All posts by Archaeology World Team

Archaeologists in Mexico Discover Treasure of Mayan Civilization and Giant Sloth Fossils in a Vast Underwater Cave

Archaeologists in Mexico Discover Treasure of Mayan Civilization and Giant Sloth Fossils in a Vast Underwater Cave

This undated photo released by Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute shows divers from the Great Mayan Aquifer project (L) exploring the Sac Actun underwater cave system, where Mayan and Pleistocene bones and cultural artefacts have been found submerged, near Tulum, Mexico.

Following 10 months of intensive exploration, Mexican scientists discovered the largest flooded cave system – and it’s truly an underwater wonderland.

This sprawling, sunken labyrinth, stretching an astounding 347 km (216 miles) of subterranean caverns, is not only a stunning marvel but also a significant archaeological find that can uncover the forgotten mysteries of the ancient Mayan civilization.

“This enormous cave is the world’s leading archaeological submerged site,” said Guillermo de Anda, an underwater archaeologist at the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico.

The largest underwater cave in the world was discovered in Mexico by explorers from the Gran Acuífero Maya.

“There are more than 100 archaeological contexts, among which are evidence of the first settlers of America, as well as extinct fauna and, of course, the Maya culture.”

De Anda heads up the Great Maya Aquifer Project (GAM), a research effort which for decades has explored underwater caves in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, located on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula.

The region hosts a stunning 358 submerged cave systems, representing some 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) of flooded freshwater tunnels hidden under the surface.

A diver from the Great Mayan Aquifer project looking at human remains believed to be from the Pleistocene era, in the Sac Actun underwater cave system, near Tulum, Mexico.

Amongst this sprawling network, a new leader emerged last week. Called the Sac Actun System, this gargantuan passage is so big it was actually thought to be two different cave systems.

Before now, another system called Dos Ojos (‘two eyes’) spanning 93 kilometres (57.8 miles) was thought to be distinct from Sac Actun, but an exhaustive 10 months of underwater probing proved the two were actually one giant continuous cavity.

“We came really close a few times. On a couple of occasions, we were a metre from making a connection between the two large cave systems,” GAM exploration director Robert Schmittner told Mexican newspaper, El Pais.

“It was like trying to follow the veins within a body. It was a labyrinth of paths that sometimes came together and sometimes separated. We had to be very careful.”

That effort paid off, and under the rules of caving, Sac Actun now absorbs Dos Ojos (and its former length), meaning at 347 kilometres long Sac Actun is now the world’s largest known underwater cave – beating out the former frontrunner, the Ox Bel Ha System, also in Quintana Roo, which stretches for 270 kilometres.

But the search isn’t over yet. Sac Actun stands to grow even larger, with the researchers saying it could be connected to three other underwater cave systems – provided further dives can show the caverns do indeed link up.

Photos by: Gran Acuifero Maya
A Mask of the Mayan god of trade in the Gran aquifer of Sac Actun in Quinta Roo state, Mexico.

Those dives won’t just shed light on how deep the fish hole goes, either.

As footage in the researchers’ video and photos show – untold volumes of preserved Maya artefacts and human remains are just waiting to be discovered and analysed from within this unprecedented cave system.

Ultimately, the scientific implications could be just as massive as the cave itself.

“We’ve recorded more than 100 archaeological elements: the remains of extinct fauna, early humans, Maya archaeology, ceramics, and Maya graves,” de Anda told the Mexican media.

“It’s a tunnel of time that transports you to a place 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.”

Ritual Site Dedicated to Mesopotamian War God Discovered in Iraq

Ritual Site Dedicated to Mesopotamian War God Discovered in Iraq

At the site of Girsu (also known as Tello) in Iraq, archeologists recently uncovered a 5,000-year-old cultic region that hosted fiery feasts, animal sacrifices and ritual processions dedicated to Ningirsu, a Mesopotamian warrior-god.

Archeologists excavated over 300 broken ceremonial ceramic cups, bowls, pots, and spouted vessels along with a large number of animal bones in an area of Girsu known as the Uruku (a name which means “the sacred city”).

The sacred plaza, seen here, was at the heart of Girsu. A cultic area that had over 300 broken ceremonial objects was recently uncovered near its entrance.

The items were within or near a “favissa” (ritual pit) that was 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) deep, said Sebastien Rey, director of the British Museum’s Tello/Ancient Girsu Project, and Tina Greenfield, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Saskatchewan who works on the project.

Greenfield presented the team’s findings at the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting held in San Diego in November 2019. 

One of the most striking objects the archaeologists found was a bronze figurine shaped like a duck, with eyes made out of the shell.

The object may have been dedicated to Nanshe, a goddess associated with water, marshlands and aquatic birds, Rey and Greenfield told Live Science in an email. The researchers also uncovered a fragment of a vase that has an inscription dedicated to Ningirsu.

Rey and Greenfield said that the cups and goblets they found were probably used in a religious feast before being ritually discarded in the pit, while the bones — which were from sheep, cow, deer, gazelle, fish, goat, pig and birds — were likely the remains of animals that were either consumed or killed for ritual sacrifices. 

The area has a thick layer of ash that was likely leftover from large ritual fires. The team also found eight ash-filled oval structures that were likely the remains of lanterns or floor lamps. 

Archaeologists believe that the cultic area was in use during a time period called the “early dynastic,” which lasted between 2950-2350 B.C. 

Details of the favissa and its objects and animal bones can be seen in this picture. The cultic area that it’s in dates back almost 5,000 years.

Festivals and processions

A large number of ceremonial ceramics, as well as the burnt floors and a favissa strongly, connects the recently uncovered cultic area to the place “where according to the cuneiform texts religious festivals took place and where the population of Girsu gathered to feast and honour their gods,” Rey and Greenfield said in the email.

Cuneiform tablets found at Girsu in the late 19th and early 20th century describe the religious feasting and processions that the cultic area was used for.

The tablets say that a religious feast in honor of Ningirsu was carried out twice a year and lasted for three or four days, Rey and Greenfield said. 

During the festival, a religious procession began at the center of Girsu and crossed the city’s territory before arriving at the “Gu’edena,” an area that may have been located just outside Girsu — and then turned back and ended at Girsu’s center. 

Archaeological work is ongoing at Girsu, and the researchers will continue to publish new findings in the future.

The Mystery behind the 18 Giant Skeletons found in the USA

The Mystery behind the 18 Giant Skeletons found in the USA

18 Strange Skeletons Found in Wisconsin Nine-foot Skeletons with Huge Heads and Strange Facial Features Shocked Scientists When They Were Uncovered 107 Year Ago Scientists are remaining stubbornly silent about a lost race of giants found in burial mounds near Lake Delavan, Wisconsin, in May 1912.

The dig site at Lake Delavan was overseen by Beloit College and it included more than 200 effigy mounds that proved to be classic examples of 8th century Woodland Culture. But the enormous size of the skeletons and elongated skulls found in May 1912 did not fit very neatly into anyone’s concept of a textbook standard.

They were enormous. These were not average human beings.

Strange Skulls

First reported in the 4 May 1912 issue of the New York Times, the 18 skeletons found by the Peterson brothers on Lake Lawn Farm in southwest Wisconsin exhibited several strange and freakish features.

Their heights ranged between seven and nine feet and their skulls “presumably those of men, are much larger than the heads of any race which inhabit America to-day.”

Above the eye sockets, “the head slopes straight back and the nasal bones protrude far above the cheekbones. The jawbones are long and pointed, bearing a minute resemblance to the head of the monkey. The teeth in the front of the jaw are regular molars.”

Their heights ranged between 7.6ft and 10 feet and their skulls “presumably those of men, are much larger than the heads of any race which inhabit America to-day.” They tend to have a double row of teeth, 6 fingers, 6 toes and like humans came in different races. The teeth in the front of the jaw are regular molars. Heads usually found are elongated believed due to longer than normal life span.

The mystery of The Wisconsin Giants

Was this some sort of prank, a hoax played by local farm boys or a demented taxidermist for fun and the attention of the press? The answer is no.

The Lake Delavan find of May 1912 was only one of the dozens and dozens of similar finds that were reported in local newspapers from 1851 forward to the present day. It was not even the first set of giant skeletons found in Wisconsin.

On 10 August 1891, the New York Times reported that scientists from the Smithsonian Institution had discovered several large “pyramidal monuments” on Lake Mills, near Madison, Wisconsin. “Madison was in ancient days the center of a teeming population numbering not less than 200,000,” the Times said. The excavators found an elaborate system of defensive works which they named Fort Aztalan.

“The celebrated mounds of Ohio and Indiana can bear no comparison, either in size, design or the skill displayed in their construction with these gigantic and mysterious monuments of the earth — erected we know not by whom, and for what purpose we can only conjecture,” said the Times.

On 20 December 1897, the Times followed up with a report on three large burial mounds that had been discovered in Maple Creek, Wisconsin. One had recently been opened.

“In it was found the skeleton of a man of gigantic size. The bones measured from head to foot over nine feet and were in a fair state of preservation. The skull was as large as a half bushel measure. Some finely tempered rods of copper and other relics were lying near the bones.”

Giant skulls and skeletons of a race of “Goliaths” have been found on a very regular basis throughout the Midwestern states for more than 100 years. Giants have been found in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and New York, and their burial sites are similar to the well-known mounds of the Mound Builder people.

The spectrum of Mound builder history spans a period of more than 5,000 years (from 3400 BCE to the 16th CE), a period greater than the history of Ancient Egypt and all of its dynasties.

There is a “prevailing scholarly consensus” that we have an adequate historical understanding of the peoples who lived in North America during this period. However, the long record of anomalous finds like those at Lake Delavan suggests otherwise.

The Great Smithsonian Cover-Up

Has there been a giant cover-up? Why aren’t there public displays of gigantic Native American skeletons at natural history museums?

The skeletons of some Mound Builders are certainly on display. There is a wonderful exhibit, for example, at the Aztalan State Park where one may see the skeleton of a “Princess of Aztalan” in the museum.

But the skeletons placed on display are normal-sized, and according to some sources, the skeletons of giants have been covered up. Specifically, the Smithsonian Institution has been accused of making a deliberate effort to hide the “telling of the bones” and to keep the giant skeletons locked away.

In the words of Vine Deloria, a Native American author, and professor of law:

“Modern day archaeology and anthropology have nearly sealed the door on our imaginations, broadly interpreting the North American past as devoid of anything unusual in the way of great cultures characterized by a people of unusual demeanor. The great interloper of ancient burial grounds, the nineteenth century Smithsonian Institution, created a one-way portal, through which uncounted bones have been spirited. This door and the contents of its vault are virtually sealed off to anyone, but government officials. Among these bones may lay answers not even sought by these officials concerning the deep past.”

2,000-Year-Old Sundial Unearthed in Roman Town

2,000-Year-Old Sundial Unearthed in Roman Town

The sundial is carved out of a limestone block

A rare and intact 2,000-year-old Roman sundial was discovered in central Italy, engraved with the name of the man who commissioned it.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge made the find during an excavation in the Roman town of Interamna Lirenas, near Monte Cassino. Inscribed on the sundial is the name Marcus Novius Tubula, an unknown plebeian tribune to Rome, in Latin.

It is claimed this sheds new light on Rome’s relationship with other regions. Interamna Lirenas, founded in 312 BC and abandoned in 6th Century AD, was about 130 km (81 miles) from Rome.

The sundial was discovered in a roofed theatre in the ancient town of Interamna Lirenas

The name and lettering style place the sundial’s inscription at about 1st Century BC when citizens were granted full Roman citizenship.

Dr. Alessandro Launaro, the lecturer at the Faculty of Classics at Cambridge, said the ancient town was “not a town of remarkable prestige or notable influence”.

Therefore, he said, the discovery showed “the level of involvement in Rome’s own affairs that individuals hailing from this and other relatively secondary communities could aspire to”.

The limestone sundial, found in a roofed theatre, is thought to have represented a celebration of Marcus Novius Tubula’s election to the political office of the plebeian tribune.

The concaved face is engraved with 11-hour lines intersecting three-day curves, which indicate the season with respect to the time of the winter solstice, equinox and summer solstice.

The needle which cast a shadow to show the time “is essentially lost” but part is preserved under a lead fixing.

It is believed the sundial was left behind at a time when the theatre and town were being scavenged for building materials during the Medieval to the post-Medieval period.