All posts by Archaeology World Team

Check out this striking 25,000-year-old hut built out of mammoth bones

Check out this striking 25,000-year-old hut built out of mammoth bones

Dr. Alexander J.E. Pryor, an archeological postdoctoral researcher at Southampton University, has recently published a research paper from Cambridge University Press.

The members of his team claiming they have found the oldest man-made structure in Russia about three hundred miles from Moscow. No one knows for certain why it was built.

Kostenki 11 is a large bone circle built during the Upper Paleolithic era, over 40,000 years ago. It’s located within the Kostyonki–Borshchyovo archaeological complex in the Khokholsky District, Voronezh Oblast, Russia.

Close up of the structure, featuring long bones, a lower jaw (top middle) and articulated vertebrae.

The majority of the bones in the circle and the remnants of a bone hut were made from woolly mammoths, but bones from Arctic foxes, reindeer, bears, wolves, and horses have also been found, the findings were published in the journal Antiquity.

The archaeological site was discovered in 1951, but little work was done there until the 1960s when the first bone circle was discovered.

In 1970, another mammoth bone structure and a pit were discovered about sixty feet from the circle. Another five feet away is the newly discovered bone hut that is about forty-one feet in diameter and sits on a gradual slope.

The circle has no break for an entrance, but just outside are three small pits where burnt bones, ivory, and charcoal were found. They were carbon-dated to around twenty-five thousand years old.

Dwelling made with mammoth bones. Reconstruction based on the example of Mezhirich. Exhibit in the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan

Some scientists believe the shelter may have been covered with animal skins, but Dr. Pryor does not believe it was a living abode as all of the common artifacts usually found among dwellings were absent.

According to The Independent, some researchers have suggested structures such as this might have been ritual monuments.

There is, however, no evidence for this conclusion. Another factor is that some of the bones were still stuck together indicating there was still animal material on them when they were stacked.

This would have been not only smelly but very dangerous, as it would attract predators.

The mammoth bone structure discovered.

Circular bone features such as this have been found in about twenty-five different locations in the Ukraine and Russia but none are as old as Kostenki 11, which is still being studied.

Built at the end of the last ice age when winters were long and harsh, reaching twenty degrees below zero on average, by the humans that didn’t travel south to escape the cold, Dr. Pryor believes the hut may have been used for food storage, as a garbage dump that would keep scavengers away from their living area, or even for rituals of some sort.

The Mammoth Bones structure seen from above

Evidence of tool usage including percussion rocks and striking platforms were found as well as over fifty small seeds that had been partially burned leading researchers to wonder if they were from native plants growing around the area or from plants that had been collected and brought to the site for consumption.

Three other pits in the same area tested exactly the same as the materials found at the bone hut according to Dr. Pryor’s research paper on Cambridge Core.

Dr. Pryor stated that Kostenki 11 is a rare site where scientists can learn more about hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic era and how they survived in such a harsh climate, the height of the last ice age.

The site is providing information as to what places like this may have been used for. He notes that the people of that time used ingenuity in finding ways to survive using the materials available in their ice age environment.

Dr. E. James Dixon, emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico, is quoted by smithsonianmag.com saying that this is a “fascinating time period in Eurasian archaeology” and the study “clearly demonstrates that modern humans were adapted to higher latitudes at the very height of the last ice age.”

Archaeologist Discover Paintings of Goddess in 3,000 year old mummy’s coffin

Archaeologist Discover Paintings of Goddess in 3,000-year-old mummy’s coffin

In the coffin of an Egyptian mummy, paintings were found after she was taken out for the first time in over a hundred years.

In the campaign to preserve Ta-Kr-Hb – pronounced “takerheb” – a priestess or princess from Thèbes, a Scottish conservative made this discovery.

Despite having been robbed by serious robbers throughout history, the mummy, almost 3000 years old, was in a fragile state.

The research was done before her remains are exhibited at Perth’s new City Hall Museum, Scotland to ensure that her condition didn’t further deteriorate.   The conservatives were shocked that when Ta-Kr-Hb was removed, painted figures from the Egyptian goddess were found on the inner and outer bases of the trough.

Both figures are representations of the Egyptian goddess Amentet or Imentet, known as the ‘She of the West’ or sometimes ‘Lady of the West’.

Conservators at Perth Museum and Gallery cleaning the 3,000 old mummy Ta-Kr-Hb’s coffin

‘It was a great surprise to see these paintings appear,’ Dr. Mark Hall, collections officer at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, told the PA news agency. 

‘We had never had a reason to lift the whole thing so high that we could see the underneath of the trough and had never lifted the mummy out before and didn’t expect to see anything there.

Photo issued by Perth Museum and Art Gallery showing paintings of the Egyptian goddess Amentet discovered inside the coffin. Amentet, meaning ‘She of the West’, was a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religion

‘So to get painting on both surfaces is a real bonus and gives us something extra special to share with visitors.’ 

Further research will be carried out on the paintings to find out more about the history of the mummy, believed to date from somewhere between 760 and 525 BC. The painting on the interior base of the coffin trough was previously hidden by Ta-Kr-Hb and is the best preserved of the two.

The underside of the coffin, which is slightly less well preserved, also shows a portrait of Amentet

It shows Amentet in profile, looking right and wearing her typical red dress. Her arms are slightly outstretched and she is standing on a platform, indicating the depiction is of a holy statue or processional figure.

Usually, the platform is supported by a pole or column and one of these can be seen on the underside of the coffin trough. The mummy was donated to Perth Museum by the Alloa Society of Natural Science and Archaeology in 1936. 

It was presented to the society by Mr. William Bailey, who bought it from the curator of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. In 2013, Ta-Kr-Hb was transferred temporarily for a ‘check-up’ at Manchester Royal Children’s Hospital, which included a CT scan and X-rays of her coffin.

Radiographic examinations revealed that her skeleton had suffered extensive damage to the chest and pelvis, sometime after the body had been mummified, according to SCBP Perth.

While the skull remains intact, radiography revealed that as part of the mummification process the brain mass was removed through the sinuses. 

But the full removal of Ta-Kr-Hb’s remains this year allow today’s researchers to closely observe the paintings beneath.  Perth Museum and Art Gallery are now hoping to save ‘Ta-Kr-Hb’ – as written in hieroglyphics on the lid of her coffin – for future generations.  

‘The key thing we wanted to achieve was to stabilize the body so it didn’t deteriorate any more so it has been rewrapped and then we wanted to stabilize the trough and upper part of the coffin which we’ve done,’ said Dr. Hall.  

‘Doing this means everybody gets to find out a lot more about her.

‘One of the key things is just physically doing the work so we have a better idea of the episodes Ta-Kr-Hb went through in terms of grave robbers and later collectors in the Victorian times so we can explore these matters more fully and we can share that with the public.’

Conservators Helena Jaeschke and Richard Jaeschke have been working closely with Culture Perth and Kinross on the project, which started work in late January.  Culture Perth and Kinross are campaigning to raise money for the conservation of Ta-Kr-Hb as she prepares to go on display at the Perth City Hall Museum, which is set to open in 2022.  

Railway Workers discover a 14th-century cave with medieval shrine or hermitage

Railway Workers discover a 14th-century cave with medieval shrine or hermitage

An archaeologist’s team from Archaeology -Southeast, a member of the UCL Institute of Archeology, explored a small cave with medieval carvings believed to have been dated the 14th century.

Archaeologists investigate the cave, which could only be reached by abseiling!
Markings found within the small cave in the hill below the ruins of the chapel of St Catherine

The finding followed a landslip in the area of Guildford in Surrey and is considered to be a medieval shrine or hermitage, with links to the nearby church of St Catherine.

Engineers came across the small cave, with markings and evidence of use in the 14th century, while stabilizing the embankment between the railway line and the A3100 Old Portsmouth Road.

The sandstone cave is made up of several sections ranging from 0.3 meters to about 0.7 meters high and it’s thought to be the surviving section of a much bigger cave.

The rest may have been lost when the railway line was carved out of the hillside in the early 1840s.

Initial findings by a specialist archaeological contractor suggest that it was a later medieval shrine or hermitage associated with the early 14th century chapel of St Catherine, the ruins of which are situated on the hill nearby.

It may even have earlier origins as a site of cult activity, due to its pre-14th century name of Drakehull, or ‘Hill of the Dragon’. Images taken from the site show the presence of a Gothic niche decorated in dots with a Calvery cross nearby.

The Gothic niche or shrine

There are seven or eight further niches and experts found considerable evidence of writing and other markings across the cave ceiling.

The cave is partially covered in deposits of black dust, believed to be soot from lamps. The remains of two suspected fire pits were also uncovered in the cave floor.

The cave was found during work to stabilize the embankment next to the railway tunnel

The hope is that radiocarbon dating can be used to establish the period when the cave was in use.

Mark Killick, Network Rail Wessex route director, said: “This is an unexpected and fascinating discovery that helps to visualize and understand the rich history of the area.

“A full and detailed record of the cave has been made and every effort will be made to preserve elements where possible during the regrading of the delicate and vulnerable sandstone cutting.”

Tony Howe, a historic environment planning manager and county archaeologist at Surrey County Council, added: “The discovery of this cavern is tremendously exciting. It’s very early in the process of understanding its full significance, but the potential for knowledge acquisition is huge.

“We’re looking forward to learning an awful lot more about the site as studies progress.”

The Tarkhan Dress Confirmed to Be the World’s Oldest Dress

The Tarkhan Dress Confirmed to Be the World’s Oldest Dress

This tattered V-neck linen shirt, currently on display in the UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, is the world’s oldest woven garment.

The Tarkhan Dress likely was worn by a young or slim female member of the royal court, and then placed in the tomb as a funerary object. Although the bottom does not survive, it may once have been full-length.

A recent radiocarbon testing conducted by the University of Oxford has established with 95% accuracy that the dress was made between 3482-3102 BC.

While garments of similar age have survived to the present day, but those were simply wrapped or draped around the body.

The Tarkhan dress, on the other hand, is a tailored piece with long sleeves, V-neck and narrow pleats, that looks surprisingly modern.

The Tarkhan dress was excavated by Egyptologist Flinders Petrie in 1913 from a First Dynasty tomb at Tarkhan, an Egyptian cemetery located 50 km south of Cairo.

Petrie had found a quantity of linen cloth under the sand alongside other artifacts. Instead of discarding away the linen as worthless, as most archaeologists at that time did, Petrie decided to preserve everything he found as evidence that would someday help throw light on the daily life of the ancient Egyptians.

The bundle of filthy rags Petrie recovered was stored away and forgotten for sixty-five years. It was not until 1977 when conservation experts at the Petrie Museum were sorting through the bundle did they stumble across the garment.

As textile conservator Sheila Landi carefully removed the caked mud from the dress, she was excited to see creases in the sleeves at the elbow and under the arms indicating that the dress had been worn in life.

The garment was also found inside-out, as it would be if one were to pull it out over the head.

The Tarkhan dress is made from three pieces of sturdy hand-woven linen with a natural pale grey stripe, which complements the neatly knife-pleated sleeves and bodice.

The lower part of the dress is missing so it’s difficult to say how the long the dress originally was or whether it was for a man or a woman, but its dimensions indicates that it fitted a young teenager or a slim woman.

At the time of its rediscovery in the late seventies, radiocarbon dating was not carried out as it would have required the destruction of a large piece of the dress fabric.

Instead of dating the fabric itself, the associated artifacts from the Tarkhan site was dated. Results indicated that the dress belonged to the First Dynasty which began in 3100 BC, making it the world’s earliest example of a woven garment.

Advancement in radiocarbon dating has now allowed researchers to date the textile directly by taking a tiny 2.24mg sample of the dress.

The new results not only confirm the dress’s antiquity but also suggest that it may be older than previously thought, pre-dating the First Dynasty.