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Archaeological discovery provides evidence of a celestial procession at Stonehenge

Image
© EPA/Lindsey Parnaby
Arch Druid Keeper of the Stones Terry Dobney inspecting the famous British landmark Stonehenge in Wiltshire, south west England.
Archaeologists led by the University of Birmingham with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection have discovered evidence of two huge pits positioned on celestial alignment at Stonehenge. Shedding new light on the significant association of the monument with the sun, these pits may have contained tall stones, wooden posts or even fires to mark its rising and setting and could have defined a processional route used by agriculturalists to celebrate the passage of the sun across the sky at the summer solstice.

Positioned within the Cursus pathway, the pits are on alignment towards midsummer sunrise and sunset when viewed from the Heel Stone, the enigmatic stone standing just outside the entrance to Stonehenge. For the first time, this discovery may directly link the rituals and celestial phenomena at Stonehenge to activities within the Cursus.

The international archaeological survey team, led by the University of Birmingham's IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA), with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna (LBI ArchPro) have also discovered a previously unknown gap in the middle of the northern side of the Cursus, which may have provided the main entrance and exit point for processions that took place within the pathway. Stretching from west to east, the Cursus is an immense linear enclosure, 100 metres wide and two and a half kilometres across, north of Stonehenge.

Magnify

The Secrets of Ancient Rome's Buildings

Roman Colosseum
© Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images
Roman Colosseum The Colosseum, inaugurated in A.D. 80, seated 50,000 and hosted gladiatorial games, ritual animal hunts, parades and executions.
What is it about Roman concrete that keeps the Pantheon and the Colosseum still standing?

The Romans started making concrete more than 2,000 years ago, but it wasn't quite like today's concrete. They had a different formula, which resulted in a substance that was not as strong as the modern product. Yet structures like the Pantheon and the Colosseum have survived for centuries, often with little to no maintenance. Geologists, archaeologists and engineers are studying the properties of ancient Roman concrete to solve the mystery of its longevity.

"Roman concrete is . . . considerably weaker than modern concretes. It's approximately ten times weaker," says Renato Perucchio, a mechanical engineer at the University of Rochester in New York. "What this material is assumed to have is phenomenal resistance over time."

That resistance, or durability against the elements, may be due to one of the concrete's key ingredients: volcanic ash. Modern concrete is a mix of a lime-based cement, water, sand and so-called aggregates such as fine gravel. The formula for Roman concrete also starts with limestone: builders burned it to produce quicklime and then added water to create a paste. Next they mixed in volcanic ash - usually three parts volcanic ash to one part lime, according to the writings of Vitruvius, a first-century B.C. architect and engineer. The volcanic ash reacted with the lime paste to create a durable mortar that was combined with fist-size chunks of bricks or volcanic rocks called tuff, and then packed into place to form structures like walls or vaults.

Fish

Evidence Found Of Ancient Deep Sea Fishing By Humans

Caught Fish
© redOrbit
An Australian archaeologist has discovered ancient fish bones in a cave in East Timor - a small island country northeast of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands - that contain the ancient remains of more than 38,000 fish bones from nearly 2,900 individual fish, a sign that humans may have gone deep-sea fishing as many as 42,000 years ago.

Among the fish bones were those of tuna and shark, clearly brought to the cave - called Jerimalai - by human hands. And to back that up, the archaeologist also unearthed a fish hook dating to 23,000 years old.

The discovery, reported online in the journal Science, provides the strongest evidence yet that people were deep-sea fishing long ago. And those maritime skills may have allowed the inhabitants of this region to travel abroad and colonize other islands and continents.

Human consumption of fish dates back around 1.9 million years. Early fishers waded into lakes and streams and caught fish without the use of boats or complex tools. It wasn't until later that humans began fishing the deep seas.

The earliest known boats, found in France and the Netherlands, date back only 10,000 years, but archaeologists know that boats must have been used prior to this. Wood and other common boat-building materials do not preserve well, making it harder to find more ancient proof. But. With the colonization of Australia and nearby islands in Southeast Asia occurring at least 45,000 years ago, sea travel of at least 16 miles would have been required.

Binoculars

New find sheds light on ancient site in Jerusalem

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© Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images
Jerusalem: Newly found coins underneath Jerusalem's Western Wall could change the accepted belief about the construction of one of the world's most sacred sites two millennia ago, Israeli archaeologists said Wednesday.

The man usually credited with building the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary is Herod, a Jewish ruler who died in 4 B.C. Herod's monumental compound replaced and expanded a much older Jewish temple complex on the same site.

But archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority now say diggers have found coins underneath the massive foundation stones of the compound's Western Wall that were stamped by a Roman proconsul 20 years after Herod's death. That indicates that Herod did not build the wall - part of which is venerated as Judaism's holiest prayer site - and that construction was not close to being complete when he died.

Attention

Mexico acknowledges 2nd Mayan reference to 2012

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© unknown
The pyramids of Comalcalco
Mexico's archaeology institute downplays theories that the ancient Mayas predicted some sort of apocalypse would occur in 2012, but on Thursday it acknowledged that a second reference to the date exists on a carved fragment found at a southern Mexico ruin site.

Most experts had cited only one surviving reference to the date in Mayan glyphs, a stone tablet from the Tortuguero site in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.

But the National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement that there is in fact another apparent reference to the date at the nearby Comalcalco ruin. The inscription is on the carved or molded face of a brick. Comalcalco is unusual among Mayan temples in that it was constructed of bricks.

Arturo Mendez, a spokesman for the institute, said the fragment of inscription had been discovered years ago and has been subject to thorough study. It is not on display and is being kept in storage at the institute.

Question

Alien Skull Discovery Perhaps a Hoax; Ancient Practice of Deforming Skull Could be a Pointer

Ancient Skull
© Twitter/brazilweirdnews/RPP
Peruvian scientists have discovered a mummy with large eyes and a triangular head, leading some UFO enthusiasts and scientist to call it an alien life-form.

The skeletal structure with an oversized skull and miniature rib cage, discovered in Peru recently, has been creating quite a buzz, with several anthropologists claiming that it cannot possibly belong to any human ethnic groups on earth and thus has come from another planet.

The claims sound completely farfetched, even as Peruvian anthropologist Renato Davila Riquelme, who made the discovery, has declared that the remains are those of a child. So who are these people celebrating the discovery of an ancient alien? As of now, they are unidentified. The "alien skull" buzz gained momentum after a Peruvian news site RPP, published an article featuring a number of anonymous quotes from "noted" (but strangely unnamed) Spanish and Russian scientists and anthropologists, who claimed that the structure "clearly" belonged to an alien.

"It has a non-human appearance," a statement from the scientists read. "The head is triangular and big, almost the same size as the boy... yes, it's an extraterrestrial being."

Sherlock

Old coins force re-think on Jerusalem's Western Wall

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© Reuters/Baz Ratner
A Jewish worshipper covered in a prayer shawl prays in front of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City November 21, 2011.
Israeli archaeologists on Wednesday said they had found ancient coins that overturned widely-held beliefs about the origins of Jerusalem's Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites.

For centuries, many thought the wall was built by King Herod - also infamous, in the Christian tradition, for his efforts to hunt down the baby Jesus in the original Christmas story.

But archaeologists said they had found coins buried under the wall's foundations minted 20 years after King Herod's death in 4 B.C., showing the structure was completed by his successors.

The find will mean a re-think for the city's army of tour guides.

"Every tour guide ... grounded in the history of Jerusalem" had replied "Herod" when asked who built the wall, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

"This bit of archaeological information illustrates the fact that the construction of the Temple Mount walls and (the adjacent) Robinson's Arch was an enormous project that lasted decades and was not completed during Herod's lifetime," the Authority added.

The authority said academic historians were already aware of an account by the Jewish historian Josephus that the wall was completed by Herod's great grandson.

But that report had done nothing to dispel the popular story that Herod completed the wall and the coins were the first hard evidence to back up Josephus's version.

Info

Cranium Shows Human Aggression Existed 126,000 Years Ago

Cranium_1
© University of the Witwatersrand
These are CT reconstructions depicting the lesion on the Maba cranium.
A new study has found evidence that interhuman aggression and human induced trauma occurred as far back as 126,000 years ago.

The report suggests that a half-inch ridged, healed lesion with bone depression inward to the brain resulted from localized blunt force trauma due to an accident or interhuman aggression.

"This wound is very similar to what is observed today when someone is struck forcibly with a heavy blunt object," Lynne Schepartz from the School of Anatomical Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, one of the co-authors of the study, said in a press release.

He said that this wound could be the oldest example of interhuman aggression and human induced trauma documented.

"It's remodeled, healed condition also indicates the survival of a serious brain injury, a circumstance that is increasingly documented for archaic and modern Homo through the Pleistocene."

Sherlock

UK: Saxon burial ground under Warwickshire couple's home

A Warwickshire man has described the moment builders found human bones under his patio. Stephen and Nicky West were having their home redeveloped when one of the builders unearthed the remains. Mr West said: "There was a tap on the door and the builder said 'Stephen, I think there's something you need to see'.

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© Archaeology Warwickshire
Mr West said at first he thought the bodies were probably casualties of the battle of Edgehill
"He had a skull in his hand and I thought 'oh my goodness'." The couple have lived at their house in Ratley, a village in south Warwickshire, for nearly seven years. The village is near to Edgehill - site of the the battle of Edgehill, where the King's army clashed with Parliamentarians in 1642 at the start of the English Civil War.

Info

Mystery of Dead Sea Scroll Authors Possibly Solved

Qumran
© Joseph Calev/Shutterstock
First excavated by Roland de Vaux in the 1950s, the site of Qumran in Israel is mired in controversy. De Vaux believed that it was a monastic settlement used by the Essenes and that the Dead Sea Scrolls were composed here.
The Dead Sea Scrolls may have been written, at least in part, by a sectarian group called the Essenes, according to nearly 200 textiles discovered in caves at Qumran, in the West Bank, where the religious texts had been stored.

Scholars are divided about who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls and how the texts got to Qumran, and so the new finding could help clear up this long-standing mystery.

The research reveals that all the textiles were made of linen, rather than wool, which was the preferred textile used in ancient Israel. Also they lack decoration, some actually being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours. Altogether, researchers say these finds suggest that the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, "penned" some of the scrolls.

Not everyone agrees with this interpretation. An archaeologist who has excavated at Qumran told LiveScience that the linen could have come from people fleeing the Roman army after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and that they are in fact responsible for putting the scrolls into caves.