All posts by Archaeology World Team

Los Millares- The Largets Known Fortified Neolithic Settlement in Europe

Los Millares- The Largets Known Fortified Neolithic Settlement in Europe

Just 17km from Almería between Santa Fe de Mondujar y Gádor lies Los Millares, the largest known European fortified Neolithic settlement, dated c. 3,200-2,300 BC. The site includes a settlement and a cemetery with over 80 megalithic tombs.

Los Millares- The Largets Known Fortified Neolithic Settlement in Europe

Three walls and an inner citadel with an elaborate fortified entrance make up part of extensive fortifications at Los Millares. Thirteen nearly circular enclosures were forts protecting it. Within the three walls are 80 passage graves.

Los Millares was constructed in three phases, each phase increasing the level of fortification. The fortification is not unique to the Mediterranean area of the 3rd millennium; other sites with bastions and defensive towers include the sites of Jericho, Ai, and Aral (in Palestine) and Lebous, Boussargues and Campe of Laures (in France).

It consists of a settlement, guarded by numerous outlying forts and a cemetery of passage tombs and covers around 5 acres. 

Three concentric walls with four bastions surrounded the settlement itself; radiocarbon dating has established that one wall collapsed and was rebuilt around 3,025 BC. A cluster of simple dwellings lay inside the walls as well as one large building containing evidence of copper smelting.

Finally, the fortified citadel at the very top of the spur has only been investigated so far by means of various pilot trenches, which have revealed walls up to six metres thick, confirming the great importance of the structure. Within its grounds, there is a deep hollow, which is thought to be a water cistern but so far has not been excavated.

Los Millares was discovered in 1891 during the course of the construction of a railway and was first excavated by Luis Siret in the succeeding years.

Antonio Arribas and Fernando Molina from the University of Granada later excavated Los Millares from 1978-1995, and analysis continues on the massive amounts of information collected.

The strategic sequence of the site shows that the settlement went through various phases of occupation. The first was during the early copper age (3,200 to 2,800 B.C.) when the three interior walls were constructed.

The second was during the middle copper age (2,800 to 2,450 B.C.), when the innermost wall was demolished and the outer wall constructed, together with most of the small forts outside the settlement itself. Finally, in the late copper age (2,450 to 2,250 B.C.) the first bell beakers appeared, a form of pottery that was produced henceforth on a large scale in the village.

During this late period, some profound social upheaval brought about a gradual decline in the size of the settlement, whose inhabitants gradually retired towards the fortified citadel. The site appears to have been finally abandoned around 2,250 B.C.

Over eighty megalithic tombs are visible outside the settlement. The majority are of the type mentioned above, but tombs without corbelled roofs also exist.

The chronology of tomb construction and use is unclear, but analysis of tomb forms, sizes, numbers of burials, contents, and distributions suggests that the dead were selected for interment and that social ranking had emerged, with higher-ranked groups being buried in tombs located close to the settlement.

Similar Tholos Tombs are common in Mycenaean remains, and a connection is commonly suggested. They are also present at other places in Spain, noticeably at the Cueva de Viera, which sits beside the great Cueva de Menga passage mound. Holed stones are also a common feature of dolmens in the Caucasus region of Russia where hundreds are visible.

Large sheets of slate that were punched through and rounded off to make the entrances we see today, divided entrances. The chambers of the Tholos were lined with vertical slabs of slate, often painted red, sometimes with small niches present (used for the burial of children). The graves were finally covered over with conical mounds of earth and stones.

Many were given an outer skirting of slabs or masonry to strengthen the structure. Almost all the tombs were orientated east of southeast, except for a small group of seven mounds that were orientated southwest.

The tombs were collective with the number of skeletons discovered ranging from a dozen to over a hundred. Burial offerings included objects such as ivory and ostrich eggshell, copper tools, pottery vessels, arrowheads and flint knives.

The presence of such great quantities of mineral resources in the region is likely to be part of the reason for the existence of Los Millares in the first place. The parallel with the Minoans continues in the addition of arsenic as an antioxidant to their copper products. Arsenic is readily available in the local region of Sierra de Gador. Among the buildings dedicated to specialised activities, two areas have been identified as having once housed metallurgical workshops. While along the northern stretch of the outer wall there are several squares and round buildings dedicated to this, the best-preserved workshop is situated in a large rectangular building attached to the inner facade of the third line of fortification. Of considerable size, about 8m long by 6.5m wide, it was built with a solid masonry technique, with a door opening to the east. Inside are the remains of three structures: a mass of 1.3m in diameter with fragments of copper ore, a furnace delineated by a ring of clay with a depression at its centre to put the pot furnaces, and a small structure with slabs of slate in its northeast corner. It is suggested that this building was never roofed, as there is no post-holes present.

Satellite Images Aided the Discovery of an Ancient Civilization Buried in the Amazon

Satellite Images Aided the Discovery of an Ancient Civilization Buried in the Amazon

Long before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, one of the world’s largest rainforests teemed with people who transformed the woods around them, according to archaeologists who have found new evidence of farms, settlements and roads buried beneath the flora of Brazil’s Amazon Basin.

Satellite Images Aided the Discovery of an Ancient Civilization Buried in the Amazon
An aerial photo shows an earthwork located in the Upper Tapajos Basin of Mato Grosso Brazil.

A retiree poring over online satellite images led archaeologists to the ancient earthworks, the most recent in a series of finds made possible by satellite imagery, airborne radar, and drone-mounted cameras that are making ecologists and conservationists abandon longstanding notions of the Amazon as a virgin wilderness.

“It is all one type or another of the human-influenced forest,” said anthropologist Michael Heckenberger at the University of Florida in Gainesville, who wasn’t part of the new project. In the Amazon, “they were weaving their cities out of the forest itself.”

The findings include 81 pre-Columbian clusters of earthworks in the Upper Tapajos Basin, located along the southern rim of the Amazon in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.

Dating to 1250‒1500 A.D., the sites range from small ditched enclosures to large settlements with multiple mounds, plazas and causeways, the archaeologists said.

Francisco Nakahara, a retired financial manager in São Paulo who studies free online satellite photos as a hobby, first spotted the traces of circular earthworks, the researchers said. The archaeologists, who reported their findings in Nature Communications Tuesday, then catalogued the discoveries using Zoom Earth and Google Earth.

To verify the finds, the team surveyed and excavated 24 sites, unearthing potsherds and decorated ceramics. In surrounding fields, they found widespread evidence of distinctive dark enriched soil—a blend of charcoal and nutrients unlike normal Amazon earth—suggesting the land was used for intensive farming.

“It is likely that many of these sites were fortified settlements,” said archaeologist Jonas Gregorio de Souza at the U.K.’s University of Exeter, who was the lead author of the study. “These regions, once considered marginal, were probably very densely populated.”

At their height, the settlements may have been home to as many as one million people. Most of them likely succumbed to diseases brought by European explorers and slavers, while the forest reclaimed their homes, roads and plazas, the scientists said.

“Many parts of the Americas now thought of as pristine forest are really abandoned gardens,” said Colorado State University archaeologist Christopher Fisher, who uses aerial laser radar to explore sites in Central America covered by the forest canopy. “When you are on the ground, you cannot really see the landscape. You need a bird’s-eye view.”

A field archaeologist stands in a ditch that forms part of a large enclosure that once may have encircled a fortified village in the Upper Tapajos Basin.

Last year, researchers from Brazil, the U.K. and Canada led by Jennifer Watling at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography at the University of São Paulo announced their discovery of 455 huge earthworks spread across hundreds of thousands of acres in the nearby Brazilian state of Acre. They also date to pre-Columbian times.

Outlined by ditches up to 12 yards wide and 12 feet deep, these circular and square enclosures are known as geoglyphs were carved into the soil within woodlands that had been managed for thousands of years, the scientists said. Until exposed by modern deforestation, they had been concealed for centuries by the surrounding rainforest.

And in the headwaters of the Xingu River in the Amazon basin, Dr. Heckenberger and his colleagues discovered remains of broad highways and dozens of fortified pre-Columbian villages. The area between these urban centres had been cultivated or managed as parkland, he said.

Such ancient human disturbances still affect the forests today, altering patterns of growth and the mix of tree species. That in turn can make it difficult for climate scientists to judge how much carbon from greenhouse emissions can be absorbed by the Amazon rainforest every year.

“These forests may be much younger than we think they are,” said ecologist Crystal McMichael at the University of Amsterdam, who wasn’t involved in the latest research.

Melting Norwegian glacier releases 500-year-old perfectly preserved wooden box full of candles

Melting Norwegian glacier releases 500-year-old perfectly preserved wooden box full of candles

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a beeswax candle used to assist Vikings to find their farms in a 500-year-old wooden box discovered in a perfectly preserved form when a glacier in Norway melted.

Archaeologists removed the tight lid of the pine box with the leather straps, uncovered in Norway’s Lendbreen ice patch, discovering the candle that was essential to Vikings hundreds of years ago.  

The team suggests the box – which was first uncovered in 2019 – was used to transport the long candles that were used by Vikings to light the path between their main farm and summer farm.

The Lendbreen ice patch has become a sought-out destination for archaeologists since 2011 when teams discovered thousands of artefacts sticking out from the melting Norwegian glacier.

At first, the team thought it was a tinderbox that was lost accidentally in the pass, but a further analysis proved otherwise, The History Blog reports.

The box found at the Lendbreen ice-patch containing a well-preserved beeswax candle.

‘It is radiocarbon-dated to AD 1475-1635, so 400-500 years old,’ glacial archaeologists from the Secrets of the Ice team shared in a statement. 

‘The content of the box was analyzed at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo: We were in for a big surprise – the content is beeswax!

‘What we are seeing inside the box is very likely the remains of a beeswax candle.’

Candle boxes were a common item among Vikings that were used to house expensive beeswax candles as Vikings made their travels to different farms. 

The melting glaciers, brought on by climate change, is creating a valuable archaeological site in Norway, which was an ancient passageway used by Vikings for thousands of years and littered with forgotten artefacts. 

The Lendbreen ice patch has produced more than 6,000 artefacts since archaeologists began investigating the area.

Last November, teams unearthed nearly 70 arrow shafts, plus shoes, textiles and reindeer bones on a mountainside in Jotunheimen, about 240 miles from Oslo.

Last November, teams unearthed nearly 70 arrow shafts, plus shoes, textiles and reindeer bones on a mountainside in Jotunheimen, about 240 miles from Oslo
Clothes, tools, equipment and animal bone have also been found by a team in Norway’s mountainous region.

Based on radiocarbon dating, the oldest arrows are from around 4100 BC, with the most recent dating from 1300 AD.

Clothes, tools, equipment and animal bone have also been found by a team in Norway’s mountainous region, according to the journal Antiquity. 

Researchers collected a haul of more than 100 artefacts at the site includes horseshoes, a wooden whisk, a walking stick, a wooden needle, a mitten and a small iron knife.

Although a warming world is revealing these extraordinary relics, archaeologists are in a race against time because the ice is what is keeping them preserved.

Archaeologist Regula Gubler told AFP in October 2020: ‘It is a very short window in time. In 20 years, these finds will be gone and these ice patches will be gone.’

‘It is a bit stressful.’

She explained that materials like leather, wood, birch bark and textiles can be destroyed by erosion.

And the only reason they have stayed preserved is because of the ice.

The Prehistoric Rock Art of Tassili N’Ajjer, Algeria

The Prehistoric Rock Art of Tassili N’Ajjer, Algeria

Just Outside the Desert Oasis of Djanet, Algeria, there’s a national park brimming with pieces of the past. A trip through the alien-like landscape of Tassili n’Ajjer is like stepping into an open-air art gallery, where the sandstone rock formations become canvases for more than 15,000 prehistoric carvings and paintings.

The Dessert around Djanet

Tassili n’Ajjer shot into worldwide fame in the 1930s, not for its landscape but for the precious collection of ancient rock art in the area.

Since their discovery, more than 15,000 petroglyphs and paintings have been identified representing 10,000 years of human history and environmental change.

Petroglyph depicting a possibly sleeping antelope, located at Tassili n’Ajjer in southern Algeria.

One of the most striking features of these petroglyphs is the way they evolved with the change in the climate.

The oldest art belongs to the so-called “Large Wild Fauna Period” (10,000-6,000 BC) characterized almost entirely by engravings of animals such as hippopotamus, crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and rhinos, depicting the abundant wildlife at a time when the Sahara was green and fertile.

Humans appear as tiny figures dwarfed by the immensity of these animals and are often shown holding boomerangs or throwing sticks, clubs, axes or bows.

Overlapping with this era is the Round Head Period (8,000-6,000 BC) where human figures with elaborate attires took dominance. These figures ranged from a few centimetres to several meters tall.

The majority of Round Head paintings portray people with round featureless heads and formless bodies. Some of the pieces seem to suggest shamanism with bodies flying through space or bowing before huge male figures that tower above them.

About 7,000 years ago, domesticated animals began to appear in art. This period is known as the Pastoral Period. Rock art from this period reflects a changing attitude towards nature and property.

Human figures became more prominent, and man was no longer shown as part of nature but portrayed as being above nature, yet able to derive sustenance from it.

Wild animals gave way to cattle and stock. Later drawings (3500 years ago) depicts horses and horse-drawn chariots. It’s unlikely that chariots were ever driven across the rocky Sahara, so researchers believe the figures of chariots and armed men are symbolic, representing ownership of land, or control of its inhabitants.

As the climate became progressively drier, horses were replaced by camels as evident from the rock art from the most recent period about 2000 years ago.

Tassili N’Ajjer lies about 500 meters above the level of the desert. The plateau can only be reached by climbing on foot, with camping materials and supplies drawn by donkeys and camels.

Large diurnal temperature variations and the absence of basic amenities make the trip extremely challenging, so only the young and the hardy attempt to reach it. Recent violence and insecurity in the country have further isolated Tassili N’Ajjer from the routes of most tourists.

Detail of a petroglyph depicting a bubalus anticus.

Oldest Horseshoe Crab Fossil Found, 445 Million Years Old

Oldest Horseshoe Crab Fossil Found, 445 Million Years Old

Few modern animals are as deserving of the title “living fossil” as the lowly horseshoe crab. Seemingly unchanged since before the Age of Dinosaurs, these venerable sea creatures can now claim a history that reaches back almost half a billion years.

The oldest horseshoe crab in the fossil record (Lunataspis aurora, left) is 445 million years old and was discovered in Ordovician strata from Manitoba, Canada. Horseshoe crab shells are made of protein and normally are not mineralized like typical fossils, making this a truly remarkable find. Despite the age of this fossil, it looks remarkably similar to the modern animal pictured to the right

In a collaborative research article published recently in the British journal Palaeontology, a team of Canadian scientists revealed rare new horseshoe crab fossils from 445 million-year-old Ordovician age rocks in central and northern Manitoba, which are about 100 million years older than any previously known forms.

Palaeontologist Dave Rudkin from the Royal Ontario Museum, with colleagues Dr. Graham Young of The Manitoba Museum (Winnipeg) and Dr. Godfrey Nowlan at the Geological Survey of Canada (Calgary), gave their remarkable new fossils the scientific name Lunataspis aurora, meaning literally “crescent moon shield of the dawn” in reference to their shape, geological age and northerly discovery sites.

Although they are more “primitive” in several aspects than other known horseshoe crabs, their resemblance to living forms is unmistakable.

The fossil horseshoe crabs were recovered in the course of fieldwork studies on ancient tropical seashore deposits, providing yet another important link to their modern descendants that are today found along warmer seashores of the eastern United States and the Indian Ocean.

One of the fossils of the new genus of horseshoe crab (Lunataspis aurora) was photographed underwater to show some of the fine details.

This is particularly significant, explains Rudkin. “Understanding how horseshoe crabs adapted to this ecological niche very early on, and then remained there through thick and thin, can give us insights into how ocean and shoreline ecosystems have developed through deep time.”

Today, marine shorelines worldwide are being threatened by human activity, and although some horseshoe crab populations are endangered, their enviably long record on Earth indicates that they have successfully weathered many previous crises, including the mass extinction that saw the demise of the dinosaurs and many other life forms 65 million years ago.

“We do need to be concerned about horseshoe crabs and many of the other unusual life forms found on marine shores,” said Dr. Young.

“Nevertheless, we can also be mildly optimistic that some of these things have demonstrated a toughness that may allow them to survive our abuse of these environments.”

Living horseshoe crabs are extensively studied, especially in the fields of ecology and medical research. The exciting discovery of these unusual early fossil relatives adds a new introductory chapter to their remarkable story.

David Rudkin is Assistant Curator in the Department of Natural History (Palaeobiology) at the Royal Ontario Museum and holds an appointment to the Department of Geology, University of Toronto, as a Lecturer in palaeontology.

Rudkin joined the former Department of Invertebrate Palaeontology at the ROM in 1975 and began working on fossils from the Burgess Shale in British Columbia.

Palaeontologists discover nearly complete dinosaur skeleton in China – fossil is ’70 per cent intact’

Palaeontologists discover nearly complete dinosaur skeleton in China – fossil is ’70 per cent intact’

Palaeontologists in southwest China have unearthed a fossil from the Jurassic period that is 70 per cent intact and belongs to a dinosaur believed to be nearly 8 metres in length.

The fossil, which dates back 180-million-years, was discovered in late May in the city of Lufeng, which is in the province of Yunnan in Southern China.

Following the groundbreaking discovery, staff with the Dinosaur Fossil Conservation and Research Center started carrying out emergency excavations to help prevent damage to the remaining bones. It was done quickly as the area is prone to soil erosion, according to reports.

Palaeontologists discover nearly complete dinosaur skeleton in China - fossil is '70 per cent intact'
Lufengosaurus is a genus of massospondylid dinosaurs who lived in the early Jurassic period in what is now known as southwestern China.

Wang Tao, Head of the Dinosaur Fossil Conservation and Research Center of Lufeng City, said finding a nearly complete Lufengosaurus is very rare, adding that the find is a ‘national treasure’.

“Such a highly complete dinosaur fossil is a rare find around the world. Based on the fossil that was have discovered over the years, on its tail, and thigh bones, we believe this is a type of giant Lufengosaurus, which lived during the Early Jurassic period,” he said.

Photos were taken at the excavation site show workers delicately brushing the red soil to uncover the skeleton.

Lufengosaurus is a genus of massospondylid dinosaurs who lived in the early Jurassic period in what is now known as southwestern China.

The species grabbed international headlines in 2017 when scientists found 195-million-year-old collagen protein in the rib of a Lufengosarus fossil.

This isn’t the only significant dino fossil find in China this year. Back in January, a 120-million-year-old fossil helped researchers and scientists to bridge the gap between dinosaurs and modern birds.

After researchers analysed and studied the fossil, the species was dubbed as ‘Wulong bohaiensis’ or ‘the dancing dragon’ and described as a strange mix between a bird and a dinosaur.

The researchers from China and the United States said the dinosaur was about the size of a raven with a long and bony tail.

Further study revealed its body was covered with feathers with two plumes at the end of the tail.

Ukraine discovers a 5,000-year-old megalithic Stonehenge like monument!

Ukraine discovers a 5,000-year-old megalithic Stonehenge like monument!

Archaeological digs still reveal historical aspects that remain puzzling to some. Such is the case with these archaeologists who are on a mission in Ukraine in the village of Novooleksandrivka, about ten kilometres south of the city of Dnipro.

According to them, they discovered a place where blocks of stone several meters high form a circle. In archaeology, this is known as the Cromlech (megalithic monument made of menhirs in a circle) or Stonehenge, based on the one in the United Kingdom: The Stonehenge in Amesbury, which attracts millions of visitors every year. An original discovery for Ukraine!

The Stone Hill by Novooleksandrivka

The 5-channel television station reports that a 4,500 to 5,000-year-old burial mound has been discovered. “In the middle of the tumulus (Kurgan in Ukraine), archaeologists found a gigantic cromlech – stone blocks several meters high that form a circle.”

Ukrainian Burial Mound Dig Reveals 5,500-Year-Old Stonehenge-like Structure

According to the journalistic report, each block of stone weighs about a ton. The blocks are carefully cut into a circle. Compared to the pyramids of Egypt, this side would be even older than 500 years.

Novooleksandrivka would not be the first Stonehenge discovered in Ukraine, but it is the youngest. And most importantly, it seems to be the largest ever discovered.

The stone circle discovered within the Ukrainian burial mound.

Oleksandr Kolomiytsev, the spokesman for the regional road service, explains: “The construction involved moving a huge volume of earth and a considerable workforce.

It is possible that the person buried and protected by the Cromlech was highly regarded in society. This is the only way to explain the monumental character of this construction. “”

In fact, the various StoneHenge that has been discovered in the world all function as funerary memorials.

The Novooleksandrivka site was to become an open-air museum. A stroke of luck for Ukraine, which believes that this ancient monument can attract millions of tourists every year!

The secret of the British StoneHenge!

The StoneHenge in Amesbury, UK, was not built where it is now, according to a study in Cambridge University’s Antiquity magazine.

This observation follows the discovery of a place where large stones were excavated … But no trace of these stones nearby. They conclude that these stones were brought to the location of the current StoneHenge.

The circle was dismantled by Merlin and shipped by 15,000 men to Amesbury in the Salisbury Plain. Merlin wanted the Giants Dance Stones for their magical and healing properties. 

Indeed, if the UK location is already a major tourist hit, Ukraine could attract many historic tourists too! Ukraine is a beautiful country that bears the historical mark of Chernobyl! But there are so many other things to discover there: Kiev, for example, is a jewel!

Prehistoric Teeth Pendants Worn in Ancient Dance 8,000 Years Ago Incite Body Movements

Prehistoric Teeth Pendants Worn in Ancient Dance 8,000 Years Ago Incite Body Movements

“Ornaments composed of elk teeth suspended from or sown onto clothing emit a loud rattling noise when moving,” says auditory archaeologist and Academy of Finland Research Fellow Riitta Rainio from the University of Helsinki.

“Wearing such rattlers while dancing makes it easier to immerse yourself in the soundscape, eventually letting the sound and rhythm take control of your movements. It is as if the dancer is led in the dance by someone.”

Rainio is well versed in the topic, as she danced, for research purposes, for six consecutive hours, wearing elk tooth ornaments produced according to the Stone Age model.

Rainio and artist Juha Valkeapää held a performance to find out what kind of wear marks are formed in the teeth when they bang against each other and move in all directions.

The sound of a tooth rattler can be clear and bright or loud and pounding, depending on the number and quality of the teeth, as well as the intensity of movement.

Prehistoric Teeth Pendants Worn in Ancient Dance 8,000 Years Ago Incite Body Movements
Adult male from grave 76a in Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov drawn as if he were alive during a dance session: 140 elk teeth on the chest, waist, pelvis, and thighs rattle rhythmically and loudly.

Microanalysis demonstrates that tooth wear marks are the result of dancing.

The teeth worn out by dancing were analyzed for any microscopic marks before and after the dancing. These marks were then compared to the findings made in the Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov graves by Evgeny Girya, an archaeologist specialized in micro-marks at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Girya documented and analyzed the wear marks in the elk teeth found in four graves chosen for the experiment. Comparing the chips, hollows, cuts and smoothened surfaces of the teeth, he observed a clear resemblance between teeth worn out by dancing and the Stone Age teeth.

However, the marks in the Stone Age teeth were deeper and more extensive. According to Girya, the results show that the marks are the result of similar activity.

Archaeological research recently showed how prehistoric pendants incited sounds and body movements in ancient dance about 8,000 years ago.

“As the Stone Age teeth were worn for years or even decades, it’s no surprise that their marks are so distinctive,” Girya says.

Associate Professor of Archaeology Kristiina Mannermaa from the University of Helsinki is excited by the research findings.

“Elk tooth rattlers are fascinating since they transport modern people to a soundscape that is thousands of years old and to its emotional rhythms that guide the body.

You can close your eyes, listen to the sound of the rattlers and drift on the soundwaves to a lakeside campfire in the world of Stone Age hunter-gatherers.”

See Also: MORE ARCHAEOLOGY NEWS

A total of 177 graves of women, men and children have been found in the Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov burial site, of which more than half contain several elk tooth ornaments, some of them composed of over 300 individual teeth.