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Colosseum

Extremely rare 2000-year-old wooden figure unearthed in a Buckinghamshire ditch

wooden figure
© HS2
Rare Roman wooden figure uncovered by HS2 archaeologists in Buckinghamshire.
An extremely rare, carved wooden figure from the early Roman era has been discovered in a waterlogged ditch during work on the HS2 project.

The discovery was made by experts from Infra Archaeology, working for HS2's contractor Fusion JV.

The 67cm tall statue is made of a single piece of wood. Given its age and substance, archaeologists said its preservation was "amazing," but the absence of oxygen in the ditch helped prevent decay over many generations.

The style of the carving and the tunic-like clothing suggests the figure could date from the early Roman period almost 2,000 years ago.

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Info

Earliest human remains in eastern Africa dated to more than 230,000 years ago

Omo-Kibish geological formation
© Céline Vidal
A view of the Omo-Kibish geological formation in southwestern Ethiopia.
The age of the oldest fossils in eastern Africa widely recognised as representing our species, Homo sapiens, has long been uncertain. Now, dating of a massive volcanic eruption in Ethiopia reveals they are much older than previously thought.

The remains - known as Omo I - were found in Ethiopia in the late 1960s, and scientists have been attempting to date them precisely ever since, by using the chemical fingerprints of volcanic ash layers found above and below the sediments in which the fossils were found.

An international team of scientists, led by the University of Cambridge, has reassessed the age of the Omo I remains - and Homo sapiens as a species. Earlier attempts to date the fossils suggested they were less than 200,000 years old, but the new research shows they must be older than a colossal volcanic eruption that took place 230,000 years ago. The results are reported in the journal Nature.

The Omo I remains were found in the Omo Kibish Formation in southwestern Ethiopia, within the East African Rift valley. The region is an area of high volcanic activity, and a rich source of early human remains and artefacts such as stone tools. By dating the layers of volcanic ash above and below where archaeological and fossil materials are found, scientists identified Omo I as the earliest evidence of our species, Homo sapiens.

Info

Mysterious ancient tombs reveal 4,500-year-old highway network in north-west Arabia

Ancient Tomb
© Bahrain News Agency
Madinah - (BNA): Archaeologists, affiliated to the University of Western Australia (UWA), have determined that the people who lived in ancient north-west Arabia have built long-distance 'funerary avenues', major pathways flanked by thousands of burial monuments that linked oases and pastures.

The findings suggest a high degree of social and economic connection between the region's populations in the third millennium BC, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The publication of the findings in The Holocene the journal caps a year of tremendous progress by the UWA team, working under the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), in shedding light on the lives of the ancient inhabitants of Arabia.

The existence of the funerary avenues suggests that complex social horizons existed 4,500 years ago across a huge swathe of the Arabian Peninsula. The findings add to the steady progress by archaeologists working under the auspices of RCU in understanding the hidden story of the ancient kingdoms and earlier societies of north Arabia.

The UWA team's work is part of a wider effort that includes 13 archaeological and conservation project teams from around the world collaborating with Saudi experts in AlUla and neighbouring Khaybar counties in Saudi Arabia.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of RCU, said: "The more we learn about the ancient inhabitants of north-west Arabia, the more we are inspired by the way our mission reflects their mindset: they lived in harmony with nature, honoured their predecessors, and reached out to the wider world. The work done by our archaeological teams in 2021 demonstrates that Saudi Arabia is a home for top-flight science - and we look forward to hosting more research teams in 2022."

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Ancient Mesopotamian discovery transforms knowledge of early farming

Khani Masi plain
© Photo courtesy of Sirwan Regional Project and Dr. Elise Laugier
Drone footage of the Khani Masi plain in the Garmian Province, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, taken in 2018.
Rutgers researchers have unearthed the earliest definitive evidence of broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) in ancient Iraq, challenging our understanding of humanity's earliest agricultural practices. Their findings appear in the journal Scientific Reports.

"Overall, the presence of millet in ancient Iraq during this earlier time period challenges the accepted narrative of agricultural development in the region as well as our models for how ancient societies provisioned themselves," said Elise Laugier, an environmental archaeologist and National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Broomcorn millet is an "amazingly robust, quick-growing and versatile summer crop" that was first domesticated in East Asia, Laugier added. The researchers analyzed microscopic plant remains (phytoliths) from Khani Masi, a mid-late second millennium BCE (c. 1500-1100 BCE) site in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

"The presence of this East Asian crop in ancient Iraq highlights the interconnected nature of Eurasia during this time, contributing to our knowledge of early food globalization," Laugier said. "Our discovery of millet and thus the evidence of summer cultivation practices also forces us to reconsider the capacity and resilience of the agricultural systems that sustained and provisioned Mesopotamia's early cities, states and empires."

Horse

Contrary to Hollywood, study finds medieval warhorses were surprisingly small in stature

war horse medieval hollywood
© Barry James Wilson
Hollywood's version of the medieval war horse
Medieval warhorses are often depicted as massive and powerful beasts, but in reality many were no more than pony-sized by modern standards, a new study shows.

Horses during the period were often below 14.2 hands high (~5 ft. or 1.4m at the shoulder), but size was clearly not everything, as historical records indicate huge sums were spent on developing and maintaining networks for the breeding, training and keeping of horses used in combat.

A team of archaeologists and historians searching for the truth about the Great Horse have found they were not always bred for size, but for success in a wide range of different functions - including tournaments and long-distance raiding campaigns.

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6th century mosaic revealed in Turkey during excavation

Ancient Peacock Mosaic
© Anadolu Agency
During the season excavation of the 6th-century Holy Apostles Church, located in an orange grove in the Arsuz district of Hatay in southern Turkey, after a slave was free, a mosaic he made to for the Thank God was unearthed.

Excavations continue in the area where the Church of the Apostles is the site, which Mehmet Keleş discovered while trying to plant orange saplings in his garden in Arpaciftlik district in 2007.

Archaeologists excavated in the region this season and found an area with mosaics, including a peacock figure and an inscription in which a slave thanked the god after being freed.

Ayşe Ersoy, Director of Hatay Archeology Museum, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Hatay attracts attention with its history, nature, and culture and that Arsuz district has had an important place as a port city since ancient times.

Archaeology

Giant 'sea dragon' surfaces in one of Britain's 'greatest ever' prehistoric finds

Ichthyosaur skeleton rutland england
© Anglian Water/PA
The Ichthyosaur skeleton was found at Rutland Nature Reserve
The 180 million-year-old ichthyosaur is the largest and most complete fossil of any marine reptile found in Britain

Scientists are celebrating one of the "greatest finds" in British palaeontological history after the skeleton of a 180 million-year-old sea dragon was discovered in Rutland.

Measuring 10 metres in length with a skull weighing approximately one tonne, the ichthyosaur is the largest and most complete fossil of any marine reptile found in Britain.

The discovery was made by Joe Davis, an employee of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, during a routine draining of a lagoon island at Rutland Water in February 2021.

Ichthyosaurs were marine reptiles that lived in Britain 250 million years ago. They went extinct 90 million years ago.

Nuke

'After 900 nuclear tests on our land, US wants to ethnically cleanse us': meet the most bombed nation in the world

Shoshone dancers
© Ian Zabarte
Women dancers at Yucca Mountain gathering
Native-American nation's land was turned into a nuclear test site. Now, they suffer from illnesses

'The most nuclear bombed nation on the planet' is the unwanted accolade claimed by the Shoshone Native American tribe. This has had devastating effects for the community, and RT spoke with one campaigner fighting for justice.
"They are occupying our country, they are stealing our opportunities and we are expected to die because of that. We are still trying to grapple with and understand what happened to us, and find ways to stop it, correct it and prevent it happening in the future."
Ian Zabarte's voice is angry but does not falter as he describes the stark fate of his people, Native Americans who for decades have been - by any measure - subjected to the most unimaginable horrors, all perpetrated by their government in Washington.

Zabarte, 57, is the Principal Man of the Western Bands of the Shoshone Nation and he is spearheading a campaign to expose what he describes as the "ethnic cleansing" of his tribe.


Info

Geomythology looks to ancient stories for hints of scientific truth

Everyone loves a good story, especially if it's based on something true.

Consider the Greek legend of the Titanomachy, in which the Olympian gods, led by Zeus, vanquish the previous generation of immortals, the Titans. As recounted by the Greek poet Hesiod, this conflict makes for a thrilling tale - and it may preserve kernels of truth.

The eruption around 1650 B.C. of the Thera volcano could have inspired Hesiod's narrative. More powerful than Krakatoa, this ancient cataclysm in the southern Aegean Sea would have been witnessed by anyone living within hundreds of miles of the blast.

Thera Volcano
© Steve Jurvetson, CC BY
The massive eruption of the Thera volcano more than 3,500 years ago left behind a hollowed out island, today known as Santorini.
Historian of science Mott Greene argues that key moments from the Titanomachy map on to the eruption's "signature." For example, Hesiod notes that loud rumbles emanated from the ground as the armies clashed; seismologists now know that harmonic tremors - small earthquakes that sometimes precede eruptions - often produce similar sounds. And the impression of the sky - "wide Heaven" - shaking during the battle could have been inspired by shock waves in the air caused by the volcanic explosion. Hence, the Titanomachy may represent the creative misreading of a natural event.

In 2021 I published the first textbook in the field, Geomythology: How Common Stories Reflect Earth Events. As the book demonstrates, researchers in both the sciences and the humanities practice geomythology. In fact, geomythology's hybrid nature may help to bridge the gap between the two cultures. And despite its orientation toward the past, geomythology might also provide powerful resources for meeting environmental challenges in the future.

Treasure Chest

3,000 year-old tombs of wealthy Chinese "Ce" clan discovered

bronze age china
© Anyang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology
A 3,000-year-old cemetery containing the tombs of a wealthy clan has been uncovered in central China following two years of excavation by archaeologists.

The site in Anyang, Henan province, is thought to have been home to a clan named "Ce" during the Shang dynasty, said the Anyang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in a news release on Thursday.

The clan cemetery was found just 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from the ancient capital of Yinxu, where the ruins of a palace and ancestral temple are located. The archaeological site contained 18 building foundations, 24 tombs, four horse and chariot pits, and a number of remarkably intact relics, including jade and stone items, and bronzeware inscribed with the character "Ce."

Comment: China's mysterious Sanxingdui culture, thought to be of the same era as the Ce mentioned above, has provided of the most bizarre and exquisite finds yet.

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