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Oldest town in Europe discovered in Bulgaria

Bulgarian archaeologists claim to have discovered Europe's oldest prehistoric town in the north-east of the country.


The town, near the salt pans of Provadia, in the Varna region of Bulgaria, is located in the same area as Europe's first salt factory.

The archaeology team, led by Professor Vasil Nikolov from the National Archaeology Institute and Museum, have been studying the area for many years and believe the key to the town's success was its natural abundance of salt which, at the time, was as valuable as gold.

Professor Nikolov said: "Now we can say that the Provadia salt pans' location is the oldest town in Europe, it existed between years 4700 to 4200 BC, in the second half of the fifth millennium before Christ."

"What makes a difference here from all the other ancient villages in south-east Europe are the salt springs ... the salt produced was used as money because salt was essential for humans and animals as well.

"So salt production was what made this village different from others and gave it prosperity," Nikolov added.

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'Island of Blue Dolphins' cave possibly found

Lone Woman
© Wikimedia CommonsA photo of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island.
Archaeologists might have finally found the cave of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island, whose solitary 18-year stay on a tiny island off the California coast inspired the children's classic Island of the Blue Dolphins.

"The cave had been completely buried under several meters of sand. It is quite large and would have made a very comfortable home, especially in inclement weather," Navy archaeologist Steven Schwartz said at the California Islands Symposium last week in Ventura.

One of the most famous people associated with the Channel Islands, the Lone Woman belonged to the Nicoleno, a Native American tribe who lived on the remote wind-blasted island of San Nicolas off the Southern California coast.

The tribe was decimated in 1814 by sea otter hunters from Alaska. By 1835, less than a dozen Nicolenos lived on the island. At that time, the Santa Barbara Mission arranged a rescue operation which brought to the mainland all Nicoleños but the Lone Woman.

The most likely explanation for the abandonment is that a panicked crew, caught by a storm, turned the rescue schooner, named Peor es Nada ("Better Than nothing"), toward the mainland without much head counting.

The woman lived alone on the island until a fisherman and sea otter hunter found her in 1853 and brought her to the Santa Barbara Mission.

"She was found in a brush enclosure on the west end of the island, but she is believed to have lived in a cave during most of her 18 years of isolation," Schwartz, who has been investigating the island for more than 20 years, said.

Since there is no known habitation cave on the tiny island -- which is now a Navy base -- the archaeologist concluded that the cavern must have collapsed and been buried.

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Mystery of Angkor Wat temple's huge stones solved

Angkor Wat
© Alexey Stiop | ShutterstockAerial view of Angkor Wat, showing the moat and causeway and the central tower surrounded by four smaller towers.
The massive sandstone bricks used to construct the 12th-century temple of Angkor Wat were brought to the site via a network of hundreds of canals, according to new research.

The findings shed light on how the site's 5 million to 10 million bricks, some weighing up to 3,300 pounds (1,500 kilograms), made it to the temple from quarries at the base of a nearby mountain.

"We found many quarries of sandstone blocks used for the Angkor temples and also the transportation route of the sandstone blocks," wrote study co-author Estuo Uchida of Japan's Waseda University, in an email.

In the 12th century, King Suryavarman II of the Khmer Empire began work on a 500-acre (200 hectare) temple in the capital city of Angkor, in what is now Cambodia. The complex was built to honor the Hindu god Vishnu, but 14th-century leaders converted the site into a Buddhist temple.

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The ancient Bulgarian town where they sliced their dead in half and buried them from the pelvis up

ancient burial
© CNNStrange rituals: Some of the corpses found in the necropolis attached to what is thought to be Europe's oldest town were sliced in half and buried from the pelvis up
Residents of what is thought to be Europe's oldest town cut their dead in half and buried them from the pelvis up, according to archaeologists.

The newly discovered ancient settlement, thought to date back to 4700BC, is near the Bulgarian town of Provadia, about 25 miles from the country's Black Sea coast.

Archaeology professor Vassil Nikolov led the dig which focused on the town itself and its necropolis, where the strange and complex burial rituals were discovered.

Treasure Chest

'Enchanted' figurine is Spain's oldest

Figurine spain oldest
© University of BarcelonaThe figurine dates back to 6,500 years ago and is named "El Encantat de Begues."
It's missing a head and some limbs, but an "enchanted" ceramic idol recently unearthed near Barcelona is thought to be the most ancient human figurine ever found in Spain, archaeologists say.

The 3-inch (8-centimeter)-long pottery fragment was uncovered over the summer during excavations at Can Sadurní cave in Begues, Barcelona province - a site perhaps best known for the discovery of the oldest evidence of beer-drinking in Europe. Researchers say the statuette is 6,500 years old, making it the most ancient human figurine from Catalonia, as well as the whole Iberian Peninsula.

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Were the Salem witch trials spurred by food poisoning?

Bonfire
© GreenMedInfo
Most Americans have read about the Salem witch trials in their history classes. Outside of religious beliefs that led to hysteria, it is difficult to imagine what might have sparked the insanity of 1692 as transplants from Puritan England fought to survive in a foreign and often inhospitable land. But there are a few researchers who have come up with a possible cause - ergot poisoning.

When religious beliefs spark a deadly explosion

Certainly people of the 17th Century were familiar with madness, but to the unenlightened, mental and emotional problems were linked to an evil force possessing the soul.In 1692, scientific thinking was only recognized by scholars and not by the superstitious and poorly educated settlers who huddled in fear at the thought of evil spirits holding sway over their lives. If they had been open-minded enough then perhaps they would have made a connection between the symptoms and the effects of eating tainted food.

Tainted food, tainted ideas

The year 1692 was hardly situated in an era of sound thinking. With the Age of Reason far off in the future, the Puritan settlers strongly believed in religious notions of devils, witches, spells, and possessed souls. As a result, nineteen men and women were convicted of witchcraft in Salem and marched to Gallows Hill for public hanging. Plus there were scores of tortures including one of a man more than eighty years old who was crushed to death under heavy stones for refusing to admit he was guilty of practicing witchcraft. The madness spread throughout New England. And it was madness it was in the greater sense of the word.

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What happened at the OK Corral?

OK Corral_1
© Kieran MulvaneyThe purported grave site of the men who were killed in the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
On Oct. 26, 1881, four men met at the corner of Fifth and Allen Streets in the bustling silver mining town of Tombstone, Arizona. They walked north on Fifth, turned left on Fremont Street and headed toward a vacant lot next to the OK Corral.

Minutes later, three men would be dead, and the four men who had walked to the corral and killed them - Tombstone marshal Virgil Earp, his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and Wyatt's friend Doc Holliday - had unknowingly secured their places in history.

The Gunfight at the OK Corral is arguably the single most famous incident in the Old West. But what was it about? And why has it, above all the many other gunfights that took place in the era of frontier justice, achieved such infamy?

To understand the gunfight, you have to first understand the town. Tombstone in 1881 was a thriving, bustling silver mining community.

"There's a huge misconception about Tombstone in the 1880s: that it was a violent, dangerous place," says local author and historian Don Taylor. "It was extremely sophisticated and massively wealthy. Thirty-seven million dollars in 1880s dollars of silver was mined here; that's $8.25 billion today. They had everything.

"They had fresh seafood every day. They would catch it in Baja California; pack it in barrels of salt, ice and seaweed at dusk; freight it by train to Benson or Contention City, immediately pack it on to wagons and bring it here by dawn every day. It was a very opulent town. But again, people don't understand - especially if they come today - Tombstone was open 24 hours a day.

The miners worked rotating 10 hour shifts; everything had to be open when they got off, including banks. They were also pumping 2.5 million gallons of water out of the mines every day to keep them dry; so you had all the mining activity, all the milling activity, all the water rushing down Toughnut Street, and the town open 24 hours a day. It must have been noisy as hell."

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'Oldest Mayan tomb' found in Guatemala's Retalhuleu

Ancient Mayan Tomb
© Agence France-PresseThe scientists named the grave's occupant K'utz Chman, which in the Mayan language means Grandfather Vulture, due to a vulture-headed figure found at the site
One of the oldest Mayan tombs ever found has been uncovered in western Guatemala, say archaeologists.

Located at a temple site in Retalhuleu province, the grave is thought to be that of an ancient ruler or religious leader who lived some 2,000 years ago.

Carbon-dating indicated the tomb had been built between 700 and 400 BC, said government archaeologist Miguel Orrego.

A rich array of jade jewels, including a necklace depicting a vulture-headed human figure, were found.

The scientists found no bones at the tomb in the Tak'alik Ab'aj site - some 180km (110 miles) south of Guatemala City - probably because they had disintegrated.

But the vulture-headed figure appears to identify the tomb's occupant as an ajaw - or ruler - because the symbol represented power and economic status and was given to respected elder men.

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Easter Island statues could have 'walked'

Moai
© Ian Sewell/Wikimedia CommonsMoai on Easter Island.
The giant stone statues in Polynesia's Easter Island may have just been "walked" out of quarry, according to a controversial new theory on how the monolithic human figures were transported to every corner of the island.

In a piece of experimental archaeology, a team of local and U.S. researchers showed that the massive statues, known as moai, can be moved from side to side by a small number of people, just as one might move a fridge.

"We constructed a precise three-dimensional 4.35 metric ton replica of an actual statue and demonstrated how positioning the center of mass allowed it to fall forward and rock from side to side causing it to 'walk,'" Carl Lipo, an archaeologist at California State University, Long Beach, and colleagues wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Nearly 1,000 huge statues stand on the remote Rapa Nui, the indigenous name of Easter Island. With sizes ranging from about 6 to 33 feet in height, the rock effiges feature human-like figures ending at the top of the thighs with large heads, long ears and pursed lips.

Scholars have long debated how the multi-ton statues were moved from the quarry in Rano Raraku, an extinct volcano where they were carved, throughout the island's rugged terrain.

Claims ranged from extra-terrestrial intervention to molding in situ. However, most archaeologists agree that the colossal stone statues were moved by rolling them on logs. In doing so, the statue-obsessed Rapa Nui people would have depleted the island of its forests.

But according to Lipo's team, new evidence challenges the "longstanding notions of 'ecocide' and population collapse before European contact."

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A Swedish Stonehenge? Stone Age tomb may predate English site

Ale Stones_2
© Annika Knarrström, Swedish National Heritage BoardA 5,500-year-old tomb possibly belonging to a Stone Age chieftain has been unearthed at a megalithic monument in the shape of a ship called the Ale's Stenar (Ale's Stones). Here, archaeologist Björn Wallebom clears the northern brim of the dolmen, or several upright stones with a horizontal boulder on top in which a body would be placed.
A 5,500-year-old tomb possibly belonging to a Stone Age chieftain has been unearthed at a megalithic monument in the shape of a ship called the Ale's Stenar (Ale's Stones). The tomb, in Sweden, was likely robbed of stones to build the Viking-era ship monument.

"We found traces - mostly imprints - of large boulders," said lead archaeologist Bengst Söderberg of the Swedish National Heritage Board. "So my conviction is that some of the stones at least, they are standing on the ship setting."

Perched on a seaside cliff in the village of Kåseberga stands the Ales Stenar, also called Ale's Stones, 59 massive boulders arranged in the 220-foot (67-meter)-long outline of a ship. Most researchers believe the 1,400-year-old ship structure is a burial monument built toward the end of Sweden's Iron Age. Local legend has it that the mythic King Ale lies beneath the site.

The Ales Stenar megaliths, some of which weigh as much as 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms), have distinctive cut marks similar to ones found at Stone Age sites. So researchers wondered whether the stones were stolen from an even older monument, Söderberg told LiveScience. [See Photos of Ale's Stones & Tomb]