Category Archives: SOUTH AMERICA

Archaeologists were amazed by Peru’s ‘mind-blowing’ ancient solar calendar built into the desert

Archaeologists were amazed by Peru’s ‘mind-blowing’ ancient solar calendar built into the desert

At 2,300 years old, the Chankillo observatory has been described as one of the oldest of its kind in the world — and the oldest in the Americas. It is a construction of 13 stone towers built atop a hill and was once used as a calendar. Only this summer was Chankillo designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

An ancient Peruvian civilisation built it around two millennia before the ascent of another well-known and now famous sun cult — the Incas. It is believed that they completed it at some point between 250 BC and 200 BC.

According to recent studies of Chankillo, the ancient peoples who used it would have reaped remarkably accurate astronomical observations, also doubling up its use as a temple and administration block. The vertebrae-like structures have been called the ‘Thirteen Towers’ — these are what the ancient astronomers used as an artificial horizon.

Archaeologists were amazed by Peru's 'mind-blowing' ancient solar calendar built into the desert
Researchers only figured out what the site was once used for in 2007
Chakillo: The towers appear like vertebrae from above

By determining the Sun’s position, the civilisation could accurately predict upcoming solstices and equinoxes, and determine the date with a precision of one to two days.

BBC Science Focus magazine noted: “It’s thought that this knowledge would help them plan seasonal harvests, as well as hold religious events.”

Brian Cox visited Chakillo during his docuseries, ‘Wonders of the Universe.

In a clip from the show titled, ‘Mind-blowing Ancient Solar Calendar’, he wandered across the ancient timekeeping piece and noted how the fortified temple’s walls, “were once painted a brilliant white, covered with painted figures”.

Mr Cox explained that “all but the smallest fragments of the decorations are gone”, leaving researchers in the present-day almost clueless about who made up this ancient civilisation.

For decades, researchers were equally clueless about Chankillo’s purpose.

It wasn’t until 2007 that a study published in the journal Science proposed that the sequence of towers “marked the summer and winter solstices” and that Chankillo “was in part a solar observatory”.

Peruvian archaeologist Ivan Ghezzi, who co-authored the study with a British colleague, Clive Ruggles, told AFP the towers were erected “with great precision,” and were placed to mark different positions of the Sun “and therefore mark exact dates.”

Ancient civilisation: The peoples had fortified the calendar

The structure essentially works like a giant clock, marking the passage of time over the span of a year.

In September, the Sun would rise somewhere between the fifth and sixth towers. By December 21, it creeps up between the last of the towers at daybreak.

Mr Ghezzi said: “Chankillo is a masterpiece of ancient Peruvians.

“A masterpiece of architecture, a masterpiece of technology and astronomy.

“It is the cradle of astronomy in America.”

And as it was also likely a place of Sun worship, the sites to the east and west of the towers feature the remains of objects used for ritual sacrifices.

The observatory and its ceremonial appendages were protected by fortress walls made of stone, mud and tree trunks, a site spanning an astonishing 5,000 hectares — yet just one per cent of it is believed to have been studied. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, excavations at ancient sites in Peru were abandoned, leading to many raids by black market traders.

While Chankillo was left untouched, nearby farmers expanded their pasturelands on the site’s border. It is hoped that the UNESCO World Heritage status will help to protect it from threats in the future while helping to sustain those struggling farmers.

Brutalised skeletons of ancient farmers who ‘battered each other to death in world’s DRIEST desert’ found

Brutalised skeletons of ancient farmers who ‘battered each other to death in world’s DRIEST desert’ found

Grisly human remains of ancient farmers who worked in one of the world’s driest deserts have been examined as part of a new study. The battered skeletons were found in the Atacama Desert in modern-day Chile and date back 3,000 years.

Lethal wounds could be seen on some of the skulls

The brutal conditions of their dry workplace weren’t the only thing they had to deal with though.

The skeletons show how the farmers lived in a time of social tension that led to violence and murder.

The researchers write in their study: “The emergence of elites and social inequality fostered interpersonal and inter- and intra-group violence associated with the defence of resources, socio-economic investments, and other cultural concerns.

“This study evaluated violence among the first horticulturalists in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile during the Neolithic transition between 1000 BCE – 600 CE. Furthermore, it analyzed trauma caused by interpersonal violence using a sample of 194 individuals.”

The 194 skeletons investigated were all adult and came from ancient cemeteries in the desert’s Azapa Valley.

This was said to be one of the richest and most fertile valleys that the ancient farmers could have been based in.

The skeletons are creepily well preserved because of the dry conditions and some even have soft tissue and hair.

Around 21% of the skeletons also showed evidence of “interpersonal violence”.

This includes skull holes and fractures that would have caused extreme pain.

Around 10% likely died from lethal blows.

Weapons like maces, sticks and arrows could have caused the trauma.

The researchers write: “Some individuals exhibited severe high impact fractures of the cranium that caused massive destruction of the face and neurocranium, with craniofacial disjunction and outflow of brain mass.”

The fights could have been over land, water and resources.

The full study findings can be found in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

The farmers could have been fighting over land and resources
194 skeletons were studied for the research

In other archaeology news, a ship that sank after it was hit by gigantic stone blocks following an earthquake 2,200 years ago has been found in Egypt.

A new analysis of the remains of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh has revealed he may have been brutally murdered on the battlefield.

And, human skeletons have been discovered on a 1717 pirate shipwreck just off the coast of Cape Cod in the US.

Giants and beings of unknown origin were recorded by the ancients

Giants and beings of unknown origin were recorded by the ancients

Found in many regions of the world, cave paintings have been a valuable source of information for understanding the lifestyle and beliefs of early humans. Some depict scenarios that are fairly simple to understand, such as men hunting or entire families in a village.

Giants and beings of unknown origin were recorded by the ancients
Cave paintings in Tassili n’Ajjer.

The cave paintings discovered on the Tassili n’Ajjer plateau in southern Algeria, are a major conundrum for scholars.

They sketched what they observed, assuming that ancient humans did not have the ability to imagine such art: “One of the images appears to portray an extraterrestrial pursuing human being towards an oval object, comparable to a small spaceship.”

To see up close what many consider to be the world’s finest museum of prehistoric art, visitors must journey to the parched plains of the Sahara desert. Specifically in southern Algeria, 700 metres above sea level, is the Tassili plateau.

It is feasible to reach one of the earliest sources of information on ancient terrestrial life by traversing many cliffs. Years of wear and tear, as well as the strong forces of nature, have rendered the road nearly inaccessible. Rock formations that resemble enormous stone sentinels may be seen.

It is precisely in this location where caverns and more caves, with around 1,500 cave paintings dating from 10 to 15 thousand years, come into play.

They are thought to have been created by humans who lived on the site throughout the Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic periods.

Some paintings make sense, but others are enthralling, leaving you to ponder the true meaning for hours on end. First and foremost, everything discovered in this remote location supports what was originally thought about the Sahara Desert: this location was once bustling with life. A diverse range of plant and animal species coexisted in this area, as well as in many other parts of Africa and the world.

The patterns on ledges and rocks appear to imply that flowers, olive groves, cypresses, and other species grew in a fertile and vibrant environment. Furthermore, the current wildlife included antelopes, lions, ostriches, elephants, and rivers teeming with crocodiles. Unquestionably, a totally different scenario than what is now occurring in the Sahara.

Similarly, human beings can be seen in their daily activities in over a thousand primitive depictions discovered in Tassili.

Men hunting, swimming, and farming, as well as other routine activities in an archaic civilization. Nothing out of the ordinary for numerous experts and scholars who have visited this genuine book of stones.

Now, there are certain fascinating aspects that even the most sceptical brains can detect. To begin with, the tonality of the paintings is considerably more diverse than that which was typically used at that period. The rock art scenes from the same time period are not as vibrant as those seen here.

Tassili n’Ajjer Painting Figure. This “God” very closely resembled a paleo-astronaut in a space suit.

The images that appear to portray creatures wearing helmets and diving suits, quite similar to current astronauts, are the most stunning and difficult to accept. Furthermore, other pictures depict humanoids with enormous round heads and excessively large limbs.

Everything appears to imply that these strange and perplexing artworks show that creatures from other worlds visited our planet in the distant past. It is thought that primitive humans were unable to envision this type of art. Instead, they just sketched what they saw, which became part of their memories.

A strange huge creature and we can see a probable ‘kid’ being abducted by something or someone close alongside him. Surprisingly, the beings around this behemoth (at least some of them) do not appear to be human.

This entire collection of cave paintings might be the oldest evidence of a meeting between mankind and creatures from other worlds. In fact, one of the photos appears to depict a group of aliens escorting several people towards an oval object like a small spaceship.

Some experts who have visited the site believe that the early painters witnessed something unusual and left pictorial proof of it. These depictions of creatures with huge round heads are of ‘Tassili’s gods of unknown origin.’

The first dinosaurs may have laid soft eggs without hard shells

The first dinosaurs may have laid soft eggs without hard shells

The new finding forces scientists to rethink how dinosaur eggs evolved. The earliest dinosaur eggs were more like leathery turtle eggs than hard bird’s eggs. That’s the conclusion of a new study of fossilized dino embryos.

A team of palaeontologists studied embryos from two types of dinosaurs. One came from early in dinosaur history. The other lived about 150 million years later. Both sets of eggs were enclosed by soft shells. The researchers described their findings online on June 17 in Nature. It’s the first report of soft-shelled dino eggs.

“This new hypothesis provides an answer to these problems,” says Stephen Brusatte. He is a palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He was not involved in the work.  Until now, palaeontologists thought that all dinosaurs laid hard eggs.

This fossilised egg was laid by Mussaurus, a type of long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur that grew to 6 metres in length and lived in what is now Argentina

Minerals such as calcite make such shells hard and help them to fossilize. But scientists couldn’t explain a lack of fossil eggs from the earliest dinosaurs. Nor did they know why tiny structures within eggshells are so different across the three main types of dinosaurs.

Further analyses of these and other dinosaur eggs suggest that hard eggshells evolved three separate times. The team thinks the long-necked sauropods, plant-eating ornithischians (Or-nuh-THISH-ee-uns) and fierce theropods each evolved their own hard shells.

Unearthing soft dino eggs

The researchers analyzed a clutch of dinosaur eggs found in Mongolia. The eggs are thought to come from Protoceratops. That was a sheep-sized ornithischian. The fossil dates to between 72 million and 84 million years ago.

The team also analyzed an egg found in Argentina. It is between 209 million and 227 million years old. Scientists believe it to be Mussaurus. It was a sauropod ancestor.

The soft eggshells weren’t easy to spot. “When they are preserved, they’d only be preserved as films,” says Mark Norell. An author of the new study works as a palaeontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

When his team examined the fossilized embryos, they noticed egg-shaped halos around the skeletons. On closer look, those halos had thin brown layers. But the layers were not evenly arranged. That suggested the material was biological, not made solely of minerals. Minerals tend to create very orderly patterns.

This well-preserved clutch of eggs is from Protoceratops, a plant-eater that lived more than 70 million years ago. Chemical studies of its eggs show that they had soft shells. The arrow points to an embryo that still has remnants of a softshell.

Before a few years ago, “people thought that everything that’s soft and squishy decays away immediately post mortem,” says study author Jasmina Wiemann. She is a palaeontologist at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. But growing evidence suggests that soft biological material can fossilize. The right conditions can preserve soft tissues, she says.

The team used lasers to probe the chemical composition of the brown layers. They used a method that would not damage the fossils. This Raman spectroscopy shines laser light on a sample, then measures how the light bounces off.

The properties of the scattered light show what type of molecules are present. Wiemann has used the approach to identify pigments in dinosaur eggs.

The researchers compared the chemical fingerprints of these fossilized eggs with those of eggs from hard-shelled dinosaurs. They also compared them with eggs from present-day animals. The Protoceratops and Mussaurus eggs were most similar to modern soft-shelled eggs.

Next, the scientists combined eggshell data with what’s known about the family trees of extinct and living egg-laying animals. From that, the researchers calculated the most likely scenario for the evolution of dinosaur eggs.

Early dinosaurs laid soft-shelled eggs, they determined. Hard shells evolved in later dinos. And it happened several times — at least once in each major limb of the dino family tree.

These results suggest it may be time to rethink dinosaur parenting, says Wiemann. In the past, many ideas came from studying fossils of theropods, such as T. rex. For example, some of them sat on eggs in open nests, like modern birds. But if eggs evolved separately in different lines of dinos, parental behaviour may have, too.

“If you have a soft-shelled egg,” Norell says, “you’re burying your eggs. [There’s] not going to be a lot of parental care.” In some ways, he now suspects, dinosaurs that laid soft eggs might resemble early reptiles more than they do birds.

Now that palaeontologists know what to look for, the search is on for more soft-shelled dino eggs. Palaeontologist Gregory Erickson works at Florida State University in Tallahassee. He says, “I would not be surprised if other people come forward with other specimens.”

FEFU archaeologists have found the oldest burials in Ecuador

FEFU archaeologists have found the oldest burials in Ecuador

Archaeologists of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) found three burials of the ancient inhabitants of South America dated from 6 to 10 thousand years ago.

The ancient skull excavated in Loma Atahualpa, Ecuador, 2018, by archaeologists of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU)

The excavations were carried out in Atahualpa Anton, Ecuador. The findings belong to the Las Vegas archaeological culture of the Stone Age.

Analysis of artefacts will help scientists understand the development of ancient cultures on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and clarify the origin and development of ancient American civilizations.

Research is being jointly conducted by FEFU and Primorsky Polytechnic University in Guayaquil (ESPOL, Ecuador).

Previously, FEFU scientists investigated the famous Neolithic settlement in Real Alto. In 2018, they decided to study an earlier site in order to trace the development of ancient cultures on the Pacific Coast opposite to the Pacific Coast of Russia (Russian Far East).

“The archaeological site of Loma Atahualpa is more archaic than Real Alto, its materials are transitional from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic.

We excavated three burials that were probably made at different times. This will make it possible to compare their materials and retrieve the new information on the development of ancient cultures in the period from 10 to 6 thousand years ago,” said Alexander Popov, director of the Educational and Scientific Museum of The School of Humanities of FEFU.

Expedition materials are processed by experts from several countries. The stone tools found were examined at Tohoku University (Japan) for traces of mechanical activity in order to understand how they were used. There were also sent samples for radiocarbon dating.

Simultaneously, anthropologists from The Kunstkamera (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, St. Petersburg) and the Institute of the Problems of Northern development, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Tyumen, Russia) began to study the morphological features of the human remains found.

“In the course of working with Ecuadorian colleagues, we have learned that our research attracted the obvious attention of scientists.

Last year’s symposium, which was organized at the Real Alto Museum, was attended by colleagues from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Poland and other countries.

We also cooperate with partners from several European countries and the Russian Academy of Sciences,” said Alexander Popov.

Machu Picchu in Peru is 20 Years Older Than Previously Thought, Finds Study

Machu Picchu in Peru is 20 Years Older Than Previously Thought, Finds Study

The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru was occupied from around 1420-1530 AD, several decades earlier than previously thought, according to a new study.

A team of researchers, led by Richard Burger, a professor of anthropology at Yale University, used radiocarbon dating to reveal that the emperor Pachacuti, who built Machu Picchu, rose to power earlier than expected, according to a news release published Tuesday.

This means Pachacuti’s early conquests took place earlier, helping to explain how the Inca Empire became the largest and most powerful in pre-Columbian America.

Based on historical documents, it was thought that Machu Picchu was built after 1440, or maybe even 1450. However, Burger and his team used accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating of human remains to get a more accurate picture.

AMS works on even small amounts of organic material, which enlarges the pool of skeletons that can be studied. The team looked at 26 individuals from cemeteries at Machu Picchu that were recovered from the site during excavations in 1912.

Machu Picchu is pictured in 1911.

The bodies were buried under boulders, overhanging cliffs or shallow caves, sealed with masonry walls, according to the study. There were also grave goods such as ceramics and bronze and silver shawl pins.

“This is the first study based on scientific evidence to provide an estimate for the founding of Machu Picchu and the length of its occupation,” Burger said in the news release.

The historical records were written by Spanish conquistadors following their takeover of the area, and the results of the study question the merit of drawing conclusions based on these kinds of documents, according to researchers.

Although the study acknowledges the “limitations” of radiocarbon dating, the researchers said the documentary evidence is unreliable.

“Perhaps the time has come for the radiocarbon evidence to assume priority in reconstructions of the chronology of the Inca emperors and the dating of Inca monumental sites such as Machu Picchu,” reads the study.

The study was published in the journal Antiquity.

Revered as one of the world’s great archaeological sites, Machu Picchu perches between two mountains.

The site is made up of roughly 200 stone structures, whose granite walls remain in good shape although the thatched roofs are long gone.

These include a ceremonial bathhouse, temples, granaries and aqueducts. One, known as the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock, is thought to have been used for embalming dead aristocrats.

Modern crocodile’s ‘grandfather,’ 150 million years old, discovered in Chile fossil

Modern crocodile’s ‘grandfather,’ 150 million years old, discovered in Chile fossil

A 150-million-year-old fossilized skeleton discovered in the mountains of southern Chile was determined to be the ancestor of the modern crocodile, the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences announced on Friday.

Fossilized bones of the Burkesuchus mallingrandensis are pictured, in Buenos Aires

The species, named Burkesuchus mallingrandensis, was found in 2014 in an Andean fossil deposit near the Patagonian town of Mallin Grande by Argentine and Chilean researchers. Since then it has been analyzed at the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences (MACN) in Buenos Aires.

The specimen is a “grandfather” of current crocodiles and should allow scientists to understand how they evolved, the museum said.

Technicians Marcelo Isasi, Marcela Milani, and palaeontologist Nicolas Chimento work on the excavation of pieces of the Burkesuchus mallingrandensis, in the Aysen region of Chilean Patagonia

Scientists believe the fossil will help them understand how these reptiles went from being terrestrial to aquatic. Along with other fossils, the discovery supports the idea that South America was the cradle of evolution for crocodiles.

About 200 million years ago “crocodiles were smaller and did not live in water. Palaeontologists always wanted to know what that transition was like,” Federico Agnolin, who found the specimen, told Reuters.

“What Burkesuchus shows is a series of unique traits, which no other crocodile has because they were the first that began to get into the water, into freshwater,” Agnolin said.

Modern crocodile's 'grandfather,' 150 million years old, discovered in Chile fossil
Palaeontologist Fernando Novas holds the fossil skull of the Burkesuchus mallingrandensis

According to the MACN, crocodiles appeared at the beginning of the Jurassic period, around the time of the first dinosaurs.

In a few million years they got into the water, thanks to the existence of warm and shallow seas. South America is known for its richness in marine crocodile fossils.

Ancient remains of noblewoman found in Peru

4,500-year-old female mummy discovered in Peru

This footage shows a 4,500-year-old mummy which has been unearthed by archaeologists in Peru. She is believed to be a noblewoman and can be seen wrapped in burial cloths.

She was buried in the ancient fishing village of Aspero in northern Peru along with objects featuring carved details of both coastal and jungle animals like birds and monkeys.

Experts believe the discovery is hugely significant and will provide insights into the ancient Caral civilisation.

Archaeologists in Peru have unearthed a 4,500-year-old mummy of a noble woman

The images of the coastal and jungle animals indicate possible trade between Aspero and the city of Caral, the most ancient civilisation of its kind in South America and the precursor of the Incas.

The two regions are located 14 miles from each other.

Ruth Shady, director of the Caral Archaeological zone, explained the significance of the discovery

She said: “In the settlements of the Caral civilisation there are sometimes burials.

“The sacrifice of human beings are not regular, they’re very rare.”

“In this case, it is a woman of 40 to 50 years who was buried with evidence and objects that allow us to identify her as a woman of important social status,” she continued.

“Her remains were with offerings of objects brought from different places,” Ruth continued.

“These objects, carvings depict different images from the jungle.”

“What we can infer on the basis of recovered evidence of a society which began the stage of civilisation formation 5,000 years ago in relation to settlement dwellers in the Super Valley,” she added.

4,500-year-old female mummy discovered in Peru
She was perfectly preserved

The Caral civilisation dates back to 2,600 BCE and its archaeological site reportedly predates Inca civilisation by some 4000 years.