Category Archives: WORLD

Archaeologists Will Study Life on the International Space Station

Archaeologists Will Study Life on the International Space Station

A group of researchers has launched the first-ever archaeological study of humans in space, observing the lives of the crew living on the International Space Station.

The experiment, which will analyze and document the unique “MicroSociety in a mini-world,” began this week with associate professors Alice Gorman from Flinders University in Australia and Justin Walsh of Chapman University in California leading the effort.

“We’re the first to try to understand how humans relate to the items they live with in space,” Walsh said in a statement.

Archaeologists Will Study Life on the International Space Station
“By bringing archaeological perspectives to an active space domain, we’re the first to show how people adapt their behaviour to a completely new environment,” Associate Professor Justin Walsh of Chapman University said of the experiment.

He added: “By bringing archaeological perspectives to an active space domain, we’re the first to show how people adapt their behaviour to a completely new environment.”

Over the course of the project, the team will investigate how a space culture has emerged and evolved since the opening of the ISS in November 2000 and the effects on the development of long-term missions on those who are aboard to solve technical, engineering or medical issues.

“What they usually don’t realize is every one of those problems has social and cultural dimensions — and if they ignore those, their solutions will be sub-optimal,” the research team explained on Twitter.

Walsh and Gorman hope to address several big-picture questions that have not previously been posed by other earthbound archaeologists in the field, including: How do crew members interact with each other and with equipment and spaces originating in other cultures? How does material culture reflect gender, race, class, and hierarchy on the ISS? How do spaces and objects frame interactions of conflict or cooperation? How have crew members altered the space station to suit their needs or desires? What are the effects of microgravity on the development of society and culture?

Rather than digging through ancient dirt to unearth the secrets of how past societies once lived, the space-focused research team will begin its exploration of the “archaeological site” through a series of 1-meter-square photographs taken by crew members aboard the ISS.

By dividing the site into a grid of squares along the walls of the station, the scientists say they’ll gain a better understanding of the entire site.

“Instead of digging them to reveal new layers of soil representing different moments in the site’s history, we will have them photographed each day to identify how they’re being used and how they change over time,” Gorman explained.

The first phase of the experiment will last 60 days and updates will be posted on the International Space Station Archaeological Project’s website.

8000-year old underwater burial site reveals human skulls mounted on poles

8000-year old underwater burial site reveals human skulls mounted on poles

A team of researchers with Stockholm University and the Cultural Heritage Foundation has uncovered the remains of a number of Mesolithic people in an underwater grave in a part of what is now Sweden.

8000-year old underwater burial site reveals human skulls mounted on poles
Anterior view of crania F296 showing well-preserved facial bones.

In their paper published in the journal Antiquity, the group describes the site where the remains were found, the condition of the remains and also offer some possible explanations for the means by which the remains found their way to the underwater burial site.

People living during the Mesolithic were hunter-gatherers, the researchers note, which is why the burial site and its contents are so surprising.

At the time of its use, the burial site would have been at a shallow lake bottom covered with tightly packed stones upon which the remains of humans had been laid.

The remains were all skulls, save for one infant. The adult skulls (except one) were missing jawbones, and at least two of the skulls showed evidence of a stick thrust through the opening at the base through the top of the skull—normally associated with posting a skull to scare enemies.

But hunter-gatherers were not known for posting skulls or engaging in gruesome funeral rituals. Instead, they were known for disposing of their dead in simple, respectful ways.

The gravesite was found in what is now southern Sweden, near an archaeological site known as Kanaljorden.

Archaeologists have been working at the site since 2009, but it was not until 2011 that the human remains were found—until that time, researchers had been finding animal remains. To date, the researchers have found the remains of 11 adults.

In another surprise, the team discovered that all of the adult skulls bore signs of trauma—each had been whacked in the head multiple times. But the trauma was inflicted differently depending on gender.

The males were hit on top or near the front of the head, while the females were typically hit from behind. None of the wounds appeared life-threatening, however, though, without the rest of the corpse, it was impossible to identify what had killed them.

Cranium F318 with a wooden stake.

The researchers are unable to offer an explanation for what they have found at the site, though they suggest it was possible the victims had died or been killed elsewhere and then transported to the burial site. Possibly because they were considered exceptional in some way.

Infants from 2100 years ago were found with helmets made of children’s skulls

Infants from 2100 years ago were found with helmets made of children’s skulls

Archaeologists excavating a site in Salango, Ecuador, have discovered evidence of a burial ritual that might even make Indiana Jones shiver. As the researchers report in the journal Latin American Antiquity, excavations at a pair of 2,100-year-old funerary mounds revealed several unusual sets of remains: namely, the skeletons of two infants wearing what appear to be bone “helmets” made from the skulls of older children.

Infants from 2100 years ago were found with helmets made of children's skulls
One of the infants was around 18 months old at the time of death, while the second was between 6 and 9 months old.

Members of the Guangala culture interred the infants at Salango, an ancient ritual complex on the country’s central coast, around 100 B.C.

Archaeologists unearthed the remains—as well as those of nine other individuals, many of whom were buried with small objects including figurines and shells—while conducting excavations between 2014 and 2016. Per the study, the discovery represents the only known evidence of “using juvenile crania as mortuary headgear” found to date.

One of the babies was around 18 months old at the time of death, while the second was between 6 and 9 months old.

As the study’s authors write, “The modified cranium of a second juvenile was placed in a helmet-like fashion around the head of the first, such that the primary individual’s face looked through and out of the cranial vault of the second.”

The older infant’s helmet originally belonged to a child aged 4 to 12 years old; interestingly, the researchers found a small shell and a finger bone sandwiched between the two-layered skulls. The second baby’s helmet was fashioned from the cranium of a child between 2 and 12 years old.

The researchers found a small shell and a finger bone sandwiched between the two-layered skulls.

Perhaps most eerily, the older children’s skulls likely still had flesh when they were outfitted over the infants’ heads. Juvenile skulls “often do not hold together” if they are simply bare bone, the archaeologists note.

“We’re still pretty shocked by the find,” lead author Sara Juengst of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte tells Forbes’ Kristina Killgrove. “Not only is it unprecedented, but there are also still so many questions.”

Potential explanations for the unexpected burials abound: DNA and isotope analysis currently underway may clarify whether the infants and children were related, but even if these tests fail to provide a definitive answer, Juengst says the researchers “definitely have a lot of ideas to work with.”

Speaking with New Atlas’ Michael Irving, Jeungst explains that “heads were commonly depicted in iconography, pottery, stone, and with literal heads in pre-Columbian South America.”

She adds, “They are generally representative of power, ancestors, and may demonstrate dominance over other groups—such as through the creation of trophy heads from conquered enemies.”

According to the paper, the helmets could have been intended to protect the deceased’s “presocial and wild” souls as they navigate the afterlife.

Other infants found in the funerary platform were buried with figurines placed near their heads, perhaps for a similar purpose. An alternative theory posits the skull helmets belonged to the infants’ ancestors and were actually worn in both life and death.

Jeungst and her colleagues also outline a “tantalizing hypothesis” centred on a volcano located near the burial site. Ash found at Salango suggests the volcano was active and likely interfering with agriculture in the area, potentially subjecting the children to malnourishment and even starvation. 

Sîan Halcrow, an archaeologist at New Zealand’s University of Otago whose research focuses on juvenile health and disease, tells Killgrove that all four sets of bones showed signs of anaemia.

Another less likely explanation identifies the children as victims of a ritual designed to quiet the volcano. The remains show no signs of trauma, however, and as Juengst says to Newsweek’s Aristos Georgiou, the evidence suggests the four juveniles “probably were quite ill anyway.”

The most plausible explanation, according to Jeungst, is that the Guangala outfitted the infants with skulls “in reaction to some sort of natural or social disaster and [to ensure] that these infants had extra protection or extra links to ancestors through their burials.”

While the unusual burial may seem macabre to modern readers, Juengst tells Killgrove she found the helmets “strangely comforting.”

“Dealing with the death of young infants is always emotional,” she explains, “but in this case, it was strangely comforting that those who buried them took extra time and care to do it in a special place, perhaps accompanied by special people, in order to honour them.”

Archaeologists Unearth Colossal Pair of Sphinxes in Egypt During Restoration of Landmark Temple

Archaeologists Unearth Colossal Pair of Sphinxes in Egypt During Restoration of Landmark Temple

A pair of giant limestone sphinxes have been unearthed by archaeologists excavating the temple of Amenhotep III, who ruled ancient Egypt about 3,300 years ago and was the grandfather of Tutankhamun.

The statues depict the pharaoh wearing a mongoose-shaped headdress, a royal beard and a wide necklace. After further analysis, the team found the script ‘the beloved of Amun-Re’ across one of the sphinx’s chests.

The Egyptian-German archaeological team, led by Horig Sorosian, found the colossal statues submerged in water at the funerary building, known as the ‘Temple of Millions of Years,’ according to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Archaeologists Unearth Colossal Pair of Sphinxes in Egypt During Restoration of Landmark Temple
A pair of giant limestone sphinxes have been unearthed by archaeologists excavating the temple of Amenhotep III, who ruled ancient Egypt about 3,300 years ago and was the grandfather of Tutankhamun. The statues depict the pharaoh wearing a mongoose-shaped headdress, a royal beard and a wide necklace.

The temple is in Luxor, Egypt, which is famously known for the oldest and most ancient Egyptian sites, along with being home to the Valley of Kings.

Along with the 26-foot-long sphinxes, the team also uncovered three nearly intact statues of the goddess Sekhmet, the lion-like defender of the Sun god Ra and the remains of a great pillared hall.

And the walls throughout the hall are decorated with ceremonial and ritual scenes. Horosian emphasized the importance of this discovery, as the two sphinxes confirm the presence of the beginning of the procession road where the celebrations of the Beautiful Valley Festival were held every year.

This yearly event was a time when people could visit their deceased loved ones and bring them gifts – and it was only celebrated in the ancient city of Thebes.

After further analysis, the team found the script ‘the beloved of Amun-Re’ across one of the sphinx’s chests. Pictured is a second sphinx that appears to have been weathered over thousands of years
Along with the 26-foot-long sphinxes, the team also uncovered three nearly intact statues of the goddess Sekhmet, the lion-like defender of the Sun god Ra and the remains of a great pillared hall

King Amenhotep III was the grandfather of the famed boy-pharaoh Tutankhamun and ruled in the 14th century BC at the height of Egypt’s the New Kingdom and presided over a vast empire stretching from Nubia in the south to Syria in the north.  

The 18th dynasty ruler became king aged around 12, with his mother as regent and is believed to have ruled Egypt between 1386 and 1349 BC. Amenhotep III chose the daughter of a provincial official as his royal wife, and throughout his reign, Queen Tiy featured alongside the king. 

Amenhotep III died in around 1354 BC and was succeeded by his son Amenhotep IV, widely known as Akhenaten, who was King Tut’s father.

Tut began his reign at the age of eight or nine and ruled for about nine years. However, the young king was plagued with health issues due to his parents being brother and sister – and experts believe the issues led to his death.

Archaeologists emphasized the importance of this discovery, as the two sphinxes confirm the presence of the beginning of the procession road where the celebrations of the Beautiful Valley Festival were held every year. Pictured is another statue of the goddess Sekhmet.

Amenhotep III may have left the Earth thousands of years ago, but archaeologists are still uncovering remnants of his past, with the most lavish being the ‘lost golden city.’ 

In April 2021, archaeologists announced the discovery of a 3,500-year-old city in Luxor, which they said is the largest ancient city ever to be discovered in Egypt.

It was built by Amenhotep III and later used by King Tutankhamun. Luxor, a city of some 500,000 people on the banks of the Nile in southern Egypt, is an open-air museum of intricate temples and pharaonic tombs. 

Excavations at the site uncovered bakeries, workshops and burials of animals and humans, along with jewellery, pots and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep III.

The team initially set out to discover Tutankhamun’s Mortuary Temple, where the young king was mummified and received status rites, but they stumbled upon something far greater.

Betsy Brian, Professor of Egyptology at John Hopkins University in Baltimore USA, said ‘The discovery of this lost city is the second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun’.

Amenhotep III may have left the Earth thousands of years ago, but archaeologists are still uncovering remnants of his past, with the most lavish being the ‘lost golden city.’ In April 2021, archaeologists announced the discovery of a 3,500-year-old city in Luxor, which they said is the largest ancient city ever to be discovered in Egypt.

‘The discovery of the Lost City, not only will give us a rare glimpse into the life of the Ancient Egyptians at the time when the Empire was at its wealthiest but will help us shed light on one of history’s greatest mysteries: why did Akhenaten & Nefertiti decide to move to Amarna.’

The city sits between Rameses III’s temple at Medinet Habu and Amenhotep III’s temple at Memnon. Excavations began in September 2020 and within weeks, archaeologists uncovered formations made of mud bricks.

After more digging, archaeologists unearthed the site of the large, well-preserved city with almost complete walls, and rooms filled with tools once used by the city’s inhabitants. 

A Two-Headed Giant has been discovered in Patagonia

A Two-Headed Giant has been discovered in Patagonia

Kap Dwa is a two-headed giant cryptid allegedly discovered by Spanish sailors off the coast of Argentina in the 17th century. The accounts of its capture vary, but afterwards, its mummified remains were brought to England, and in the 19th century if circulated between various circuses and sideshows.

Drawing representing the giant Kap Dwa

The Kap Dwa is considered to be a hoax produced through taxidermy

Etymology

The name “Kap Dwa” literally means “Two Heads” in the language of the Malay people. It’s important to note that the Malay people are not from South America, where the cryptid was allegedly discovered.

The Malay are an Austronesian ethnic group found in modern-day Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore. This incongruity with the cultural origin of the name of the creature and the location it was allegedly discovered may also indicate its hoax status.

Capture

There are two competing accounts for how this creature was allegedly captured. In one account, the Spanish sailors captured the creature alive.

The Spaniards lashed him to the mainmast, but he broke free (being a giant) and during the ensuing battle suffered a fatal injury; they skewered him through the chest with a pike.

In another account, the sailors merely discovered the body of the giant with a spear already puncturing its chest.

England and the United States

Record of what happened next to the dead body of the creature is unclear, but its mummified remains were eventually brought to England, where the remains entered the Edwardian Horror Circuit.

Over the years the remains passed from one showman to another. Eventually, in 1914, the Kap Dwa ended up displayed at the Birnbeck Pier, North Somerset England, where it would stay for forty-five years.

In 1959, the remains were purchased by an alleged lord by the name of Thomas Howard. From Howard, the remains passed again from owner to owner until arriving at its current location, Bob’s Side Show at Antique Man Ltd. in Baltimore, Maryland.

Similar Sightings

Sebalt de Weert (May 2, 1567 – May 30 or June 1603) was a Dutch captain associated with the exploration of the coasts of South America and the Falkland Islands south of Argentina.

De Weert and several crew claimed to have seen members of a “race of giants” while there. De Weert described a particular incident when he was with his men in boats rowing to an island in the Magellan Strait.

The Dutch claimed to have seen seven odd-looking boats approaching with were full of naked giants. These giants supposedly had long hair and reddish-brown skin and were aggressive towards the crew.

Medical Knowledge vs the Legend

For Kap Dwa to be genuine, we would have to suppose two very unlikely scenarios at once. We would have to presume that dicephalic parapagus twins were born who had yet another rare and lifespan-reducing disorder, gigantism, and they were somehow able to overcome all the health problems related to both conditions and become full-fledged adults that were strong and healthy enough to engage in combat with a band of sailors.

While this is not out of the question, it does make the story much more unlikely and in need of considerably more evidence.

The body was allegedly examined by physicians in the 1960s who said that it showed no obvious signs of being fake. No other experts appear to have examined the body either to determine if it is genuine or if it had the internal anatomic requirements to be likely to survive as a set of dicephalic parapagus twins.

Has the Burial Chamber of Ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti Been Found?

Has the Burial Chamber of Ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti Been Found?

Egyptian archaeologists announced recently they may have found the burial place of Queen Nefertiti in a hidden chamber close to the pharaoh’s burial complex in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.

The final resting place of Nefertiti, who served as queen alongside Pharaoh Akhenaten over 3,000 years ago, is one of Egypt’s greatest mysteries.

It is believed that the powerful monarch was the mother of King Tutankhamun’s wife and that she briefly ruled Egypt outright after the death of her husband in 1335 BC.

Archaeologists have never found her remains, and one long-standing theory is that she was buried in a secret compartment within Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Tutankhamun died at just 19 years of age, and his burial complex is exceptionally small for a monarch, leading some experts to speculate that parts of it still remain undiscovered.

Now scientists have used high-tech radar scans to reveal possible evidence of hidden chambers beyond the tomb’s north wall.

The corridor-like space measures two meters (six feet) high and over 10 meters (32 feet) long. It sits just a few meters from Tutankhamun’s gold-laden treasury.

The study was led by archaeologist Mamdouh Eldamaty, a former Egyptian minister of antiquities.

A new technology called ground-penetrating radar, which uses radar pulses to see through soil and rock, was used to scan around Tutankhamun’s tomb.

There is no concrete proof yet that what they found really is a hidden chamber – let alone that it contains Nefertiti’s tomb – but it offers an extremely tantalizing prospect to Egyptologists.

Ancient Egyptian mummy of a young girl is first with a bandaged wound

Ancient Egyptian mummy of a young girl is first with a bandaged wound

Before you go, “Aren’t all mummies wrapped in bandages, hardy, har, har,” hilarious, but let us explain. Scientists have found the oldest-known example of a bandaged wound on the mummy of a child who once lived in Ancient Egypt.

Business Insider reports how researchers from Germany, Italy, and the States were able to essentially digitally unwrap the mummy—a four-year-old girl who passed away about 2,000 years ago—using computed tomography (CT) scans in order to properly examine the remains.

It was only then in the resulting images that they were able to observe how a “bandage-like structure” was wrapped around the child’s lower right leg, remnants of pus implying that some type of skin lesion may have occurred.

Scientists CT scanned the mummies of 21 Egyptian children and found one had a bandage wrapped around her leg.
Scientists have found the first example of a bandaged wound on a mummified body from Ancient Egypt, pictured here next to a scan showing the bandage.

“In ancient Egypt, infections were likely a common aspect of daily life and the major cause of death,” reads the study, as published to Science Direct.

“However, the overall evidence of infections in ancient mummies is limited, especially in the less frequently investigated child mummies.”

This particular mummy was one of 21 children mummies that were observed in all, others, too, which showed signs of skin lesions and infections.

Only the girl, though, had a bandage still attached to where it was placed over her injury.

Furthermore, while the study explains that such Ancient Egyptian medical treatments have been recorded by previous texts, the child mummy is a rare, physical example.

The same Business Insider article does note, however, that the scientists do posit the possibility that the bandage is for religious purposes, not medicinal.

Researchers Say 5000-year-old Metal Tubes May’ve Been Used As Straws For Drinking

Researchers Say 5000-year-old Metal Tubes May’ve Been Used As Straws For Drinking

Researchers Say 5000-year-old Metal Tubes May've Been Used As Straws For Drinking
Artist’s interpretation of the straws in use.

A set of gold and silver tubes found 125 years ago in the northern Caucasus are likely drinking straws, not sceptres, according to a re-analysis of the ancient artefacts.

Russian archaeologist Nikolai Veselovsky uncovered the items in 1897 at the Maikop Kurgan burial mound in the northern Caucasus. This is a Bronze Age site of great significance, as it was found to contain three skeletons and hundreds of objects, including beads of semi-precious stone and gold, ceramic vessels, metal cups, and weapons.

The 4th millennia BCE mound dates back to the Maikop Early Bronze Age Culture (3700 to 2900 BCE), which were named after the burial site.

Illustration showing the eight tubes, four of which were decorated with bull figurines.
(Photographs by V. Trifonov; Courtesy of the Institute for the History of Material Culture, Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg, Russia)

It was among these many objects that Veselovsky found eight long, thin tubes—burial goods carefully and deliberately placed to the right-hand side of a high-ranking individual found buried in ornate clothing.

The tubes, made from gold and silver, measured over 3 feet (1 meter) in length, four of which were decorated with a small gold or silver bull figurine. The items were eventually relocated to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, where they’re kept to this day.

In his accounting of the ancient relics, Veselovsky referred to the tubes as “scepters”—a reasonable guess, given the apparent status of the buried individual and the oh-so-careful positioning of the items. That these 5,000-year-old objects were used as scepters (i.e. wands or staffs held by ruling monarchs) seemed plausible, but new research published in Antiquity is now questioning this interpretation, arguing instead that the items were drinking straws.

Should this interpretation be correct, “these fancy devices would be the earliest surviving drinking straws to date,” Viktor Trifonov, an archaeologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and a co-author of the new paper, said in a press release.

Of critical importance to the reanalysis was the detection of barley granules inside one of the straws, in addition to cereal phytoliths (fossilized particles of plant tissue) and pollen grains from a lime tree.

This was taken as direct evidence that the tubes were used for drinking. And because traces of barley were found, the scientists say the beverage in question was likely beer.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that Bronze Age Maikop people consumed fermented barley. The practise dates back some 13,000 years to the Natufian period, while large-scale brewing operations began to appear in Asia during the 5th and 4th millennia BCE.

The notion that Maikop households were drinking barley beer flavoured with herbs and lime flowers is entirely plausible, but as the researchers point out, they “cannot prove conclusively the presence of a fermented beverage,” so “results should therefore be treated with caution, as further analyses are needed.”

The reconstruction shows eight straws being used communally and one being used individually.

Importantly, the tips of the Maikop straws were equipped with metal strainers, which likely performed the function of filtering out impurities—a common feature of ancient beer.

The scientists hypothesize that the drinking tubes, with straw-tip strainers, were “designed for sipping a type of beverage that required filtration during consumption,” and that this was done as a communal activity. A large vessel found at Maikop Kurgan would’ve been capable of holding seven pints for eight drinkers, the scientists say.

The straw-tip strainers found at Maikop Kurgan bear a striking resemblance to those found on Sumerian drinking straws. Ancient Sumerians of the 3rd millennium BCE are known to have sipped beer from communal vessels, as evidenced by archaeological artefacts and artworks depicting the practice.

As for the oldest evidence of drinking straws, that dates back to the 5th and 4th millennia BCE, as evidenced by artwork found in northern Iraq and western Iran.

A silver tube tip-strainer yielded evidence of (2-3) barley starch granules, (4) pollen grain from a lime tree, and (5) ceretal phytolith.

The Maikop straws—if that’s indeed what they are—are special in that they’re the oldest surviving drinking straws in the archaeological record, but they appear to have originated in the Middle East, hundreds of miles away from the northern Caucasus. The presence of drinking straws so far away suggests this practice had spread to the surrounding areas.

“The finds contribute to a better understanding of the ritual banquets’ early beginnings and drinking culture in hierarchical societies,” Trifonov said. “Such practices must have been important and popular enough to spread between the two regions.”

Indeed, the presence of drinking straws in the Maikop Kurgan hint at cultural and economic ties between the regions. What’s more, the scientists say a “taste for Sumerian luxury and commensality” had emerged in the Caucasus by the fourth millennium BCE, and that the drinking straws would go on to carry significant symbolic importance given their use as funerary items for elite individuals.

As this and other archaeological finds have shown, drinking is fun, but it’s even better—and more socially useful—when performed in the company of others.