All posts by Archaeology World Team

Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals

Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals

Archaeologists have long known about the common practice in ancient Incan culture to use human sacrifices as offerings to the gods. But it wasn’t until recently that they’d ever found a mummified llama sacrifice — let alone four of them.

According to the Guardian, a team of researchers led by archaeologist Lidio Valdez from the University of Calgary unearthed the mummified remains of four llamas during the excavation of Tambo Viejo, once an important administrative hub for the Incas.

The fur on the llama remains had matted together but still appeared relatively fluffy, highlighting how well-preserved the naturally mummified animals were. Their bodies were decorated in colorful strings and bracelets and are estimated to have been interred between 1432 and 1459.

The study noted that researchers could not identify any cuts or wounds on the llama bodies, suggesting that the animals may have been buried alive.

“Historical records indicate animal sacrifices were important to the Inca, who used them as special offerings to supernatural deities,” said Valdez, who uncovered the llama sacrifices with a team of archaeologists from San Cristóbal of Huamanga University. “This was especially the case of llamas, regarded second only to humans in sacrificial value.”

Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals
The Incas dressed the llamas in ritual adornments, including necklaces and long, colourful strings of red, green, yellow, and purple, which hang from their ears as tassels
The llamas were likely sacrificed 500 years ago during a celebratory feast.

In addition to the four sacrificial llamas that were found, another decayed llama corpse was discovered separately, indicating there may have been an attempt to loot the burial, which was decorated with feathers from tropical birds. Archaeologists also found the carcasses of decorated guinea pigs at the site.

Further excavations of Tambo Viejo found traces of what seemed to be a massive feast. Researchers uncovered large ovens and other findings which pointed to some sort of celebration.

The new study — published in the journal Antiquity in late October 2020 — suggests that the estimated date of the llama sacrifice about five centuries ago happened during the period after the territory was peacefully annexed by the Incas.

The llamas were decorated with bracelets and colorful string, as shown here.

The finding supports the idea that the celebratory feast that took place was likely meant to appease the new resident subjects.

Besides being made as offerings to the gods to bring good health and a bountiful harvest, it seems that animal sacrifices were also used to stake a territorial claim for political purposes.

“The offerings likely were part of much larger feasts and gatherings, sponsored by the state,” said Valdez.

“The state befriended the local people with food and drink, cementing political alliances, whilst placing offerings allowed the Inca to claim the land as theirs.”

Excavation at Tambo Viejo first began in 2018. Since then, in addition to the llama burial discovery, researchers have found the remains of a large plaza and a distinct religious Inca structure called ushnu. They also unearthed a connecting road to the Nazca Valley, where the famous Nazca Lines geoglyphs are located.

Past studies have determined that llamas were significant to Inca culture. While the four-legged animals were hunted for their meat as food, they were also most frequently used as sacrificial offerings, more so than human sacrifices.

The Inca rituals were performed at specific times of the year. A hundred llamas were sacrificed in October to promote a healthy rainy season, and in February another 100 llamas were sacrificed to bring the rainstorms to a stop.

Bernabé Cobo, a colonial-period Spanish chronicler, wrote that the animals were used for different sacrifices based on their colouring. Brown-furred llamas were sacrificed to the creator god, Viracocha, while white llamas were presented as offerings to the sun. Llamas with mixed-coloured coats were sacrificed to the thunder.

It’s clear that each offering made by the Incas had its own significance and purpose.

As the researchers wrote in their study, “Through these ceremonies, the Inca created new orders, new understandings and meanings that helped to legitimise and justify their actions to both the conquerors and the conquered.”

The Lovers of Valdaro: for 6,000 years, a pair of skeletons had been locked in an eternal embrace

The Lovers of Valdaro: for 6,000 years, a pair of skeletons had been locked in an eternal embrace

For 6,000 years, two young lovers have been locked in an eternal embrace, hidden from the eyes of the world.

A pair of human skeletons found at a construction site outside Mantua, Italy, is believed by archaeologists to be a man and a woman from the Neolithic period, buried around 6,000 years ago

This past weekend, the Lovers of Valdaro — named for the little village near Mantua, in northern Italy, where they were first discovered — were seen by the public for the first time.

The lovers are in fact two human skeletons, dating back to the Neolithic era; they were found in a necropolis in the nearby village of Valdaro in 2007, huddled close together, face to face, their arms and legs entwined.

They were displayed this past weekend at the entrance of Mantua’s Archaeological Museum, thanks to the effort of the association Lovers in Mantua, which is seeking a permanent home for the ancient couple.

After the discovery, many thought that the couple had been killed. It would fit in well with the history of an Italian region famous for many tragic love stories.

Mantua is the city where Romeo was exiled and was told that his Juliet was dead. The composer Giuseppe Verdi chose it as the location for his opera Rigoletto, another story of star-crossed love and death.

But subsequent research revealed that the skeletons did not have any signs of violent death. They were a woman and a man, ages between 18 and 20 years old. Some have wondered if they died together, holding each other in a freezing night.

Professor Silvia Bagnoli, the president of the association Lovers in Mantua, doesn’t exclude this possibility, but she says that more likely the skeletons were laid out in that position after their deaths.

The mystery might never be solved. Still, many want to see the couple. The association Lovers in Mantua is campaigning for their right to have a room of their own.

According to Bagnoli, €250,000 will be enough for an exhibition centre and another €200,000 could pay for a multimedia space to tell the world the mysterious story of these prehistoric lovers.

8,000-year-old stone tools found in Arabia were made using the same technique first created by Native Americans 13,000 years ago

8,000-year-old stone tools found in Arabia were made using the same technique first created by Native Americans 13,000 years ago

The fluted point is created by a flintknapper removing a flake from the base or tip of a spear point. It is generally done on both sides, but there are some cases wherein only one side of the point is fluted.

Fluted point stone tools are well-identified throughout the Americas, extending from the Arctic to Patagonia. But the recent discovery of 8,000-year-old fluted points in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, which included Yemen, Oman, and United Arab Emirates, indicates that the Early Holocene people in that region made tools using the fluting method.

Across other countries, such as in eastern and northern Africa, there has been no record of fluted point stone tools recorded. That means that the Arabian fluting method could be a local innovation of southern Arabian people originating from the central region of the peninsula’s southern extremity.

Various types of North and South American fluted points.

8,000-Year-Old Fluted Stone Tools in the Arabian Peninsula

A study published in the journal PLOS One revealed that archaeologists recently discovered some 8,000-year-old fluted point stones on the Arabian Peninsula. It is the same technology that was developed by Native Americans about 13,000 years ago.

8,000-year-old stone tools found in Arabia were made using the same technique first created by Native Americans 13,000 years ago
Pictured, atone fluted points dating back 8,000 years ago which were discovered on archaeological sites in Manayzah, Yemen and Ad-Dahariz, Oman. Until now, the prehistoric technique of fluting had been uncovered only on 13,000 year-old Native American sites

At first, researchers suspected that the stone tools they discovered bear some familiarity about them. The scientists then took note of the flute-like grooves along the sides of the stone points.

They said that the tools examined for the study were found in Ad-Dahariz in Oman and Manayzah in Yemen.

Lead researcher Remy Crassard, the head for archaeology in the French Center for Archaeology and Social Sciences, said that they recognized the technique used in making those stone tools as probably the most famous prehistoric techniques that Native Americans once used.

It took the researchers some time to recognize the technique but more time in understanding how fluting could be present in the Arabian Peninsula.

Fluting is a specific technique that involves the extraction of an elongated flake along the length of a projectile point, leaving a distinctive groove or depression at the base of the spearhead or arrowhead (pictured)

How Did Fluted Point Stone Tools Arrive in Arabia?

For almost a hundred years, archaeologists have discovered evidence of fluted point stone tools at Native American sites that dates back between 10,000 to 13,000 years old.

The fluted stone points found in the Americas are characterized by markings along with the spear points’ bases and blades. But the ones found in Arabia have fluted markings closer to the tips of the stone points.

Both Native Americans and Arabians used hafting to fix blades and points to handles and arrows more securely, but they do so for different purposes.

In Arabia, it was used to create a flat zone in the back of the points and most likely to show ‘bravado’ or display their skills, Crassard said.

Moreover, the authors said that the result of cultural exchange could not have brought the technologies as the two stone fluted points are separated by too much time and space. They think that the latest discovery could be an example of cultural convergence.

Crassard noted that many examples of cultural divergence are recorded in diverse human periods in human history.

“For example, polished stone axes are known from the Western European Neolithic, the Mayan culture of Central America and the 19-20th century tribes of Indonesia,” Crassard said.

According to archaeologists, they were all never connected in time and space, but the objects they made during their time were found to be very similar.

120,000-Year-old Neanderthal Artifacts Unearthed in Denmark

120,000-Year-old Neanderthal Artifacts Unearthed in Denmark

Ancient flint tools in the hills of a Danish island gave an indication that 120,000 years ago Neanderthals may have been living there. The first humans in Denmark have been thought to be reindeer hunters from 14,000 years ago.

The slopes of Isefjord’s Ejby Klint between Roskilde and Holbæk were excavated by archaeologists from Denmark’s National Museum and Roskilde Museum. The researchers found ancient mussel shells and flintstones that may have been shaped by humans.

In Denmark Ejby Klint is one of the few places archaeologists can easily locate deposits from the warm time between two ice ages between the ages of 115,000-130,000 years ago.

But more than 100,000 years earlier, Neanderthals lived in Germany, and researchers believe they could have reached modern-day Denmark. 

In a six week dig, archaeologists investigated two slopes at Ejby Klint, finding the tools which are now on display in Denmark’s National Museum. 

The National Museum has found a number of stones (pictured) that appear to have been carved by human hands
Archaeologists from the National Museum and Roskilde Museum are excavating part of Ejby Klint. Even in a small area of ​​only six square meters, they have already found exciting objects

Lasse Sørensen, head of research at the National Museum, says “It’s absolutely wild and very unique that we’ve had the opportunity to dig here at all.”

“I did not think we would find anything at all, but we have actually found some stones that have possible traces of being worked by people, and that in itself is amazing.”

“If we find out that these stones have been worked by Neanderthals, it will resonate all over the world.”

During the warm period between the last two ice ages 115,000 to 130,000 years ago, it was four degrees warmer in Denmark than it is today. 

The country’s large hornbeam forests were home to large prey such as beavers, steppe bison, fallow deer, wood rhinos, forest elephants, Irish giant deer and red deer.

At the National Museum, there is already a flint that has been carved with the same technique as the one used by the Neanderthals. However, the flint was not found in a layer of soil that can be dated accurately.

Excavation leader Ole Kastholm from Roskilde Museum said, “Helping to dig on a steep cliff looking for the oldest people in Denmark right here around Roskilde has been a huge experience. 

“It must be up to the experts to decide how interesting what we have found is. But now the door may have been opened for more excavations to be made for Neanderthals in Denmark.”

A map showing the relative dates at which humans arrived in the different Continents, including Europe 45,000 years ago. Humans and Neanderthals co-existed for about 8,000 years before Neanderthals went extinct.

Tourist finds ancient silver coins under an uprooted tree

Tourist finds ancient silver coins under an uprooted tree

The Slovak Spectator reports that a cache of medieval coins was discovered under an uprooted tree in western Slovakia by a tourist who reported the find to the Regional Monuments Board. 

He has reported it to the Regional Monuments Board (KPÚ) in Trnava. Its workers found 147 middle-age silver coins after searching with a detector.

The coins are mostly Wiener pfennigs but there are also Hungarian imitations of Wiener pfennigs that were minted in the years 1251 and 1330.

Tourist finds ancient silver coins under an uprooted tree
The Regional Monuments Board Trnava

The coins were probably stored in a leather or fabric wrapper, Matúš Sládok of KPÚ Trnava opined, but there were no traces left of the wrapper.

Died or did not remember

Mass findings of pfennigs, which were hidden during the mid-14th century, are not uncommon, according to Sládok.

“Owners hid their movable property, especially finances, in unstable times when they were trying to protect it from enemies and robbers,” Sládok said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

The fact that these coins were discovered means that the owners probably died or forgot to unearth their hidden money, Sládok explained.

An expert will now estimate the value of the discovery. The tourist who found the coins has asked for a finder’s fee.

19th-Century Polish Sword Unearthed in Bulgaria

19th-Century Polish Sword Unearthed in Bulgaria

A sword in a Bulgarian museum has been identified as a 19th-century Polish nationalist sabre. It was discovered near the city of the Veliko Tarnovo in northern Bulgaria where curators from the Archaeological Museum saw it had a Polish inscription.

An expert from the University of Warsaw recognized the inscription Vivat Szlachcic Pan I foundation wojska (“Long live the Noble Lord and founder of the army”) and engraved iconography as one wielded by Polish patriots during the January Uprising against Russia’s autocratic rule.

The January Uprising (1863-1864) was one several attempts by Polish patriots to re-establish the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth in the Russian Kingdom of Poland. Russian Poland was carved out of the Duchy of Warsaw at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

The kingdom was supposed to be largely autonomous, nominally under the rule of the Tzar, but governed by its own parliament, defended by its own army and bound by the Polish constitution.

Tzar Alexander I and his successor Nicholas I had other plans, and between the two of them, they quashed the country’s traditional religious and political freedoms and made it a puppet state of the Russian Empire.

Nationalist resistance to Russian rule grew in the wake of its losses in the Crimean War. In January 1863, pro-Russian Polish aristocrat Aleksander Wielopolski, adjutant to the Polish viceroy, ordered the conscription of Polish nationalists into the Imperial Russian Army for 20-year terms.

He knew the movement for Polish independence was working up to an uprising and thought strongarming its young men into military service would break up the movement. Instead, it triggered the very uprising he was trying to prevent.

It was the longest uprising for Polish national unity under Russian rule, but it too ultimately collapsed under the weight of Russia’s superior military strength.

The results were brutal — executions, mass deportations to Siberia, punitive taxation, the complete erasure of the Polish language in government and schools and the replacement of all Polish government officials with Russians.

The newly-discovered sword was inscribed during this period. The curved karabela type, a Polish sabre used during the halcyon days of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th and 18th centuries, was an emblem of Polish culture and independence.

During the uprisings of the 19th centuries, they were engraved with slogans and imagery harkening back to the Commonwealth.

[Professor Piotr Dyczek] added: “The sabre was probably the spoils of an officer of the Tsarist army who participated in the suppression of the January Uprising in 1863 and 1864, who then fitted it with a silver hilt typical for a shashka – a sabre with an open hilt with a split pommel.”

19th-Century Polish Sword Unearthed in Bulgaria

Presumably that Russian soldier took the sword out of Poland after the uprising was suppressed. At that time, Bulgaria was under the Ottoman rule as it had been since 1393, but a decade after the January Uprising, Bulgaria had an uprising of its own in April 1876.

Russia was a fan of this one, though, since wresting the Balkans out of Ottoman hands would extend their sphere of influence which had been whittled away by the Crimean War.

They jumped on the opportunity and the Russo-Turkish War began in 1877. It ended when the Imperial Russian Army took Tarnovo in July 1878. The Polish sword was probably used (and lost) in that battle.

Megalithic Temples in Malta: The Oldest in the World

Megalithic Temples in Malta: The Oldest in the World

Malta’s prehistoric megalithic Temples are considered to be among the earliest temples in civilization, dating back to before the Pyramids of Egypt and the Stonehenge stone structures.

These impressive buildings have been designed for three different ages, approximately between 3600 BC and 700 BC, and some are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Many tourists come to Malta to witness these magnificent temples mostly built from coralline rock and globigerina limestone.

Ggantija (Gozo)

This Templar complex, formed by two adjacent temples, represents the oldest example of the megalithic temple of the archipelago, dating back to a period between 3600 and 3000 BC, thus built before the famous Stonehenge.

Behind these temples lies a sequence of extraordinary historical events. For starters, the name Ġgantija is derived from the word ‘ġgant’, Maltese for giant since Gozitans held the belief that a race of giants was responsible for building the temples.

This comes as no surprise once you behold the megalithic limestone blocks from which the temples were constructed, weighing over fifty tons and exceeding five metres in height. Built with flint and obsidian and enclosed within a wall circuit, the temples had to accommodate propitiatory rites. At the front of the temples, there is a large terrace which was likely used for ceremonies.

In fact, remains of animal bones which were discovered on-site and the use of fire as evidenced by the presence of stone hearths, suggest that there used to be some sort of ritual that involved animal sacrifice. After the temples fell into disuse around 2500 BC, they were not fully revealed to modern civilization until the nineteenth century.

Hagar Qim

This copper age temple was built around 2700 BC but was already undergoing various modifications in the first period. A monolith outside the temple was interpreted as a symbol of phallic worship that probably lived in the temple.

Hal Saflieni Hypogeum

This template complex is articulated on three underground levels that push up to 12 m deep. Built-in different stages, between 3000 and 2000 BC. Hal Saflieni is noted for an incredibly modern spiral staircase in shapes and design. In the second level lie the rooms of the greatest times, that is, the Oracle Room and Sancta Sanctorum.

Mnajdra

The best preserved of the three Mnajdra temples and interesting for the secret rooms that are hidden in the thickness of the walls. And it is likely that in this temple a curative cult has been practised because there have been models of anatomical parts of the terracotta human body with symptoms of infirmity.

Tarxien

The first temple and the oldest dates back to 2200 BC, while the most recent dates back to 400 years later. Within these temples was discovered the most colossal stone statue of the time: originally a height of 2.50 m, this statue, which presumably represents a Mother Goddess, was divided into half and the part is now missing.

Tas-Silg

Tas Silg represents an ancient place of worship (IV millennium BC) characterized by continuous use of, particularly long time. In addition to the remains of structures dating back to the earliest times, evidence was found that even the Phoenicians had re-used this Templar complex.

Skorba Temples

Skorba is an archaeological site situated in Mgarr Malta, only a couple of kilometre removed from Ta Hagrat. The site consists of prehistoric structures that illustrate the life of the first settlers on the Maltese Island.

These temples were excavated in the 1960s by David Trump, who had discovered the remains of 2 megalithic temples in the excavation, one of which was built around the same time as the Ggantija Temples (3,150-2,500 BC), and the other around the Tarxien Temples (3,600-3,200 BC).

However, the earliest remains that consist of a wall, date back to the Ghar Dalam phase (5,000-4,300 BC) as it was discovered that Skorba was occupied before the temples were built. Next to this wall were remains of wheat, lentil and barley seeds along with pottery, animal bone and stone tools.

 Additionally, remains of domestic huts where temple builders used to dwell were discovered on-site, some of which date back to the Temple Period (i.e. before 3600 BC), which makes them one of the oldest structures on the Islands.

Within these huts, various structures including female figures and goat skulls were found and are thought to have been used as some kind of shrine. The temples were recognised as an archaeological a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, and due to them being small and fragile, only 15 guests are allowed in at a time. Nonetheless, the Skorba Temples are definitely not to be missed!

In between visiting these important historic sites why not stay at our hotel in Malta and enjoy one of our luxury suites?

And if you’re looking for some more places of interest we have plenty of palaces that worth a visit and come summer it’s always worth checking out a typical Maltese Festa.

A lost 8th continent is hidden nearly 1,000 miles under Europe, new research shows. Scientists named it ‘Greater Adria.’

A lost 8th continent is hidden nearly 1,000 miles under Europe, new research shows. Scientists named it ‘Greater Adria.’

Not all the continents missing are myths like Atlantis; here is one whose existence is only scientifically confirmed. Greater Adria broke off from North Africa 240 million years ago. About 120 million years later, it started sinking beneath Southern Europe. But bits of it remain, scattered across local mountain ranges.

Greater Adria, science’s newest lost continent, tore off from North Africa and was subducted beneath Southern Europe.

It was the geographical resemblances in those mountains that had led scientists to hypothesise the presence of an ancient continent in the Mediterranean.

But the region’s geology is so complex that only recent advances in computing—and a 10-year survey by an international team of scientists—were able to produce a geo-historical outline of that former landmass. This is the very first map of the world’s latest lost continent.

Topographic map of the Mediterranean Sea basin, once home to the continent of Greater Adria.

The 100-million-year history of Greater Adria starts nearly a quarter of a billion years ago. The world was a very different place back then. It was just recovering from the Permian-Triassic extinction, which came pretty close to wiping out all life on Earth. The planet was repopulated by the first mammals and dinosaurs.

Supercontinental break-up

All together now: the supercontinent of Pangaea (335-175 million years ago).

Oblivious that biological imperative, Earth’s geology was on a course of its own: fragmentation. At that time, the planet’s land masses had coagulated into a single supercontinent, Pangaea.

Around 240 million years ago, a Greenland-sized piece of continental plate broke off from what would become North Africa and started drifting north. Between 120 and 100 million years ago, the continent smashed into Southern Europe. Even though the speed of that collision was no more than 3 to 4 cm per year, it ended up shattering the 100-km thick crust.

Most of the continental plate was pushed under Southern Europe and swallowed up by Earth’s mantle, a process known as subduction. Seismic waves can still detect the plate, now stuck at a depth of up to 1500 km.

But some of the sedimentary rocks on top were too light to sink, so they were scraped off and got crumpled up—the origin of various mountain chains across the Mediterranean region: the Apennines in Italy, parts of the Alps, and ranges in the Balkans, Greece and Turkey.

Death and birth

Flowing from present to deep past, this time-lapse reconstruction of the geological history of the Mediterranean shows the death and birth (in that order) of Greater Adria in unprecedented amounts of detail.

Some bits of Greater Adria survived both the shave-off into mountainhood and death by subduction.

“The only remaining part of this continent is a strip that runs from Turin via the Adriatic Sea to the heel of Italy’s boot,” says Douwe van Hinsbergen, Professor of Global Tectonics and Paleogeography at Utrecht University, and the study’s principal researcher.

That’s an area geologists call ‘Adria’, so the team, consisting of scientists from Utrecht, Oslo and Zürich, called the lost continent ‘Greater Adria’.

What was the continent like? A shallow continental shelf in a tropical sea, where sediments were slowly turned into rock, Greater Adria possibly resembled Zealandia, a largely submerged continent with bits sticking out (i.e. New Zealand and New Caledonia), or perhaps the Florida Keys, an archipelago of non-volcanic islands. Either way, dotted with islands and archipelagos above the water, and lots of coral below, it was “probably good for scuba diving,” Van Hinsbergen says.

It took scientists this long to produce the first map of Greater Adria not just because the Mediterranean is, in the words of Van Hinsbergen, “a geological mess (…) Everything is curved, broken and stacked. Compared to this, the Himalayas represent a rather simpler system.” Greater Adria perished by subduction and scraping-off. The Himalayas emerged by the collision of two continents.

Ore deposits

A reconstruction of Greater Adria, Africa and Europe about 140 million years ago. In lighter green, submerged parts of continental shelves.

The region also has a complex geopolitical makeup, obliging the researchers to piece together evidence from 30 different countries, from Spain to Iran, “each with its own geological survey, own maps, own ideas about evolutionary history. Research often stops at national borders.”