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Archaeologist argues world's oldest temples were not temples at all

Gobekli Tepe recreation

Gobekli Tepe recreation - just houses?
Ancient structures uncovered in Turkey and thought to be the world's oldest temples may not have been strictly religious buildings after all, according to an article in the October issue of Current Anthropology. Archaeologist Ted Banning of the University of Toronto argues that the buildings found at Göbekli Tepe may have been houses for people, not the gods.

The buildings at Göbekli, a hilltop just outside of the Turkish city of Urfa, were found in 1995 by Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute and colleagues from the Şanlıurfa Museum in Turkey. The oldest of the structures at the site are immense buildings with large stone pillars, many of which feature carvings of snakes, scorpions, foxes, and other animals.

The presence of art in the buildings, the substantial effort that must have been involved in making and erecting them, and a lack of evidence for any permanent settlement in the area, led Schmidt and others to conclude that Göbekli must have been a sacred place where pilgrims traveled to worship, much like the Greek ruins of Delphi or Olympia. If that interpretation is true it would make the buildings, which date back more than 10,000 years to the early Neolithic, the oldest temples ever found.

However, Banning offers an alternative interpretation that challenges some of Schmidt's claims.

He outlines growing archaeological evidence for daily activities at the site, such as flintknapping and food preparation. "The presence of this evidence suggests that the site was not, after all, devoid of residential occupation, but likely had quite a large population," Banning said.

Shoe

20 Roman Shoes Found in U.K.; "Substantial" Fort Find

Leather footwear found among jewelry, coins at supermarket construction site.

About 60 pairs of sandals and shoes that once belonged to Roman soldiers have been unearthed at a supermarket construction site in Camelon, Scotland (see map), archaeologists say.

The 2,000-year-old leather footwear was discovered along with Roman jewelery, coins, pottery, and animal bones at the site, which is located at the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.

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© Martin Cook
The site of an ancient fort contains a cache of discarded Roman footwear, archaeologists say.
The cache of Roman shoes and sandals - one of the largest ever found in Scotland - was uncovered recently in a ditch at the gateway to a second century A.D. fort built along the Antonine Wall. The wall is a massive defensive barrier that the Romans built across central Scotland during their brief occupation of the region.

Dollar

Silver treasure worth $18 million found in Atlantic

Sea explorers announced Monday the discovery of a new sunken treasure that they plan to retrieve from the bottom of the North Atlantic.

Off Ireland in 1917, a German torpedo sank the British steam ship Mantola, sending the vessel and its cargo of an estimated 20 tons of silver to the seabed more than a mile down. At today's prices, the metal would be worth about $18 million.


Pharoah

UK: Egyptologist discovers 'royal' coffin in seaside museum

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© Torquay Museum
The extremely rare Egyptian coffin, possibly belonging to the son of a king.
An extremely rare Egyptian coffin, possibly belonging to the son of a king or a very senior official, has been 'discovered' at Torquay Museum by an archaeologist at the University of Bristol.

Dr Aidan Dodson, a senior research fellow in Bristol's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology made the discovery while undertaking a long-term project to catalogue every single Egyptian coffin in English and Welsh provincial museums.

Dr Dodson said: "When I walked into Torquay Museum for the first time I realised that the coffin was something really special. Not only was it of a design of which there is probably only one other example in the UK (in Bristol), but the quality was exceptional.

"Cut from a single log of cedar wood, it is exquisitely carved, inlaid and painted. For a child to have been given something like that, he must have had very important parents - perhaps even a king and queen. Unfortunately, the part of the inscription which named the boy and his parents is so badly damaged that we cannot be certain.

Info

US: Celebrate Leif 'the Lucky' Day

Leif Erikson
© Wikimedia Commons
Seattle's Leif Erikson memorial statue at Shilshole Bay Marina.

Today is Leif Erikson Day. Or "Leif the Lucky" Day.

In fact, the Norse explorer couldn't have had worse luck when it came to cement his place in history.

Believed to have discovered North America in the year 1000 -- almost 500 years before Christopher Columbus would receive credit for the same feat - - Erikson remained a relatively obscure character until 1837 when Danish literary historian Carl Christian Rafn published the first scholarly analysis of the Pre-Columbian Norse exploration.

Nevertheless, many years passed until Leif the Lucky received the consideration he deserved. It wasn't until in 1964 that President Lyndon B. Johnson designated October 9 an annual American observance in honor of the explorer.

"The intrepid exploits of the Vikings of Erikson's time strike a responsive chord in the hearts of all the American people, who as a nation are today embarked upon an adventurous exploration of the unfathomed realms of space," Johnson said.

Leif Erikson (about 970 - about 1020) was the son of Erik the Red, the first European to land and settle on Greenland after he was exiled from Iceland. Leif launched an even more ambitious expedition, which was recorded in several different sagas.

Sherlock

The Mysterious Serial Killer Who Terrified Nazi-Occupied Paris

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© The New York Times
Three months before D‑Day, in 1944, some Parisians in the chic 16th Arrondissement started complaining about thick smoke with an acrid smell emanating from the stately town house at 21 rue Le Sueur. Worried about a chimney fire, one neighbor finally called the authorities. They discovered that the mansion's basement was festooned with human bones, its coal stove burning body parts. A smaller outbuilding housed a mysterious, virtually soundproof triangular room. The former stable hid a pit about 10 feet deep filled with quicklime and rotting flesh.

Thus was uncovered one of history's most macabre bouts of serial killing. The official victim count was 27; other estimates ranged sharply upward.

The investigation soon centered on the building's owner, Marcel Petiot, a quick-witted, charming doctor with a checkered past. Petiot finagled state reimbursement for unorthodox treatments, often double-­dipping by charging patients too, and was implicated in narcotics dealing. He also claimed to be part of a Resistance organization helping people, especially Jews, escape Nazi Europe, for a sizable fee.

Sherlock

Norfolk, UK: Litcham Cryptogram - a medieval mystery

Image
© Unknown
A community archaeology project based in Norfolk has stumbled upon a medieval mystery that has so far defied the best efforts of both archaeologists and historians to unravel its meaning.

Whilst examining a rural Norfolk church, members of the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey (NMGS) came across an intriguing inscription etched deeply into one of the pillars of the building. The discovery, made in All Saints church, Litcham, was traditionally thought to be the work of a pilgrim travelling to the important shrine of Walsingham in North Norfolk. However, closer inspection of the inscription using new technology revealed that all was not as it seemed.

The Litcham Cryptogram

"The inscription is known as the Litcham Cryptogram", explained Project Director Matthew Champion, "and has been known about for some decades. Indeed, it was the reason that we chose to carry out one of our first surveys in All Saints. We were interested in looking to see if the church contained further graffiti inscriptions that had not been previously recorded".

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© Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey
Litcham Cryptogram.
The initial survey work soon proved that the Litcham Cryptogram was by no means the only inscription to be found in the church. Within a matter of days the survey had identified over fifty individual images and inscriptions etched into the soft stone pillars of the church. "Almost every pillar was covered with inscriptions", continued Matthew, "and it was clear that there had once been many more. However, our attention kept coming back to the Litcham Cryptogram".

Sherlock

Russia: Tiny Drone Reveals Ancient Royal Burial Sites

A miniature airborne drone has helped archaeologists capture images for creating a 3-D model of an ancient burial mound in Russia, scientists say.

Archaeological sites are often in remote and rugged areas. As such, it can be hard to reach and map them with the limited budgets archaeologists typically have. Scientists are now using drones to extend their view into these hard-to-reach spots. "There are a lot possibilities with this method," said researcher Marijn Hendrickx, a geographer at the University of Ghent in Belgium.

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© Marijn Hendrickx
A 3-D model of a Scythian burial mound based on images captured by a micro-drone.
The machine tested in a remote area in Russia called Tuekta was a four-propeller "quadrocopter": the battery-powered Microdrone md4-200. The fact it is small ? the axis of its rotors is about 27 inches (70 cm) ? and weighs about 35 ounces (1,000 grams) made it easy to transport, and researchers said it was very easy to fly, stabilizing itself constantly and keeping at a given height and position unless ordered to do otherwise.

The engine also generated almost no vibrations, they added, so that photographs taken from the camera mounted under it were relatively sharp. Depending on the wind, temperature and its payload, the drone's maximum flight time is approximately 20 minutes. [Drones Gallery: Photos of Unmanned Aircraft]

Sherlock

Homer's Iliad: Ancient Greek City Digitally Recreated

A submerged ancient Greek city, from the heroic era portrayed in Homer's Iliad, is being 'raised' from the bottom of the Aegean.

Using cutting edge underwater survey equipment and site reconstruction software, archaeologists and computer scientists have joined forces to map and digitally recreate a Bronze Age port which was swallowed by the waves up to 3000 years ago.

It's the first time that a submerged city has ever been fully mapped in photo-realistic 3D. The entire city - covering 20 acres - has been surveyed in ultra-high definition, with error margins of less than three centimetres.

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© BBC
The survey - carried out by an archaeological team from the University of Nottingham - is the subject of a special BBC Two documentary, tomorrow Sunday evening.

The original name and political status of the site is a complete mystery. The evidence so far suggests that it flourished between 2000 and 1100 BC, peaking in size in the two century period, 1700-1500BC, and being abandoned about a century before the end of the millennium.

Sherlock

Ceremonial Aztec platform used to burn snakes discovered under Mexico City's famous ruin

Archeologists could be on the brink of discovering Mexico's first Aztec royal tomb after they unearthed a ceremonial carved stone platform beneath an existing ruin.

The platform, carved with snake heads, was found under Mexico City's Templo Mayor ruin, a complex of two huge pyramids and numerous smaller structures that contained the ceremonial and spiritual heart of the pre-Hispanic Aztec empire.

The find has raised hopes that there could be an emperor's tomb buried nearby.

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© AP
Discovery: A figure in the shape of a serpents' head decorates a newly discovered platform at the archaeological site Templo Mayor in Mexico City
No Aztec ruler's tomb has ever been located and researchers have been on a five-year quest to find a royal tomb in the area of the Templo Mayor.

Mexico's National Institute of History and Anthropology said the stone platform is about 15 yards in diameter and probably built around A.D. 1469.

The site lies in downtown Mexico City, which was built by Spanish conquerors atop the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.