All posts by Archaeology World Team

Freckled Woman with High Alcohol Tolerance Lived in Japan 3,800 Years Ago

Freckled Woman with High Alcohol Tolerance Lived in Japan 3,800 Years Ago

More than two decades after researchers discovered the 3,800-year-old remains of “Jomon woman” in Hokkaido, Japan, they’ve finally deciphered her genetic secrets.

Freckled Woman with High Alcohol Tolerance Lived in Japan 3,800 Years Ago
A facial reconstruction of the Jomon woman, who lived about 3,800 years ago in what is now northern Japan.

And it turns out, from that perspective, she looks very different from modern-day inhabitants of Japan.

The woman, who was elderly when she died, had a high tolerance for alcohol, unlike some modern Japanese people, a genetic analysis revealed. She also had moderately dark skin and eyes and an elevated chance of developing freckles.

Surprisingly, the ancient woman shared a gene variant with people who live in the Arctic, one that helps people digest high-fat foods. This variant is found in more than 70% of the Arctic population, but it’s absent elsewhere, said study first author Hideaki Kanzawa, a curator of anthropology at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. 

This variant provides further evidence that the Jomon people fished and hunted fatty sea and land animals, Kanzawa said.

“Hokkaido Jomon people engaged in [not only] hunting of … land animals, such as deer and boar, but also marine fishing and hunting of fur seal, Steller’s sea lions, sea lions, dolphins, salmon and trout,” Kanzawa told Live Science.

“In particular, many relics related to hunting of ocean animals have been excavated from the Funadomari site,” where the Jomon woman was found.

Who is Jomon woman?

Jomon women lived during the Joman period, also known as Japan’s Neolithic period, which lasted from about 10,500 B.C. to 300 B.C. Though she died more than three millennia ago — between 3,550 and 3,960 years ago, according to recent radiocarbon dating — researchers found her remains only in 1998, at the Funadomari shell mound on Rebun Island, off the northern coast of Hokkaido.

But Jomon woman’s genetics have remained a mystery all these years, prompting researchers to study her DNA, which they extracted from one of her molars.

Last year, the researchers released their preliminary results, which helped a forensic artist create a facial reconstruction of the woman, showing that she had dark, frizzy hair; brown eyes; and a smattering of freckles.

Her genes also showed that she was at high risk of developing solar lentigo, or darkened patches of skin if she spent too much time in the sun, so the artist included several dark spots on her face.

“These findings provided insights into the history and reconstructions of the ancient human-population structures in east Eurasia,” said Kanzawa, who was part of a larger team that included Naruya Saitou, a professor of population genetics at the National Institute of Genetics in Japan.

Now, with their study slated to be published in the next few weeks in The Anthropological Society of Nippon’s English-language journal, Kanzawa and his colleagues are sharing more of their results. Jomon woman’s DNA shows, for example, that the Jomon people split with Asian populations that lived on the Asian mainland between 38,000 and 18,000 years ago, he said.

It’s likely that the Jomon people lived in small hunter-gatherer groups, likely for about 50,000 years, Kanzawa noted. Moreover, the Jomon woman had wet earwax. That’s an interesting fact because the gene variant for dry earwax originated in northeastern Asia and today up to 95% of East Asians have dry earwax. (People with the dry earwax variant also lack a chemical that produces smelly armpits.)

Despite her differences from the modern Japanese population, Jomon woman is actually more closely related to today’s Japanese, Ulchi (the indigenous culture of eastern Russian), Korean, aboriginal Taiwanese and Philippine people than these populations are to the Han Chinese, Kanzawa said.

Strange ‘alien’ holes were discovered on the ocean floor

Strange ‘alien’ holes were discovered on the ocean floor

Explorers have discovered a series of mysterious, “perfectly aligned” holes punched into the seafloor roughly 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometres) beneath the ocean surface, and they have no idea who or what made them.

Strange 'alien' holes were discovered on the ocean floor
The holes appear as a closely aligned, regularly repeating pattern. Tiny piles of sediment are piled around them.

The strange holes were spotted by the crew of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer vessel as they investigated the Mid-Atlantic Ridge — a mostly unexplored region of the seafloor that is part of the world’s largest mountain range. 

The holes form a straight line and appear at regularly repeating distances, and they are surrounded by tiny mounds of sediment.

This isn’t the first time that holes have been spotted in the area; two marine scientists from the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service also spotted mysterious hollows in the ocean floor during a dive in 2004.

“These holes have been previously reported from the region, but their origin remains a mystery,” the NOAA researchers wrote on Facebook.

“While they look almost human-made, the little piles of sediment around the holes make them seem like they were excavated by… something.”

In 2004, scientists proposed that an organism living in or sifting through the seafloor’s sediment made the holes, but because no one has seen such creatures make them, their exact origins are unknown.

Public speculation under the NOAA post’s Facebook page ranged widely — from cracks in the floor’s surface made by escaping gas to underwater human craft digging for treasure, to ants, aliens and even starfish doing cartwheels.

The unresolved mystery is reminiscent of an underwater “yellow brick road” to Atlantis that ocean explorers discovered on top of an underwater mountain near Hawaii in May.

Scientists explained that discovery — they suspected that heating and cooling of the seafloor across multiple volcanic eruptions created a strange path.

What is creating the holes, on the other hand, may take a little longer to figure out.

The researchers will continue to explore the region until September as part of the Voyage to the Ridge 2022 expedition, which aims to map out the region’s coral reefs and sponge habitats alongside studying the region’s hydrothermal vents and its fracture and rift zones. Maybe if they’re lucky, they might just catch the hole-maker in the act.

Metal books found in Jordan cave could change the view of Biblical history

Metal books found in Jordan cave could change the view of Biblical history

The discovery of seventy ancient metal books in a cave in Jordan is said to have the possibility of unlocking some of the secrets of the earliest days of Christianity.

Metal books found in Jordan cave could change the view of Biblical history

The tiny books, their lead pages bound with wire, have left academics divided over their authenticity, but they say that if they are verified, they could prove as pivotal as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

The pages are not much bigger than a credit card, and on them are images, symbols and words that appear to refer to the Messiah and, possibly even, to the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Adding to the intrigue, many of the books are sealed, prompting academics to speculate they are actually the lost collection of codices mentioned in the Bible’s Book Of Revelation.

The books were discovered five years ago in a cave in a remote part of Jordan to which Christian refugees are known to have fled after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD.

Important documents from the same period have previously been found there, and initial metallurgical tests indicate that some of the books could date from the first century AD.

This estimate is based on the form of corrosion, which has taken place, which experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially. If the dating were verified, the books would be among the earliest Christian documents, predating the writings of St Paul.

David Elkington, a British scholar of ancient religious history and archaeology, and one of the few to have examined the books says they could be “the major discovery of Christian history”. “It is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

“It is vital that the collection can be recovered intact and secured in the best possible circumstances, both for the benefit of its owners and for a potentially fascinated international audience,” he said. The books’ whereabouts are also a mystery, as after a Jordanian Bedouin discovered them, an Israeli Bedouin, who is said to have illegally smuggled them across the border into Israel, where they remain, acquired the lot.

The Jordanian Government is now working at the highest levels to repatriate and safeguard the collection. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of biblical studies at Sheffield University, said there was powerful evidence that the books have a Christian origin in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.

“As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck. That struck me as so obviously a Christian image,” he said. “There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb of Jesus, a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city.

“There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem. It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls.

“The possibility of a Hebrew-Christian origin is certainly suggested by the imagery and, if so, these codices are likely to bring dramatic new light to our understanding of a very significant but so far little understood period of history,” he stated.

The British team leading the work on the discovery fears that the present Israeli “keeper” may be looking to sell some of the books onto the black market, or worse – destroy them. But the man who holds the books denies the charge and claims they have been in his family for 100 years.

“The Book of Revelation tells of a sealed book that was opened only by the Messiah,” Dr Margaret Barker, a former president of the Society for Old Testament Study, said. “Other texts from the period tell of sealed books of wisdom and of a secret tradition passed on by Jesus to his closest disciples. That is the context for this discovery,” she stated.

7,800-year-old female figurine discovered in Ulucak Höyük in western Turkey

7,800-year-old female figurine discovered in Ulucak Höyük in western Turkey

7,800-year-old female figurine discovered in Ulucak Höyük in western Turkey
The 7,800-year-old female figurine found in Ulucak Mound, Izmir, Türkiye.

A clay statuette of a female figure dating back 7,800 years were unearthed during the Ulucak Mound excavation in the Kemalpaşa district of the western province of Izmir.

Professor Özlem Çevik from the Department of Protohistory and Pre-Asian Archeology at Trakya University’s Faculty of Letters, who is leading the excavations in Ulucak, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the mound is the site of the first farmer village settlement of Izmir.

“It is among the oldest settlements in Western Anatolia, and we have unearthed findings dating back 8,850 years in the mound,” Çevik said.

Archaeologists work in Ulucak Mound, Izmir, Türkiye, Aug. 8, 2022. (AA)

Noting that the team discovered that the Ulucak Mound had been inhabited continuously for 45 generations with villages established one on top of the other, Çevik added: “During the excavations of a house this year, we found a whole female figurine made of clay.

We have previously found similar statuettes but they were usually broken.

The latest figurine is important for us as it is the third figurine found in an intact form here.”

According to Çevik, these kinds of statuettes were previously thought to depict gods and goddesses, however, they were also found in the dumpsite of the ancient mound which leads researchers to believe that they were not sacred pieces.

Archaeologists think that the figurines may be related to important events like births, deaths or the harvest and may be used to increase abundance and fertility or for witchcraft.

7,800-year-old female figurine discovered in Ulucak Höyük in western Turkey
The 7,800-year-old female figurine found in Ulucak Mound, Izmir, Türkiye.

The Ulucak Mound, located 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of Izmir, features cultural artifacts from the early Neolithic period to the late Roman-early Byzantine era.

The site was discovered by British archaeologist David French in the 1960s but it remained unexplored until excavations began in the middle of 1990s.

The very first excavation period between 1995 and 2008 was headed by archaeologist Altan Çilingiroğlu and the Izmir Archaeological Museum.

Since 2009, Çevik of Trakya University has been directing the studies at the archaeological site.

The excavations in Ulucak have already produced valuable insights into the emergence and development of prehistoric cultures in western Türkiye.

A sleeve button set from the 1780s discovered at Colonial Michilimackinac

A sleeve button set from the 1780s discovered at Colonial Michilimackinac

A set of joined sleeve buttons, believed to be from the 1780s, was recently discovered on Colonial Michilimackinac.

Sleeve button

According to a press release from Mackinac State Historic Parks, archaeologists continue to uncover incredible artefacts late into the 2022 archaeological field season.

“We are still finding interesting artifacts,” said Dr. Lynn Evans, Mackinac State Historic Parks Curator of Archaeology, in a press release.

“This set of joined sleeve buttons, like a modern cufflink, was found in the 1781 demolition rubble layer.

The green glass paste ‘stones’ are set in brass.”

The current excavation site is House E of the Southeast Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac.

The house, according to Mackinac State Historic Parks, was first occupied by Charles Henri Desjardins de Rupallay de Gonneville.

Other finds this season have included a red earthenware bowl, a one-ounce brass weight marked with a crown over GR, for the king, a second brass weight from a set of nesting apothecary weights, stamped with a fleur-de-lis, and a King’s 8th button.

The dig at Michilimackinac began back in 1959; it’s reportedly one of the longest-running archaeology programs in North America.

17th-Century Coin Unearthed at a Castle in Slovakia

17th-Century Coin Unearthed at a Castle in Slovakia

A coin minted at the end of the 17th century is just one of the finds archaeologists have made during research work at the Sivý Kameň castle ruins in the Prievidza district.

The coin, which was among other items including ceramics and a knife found in the area around the former castle gates, dates back to when the castle served as a prison.

The castle, which was built in the 14th century, is now largely ruins, but using old photographs, experts identified where the castle gate and a forecourt once stood and began to unearth what was left of the structure belowground.

Archaeologist Dominika Andreánska told the TASR newswire: “Structures that are still preserved under the ground are important to us, but, of course, finds in castles inevitably include tiles from kilns, ceramic remnants, be they kitchen or painted tableware, small metal objects, nails, and we were also pleased with the first coin.”

According to Andreánska, the coin is a denarius dating back to the time of Leopold I. Habsburg with a minting date of 1679, and produced at the Kremnica mint.

“It is interesting in that it dates from the end of the 17th century, when Sivý Kameň castle functioned only as an occasional prison, or was a ruin, because it was burnt down during the anti-Habsburg uprisings,” she explained.

Research work at the castle is likely to continue for the next few years and once fieldwork has been completed it is expected that some of the finds will be exhibited at the Hornonitrianske Museum in Prievidza which is also involved in the dig.

Sivý Kameň was built around the middle of the 14th century for use in governing properties on the left bank of the Nitra River.

It was owned by the Majthényi family throughout the Middle Ages and into modern times but suffered a similar fate to many other castles in Slovakia as the Majthényis gradually moved to mansions in Nováky.

However, they always considered Sivý Kameň to be their ancestral seat and used it as an ancestral archive.

Rock Crystals Recovered from Neolithic Burial Mound in England

Rock Crystals Recovered from Neolithic Burial Mound in England

Distinctive and rare rock crystals were moved over long distances by Early Neolithic Brits and were used to mark their burial sites, according to groundbreaking new archaeological research.

Rock Crystals Recovered from Neolithic Burial Mound in England

Evidence for the use of rock crystal – a rare type of perfectly transparent quartz which forms in large hexagonal gems – has occasionally been found at prehistoric sites in the British Isles, but the little investigation has previously been done specifically into how the material was used and its potential significance.

A group of archaeologists from The University of Manchester worked with experts from the University of Cardiff and Herefordshire County Council on a dig at Dorstone Hill in Herefordshire, a mile south of another dig at Arthur’s Stone.

There, they studied a complex of 6000-year-old timber halls, burial mounds and enclosures from the Early Neolithic period, when farming and agriculture arrived in Britain for the first time. 

As well as a range of artefacts including pottery, stone implements and cremated bones, they uncovered rock crystal which had been knapped like the flint at the site, but unlike the flint, it had not been turned into tools such as arrowheads or scrapers – instead, pieces were intentionally gathered and deposited within the burial mounds.

The experts say the material was deposited at the site over many generations, potentially for up to 300 years.

Only a few places in the British Isles have produced pure crystals large enough to produce the material at Dorstone Hill, the closest being Snowdonia in North Wales and St David’s Head in South West Wales – this means that the ancient Brits must have carried the material across large distances to reach the site. 

As a result, the researchers speculate that the material may have been used by people to demonstrate their local identities and their connections with other places around the British Isles. 

“It was highly exciting to find the crystal because it is exceptionally rare – in a time before the glass, these pieces of perfectly transparent solid material must have been really distinctive,” said lead researcher Nick Overton.

“I was very interested to discover where the material came from, and how people might have worked and used it.”

“The crystals would have looked very unusual in comparison to other stones they used, and are extremely distinctive as they emit light when hit or rubbed together and produce small patches of rainbow – we argue that their use would have created memorable moments that brought individuals together, forged local identities and connected the living with the dead whose remains they were deposited with.„

Dr Nick Overton

The researchers plan to study materials found at other sites to discover whether people were working with this material in similar ways, in order to uncover connections and local traditions.

They also intend to look at the chemical composition of the crystal to find out if they can track down its specific source.  

Pathogens Detected in Bronze Age Remains in Greece

Pathogens Detected in Bronze Age Remains in Greece

A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the British School at Athens and Temple University has found evidence of pathogens in the teeth of individuals from the Bronze Age that could explain why two ancient civilizations failed.

Pathogens Detected in Bronze Age Remains in Greece
Location of archaeological sites with evidence of Y. pestis and S. enterica subsp. enterica from the LNBA (A) Map of Eurasia indicating relevant LNBA sites with genetic evidence of Y. pestis (circles) and S. enterica subsp. enterica (triangles). Hagios Charalambos in pink, previously published sites in black. (B) Map of Crete showing the location of Hagios Charalambos (pink) and important Bronze Age palatial sites (black).

In their paper published in the journal Current Biology, the group describes their genetic study of teeth found inside a cave called Hagios Charalambos on the island of Crete.

Prior research has shown that the Old Kingdom of Egypt and the Akkadian Empire, both Bronze Age civilizations, experienced sudden declines in population several thousand years ago.

It has been suggested that climate change and/or other unknown factors led to the decline, which also resulted in damage to infrastructure, reductions in trade and major cultural changes.

In this new effort, the researchers have found evidence suggesting that diseases could have been behind the decline.

The work involved studying the teeth from the remains of people dated back to approximately 2290 and 1909 BCE that had been brought to them from the dig site on Crete.

They found evidence of typical bacteria found in the modern human mouth—the kind that can lead to tooth decay. But more importantly, they also found evidence of Yersinia pestis—the bacteria behind the plague—and Salmonella enterica, which is the bacteria responsible for typhoid fever.

The findings suggest that an epidemic could have been responsible for the population decline in either or both of the Bronze Age civilizations.

The researchers note that there is one caveat—the strain of Yersinia pestis they found was not the same one that devastated so much of Europe centuries later; it has gone extinct, as has the Salmonella enterica strain they found.

Thus, it is not known how transmissible either were, or how deadly. Still, the evidence of such pathogens means that historians must factor in the possibility of disease as a reason for the fall of the two major civilizations.

They suggest further genetic studies be done on other ancient samples to determine how widespread such infections may have been.