Giant ram head statues found on ‘Avenue of Sphinxes’ in Egypt
Three giant statues of ram heads — at least one of which had a cobra on top — have been discovered south of Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egyptologists announced.
Karnak Temple was built between roughly 4,000 and 2,000 years ago, and much of it is dedicated to Amun-Ra, a god associated with the sun and Thebes, the capital of ancient Egypt (now the modern-day city of Luxor). The temple complex covers over 250 acres (100 hectares).
On Oct. 11, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced that three giant ram heads had been found by an Egyptian archaeological team south of a gateway built by the Ptolemies, a dynasty of pharaohs descended from one of Alexander the Great’s generals that ruled Egypt between 305 B.C and 30 B.C.
In ancient times, these ram heads were part of three larger statues that had the bodies of creatures that looked a bit like sphinxes.
The statues featured in a large avenue of ram-headed statues that went south, running for 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometres) between Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple, Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told the news site al-Monitor.
This avenue is often called the “avenue of the sphinxes” and consisted of around 700 statues.
“An estimated 700 sphinxes lined the route between Karnak and Luxor temples and its magnificence can scarcely be imagined,” wrote Elizabeth Blyth, an independent scholar in her book “Karnak: Evolution of a Temple” (Routledge, 2006). While many of the surviving sphinxes date to the reign of Nectanebo I (380-362 B.C.) artwork suggests that the avenue existed at least as early as the 18th dynasty (1550-1295 B.C.), wrote Blyth.
Egyptologists are in the process of conserving the ram heads and will put them back on statues showing the bodies of the creatures, Waziri said in the statement.
Archaeologists unearthed another discovery — the remains of a cobra statue — Waziri announced Oct. 17 on his Facebook page. This cobra statue would have originally been on top of one of the ram heads, so the conservation team plans to put it back on, Waziri said.
The age of the statues is being investigated, but Waziri told Al-Monitor that the design of one of them suggests that it may date back to the reign of Amenhotep III, who ruled Egypt between 1390 B.C and 1352 B.C.,
According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s list of Egyptian rulers, and was the grandfather of King Tutankhamun. Excavation, analysis and conservation work is ongoing.
Shell beads found in Moroccan caves are at least 142,000 years old
From ancient beads to modern bling, jewellery has allowed humans to make statements for millennia. Now, reports Ann Gibbons for Science magazine, a new analysis of beads found in Morocco offers a clearer picture of how long people have been making these fashion pronouncements: at least 142,000 to 150,000 years.
Writing in the journal Science Advances, the researchers date 33 small seashells bored with holes to that timeframe—around 10,000 to 20,000 years earlier than previously recorded.
Discovered in Bizmoune Cave, the prehistoric jewellery shows how early humans communicated information about themselves to others.
“They were probably part of the way people expressed their identity with their clothing,” says study co-author Steven L. Kuhn, an archaeologist at the University of Arizona, in a statement.
“Wearing beads has to do with meeting strangers, expanding social networks,” Kuhn tells Science. “You don’t have to signal your identity to your mother or whether you’re married to your husband or wife.”
Per the study, the seashells were found in a deposited layer dated to at least 142,000 years ago, extending the earliest records of this type of human activity from the Middle Stone Age into the late Middle Pleistocene period.
“[O]rnaments such as beads are among the earliest signs of symbolic behaviour among human ancestors,” the paper states. “Their appearance signals important developments in both cognition and social relations.”
The discovery suggests that humans in North Africa were making ornaments long before their peers in other parts of Africa and Asia.
“While similar specimens have been found elsewhere in northwestern Africa, these examples extend their range to the far western edge of present-day Morocco, providing evidence for when and where ancient populations may have been connected over large geographic regions and allowing us to refine the mode and tempo of modern human origins,” Teresa Steele, an anthropologist at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the study, tells Nature Middle East’s, Rieko Kawabata.
Unearthed between 2014 and 2018, the ancient jewellery was made from perforated shells of the mollusc Tritia gibbosula. All but one of the snail shells was found in the same layer of ash, which also included stone tools and animal bones.
The researchers dated the beads by measuring uranium decay in mineral deposits found in that same layer. Their analysis pinpointed the shells’ modification to between 120,000 and 171,000 years ago, with 142,000 years old as the jewellery’s likely minimum age.
According to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the earliest forms of jewellery were made from shells, stone and bone. Prehistoric people likely wore such adornments “as a protection from the dangers of life or as a mark of status or rank.”
The Moroccan beads join a growing body of millennia-old jewellery analyzed by archaeologists. In 2017, for instance, researchers on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi found a polished pendant crafted from the finger bone of a bear cuscus.
More recently, a team investigating the Qafzeh Cave in Israel discovered 120,000-year-old shells strung on a necklace as beads.
“It’s one thing to know that people were capable of making [jewellery],” says Kuhn in the statement, “but then the question becomes, ‘OK, what stimulated them to do it?’”
Dufana Boat: The 8,000 Years oldest Canoe in Africa & second oldest on earth
8,000 years ago, Nigeria. “Africa’s oldest known boat” the Dufuna Canoe was discovered near the region of the River Yobe. The Canoe was discovered by a Fulani herdsman in May 1987, in Dufuna Village while digging a well. The canoe’s “almost black wood”, said to be African mahogany, is “entirely an organic material”.
Various Radio-Carbon tests conducted in laboratories of reputable Universities in Europe and America indicate that the Canoe is over 8000 years old, thus making it the oldest in Africa and 3rd oldest in the World.
Little is known of the period to which the boat belongs, in archaeological terms, it is described as an early phase of the Later Stone Age, which began rather more than 12,000 years ago and ended with the appearance of pottery.
(Photo)-Nigeria. “Africa’s oldest known boat” (6,000 B.C.) the Dufuna Canoe was discovered near the region of the River Yobe. Various Radio-Carbon tests conducted in laboratories of reputable Universities in Europe and America indicate that the Canoe is over 8000 years old, thus making it the oldest in Africa and 3rd oldest in the World. Ranking the Dufuna canoe as the world’s third oldest known dugout. Older than it is the dugouts from Pesse, Netherlands; and Noyen-Sur-Seine, France. Which are very primitive in comparison to the modern design – even by our standards – of the Dufuna Canoe.
The lab results redefined the pre-history of African water transport, ranking the Dufuna canoe as the world’s third oldest known dugout. Older than it is the dugouts from Pesse, Netherlands, and Noyen-Sur-Seine, France. But evidence of an 8,000-year-old tradition of boat building in Africa throws cold water on the assumption that maritime transport developed much later there in comparison with Europe.
Peter Breunig of the University of Frankfurt, Germany, an archaeologist involved in the project, says the canoe’s age “forces a reconsideration of Africa’s role in the history of water transport”. It shows, he adds, “that the cultural history of Africa was not determined by Near Eastern and European influences but took its own, in many cases parallel, course”. Breunig, adding that it even outranks in style European finds of similar age.
According to him, “The bow and stern are both carefully worked to points, giving the boat a notably more elegant form”, compared to “the dugout made of conifer wood from Pesse in the Netherlands, whose blunt ends and thick sides seem crude”. To go by its stylistic sophistication, he reasons, “It is highly probable that the Dufuna boat does not represent the beginning of a tradition, but had already undergone a long development, and that the origins of water transport in Africa lie even further back in time.”
The canoe excavated at Dunfuna village in Fune local government of Yobe state dated to 8000 BCE and presently at Damaturu in Yobe State capital
Egypt’s oldest known boat is 5000 years old.
Presently undergoing conservation at Damaturu, Yobe State, it was dug out from a depth of five meters beneath the earth’s surface and measured 8.4 meters in length, 0.5 meters wide and about 5 cm thick varying at certain parts of the surface.
The canoe belongs to the Late Stone Age period (Neolithic Age) when humans ceased to roam the face of the earth hunting to become herdsmen and cultivators and in the process becoming modifiers of their environment with complex social structures in response to new problems and ways of dealing with situations.
“The discovery of this boat is an important landmark in the history of Nigeria in particular and Africa in general,” says Eluyemi.
Besides proving that the Nigerian society was at par (if not earlier) than that of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Minoa and Phoenicia, the discovery also provides the first concrete evidence that Africans possessed the ability to reason and have been exploring technology to modify their environment to suit their needs.
But more importantly “the canoe has shown that people in the Niger area had a history of advanced technology and that they had mastered the three major items of Paleolithic culture which were the fashioning, standardization and utilization of tools according to certain set traditions,” explains Eluyemi.
But beyond that, the discovery has also revealed that Nigerians were not static people. “It gives concrete evidence of transportation by seas as well as providing evidence of some form of long-distance commercial activities indicative of existing political and economic structures.”
One great benefit of the discovery is that it has helped archaeologists draw a relationship between what was happening in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world during that period. Indications are that while Nigerians were making canoes in Dufuna village in 6000 BC, the people of Catol Huyuk in Turkey were making pottery, textiles etc, like the people of Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), were forming urban communities and the Chinese were making painted pottery in the Yang Shao region.
But particularly of interest to archaeologists is the proof that some form of advanced civilization existed in the Lake Chad Basin around 6000 BC.
Documentation has shown that based on the minimal available technology during this period, the making of the Dufuna canoe must have been a ponderous task that called for mastery, specialization and ingenuity. A lot of work, man-hours and skill must also have been put into the production since no iron tools were in existence at the time.
The tools used were probably Post Pleistocene ungrounded core axe-like and pick-axe bifacial tools of microlithic appearance. It can be assumed that the canoe must have been made near a river to eliminate the difficulty of transporting it over long distances.
Archaeologists Find Oldest Home in Human History, Dating to 2 Million Years Ago
Archaeologists have identified Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa’s the Kalahari Desert as the world’s oldest home, thanks to new evidence confirming the theory that early humans were already occupying the site 2 million years ago.
The dates for the cave—named for the Afrikaans word for “miracle”—were determined by testing the cave sediments, according to a new paper in Quaternary Science Reviews by researchers from the University of Toronto and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
“We can now say with confidence that our human ancestors were making simple Oldowan stone tools inside the Wonderwerk Cave 1.8 million years ago,” lead author Ron Shaar said in a statement.
Wonderwerk is “a key site for the Earlier Stone Age,” according to the paper, but archaeologists have never found human remains there. Instead, the dating was obtained by investigating the different rock laters, also known as the stratified sedimentary sequence, reports Haaretz.
The cave contains traces of basal sediment, produced by retreating glaciers grinding against the bedrock, which would have to have been tracked in by early humans.
Using magnetostratigraphy, a branch of stratigraphy that detects variations in the magnetic properties of rocks, the researchers dated 178 samples from the cave.
Measuring the magnetic signal of these ancient clay particles revealed the direction of the earth’s magnetic field—which changes poles every half million years or so—when the dust first entered the cave.
“Since the exact timing of these magnetic ‘reversals’ is globally recognized, it gave us clues to the antiquity of the entire sequence of layers in the cave,” Shaar explained.
The findings dated some of the sediment to 2 million years old. That matched the results that study team member Michael Chazan reached using cosmogenic dating in 2008. That earlier research, which many scholars rejected, measured cosmogenic nuclides caused by exposure to cosmic rays, which are produced and decay at a known rate. The new study also used this technique as a secondary dating method.
“Quartz particles in the sand have a built-in geological clock that starts ticking when they enter a cave,” Ari Matmon, another coauthor of the paper, added. “In our lab, we are able to measure the concentrations of specific isotopes in those particles and deduce how much time had passed since those grains of sand entered the cave.”
The cave also contains ancient stone tools such as hand axes, and the first evidence of early humans using fire, some one million years ago, as first reported in a 2012 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The evidence of the fire was found deep enough in the cave that it could only have been the result of human activity, not brought there by wildfire.
Though humans occupied the cave continuously over the last 2 million years, it was not discovered by modern humans until farmers came upon it in the 1940s. Excavations have been ongoing ever since.
World’s oldest ‘pet cemetery’ discovered in ancient Egypt
A dig near the famous ancient Egyptian port city of Berenice has turned up a mysterious animal cemetery dating to the 1st century AD.
It emerged in the dunes to the northwest of the important ancient Red Sea port of Berenice, which saw traffic from far and wide, with ships coming from East Africa, Europe, and India.
Ninety per cent of the nearly 600 burial sites explored unearthed cats, though there were also dogs and macaque monkeys, a few of them definitely imported from outside Africa.
The find was published by a team led by Marta Osypinska, an archaeozoologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences, in the journal World Archaeology.
Several characteristics make this discovery uniquely mysterious. For one thing, none of the animals was mummified, as they are at other archaeological sites, such as temples. Here, too, there was a greater variety of species and funeral practices. Also, unlike at other burial sites, there were no humans among the beasts.
While the animals obviously had a special place in their society, the paper says, to think of them the way we think of pets today might not be quite right. These “companion animals,” as the researchers call them, probably played more of a utilitarian role than the pampered pets of today.
Still, the animals were definitely treated well in death.
They’re accompanied by craft objects like pottery that is thought to have protected them, and the creatures also have adornments like beaded necklaces made of stone, glass, and faience and shell. They were uniformly found in a sleep-like position.
Other experts second the conviction that the site is truly something new.
“It’s something completely different than what we see elsewhere,” Bea De Cupere, an archaeologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, who was not involved with the project, tells Atlas Obscura.
World’s First known case of a pregnant mummy discovered by researchers
Researchers have discovered the world’s first-known pregnant mummy, dating from the first century in Egypt. The find was unexpected, as inscriptions on the mummy’s coffin suggested the remains inside belonged to a male priest, according to a new study.
The mummy was donated to the University of Warsaw in Poland in 1826; only recently did archaeologists with the Warsaw Mummy Project conduct a detailed analysis of the mummy while studying the National Museum in Warsaw’s collection of animal and human mummies.
X-ray and CT scans of the mummy revealed that the remains inside belonged to a female and did not match the coffin and cartonnage case that was made for a male.
The mummy was obviously not the remains of a priest named Hor-Djehuty from ancient Thebes, whose name was inscribed onto the coffin, the researchers said.
“It was a complete surprise because we were looking for ancient diseases or causes of deaths,” lead author Wojciech Ejsmond, co-director of the Warsaw Mummy Project said. “Also, we thought that this is a body [of] a priest.”
The mummy turned out to be the remains of a female who died when she was between 20 and 30 years of age and was about 6.5 to 7.5 months pregnant, based on the circumference of the fetus’s head.
“It’s the first such preserved case,” Ejsmond told Live Science in an email. There have previously been skeletons of pregnant women found, but no mummies with preserved soft tissue, he said.
The scans showed four mummified bundles — likely her lungs, liver, stomach with intestines, and heart — inside the female mummy. Those were extracted, embalmed and then placed back inside the mummy’s abdominal cavity, which was a customary practice in ancient Egypt. But the fetus had not been similarly removed from the uterus.
The researchers haven’t determined the sex of the fetus or why it was left in the womb.
The researchers hypothesize that the fetus may have been thought of as “still an integral part of the body of its mother since it was not yet born,” according to the study.
A baby that didn’t yet have a name may not have been thought of as a distinctive individual, as ancient Egyptian beliefs held that naming was an important part of being human.
“Thus, its afterlife could only have happened if it had gone to the netherworld as part of its mother,” the authors wrote. Another hypothesis is that a fetus of that age would have been difficult to extract due to the thickness and hardness of the uterus, and so the people mummifying the mother may not have been able to extract the fetus without damaging her body or that of the fetus, they wrote.
The archaeologists are also not sure why this mummy was inside a male’s coffin; however, it’s thought that up to 10% of mummies are found in the “wrong” coffins, due to illegal excavations and looting, according to the study. What’s more, there was damage to the wrappings on the mummy’s neck, likely caused by robbers who may have stolen some amulets, according to the study.
The authors have called her the “Mysterious Lady of the National Museum in Warsaw” because there’s still much that’s unknown about her. “Her mummy represents a fine example of ancient Egyptian embalming skills, thus suggesting her high social standing,” the authors wrote. She was also buried with a “rich set” of amulets, according to the study.
It’s also not clear why she died. “High mortality during pregnancy and childbirth in those times is not a secret,” Ejsmond told Science in Poland. “Therefore, we believe that pregnancy could somehow contribute to the death of the young woman.”
The team now hopes to analyze small samples of blood that were preserved in the mummy’s soft tissues to try to figure out the cause of death.
This find “allows us to gather first-hand evidence” of prenatal health in ancient times, Ejsmond told Live Science. “We can make comparative studies with contemporary cases, look for traces of ancient medical procedures to study the history of medicine.”
What is the oldest-known archaeological site in the world?
Our human ancestors were roaming Earth as far back as 6 million years ago, but what is the earliest site containing archaeological evidence of their existence?
It turns out, there are two spots — one in Kenya and the other in Ethiopia — that are considered the top candidates for the world’s oldest archaeological sites, according to about a dozen scholars, all with expertise in prehistoric archaeology and anthropology, who spoke with Live Science.
The question of what is the oldest archaeological site in the world is “a topic that has since recently divided the archaeological community,” Yonatan Sahle, a senior lecturer of archaeology at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, told Live Science in an email.
The first site, called Lomekwi 3, holds bones of hominins as well as stone artefacts and is located on a low hill in West Turkana, Kenya. In a study published in 2015 in the journal Nature, researchers reported that, by dating the sediment where the artefacts were found, they estimated the age of the site to be about 3.3 million years.
The finds “mark a new beginning to the known archaeological record,” a team of scientists wrote in the journal article. The tools were likely created by Australopithecus afarensis, a hominin (human ancestors and their relatives) that thrived in the region at the time.
The site is located in a wooded area on a small hill not far from Lake Turkana. It’s possible that Australopithecus afarensis was using the stone artefacts to break open nuts the team wrote in the paper. The number of people who lived at the site at any given time is not clear.
“Lomekwi 3 is the oldest known archaeological site in the world,” Jason Lewis, assistant director of the Turkana Basin Institute and a co-author of the paper, told Live Science in an email.
Jeremy DeSilva, an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College who was not involved in the study, agreed that Lomekwi 3 is the oldest known archaeological site, but he noted that not all scholars agree. “Lomekwi is controversial, and some of our colleagues remain unconvinced of the antiquity of these tools,” DeSilva told Live Science.
Indeed, a number of recent papers “call into question the status of the artefacts at Lomekwi 3, arguing that some of the artefacts were not actually found in a context where the age of the artefacts can be certain,” David Braun, an anthropology professor at The George Washington University, told Live Science. In other words, the artefacts may not date to the same time as the sediment that it was found in.
Sahle is one of those archaeologists. “For many of us — myself included — unequivocal evidence for the oldest archaeological occurrences comes in the form of 2.6-million-year-old stone tools from Gona,” which is located by the Kada Gona river in Afar, Ethiopia, Sahle said. The dating results for Lomekwi 3 are contested, he noted, and he has serious doubts that the remains found at that site date back 3.3 million years.
The research at Lomekwi 3 was published relatively recently, whereas research at Gona has been published over several decades and has withstood academic scrutiny, Sahle said. “Inferences made on the chronological and behavioural context of [the] Gona archaeological assemblages derive from decades of research and have, therefore, withstood the test of time,” Sahle said.
The stone tools at Gona may have been made by Australopithecus Garhi, a human ancestor that lived in east Africa around 2.5 million years ago. Fossils of the species have been found near stone tools and they may have been one of the first human ancestors to make sophisticated stone tools Smithsonian’s Human Origins project website notes.
“The Lomekwi claims were not adequately demonstrated when announced, and there has [been] no new evidence provided, despite several well-considered criticisms of the original Nature announcement,” said Tim White, co-director of the Human Evolution Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. White agrees that Gona has the best unequivocal evidence for being the oldest archaeological site.
On the other hand, some scholars are supportive of the idea that Lomekwi is older than Gona. Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program, is convinced that Lomekwi 3 “is the oldest site with solid evidence of stone-on-stone percussion,” meaning that it’s the oldest site that has stone artefacts made by human ancestors. He noted that the stone artefacts at Lomekwi 3 appear different from those found at Gona; they are cruder and may not have been used as tools at all. The stone artefacts at Lomekwi 3 “show awkward fracturing of the rocks, including large, thick, irregularly shaped flakes that could have been the accidental byproducts of pounding — for what purpose, no one currently knows,” Potts wrote in an email, noting that people at Lomekwi 3 may not have been creating tools but rather pounding rocks together for unknown reasons. Even if the Lomekwi 3 artefacts weren’t used as tools, they would still be considered artefacts created by humans.
Brian Villmoare, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada, told Live Science, “I do tend to think that Australopithecus afarensis could have made stone tools,” but he noted that he has not examined the Lomekwi 3 artefacts.
A third candidate?
Braun said that if future fieldwork cannot alleviate concerns about the dating of Lomekwi 3, his second choice for the oldest archaeological site would be Ledi-Geraru in Afar, Ethiopia, which dates back about 2.8 million years.
At Ledi-Geraru, researchers found a partial hominin mandible with teeth, and they dated it by examining the age of the surrounding sediment, they reported in the journal Science in 2015. Sahle expressed doubts about the dating of this site, saying that it may be considerably younger than 2.8 million years and that Gona is the site with the best unequivocal evidence.
Regardless of which of these archaeological sites is the oldest, all of them make the Giza pyramids (which are about 4,500 years old) and Stonehenge (which is roughly 5,000 years old) relatively young by comparison.
Ancient religious ritual tools unearthed by Egyptian archaeologists
Waziri stated this discovery is considered to be a major find in Egypt as it has the instruments that were utilised in conducting the daily religious rituals.
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities released a statement on September 18, Saturday stating that the Egyptian archaeologists discovered some ancient ritual tools and equipment which were previously used in religious rites at a temple area in Kafr el-Sheikh governorate, north of Cairo, Egypt.
As per Xinhua, Fragments of a limestone pillar which are built in the shape of the goddess Hathor, a bunch of faience incense burners, a pair of clay pots, a number of statuettes, a fully golden Udjat eye, and the remnants of golden scales were among the items which are unearthed.
Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri stated that this is considered to be a major find since it comprises the instruments that were really utilised in conducting the daily religious rites for goddess Hathor.
As per the Daily News Egypt website, these ancient ritual tools were most likely stashed behind a mound of stone blocks which is situated to the south of the goddess Wajit’s shrine.
Other artefacts unearthed in the Pharaonic site
As per Ayman Ashmawy, the head of the ministry’s Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, they also discovered ivory reliefs portraying everyday life, which comprises women carrying services for rituals, there are carvings of plants, birds, and animals.
A large limestone horizontal structured lintel was even found in which hieroglyphic texts are inscribed and components of a painting of a king conducting religious practices in the temple.
The archaeologists also unearthed and identified hieroglyphic writings with the names and titles of Ancient Egyptian rulers going back over 2,500 years.
Daily News Egypt further reports that the inscription of the names and titles consists of King Psamtik I‘s five titles, as well as the names of the two 26th dynasty rulers ‘Wah Ib Ra’ and ‘Ahmose II.’
A big limestone well for holy water which was used for the rituals and a mud-brick bathtub structure were also unearthed, according to Hossam Ghoneim, director-general of Kafr el-Sheikh antiquities and leader of the archaeological mission.
Mostafa stated Saqqara necropolis as a magnificent tomb
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled al-Anany reopened King Djoser’s south tomb for tourists on September 13, Monday, marking a stunning milestone for the Saqqara necropolis.
According to Mostafa Waziri, the “magnificent” tomb, situated in the southern corner of the 3rd-century pharaoh, is the earliest stone structure from the “ancient world.” It’s worth noting that King Djoser founded Egypt’s Third Dynasty and built the groundwork for the world’s first pyramid, the step pyramid of Saqqara.
Waziri addressed reporters at the opening ceremony by saying that the beautiful structure is the ancient world’s oldest stone structure, and it was termed the ‘Southern Tomb’ after its excavation by English archaeologist Cecil Mallaby Firth in the year 1928.