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Visible Only From Above, Mystifying 'Nazca Lines' Discovered in Mideast

Azraq Oasis
© David D. Boyer APAAME_20080925_DDB-0237
The giant stone structures form wheel shapes with spokes often radiating inside. Here a cluster of wheels in the Azraq Oasis.
They stretch from Syria to Saudi Arabia, can be seen from the air but not the ground, and are virtually unknown to the public.

They are the Middle East's own version of the Nazca Lines - ancient "geolyphs," or drawings, that span deserts in southern Peru - and now, thanks to new satellite-mapping technologies, and an aerial photography program in Jordan, researchers are discovering more of them than ever before. They number well into the thousands.

Referred to by archaeologists as "wheels," these stone structures have a wide variety of designs, with a common one being a circle with spokes radiating inside. Researchers believe that they date back to antiquity, at least 2,000 years ago. They are often found on lava fields and range from 82 feet to 230 feet (25 meters to 70 meters) across.

"In Jordan alone we've got stone-built structures that are far more numerous than (the) Nazca Lines, far more extensive in the area that they cover, and far older," said David Kennedy, a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia.

Kennedy's new research, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, reveals that these wheels form part of a variety of stone landscapes. These include kites (stone structures used for funnelling and killing animals); pendants (lines of stone cairns that run from burials); and walls, mysterious structures that meander across the landscape for up to several hundred feet and have no apparent practical use.

His team's studies are part of a long-term aerial reconnaissance project that is looking at archaeological sites across Jordan. As of now, Kennedy and his colleagues are puzzled as to what the structures may have been used for or what meaning they held.

Sherlock

Israeli archaeologists unearth Islamic-period fortress

Israeli archaeologists announced Tuesday they have discovered the remains of an early Islamic fortress and Roman-style bathhouse at a dig along the country's southern Mediterranean coastline.

The finds uncovered at the Yavneh-Yam promontory apparently served as part of a string of fortifications against Crusaders invaders, Prof. Moshe Fischer of the Department and the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University told Xinhua.

Both the fortress and the bathhouse are from the Early Islamic period (8th-12th centuries CE) and were part of the Islamic defensive system against the crusaders that had taken Jerusalem and the port city of Jaffa, Fischer said.

Yavneh-Yam was an important port town during the early Islamic period and it served as a port for inland settlements almost without interruption between the Bronze Age (mid-2nd millennium BCE) and the Middle Ages.

Sherlock

Pictish beast intrigues Highland archaeologists

A Pictish symbol stone built into the wall of a Highland farm building has been recorded by archaeologists. The markings show a beast, crescent, comb and mirror.

Image
© Andrew Dowsett
Archaeologist Cait McCullagh said it was a mystery how it had taken until this year for the stone to be officially recorded. She said it also suggested that more Pictish stones have still to be documented on the Black Isle where the beast was recorded.

Ms McCullagh, the co-founder and director of Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (Arch), said the symbol stones probably dated from the 5th to 7th centuries AD. She said it was unusual to find such carvings on the north side of the Moray Firth.

Sherlock

Mausoleum of Ottoman conqueror found at Perperikon

Archaeologists working at Bulgaria's ancient sacred site of Perperikon have found a mausoleum, with a sarcophagus inside containing a human skeleton believed to be that of a 14th century Ottoman conqueror, Bulgarian National Radio reported.

Image
© Tsvetelina Nikolaeva
The building is oval, with a diameter of eight metres. The skeleton was found to have been laid out in accordance with Muslim custom, the report said. The remains are said to be those of Izrail, who in the 14th century led to a force of 300 soldiers to the site, then one of the most powerful fortresses in Bulgaria's Rhodope Mountains. Dozens of silver coins from the Ottoman era were found next to the mausoleum.

Info

US: Confederate Flying Machine Will Rise Again at Auction

Flying Machine Designs
© RR Auction
While Rebel and Union soldiers still fought it out with bayonets and cannons, a Confederate designer had the foresight to imagine flying machines attacking Northern armies. He couldn't implement his vision during the war, and the plans disappeared into history, until resurfacing at a rare book dealer's shop 150 years later. Now those rediscovered designs have found their way to the auction block, providing a glimpse at how Victorian-era technology could have beat the Wright Brothers to the punch.

The papers of R. Finley Hunt, a dentist with a passion for flight, describe scenarios where flying machines bombed Federal troops across Civil War battlefields. Hunt's papers are set to go up for sale at the Space and Aviation Artifacts auction during the week of Sept. 15-22, giving one lucky collector a chance to own a piece of an alternate technological history that never came to pass.

"It's incredible for someone who loves early aviation, because it poses the great question of 'What if?'" said Bobby Livingston, vice president of sales and marketing with RR Auction. "What if planes had appeared above the wilderness when [Union general Ulysses S.] Grant began his campaign in the Shenandoah Valley?"

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Human-Neanderthal Mating Was Rare: Study

Human-neanderthal mating
© State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt
Scientists have shown that modern humans have some traces of genes from Neanderthals, but a study out on Monday suggests that any breeding between the two was most likely a rare event.

The new computational model, based on DNA samples from modern humans in France and China, shows successful coupling happened at a rate of less than two percent.

The research suggests that either inter-species sex was very taboo, or that the hybrid offspring had trouble surviving, according to the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

There may have been "extremely strong barriers to gene flow between the two species because of a very low fitness of human-Neanderthal hybrids, a very strong avoidance of interspecific mating, or a combination," said the study by researchers at the University of Geneva and the University of Berne in Switzerland.

Between two and four percent of the human genome can be linked to the long-extinct Neanderthals and their cavemen relatives.

Question

US: Arctic Archeological Dig Uncovers Mysterious Disks

Mystery Disk
© Scott Shirar
UA Museum of the North fine arts collection manager Mareca Guthrie makes a tracing of the petroglyph-adorned boulder that marks one of the prehistoric house pit at Feniak Lake.

Mysterious disks found at an archeological dig in Northwest Alaska have experts puzzled.

The four small pieces, formed from clay, are round and adorned with markings. Two have neatly centered holes. They may be 1,000 years old and, at the moment, what they were used for is anyone's guess.

The existence of similarly-decorated boulders at old village sites in Noatak National Preserve was first recorded by archeologists in the 1960s. But the sites remained unstudied until last summer when Scott Shirar, a research archeologist at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, took an expedition for a closer look at two locations.

Making small-scale excavations, they came upon the disks.

"The first one looks like a little stone that had some scratch marks on it," said Shirar. "We got really excited when we found the second one with the drilled hole and the more complicated etchings on it. That's when we realized we had something unique.

"We only opened up a really small amount of ground at the site, so the fact that we found four of these artifacts indicates there are probably more and that something really significant (was) happening."

Card - VISA

Debt Came Before Money: An Interview with Economic Anthropologist David Graeber

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Ancient Mesopotamian Coin
David Graeber currently holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University London. Prior to this he was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University. He is the author of 'Debt: The First 5,000 Years' which is available from Amazon.

Interview conducted by Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer based in Dublin, Ireland.


Philip Pilkington: Let's begin. Most economists claim that money was invented to replace the barter system. But you've found something quite different, am I correct?

David Graeber: Yes there's a standard story we're all taught, a 'once upon a time' - it's a fairy tale.

It really deserves no other introduction: according to this theory all transactions were by barter. "Tell you what, I'll give you twenty chickens for that cow." Or three arrow-heads for that beaver pelt or what-have-you. This created inconveniences, because maybe your neighbor doesn't need chickens right now, so you have to invent money.

The story goes back at least to Adam Smith and in its own way it's the founding myth of economics. Now, I'm an anthropologist and we anthropologists have long known this is a myth simply because if there were places where everyday transactions took the form of: "I'll give you twenty chickens for that cow," we'd have found one or two by now. After all people have been looking since 1776, when the Wealth of Nations first came out. But if you think about it for just a second, it's hardly surprising that we haven't found anything.

Sherlock

Bulgarian Archaeology Finds Said to Rewrite History of Black Sea Sailing

Massive ancient stone anchors were found by divers participating in an archaeological expedition near the southern Bulgarian Black Sea town of Sozopol.

Image
© BNGES
The 200-kg beautifully ornamented anchors have two holes in them – one for the anchor rope and another one for a wooden stick.
The expedition, led by deputy director of Bulgaria's National Historical Museum Dr Ivan Hristov, found the precious artifacts west of the Sts. Cyricus and Julitta island.

The 200-kg beautifully ornamented anchors have two holes in them - one for the anchor rope and another one for a wooden stick. They were used for 150-200-ton ships that transported mainly wheat, but also dried and salted fish, skins, timber and metals from what now is Bulgaria's coast.

Sherlock

1,400-Year-Old Funeral Chamber Found in Mexico

A 1,400-year-old funeral chamber was found by chance in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, authorities said.

The chamber, regarded as an elite burial place and dating between A.D. 600 and A.D. 900, was found by locals in the village of Chilacachapa, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said late Wednesday.

Locals intended to bring down a dry stone wall that risked collapse when they came upon the tomb. Under the stones, they found sand and then a stone slab, and they alerted INAH officials. Archaeologists then reviewed the site and consolidated the finding.

"After looking through what was inside layer by layer, we came to the conclusion that the skeleton or skeletons of individuals that were put inside the tomb, perhaps that of a ruler, were taken out six centuries ago, before the Spaniards arrived," an INAH statement said.

Archaeologists noted that the chamber was built by the Chontal ethnic group. It ends in a vault.

Archaeologist Edgar Pineda noted that it was probably linked to a building on the surface, most likely at the center of a former city.