Iraq. The rationale was based on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's alleged ties with terrorists, and intelligence regarding the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. However, both claims turned out to be false and were later refuted.

Russian political analysts believe that the real reasons behind the invasion of Iraq included a desire for control over oil fields, the naive hope of creating a 'showcase of democracy' in the Middle East, and a demonstration of the 'fight against terrorism' to US voters. None of these goals were achieved, but the grievous consequences of the endeavor are evident.


Indigenous people of the American West used 'sacred' horses a half-century earlier than previously thought

Indigenous oral histories and archaeological evidence are rewriting the story of how horses came to the American West.
A petroglyph

Centuries-old horse skeletons from the American Southwest are helping rewrite a colonial myth: When the Spanish colonized the region in the 17th century, they didn't introduce horses to Indigenous people, as long thought. Instead, horses were present in the Southwest long before Europeans, and were traded by Indigenous people who formed close, sacred relationships with them, a new study finds.

Horses lived in North America for millions of years but went extinct at the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago. When Europeans reintroduced horses to what is now the eastern U.S. in 1519, these hoofed mammals radically altered Indigenous ways of life, rapidly causing changes to food production methods, transportation and warfare. In the Southwest, historical Spanish records suggest horses spread throughout the area after the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, when Indigenous people forced Spanish settlers out of what is now New Mexico. But these records, made a century after the revolt, do not align with the oral histories of the Comanche and Shoshone people, who document horse use far earlier.

Using tools such as radiocarbon dating, ancient and modern DNA analysis and isotope analysis (isotopes are elements with varying numbers of neutrons in their nuclei), a large and diverse team of researchers from 15 countries and multiple Native American groups, including members of the Lakota, Comanche and Pawnee nations, have now determined that horses did indeed spread across the continent earlier and faster than previously assumed.


2,000 ram heads discovered at Temple of Rameses II in Egypt

Some of the 2,000 ram heads discovered in Egypt.
© Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
Some of the 2,000 ram heads discovered in Egypt.
More than 2,000 mummified ram heads and a palatial Old Kingdom structure have been uncovered by archaeologists at the King Ramses II Temple of Abydos.

The finds, located roughly 270 miles south of Cairo, come from a period of over 1,000 years, from the Sixth Dynasty to the Heroic Age, making some of the discoveries over 4,300 years old.

In addition to the ancient ram's head, archaeologists from the University of New York also discovered a group of mummified dogs, wild goats, cows, deer and an ostrich.

The mummified remains are believed to have been left at the site to honor Ramses II about 1,000 years after his death, the Egyptian Ministry for Tourism and Antiquities said.

It is thought that the rams and other animals would have been used as offerings during worship of the rams in Abydus during the Bipidus period, Dr Sameh Iskandar, head of the mission added in a statement.