All posts by Archaeology World Team

The face of a 7500-year-old woman reveals Gibraltar’s earliest humans

The face of a 7500-year-old woman reveals Gibraltar’s earliest humans

The Minister of heritage Dr. John Cortes unveiled a historical reconstruction of the head of a Neolithic woman who lived in Gibraltar 7,500 years ago.

Archeologists who worked in the Gibraltar National Museum discovered and excavated their remains, called “Calpeia,” the classical name of the Rock from a burial site near Europa Point in 1996.

Recent advances permitted segments of her DNA to be extracted. A combination of the technology currently available and the skills of Gibraltar National Museum Conservator, Manuel Jaen, had made this in-house project a reality.

Assisting Dr Cortes at the unveiling was Director of the museum Professor Clive Finlayson, Dr Geraldine Finlayson, Stewart Finlayson and Mr Jaen.

Human hair was used in the reconstruction process that took Mr Jaen six months. Holding a 3D printed version of the skull found in 1996 during an excavation, Professor Finlayson explained the process of how Calpeia came to be.

“She was in a burial and we now know she was a she as she comes from the Neolithic period of around 5,400BC.”

“We were able to extract DNA from the skull so we know a number of things.”

“We know she was a female, we know she had features associated with dark hair, dark eyes and the interesting thing was when we look at her ancestry 10% of her genes were local Mesolithic hunter gathers but 90% of her genes were from Anatolia [modern day Turkey],” he said.

“I am not going to go into the ins and outs of Neanderthals being different species or not, but if the Neanderthal is a different linage and Nana is the first female Neanderthal, I think what you are going to see today is truly a modern human,” he added.

“Through Forensic data, & the key word is ‘forensic’, we have created Calpeia”

Calpeia’s skull had been deformed post-burial so the process of her reconstruction included the reshaping of a scanned copy of the skull, and completing the missing areas.

Dr Cortes described the work that Mr Jaen and the museum carried out as “extraordinary”.

He said: “When I saw what you are about to see a few days ago it was breath-taking, congratulations to Manuel for this incredible piece of work.”

“This young lady, I think she was late 30s early 40s, lived in Gibraltar seven and a half thousand years ago. She was buried in a cave at Europa Point.”

“I am told there was no agriculture in Gibraltar at that time, they were probably fishing living off the sea and living off the land.”

“But she was in Gibraltar, a Gibraltarian, though whether she was born here or travelled here we will never know. But, so many of us born here or who have travelled here consider ourselves Gibraltarian,” he added.

Dr Cortes said he, like Professor Finlayson, would not be drawn on whether Neanderthals are or not the same species as modern humans but stated that Calpeia was not a Neanderthal.

“So you are about to see the face of the first known Gibraltarian of seven and a half thousand years ago,” he said.

“So when you see her try and push your mind back all those years ago when the Rock was very, very different, still our Rock, still our Gibraltar, still lived, played and suffered and had their day to day life in a different way but they were humans just like us with the same emotions.”

The secret cave lies hidden below the enormous ‘Moon Pyramid’

The secret cave lies hidden below the enormous ‘Moon Pyramid’

A secret cave hidden underneath a Mexican pyramid offers clues about the urban design of Teotihuacan, one of the largest and most vibrant cities of ancient times.

Located about 80 kilometers outside of today’s Mexico City, Teotihuacan peaked in AD 300–650, well before the Aztecs. The city boasted three monumental pyramids arranged along the 2.4-kilometer ‘Street of the Dead’.

Two of the pyramids were already known to overlie caves and tunnels, which were excavated by Teotihuacanos to obtain construction materials, and were later repurposed for activities such as astronomical observations, the veneration of death and the enthronement of rulers.

Denisse Argote at the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City and her colleagues measured the electrical resistance of the ground beneath the third structure, the 43-meter-high Moon Pyramid.

They discovered a partially filled cavern about 15 meters underneath the edifice.

Unlike the other caves, this one seems to have formed naturally. Argote and her colleagues think the first settlers of Teotihuacan might have chosen it to be the focal point from which the rest of the city was planned.

Hard Science Unlocks Secrets of Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Moon

Previous archaeological digs at Teotihuacan have revealed a series of man-made tunnels beneath the Pyramids of the Sun and of Quetzalcoatl, the latter of which is also called the Temple of the Feathered-Serpent.

These had mostly been excavated for construction materials in upper structures, and according to a report in Heritage Daily, these tunnels were later “repurposed for astronomical observations and for venerating death in the underworld.”

The team of scientists applied ERT and ANT surveys, which are non-invasive geophysical techniques analyzing the electrical resistance of the ground beneath the structure.

They identified a natural void beneath the Pyramid of the Moon and a partially filled cavern at a depth of 15 meters (49 ft.) Contrasting with the man-made tunnels beneath the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan, the researchers believe that the cave under the Pyramid of the Moon “formed naturally,” and had been a focal point for the early settlers, in turn, influencing how the city was planned out.

Otherworldly Architectural Town Planning

With the placement of the pyramid at the end of the Avenue of the Dead, at the foot of Cerro Gordo, shaped to reflect the contours of these mountains, the researchers theorize that it was “symbolic of a connection between the avenue and the watery underworld, whereas the mountain serves as an anchor to the earth.” They said the impact of this discovery opens a discussion about the original planning of Teotihuacan ’s urban design.

The discovery under Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Moon help’s explain the city’s urban design.

The first human establishment in the area dates back to around 600 BC when farmers began tilling the Teotihuacan Valley, which at that time had a total population of about 6,000 inhabitants.

However, due to the development of successful agricultural technologies, from 100 BC to 750 AD, Teotihuacan morphed into a huge urban and administrative center with cultural influences throughout Mesoamerica.

Mapping the Ancient Underworld

Period III, from 350 to 650 AD, the so-called classical period of Teotihuacan, had an estimated 125,000 inhabitants. At that time it was one of the largest cities of the ancient world – with over 2,000 buildings in an 18 square kilometer (6.95 sq. mile) area. 

This period saw the massive reconstruction of monuments; including the decorating of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent which dates back to an earlier period.

Period IV, between 650 and 750 AD, marks the end of Teotihuacan as a major power in Mesoamerica. The remains of the homes of the city’s elites, which line the Avenue of the Dead, bear burn marks which lead archaeologists to hypothesize that the city experienced waves of violent social unrest that brought about the city’s decline.

What the newly discovered cave system essentially does is answer the question “why” the first settlers stopped here and started building precisely where they did, and not say 10 miles east or five miles south.

The cave beneath the pyramid suggests that people revered this natural access to the underworld so much that around it they built one of the most influential and biggest cities of the ancient world.

And the remains of that vast crumbling ancient city, which was aligned with the Sun, moon, and stars, it would seem, is a 1:1 map of the underworld – with the Avenue of the Dead acting as the main channel to the other side.

Giant Egyptian Pyramids Hidden Beneath, buried by sands of time

Giant Egyptian Pyramids Hidden Beneath, buried by sands of time

Indiana Jones found success with little more than a bullwhip and a fedora. These days, however, if you want to make your mark as an archaeologist, a bit of space technology works wonders.

Satellites have helped locate 17 pyramids and 3,000 ancient settlements hidden underground in Egypt. More than 1,000 burial sites were also discovered thanks to infra-red technology capable of probing beneath the desert sands from 450 miles above the Earth.

Astounded researchers on the ground have already confirmed that two of the pyramids exist – and they believe there are thousands more unknown sites in the region.

satellite images revealed strange structures

NASA-funded archaeologist Sarah Parcak said: ‘I couldn’t believe we could locate so many sites. To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist.’ The finds are hugely significant. Until the latest discoveries there were thought to have been almost 140 pyramids across Egypt.

But experts have long argued that there must be many more that remain undiscovered, buried by the sands of time. Dr Parcak, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, analysed images from satellites equipped with cameras so powerful they can zoom in on objects less than three feet in diameter on the Earth’s surface.

Huge pyramids could be buried beneath the sand. 

Dr. Parcak told the BBC: ‘I could see the data as it was emerging, but for me, the “a-ha” moment was when I could step back and look at everything that we’d found.’

The mud bricks used by ancient Egyptians are much denser than the sand and soil that surrounds them, allowing the shapes of homes, temples, tombs and other structures built thousands of years ago to be seen by satellites orbiting 435miles above Earth to photograph the outlines of structures invisible to the human eye.

The cameras on the satellites are so powerful that they can precisely image objects on Earth that are less than one metre in diameter. The researchers’ findings are a major boost to the relatively new science of space archaeology.

Their most promising excavations are taking place in Tanis, the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant in the 1981 Indiana Jones blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark, where they are uncovering a 3,000-year-old house.

Excitingly, the outline of the house exactly matches the shape seen on the satellite images.

Two pyramids at Saqqara – the burial ground for the ancient capital of Memphis – have already been confirmed by excavations and the site is being hailed as one of the most important in Egyptian archaeology. The oldest pyramids ever discovered were built in Saqqara around 2,600BC.

Archaeologist Dr Sarah Parcak points out the site of a buried pyramid on a satellite image

The camera’s high level of accuracy has impressed the Egyptian government, which now plans to use the technology to identify and protect its colossal heritage in the future.

Dr Parcak believes that there are many more buildings buried deeper than those already spotted, the most likely location being under the banks of the River Nile.

She said: ‘These are just the sites close to the surface. There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered over with silt.

‘This is just the beginning of this kind of work.’

She told the BBC: ‘It just shows us how easy it is to underestimate both the size and scale of past human settlements.

‘These are just the sites [close to] the surface. There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered over with silt. This is just the beginning of this kind of work.’

She said the technology could be used to monitor the looting of antiquities, as well as to engage young people around the world in science and help archaeologists in their quest to uncover the secrets of the past.

The archaeologist said, ‘We have to think bigger and that’s what the satellites allow us to do. Indiana Jones is old school. We’ve moved on from Indy, sorry Harrison Ford.’

Grisly Child Sacrifice Found at Foot of Ancient Aztec Temple

Grisly Child Sacrifice Found at Foot of Ancient Aztec Temple

Archaeologists discovered the site of children’s sacrifice at the foot of an ancient temple in a ruined Aztec city, located at the foot of the ancient Templo Mayor temple in the center of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan.

It is believed that the young child was sacrificed to the Aztec war god Huitzilopochtli in the late fifteenth century. The sacrifice of children appears to have been relatively common in ancient Southern and Central American cultures.

Aztecs undertook human sacrifices, including children, as they believed this would bring the rains their crops needed to grow. The discovery comes 12 years after the location of the first child sacrifice site at the archaeological site, now in the center of the Mexican capital, Mexico City.

Archaeologists unearthed the remains of the young child, believed to have been sacrificed in the late fifteenth century, at the foot of an ancient temple in Mexico, in the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, which is now the center of the Mexican capital, Mexico City

The child’s bones were reportedly found along with body adornments and symbols characteristic of Huitzilopochtli.

The remains, named ‘Offering 176’, were found under the floor of a square to the west of the Templo Mayor, which was the center of the ancient city.

The young child was believed to have been sacrificed in the late 15th century. The body of the child sacrifice was found hidden beneath stone slabs

The Aztecs had to raise a series of stone slabs from the floor to make way for the body, archaeologists point out. They then dug a pit in the ground and built a cylindrical box in which the child was placed with volcanic rocks, stuck together with stucco.

One expert told reporters: ‘Then they filled the square with soil brought from the banks of the old lake to build another square on top of it.’

A team made up of the archaeologists Rodolfo Aguilar Tapia, Mary Laidy Hernández Ramírez and Karina López Hernández, together with the physical anthropologist Jacqueline Castro Irineo, had the mission to excavate the find of the Offering 176.

The Aztecs built a cylindrical box in which the child was placed with volcanic rocks, stuck together with stucco. This image shows the remains that were excavated

Each of the human bones and the numerous objects made with different raw materials has been carefully excavated, cleaned, and registered. The discovery comes after hundreds of skulls were recently found in Tenochtitlan that is believed to have been placed on public display in ritual sacrifices.

Tenochtitlan was built on an island in what was then Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico. The city was the capital of the expanding Aztec Empire in the 15th century until it was captured by the Spanish in 1521.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the Pre-Columbian Americas.  Aztec human sacrifices were far more widespread and grisly that previously thought, archaeologists revealed in June. 

A stone Tzompantli (skull rack) found during the excavations of Templo Mayor (Great Temple) in Tenochtitlan. New research has found the ‘skull towers’ which used real human heads were just a small part of a massive display of skulls known as Huey Tzompantli

In 2015 Archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) found a gruesome ‘trophy rack’ near the site of the Templo Mayor.

Now, they say the find was just the tip of the iceberg, and that the ‘skull tower’ was just a small part of a massive display of skulls known as Huey Tzompantli that was the size of a basketball court.

In two seasons of excavations, archaeologists collected 180 mostly complete skulls from the tower and thousands of skull fragments. Cut marks confirm that they were ‘defleshed’ after death and the decapitation marks are ‘clean and uniform.’

Three-quarters of the skulls analyzed belonged to men, mostly aged between 20 and 35. Some 20 percent belonged to women and the remaining five percent were children.