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Mon, 05 Jun 2023
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Black Magic Revealed in Two Ancient Curses

Ancient Curses_1
© Museo Archeologico Civico di Bologna, cropping by Owen Jarus
Two ancient curses dating back 1,600 years depict a deity with snakes coming out of its head. This deity may be none other than the goddess Hekate, the Queen of the Crossroads. Invocations in the curses resemble those used for her.
At a time when black magic was relatively common, two curses involving snakes were cast, one targeting a senator and the other an animal doctor, says a Spanish researcher who has just deciphered the 1,600-year-old curses.

Both curses feature a depiction of a deity, possibly the Greek goddess Hekate, with serpents coming out of her hair, possibly meant to strike at the victims. Both curses contain Greek invocations similar to examples known to call upon Hekate.

The two curses, mainly written in Latin and inscribed on thin lead tablets, would have been created by two different people late in the life of the Roman Empire.

Both tablets were rediscovered in 2009 at the Museo Archeologico Civico di Bologna, in Italy, and were originally acquired by the museum during the late 19th century.

Although scholars aren't sure where the tablets originated, after examining and deciphering the curses, they know who victims of the curses were.

Family

Dogs may have helped Humans beat the Neanderthals

dog
© unknown
Over 20,000 years ago, humans won the evolutionary battle against Neanderthals. They may have had some assistance in that from their best friends.

One of the most compelling -- and enduring -- mysteries in archaeology concerns the rise of early humans and the decline of Neanderthals. For about 250,000 years, Neanderthals lived and evolved, quite successfully, in the area that is now Europe. Somewhere between 45,000 and 35,000 years ago, early humans came along.

They proliferated in their new environment, their population increasing tenfold in the 10,000 years after they arrived; Neanderthals declined and finally died away.

What happened? What went so wrong for the Neanderthals -- and what went so right for us humans?

Sherlock

Huge Canaanite Jewelry Hoard Unearthed in Megiddo

Image
© Unknown
Conflagration at biblical Armageddon preserved gold and silver trove

Archaeologists digging at Tel Megiddo in northern Israel have unearthed what turns out to be one of the largest troves of Canaanite treasures ever found, buried in rubble from destruction 3,100 years ago. The treasure was hidden inside a clay vessel that had been unearthed in the summer of 2010. The pot had been filled with dirt and sent for testing. It was only recently that the dirt was examined in a restoration laboratory and the treasure revealed to their great surprise.

The hoard includes a collection of gold and silver jewelry, beads, a ring and a pair of unique gold earrings with molded ibexes and wild goats that was likely made in Egypt. "We find about 10 [whole] vessels every year. The only thing that was unusual was that the jug was found inside a bowl. It was put inside a bowl 3,000 years ago and was covered by another bowl and it was put in the corner of a court yard," archaeologist Eran Arie told The Media Line.

The hoard is one of the largest and most intriguing ever found in Israel. The treasure likely belonged to a wealthy, perhaps royal, family and was found in the layer of settlement dating to 1,100 B.C., about 150 years prior to the Israelite conquest of Canaan, Arie says.

Telescope

Ancient Mayan workshop for astronomers discovered

Image
© AP Photo/National Geographic, Tyrone Turner
In this undated photo made available by National Geographic, conservator Angelyn Bass cleans and stabilizes the surface of a wall of a Maya house that dates to the 9th century A.D. in the Maya city Zultun in northeastern Guatemala.
Archaeologists have found a small room in Mayan ruins where royal scribes apparently used walls like a blackboard to keep track of astronomical records and the society's intricate calendar some 1,200 years ago. The walls reveal the oldest known astronomical tables from the Maya. Scientists already knew they must have been keeping such records at that time, but until now the oldest known examples dated from about 600 years later.

Astronomical records were key to the Mayan calendar, which has gotten some attention recently because of doomsday warnings that it predicts the end of the world this December. Experts say it makes no such prediction. The new finding provides a bit of backup: The calculations include a time span longer than 6,000 years that could extend well beyond 2012.

"Why would they go into those numbers if the world is going to come to an end this year?" observed Anthony Aveni of Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., an expert on Mayan astronomy. "You could say a number that big at least suggests that time marches on."

Info

Cursing Stone' Found on Isle of Canna

Bullaun Stone
© National Trust For Scotland
The bullaun stone was found in an old graveyard.
A stone discovered by chance on the Isle of Canna is Scotland's first known example of a bullaun "cursing stone", experts have revealed.

Dating from about 800 AD, the stones are associated with early Christian crosses - of which there is one on the isle.

It was found in an old graveyard by a National Trust for Scotland (NTS) farm manager.

The stone is about 25cm in diameter and engraved with an early Christian cross.

It was later found to fit exactly into a large rectangular stone with a worn hole which was located at the base of the Canna cross.

NTS manager of Canna, Stewart Connor, said the importance of the stone became clear after he was notified of the discovery.

He said: "We knew of the importance of bullaun stones and that it could be a really significant find.

"Our head of archaeology confirmed a possible link to the stone at the cross and I was so excited that I went back out at 9pm that night to check whether it fitted the stone with the hole and it did."

People

How stone age man invented the art of raving

Stone age/neolithic parties
© Mark Bauer/Alamy
Hambledon Hill, in Dorset, hosted stone-age festivals at a causewayed enclosure before the construction of its iron-age hill fort

They were the stone-age equivalent of Glastonbury festival. People gathered in their hundreds to drink, eat and party every summer at revelries lasting several days and nights. Young men met women from nearby communities and married them. Herds of cattle were slaughtered to provide food.

These neolithic carousals even had special sites. They were held on causewayed enclosures, large hilltop earthworks built by our forebears after they brought farming to Britain from the continent 6,000 years ago.

This picture of ancient British bacchanalia has been created by researchers led by Professor Alasdair Whittle of Cardiff University and Dr Alex Bayliss of English Heritage. Using a revolutionary technique for dating ancient remains, they have built up a detailed chronology of the first farmers' arrival in Britain and have shown that agriculture spread with dramatic rapidity. In its wake, profound social changes gripped the country, culminating in the construction of causewayed enclosures where chieftains or priests held revelries to help establish their power bases.

Info

Bronze-Age 'Facebook' Stone Conveyed 'Likes'

Cave Art_1
© Mark Sapwell
A cluster at Nämforsen called Lillforshällan, where the elk image is the most common star of the show. This cluster is dated to an early period, around 4000 BC, when the elk image was the most common image to use.
A Bronze Age version of Facebook has emerged from granite rocks in Russia and northern Sweden, revealing a thousands-of-years-old timeline filled with an archaic version of the Facebook "like."

Using computer modeling, Mark Sapwell, a Ph.D. archaeology student at Cambridge University, analyzed some 3,500 rock art images from Nämforsen in Northern Sweden and Zalavruga in Western Russia.

"Although this rock art has been documented from the early 1900s, the modeling has allowed a unique look at the interesting way these images have been arranged and accumulated over time," Sapwell told Discovery News.

Carved from about 4000 B.C. up to the Bronze Age, the rock art shows animals, people, boats, hunting scenes -- even very early centaurs and mermaids. It was produced by generations of semi nomadic people, who lived more inland in winter to hunt elk, and then occupied areas closer to coasts and rivers to fish.

Info

Ancient History of Circumarctic Peoples Illuminated

Igloo
© coco/Fotolia
Igloo. Establishing shared markers in the DNA of people living in the circumarctic region, scientists uncovered evidence of interactions among several tribes during the last several thousand years.
Two studies led by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and National Geographic's Genographic Project reveal new information about the migration patterns of the first humans to settle the Americas. The studies identify the historical relationships among various groups of Native American and First Nations peoples and present the first clear evidence of the genetic impact of the groups' cultural practices.

For many of these populations, this is the first time their genetics have been analyzed on a population scale. One study, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, focuses on the Haida and Tlingit communities of southeastern Alaska. The other study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, considers the genetic histories of three groups that live in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

Establishing shared markers in the DNA of people living in the circumarctic region, the team of scientists uncovered evidence of interactions among the tribes during the last several thousand years. The researchers used these clues to determine how humans migrated to and settled in North America as long as 20,000 years ago, after crossing the land bridge from today's Russia, an area known as Beringia.

Penn houses the Genographic Project's North American research center.

"These studies inform our understanding of the initial peopling process in the Americas, what happened after people moved through and who remained behind in Beringia," said author Theodore Schurr, an associate professor in Penn's Department of Anthropology and the Genographic Project principal investigator for North America.

Boat

Explorers discover 200-year-old shipwreck in Gulf of Mexico

Researchers find historic, 19th-century wooden-hulled vessel buried in ocean floor
Image
© Okeanos Explorer program
Remnants of the hull of a 19th-century wooden ship are shown in this handout photo. Explorers aboard the Okeanos Explorer sent robots to photograph the historic artifacts nestled in the sea floor.
Ocean researchers stumbled across a historic shipwreck entombed in over 4,000 feet of water during an expedition in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Scientists aboard the Okeanos Explorer reportedly discovered the approximately 200-year-old, wooden-hulled ship while on a 56-day excursion in a relatively unexplored area 200 miles off the Gulf coast that ended April 29.

A rare glimpse of the 19th-century ocean artifact wasn't all that was found, however, the shipwreck was reportedly laden with additional seafaring artifacts including anchors, navigational instruments, glass bottles, ceramic plates, cannons and boxes of muskets.

Info

Beheading: Once a Nobleman's Death

Beheading
© The Yorck Project
"The beheading of St. John the Baptist" by Carvaggio.
When most people think of beheadings they probably think of events far away in time and place, such as Marie Antoinette's 1793 guillotine execution during the French revolution.

But beheadings are hardly a thing of the past; in fact in some places they are becoming increasingly commonplace.

Though most Americans are unaware of it, many beheadings take place very near the United States, in Mexico. As Will Grant noted in a BBC News story,
This month has been perhaps the worst in terms of decapitations. In the past 10 days alone, there have been an unprecedented 81 beheaded bodies discovered in the country. In early May, 14 decapitated bodies were found in Nuevo Laredo, just over the border from Texas. Last week, 18 bodies and severed heads were left in two mini-vans near Lake Chapala, an area popular with tourists in western Mexico. Finally, in one of the most shocking incidents of its kind since the current drug war began, 49 headless and mutilated bodies were left in plastic bags on a road outside the industrial city of Monterrey.
The idea of execution by decapitation is bizarre and horrific, though for millennia public beheadings around the world were fairly common. It's only in modern times that cutting a person's head off has come to be considered barbaric.

In centuries past beheading was actually preferable to other common forms of execution (such as being burned alive or disemboweled). In early England beheading was considered a noble, and even honorable, death. Nigel Cawthorne, author of Public Executions (2006, Capella Press) notes that "Hanging was usually reserved for the lower classes."