Category Archives: NORTH AMERICA

A Civil War-era ‘witch bottle’ may have been found on a Virginia highway, archaeologists say

A Civil War-era ‘witch bottle’ may have been found on a Virginia highway, archaeologists say

From the College of William & Mary archeologists discovered a remarkable piece of history.

At Redoubt 9, which is now known as exits 238 to 242 on I64 in York County, the team found a Jug of the Civil War era, which was thought to be a “witch bottle.” Witch bottles served as a kind of talisman to ward off evil spirits, the university says.

The excavation was carried out in association with Virginia Transportation Department in 2016 and was supervised by the former archeologist Chris Shepard of William & Mary Center for Archeological Research (WMCAR), who now works for VDOT.

Researchers at the College of William & Mary think a piece of Civil War-era glassware found at the site of an old fort in York County, Va., may have been a “witch bottle” used to ward off evil spirits.

Staff thought it looked like a bottle full of junk at first.

“It was this glass bottle full of nails, broken, but all there, near an old brick hearth,” said Joe Jones, director of WMCAR, told the college. “We thought it was unusual, but weren’t sure what it was.”

Jones said that the research center works frequently and closely with VDOT and noted that the standard arrangement is for their archaeological work to be scheduled well in advance of active roadwork. This particular dig took place before the planned interstate widening project.

William & Mary says Redoubt 9 was constructed by Confederates and occupied by Union troops after the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862.

Jones says the fortification was one of 14 mini-forts built along a line between the James and York Rivers to counter the threat of a Federal assault on Richmond via the Peninsula.

Jones explained that an afflicted person would bury the nail-filled bottle under or near their hearth with the idea that the heat from the hearth would energize the nails into breaking a witch’s spell.

Nearly 200 witch bottles have been documented in Great Britain, but less than a dozen have been found in the U.S, William & Mary says.

“It’s a good example of how a singular artifact can speak volumes,” Jones told W&M. “It’s really a time capsule representing the experience of Civil War troops, a window directly back into what these guys were going through occupying this fortification at this period in time.”

600-Year-Old Foundations Unearthed in Mexicapan

600-Year-Old Foundations Unearthed in Mexicapan

Archeologists in the Mexico City district of Azcapotzalco have discovered the base of the pre-Hispanic house and other building remnants of an ancient settlement.

In a declaration, the INAH confirmed that the finds in the historic center of the northern borough were part of the ancient altépetl, or city-state, of Mexicapan.

The city came into being when inhabitants of the Aztec or Mexica, capital of Tenochtitlán conquered the dominion of Azcapotzalco in 1428 and divided it into two autonomous settlements – Mexicapan and Tepanecapan.

The “domestic platform,” as INAH describes the foundations of the home, and the other structural remains are believed to have been part of a residential neighborhood within Mexicapan that was occupied by the city’s elite.

Measuring eight meters by six meters, the stone foundations of the pre-Hispanic house are among the largest ever found in Azcapotzalco, said INAH archaeologist Nancy Domínguez Rosas. The archaeological rescue team she heads also unearthed the remains of stone walls on the perimeter of the platform that measures between 50 and 70 centimeters.

The discovery is located in the historic center of Azcapotzalco.

The foundation is well preserved, Domínguez said, although the wall remains show signs of damage from more recent construction.

Archaeologists believe that the platform was built in two separate stages, the first of which corresponds to the late post-classic period between 1350 and 1519 AD. When the second phase of construction took place has not yet been determined.

Archaeologists found the platform while working alongside a municipal government team that was installing a tension fabric structure on Paseo de las Hormigas (Promenade of the Ants), which is part of the Azcapotzalco Park.

Domínguez said that 31 holes between one and two meters deep were dug for the slab foundations of the shade structure.

The structural remains of the Mexicapan neighborhood were discovered at a depth of 1.2 to two meters in front of the Azcapotzalco market, she said.

In addition to the domestic platform, archaeologists discovered the remains of other residential structures including one that measures 1.72 by 1.75 meters. All of the structures were made out of high-quality materials, leading archaeologists to conclude that they housed the elite and upper classes of Mexicapan society.

The archaeological rescue team has also discovered artifacts made out of both stone and bones.

Domínguez said the presence of the INAH team while the municipal employees are working in the area ensures that archaeological remains are not damaged, adding that archaeologists will continue to work to determine if there are any more pre-Hispanic structures in the area.

After they have been examined, the structures will be covered with geotextile, soil, and limestone to avoid their deterioration.

The discovery of such remains allows archaeologists “to recover information and contrast it with the information provided by historical sources,” Domínguez said, adding that the aim is to develop a greater understanding of “the way of life” of the residents of Mexicapan.

She also said that there is evidence that there were chinampas, or floating gardens, in the elite neighborhood and that human burials took place there.

The information . . . helps us to gradually reconstruct the puzzle of the urban configuration of Azcapotzalco in the pre-Hispanic era,” Domínguez said.

Haunting chalkboard drawings, frozen in time for 100 years, discovered in Oklahoma school

Haunting chalkboard drawings, frozen in time for 100 years, discovered in Oklahoma school

Sherry Read Math teacher Classroom is a total mess. The students are gone for the summer, and light fixtures dangle from the ceiling.

There is a dust layer on the floor. The worker’s rackets down the corridor during the refurbishment of the school, which dates back to the 1890s. They’re working in what has become an archaeological site.

Another discovery was made earlier this month by a construction crew from Oklahoma City School.

They found old chalkboards with class lessons that were written almost a century ago, and chalk drawings still in remarkably good condition. So Read doesn’t mind the mess. In fact, she’s amazed.

“It’s like touching history, like being a part of what was going on during the day,” she says. “It’s just remarkable and mysterious, trying to figure out what some of this was.”

The “multiplication wheel” was found behind a wall at Emerson High School.

The biggest mystery is an old multiplication wheel. It’s a circle with factors on the inside and other numbers on the outside. No one can figure it out.

But there’s no mystery about when the lessons were written. It was 1917, right after Thanksgiving. There is a turkey and pilgrim theme in every room.

One picture shows a little girl feeding a turkey. She’s in a pink and white knee-length dress and stockings; bright yellow curls frame her face. The picture is intricate, so detailed it must have been drawn by a teacher’s hand.

Haunting chalkboard drawings, frozen in time for 100 years, discovered in Oklahoma school
An untouched chalkboard from 1917 was found behind a classroom wall at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City.

There’s also music and civics lessons, and rules for keeping clean. A vocabulary list highlights words like “blunder” and “choke” written in smooth cursive. Even the word “whoa” is listed because many people got around on horse and buggy back then.

Also on the board, a list of student names frozen in time.

“We’re not sure if that meant they were good students for the day, or they accomplished that,” Read says. “Or were their names up there because they were bad for the day?”

These snapshots are fragile. A simple, misplaced elbow can wipe them away. So school officials are now trying to figure out the best way to preserve these illuminating bits of the past.

Jeff Briley of the Oklahoma Historical Society says it’s important to secure the rooms by protecting chalkboards with acrylic glass and then controlling the temperature and light.

“They’re meant to be fleeting,” he says. “Chalk on a blackboard is not meant as a permanent media at all.”

He said everyone wants to preserve the blackboards, but they’re too fragile to move. So the old lessons may become part of the modern classrooms.

“If you make it secure, you make it to where there are no physical problems, you give it a stable environment, well then you’ll be good perhaps for another 100 years,” Briley says. Sherry Read says she gets a nice vibe from the chalkboards. She thinks the teachers of 1917 left the lessons for a reason.

“You would have cleaned off your board so you could be ready the next day to come back and teach,” she says. “So I think they left them on there on purpose to send a message to us, to say, ‘This is what was going on in our time.'”

Blackboard drawings are the fruit flies of art. They have short lifespans. That’s why the folks at Emerson High are scrambling. They want to preserve these snapshots from a century ago for future generations of Oklahoma students.

Tons of Giant Nephrite Jade Discovered in Canada

Tons of Giant Nephrite Jade Discovered in Canada

In many colors jade is found in black, blue, orange, brown, cream, gold, white and lavender. The different types of jade include jadeite and nephrite.

Nephrite is tougher and harder to break than jadeite material. The Polar Pride boulder was called the find of the millennium by trade experts and was discovered in Canada. The 18-ton boulder was split in half to be used for carving.

Jade was first identified in Canada by the Chinese settlers in 1886 in British Columbia, Canada. At this time jade was considered to be worthless as they were searching for gold.

Jade was not a commercialized stone in Canada until the 1970s. Commercial mining of Canadian jade began in 1972, by two Californians who started the mining business Loex James Ltd.

There are over fifty known nephrite occurrences found in British Columbia. These occurrences are located in Southern British Columbia, the Cassiar, Cry and Dease Lake, and Mount Ogden areas.

These nephrite occurrences consist of individual blocks, talus blocks, boulder fields, and in situ occurrences. Most of the nephrite in situ occurrences are lens-shaped or cigar-shaped.

Nephrite in British Columbia.

Until the 1960s, almost all of the nephrite that was produced in British Columbia came from secondary deposits. With the rapid expansion of the amateur lapidary activity after World War II, production in the jade fields of British Columbia’s picked up, and they became the most important suppliers.

Around the same time, markets opened up in the Orient and Germany. Mining activity for Nephrite gradually depleted the secondary deposits, but increasing the values of the stone led to further exploration.

These efforts uncovered primary deposits of jade adjacent to the Fraser River in southern British Columbia, the Mount Ogden area of central British Columbia and the Cassiar jade fields in the far north of the province. Today, British Columbia is the main supplier for the Chinese market of Nephrite.

Nephrite mining in the province of British Columbia is very challenging. Winters are typically long and extremely cold, and deposits of Nephrite are remote, so mining can only happen during the shorter summer season, which is only about 60 days a year.

Nephrite Mined In British Columbia Canada

Almost all of the secondary deposits of jade are exhausted, so current mining is almost always from primary deposits. Transporting the heavy equipment to the jade mining sites is backbreaking work.

Jade West uses its diamond-coated circular, wire saws and modern high-pressure hydraulic splitters to remove the nephrite boulders from the mountain and saw them into pieces of a manageable size.

Nephrite’s toughness makes it an extremely difficult stone to break out of the rock. While blasting the Nephrite had been used in the past, Jade West no longer uses explosives.

Nephrite deposits range in size from 12 inches to 12 feet wide. The wider deposits of jade are very challenging to the quarry.

Nephrite boulders on the surface can sometimes reach weights of about 200 tons and are rarely under 100 pounds, but Jade West tries to limit the overall weight of its jade Nephrite boulders to five tons, which is a good size for them to mine, handle, and then transport on trucks to the nearest town, which is about 100 miles away.

The average weight of Nephrite is two tons, a size that satisfies most of the carving factories in China.

More Than 3,500 Copper Coins Repatriated to Mexico

More Than 3,500 Copper Coins Repatriated to Mexico

3,500 tongue-like copper coins were handed over to Mexican authorities in the United States. Mexico daily news Reported.

One of the copper coins being returned to Mexico.
One of the copper coins being returned to Mexico.

The Mexican Consulate Jessica Cascante in Miami said the coins are thought to have been used in what are now the southwestern Mexican states of Guerrero and Michoacán between A.D. 1200 and 1500. 

The United States returned a collection of over 3,500 pre-Hispanic copper coins to Mexican authorities in a ceremony in Miami on Monday.

A U.S. collector acquired them in Texas at a numismatic fair in the 1960s, she said, but at that time neither Mexico nor the United States was part of a UNESCO convention that guarantees the return of such heritage artifacts to their countries of origin.

Cascante said the fragile, tongue-shaped coins, which are currently covered in verdigris, will be sent to Mexico in January.

Agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) who headed the operation to recover the coins attended the presentation ceremony along with the Consul General of Mexico in Miami, Jonathan Chait.

The collection consists of over 3,500 coins.

Mexican authorities notified the FBI of the existence of the coins in 2013 when they were taken to Spain for an auction.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) then began authenticating the coins in order to request their return.

As both countries were by then signatories to the UNESCO convention (Mexico in 1972 and the United States in 1983), the return process was completed six years later.

Cascante did not divulge the name of the collector who obtained the coins in the 1960s, but said that he did so before it constituted a crime and turned them involuntarily.

“Now we’re just waiting for the physical material to arrive [in Mexico],” she said, adding that they are currently being packaged with the support of specialists from history museums in Florida.

This is the World’s largest pyramid, and it’s hidden inside a mountain

This is the World’s largest pyramid, and it’s hidden inside a mountain

Although Giza’s Great Pyramid in Egypt is by far the world’s most widely debated pyramid, it isn’t the biggest by a long shot. That title goes to the Great Pyramid of Cholula – an ancient Aztec temple in Puebla, Mexico with a base four times larger than Giza’s, and nearly twice the volume.

Why is the world’s biggest pyramid so often overlooked? It could be because that gigantic structure is actually hidden beneath layers of dirt, making it look more like a natural mountain than a place of worship.

In fact, it looks so much like a mountain, that famed Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés completely missed it, and unwittingly built a church right on top of it, as you can see in the image below.

To understand how awesome the Great Pyramid of Cholula is, we must jump back to well before Cortés and his army planted a symbol of Christianity on its peak.

Known as Tlachihualtepetl (meaning “man-made mountain”), the origins of the pyramid are a little sketchy, though the general consensus is that it was built in around 300 BC by many different communities to honour the ancient god Quetzalcoatl.

The pyramid was built to appease the “feathered serpent” god

As Zaria Gorvett reports for the BBC, the pyramid was likely constructed with adobe – a type of brick made of out of baked mud – and features six layers built on top of each over many generations. Each time a layer was completed, construction was picked back up by a new group of workers.

This incremental growth is what allowed the Great Pyramid of Cholula to get so big. With a base of 450 by 450 metres (1,480 by 1,480 feet), it’s four times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

In fact, at roughly 66 metres (217 feet) tall, the pyramid’s total volume is about 4.45 million cubic metres (157 million cubic feet), while the Great Pyramid of Giza’s volume is just 2.5 million cubic metres (88.2 million cubic feet).

The Great Pyramid of Giza is taller, though, at 146 metres (481 feet) high. The ancient Aztecs most likely used the Great Pyramid of Cholula as a place of worship for around 1,000 years before moving to a new, smaller location nearby.

Before it was replaced by newer structures, it was painstakingly decorated in red, black, and yellow insects. But without maintenance, the mud bricks were left to do what mud does in humid climates – provide nutrients to all kinds of tropical greenery.

“It was abandoned sometime in the 7th or 8th Century CE,” archaeologist David Carballo from Boston University told Gorvett at the BBC. “The Choluteca had a newer pyramid-temple located nearby, which the Spaniards destroyed.”

When Cortés and his men arrived in Cholula in October 1519, some 1,800 years after the pyramid was constructed, they massacred around  3,000 people in a single hour – 10 per cent of entire city’s population – and levelled many of their religious structures.

But they never touched the pyramid, because they never found it.  In 1594, after settling in the city and claiming it for their own, they built a church – La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios (Our Lady of Remedies Church), on top of the hidden pyramid mountain. 

It’s unclear if the Aztecs knew the mud bricks would encourage things to grow all over it and eventually bury the entire structure, but the fact that it looks more like a hill than a pyramid is probably the only reason it still survives today.

And just as well, because according to the BBC, not only is it the world’s largest pyramid, it retains the title of the largest monument ever constructed anywhere on Earth, by any civilisation, to this day.

The pyramid wasn’t discovered until the early 1900s when locals started to build a psychiatric ward nearby. By the 1930s, archaeologists started to uncover it, creating a series of tunnels stretching 8 kilometres (5 miles) in length to give them access.

This view of the pyramid was taken in the early 20th century

Now, over 2,300 years after its initial construction, the site has become a tourist destination.

Hopefully, as our ability to study important sites using non-invasive tools continues to improve, archaeologists will gain a better understanding of how the structure was built, by whom, and how it came to look so much like a mountain.

Archaeology shock: Experts discover mysterious Mayan palace lost for 1,000 years

Archaeology shock: Experts discover mysterious Mayan palace lost for 1,000 years

Ancient building found 100 miles west of Cancùn estimated to be more than 1,000 years old

Archaeological work carried out by experts “has allowed confirming the existence of a palace to the east of the main square” of the so-called architectural Group C, INAH reported in a statement.

The remains of the building six meters high, 55 meters long and 15 meters wide were identified as a large palace used over two periods of ancient Mayan history dating back more than 1,500 years.

Scholars from INAH have revealed the large palace remained in use most likely during the Late Classic (600-900 AD) and the Terminal Classic (850-1050 AD).

In addition to the ancient palace, archeologists from INAH are also excavating other structure at the central square at Kuluba. The researchers are believed to have identified an altar, the remains of residential buildings, as well as a circular structure believed to have been an oven.

Archaeologists have discovered a large palace likely used by the Mayan elite more than 1,000 years ago in the ancient city of Kuluba, near modern-day Cancun. Pictured, an archaeologist works cleaning the stucco of the Temple

In addition to the structures, archaeologists have also discovered a grave of several individuals at Kuluba. Experts will now work in order to determine their exact age and sex.

“This work is the beginning, we’ve barely begun uncovering one of the most voluminous structures on the site,” archaeologist Alfredo Barrera told Reuters.

Along with the palace(pictured), Mexican experts are exploring four other structures in the area known as ‘Group C’ in Kuluba’s central square, including an altar, remnants of two residential buildings and a round structure believed to be an oven
Archaeology discovery: The team also uncovered remains from a burial site 

Kuluba, which has now become the archeological site of Kuluba, was an important city with powerful ties to other ancient Maya cities of the region such as Ek’Balam and Chichen Itza. It is believed that Kuluba was part of a large network of trade encompassing many other ancient cities in the region.

“From data . . . and the Chichén-like ceramic materials and obsidian [found at Kulubá] . . . we can infer that it became an enclave [under the control] of Chichén Itzá,” Barrera said.

“Throughout the 20th century, Tizimín ceded most of its forest land to agricultural and livestock use. This means that the experts who are now restoring the Mayan buildings to their former glory not only live alongside spider monkeys and other species of flora and fauna but also give priority to the fact that the archaeological zone is distinguished by its natural and cultural balance” revealed INAH in a statement.

Kuluba is located not far away from the famous Caribbean vacation capital of Cancun. The name of the ancient city, Kulubá, is formed by the words “K’ulu”, which refers to a kind of wild dog, and “ha”, water.

To protect Kuluba from the climate and looting, the researchers are considering reforesting parts of the forest surrounding Kuluba. With a denser forest, the site will be better protected from sunlight and wind.

Experts have revealed that the archeological site should be opened to tourists in the medium term.

Archeological work at the site is being funded by the government of Yucatan. The people in charge of the archaeological site of Kuluba are part of a multidisciplinary project.

Possible 16th-Century Spanish Anchors Found Near Mexico

Possible 16th-Century Spanish Anchors Found Near Mexico

The exact location where the anchors were found was when the Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes was sinking his ships in order to prevent a return to Cuba by opposing the leaders of his army.

Anchor studies have shown that their morphology places the anchors to the 16th century. Their orientation indicates that they follow patterns that could be associated with the location of the fleet of conquistador Hernan Cortes.

Villa Rica is usually rich in tourists and fishermen in the salty seawater.

One of the anchors recovered off the Velacruz coast

The coast of Veracruz, however, was around 500 years ago one of history’s main cultural gatherings, which is now being investigated, with positive results, by underwater archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), who work together with foreign specialists to explore the seabed.

The researchers have found two iron anchors in their new exploratory project, the second season of the Villa Rica Subaquatic Archeology Project

Curiously, the experts have revealed that the unique characteristics of the anchors link them to the 16th century. The objects join the discover of another anchor that was found in 2018.

Laboratory studies have proven that the wood of its stock belongs to a tree of Spain’s Cantabrian coast.

The recently recovered anchors were discovered no more than 300 meters north of the location where experts in 2018 recovered the first anchor. The largest of the anchors is 3.68 meters long and 1.55 meters wide. The second anchor is 2.6 meters long and 1.43 meters wide.

Unlike the anchors recovered in 2018, the recently found objects did not converse their wooden stock.

Nonetheless, the protuberances over the rod are visible where the stock would adjust.

“In both, a pair of bumps running parallel to the arms can be seen in the cane at the height at which the stocks adjusted, a typical feature of the manufacture of anchors in the 16th century,” the researchers revealed in a statement.

“It is not clear if all three anchors belong to the same historical moment, but their alignment to the southwest coincides with the logic of Villa Rica as a port that protects ships from the north and northwest winds,” explained Roberto Junco, head of the Underwater Archeology Branch of INAH.

Despite this uncertainty, for experts, it is of great importance to know they are following an accurate route to locate shipwrecks that are linked to the arrival of Europeans to the American continent.

“The Conquest of Mexico was a seminal event in human history, and these shipwrecks, if we can find them, will be symbols of the cultural collision that led to what is now the West, geopolitical and socially speaking,” says underwater archaeologist Dr. Frederick Hanselmann.

It is important to note that the anchors are well-preserved thanks to the same sediment that had protected them for five centuries. This is why after experts completed measurements and documentations, the anchors were once again covered in the sediment to be protected in situ.

Researchers will now focus on another 15 anomalies that show potential as being anchors.