Category Archives: WORLD

Babies Buried Wearing ‘Helmets’ Made of Skulls of Other Children Discovered in Ecuador

Babies Buried Wearing ‘Helmets’ Made of Skulls of Other Children Discovered in Ecuador

While the head of humans is a powerful symbol in many cultures in South America, archeologists at a site in Ecuador were surprised to find that two babies buried with “helmet” made from the skulls of other kids. 

The Salango ritual complex on the central coast, dating back to approximately 100BC, was a site used as a funerary platform by a chiefdom culture called Guangala.

During the excavation between 2014 and 2016, 11 individuals buried with small artifacts, shells, and stone ancestor figurines. More notably, two infants were found with the modified skulls of others encasing their heads.

Infant discovered at Salango, Ecuador, with a skull “helmet.” Remains were excavated in collaboration with the local Salango community; shared with their permission and according to the standards of the Ecuadorian government.

The research team – composed of Sara Juengst and Abigail Bythell of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Richard Lunniss and Juan José Ortiz Aguilu of the Universidad Técnica de Manabí in Ecuador – explained this unusual burial ritual in a new article published in the journal Latin American Antiquity.

One burial was that of an infant who was about 18 months old when they died. In describing the image of this burial, Juengst and colleagues note that “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 human skull helmet came from another child between 4-12 years at death. The second infant was only about 6-9 months old at death, with a skull helmet made from a child who was between 2-12 years at death.

In studying both burials, the archaeologists noticed that there was very little space between the primary skeletons and their skull helmets, “suggesting the simultaneous burial of the primary individual and the additional cranium.”

While isolated skulls are often found in South American mortuary contexts, they are typically adults who are victims of war or are idolized ancestors.

Children’s heads are far less commonly found by archaeologists, causing Juengst and colleagues to suggest that this unusual or symbolic form of burial at Salango “may represent an attempt to ensure the protection of these ‘pre-social and wild’ souls.”

Surrounding the infants with stone ancestor figurines may have further empowered the heads, providing protective measures for these prematurely deceased individuals, they write.

“We’re still pretty shocked by the find,” “Not only is it unprecedented, but there are also still so many questions.” She is hoping that in-progress DNA and isotope analyses will contribute new information to understanding who the children were and whether they were related to the individuals who became their skull helmets.

Juengst says that there are “various possibilities for the origin of the extra crania, from potentially curated ancestor skulls to them being worn in life as well as in death, so we definitely have a lot of ideas to work with.”

Bioarchaeologist Sara Becker of the University of California Riverside calls this burial practice “pretty amazing – I’ve never heard of anything like it elsewhere in the Andes.”

In considering Juengst and colleagues’ findings, Becker suggests that it “makes me consider practices elsewhere where heads are buried in chests as if they are ‘seeds’ to help with agricultural productivity. I do wonder if it has something to do with rebirth, and if these children could have been important symbols of that.”

Sîan Halcrow of the University of Otago, an expert on ancient burials of children, also finds this new research study fascinating for its implications for the study of evidence of disease on children’s bodies.

Halcrow points out that Juengst and colleagues discovered evidence of anemia on the bones of both the two primary infants as well as the individuals who were used as helmets.

Lesions were found on the remains of both of the infants (a and d), suggesting the baby suffered some kind of bodily stress, perhaps from malnutrition. One of the skull helmets can be seen in photos b and c.

While “the authors state that this finding is unusual for the area and time period,” Halcrow thinks “this is likely due to the previous lack of interest of the study of infant disease in the region and development of new methods for identifying disease in this age group.” Further analysis of children’s skeletons is an ongoing research theme in the bioarchaeology of South America.

This unique Ecuadorian mortuary practice may seem strange, even within the context of ancient Andean cultures replete with the imagery and manipulation of heads, because of the young age of all of the children involved.

“Dealing with the death of young infants is always emotional,” Juengst concludes, “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 honor them.”

‘He was NOT murdered!’ Egypt expert solves Tutankhamun mystery after new DNA test

‘He was NOT murdered!’ Egypt expert solves Tutankhamun mystery after new DNA test

Tutankhamun was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who was the last of his royal family to rule at the end of the 19th Dynasty during the New Kingdom.

Known as “the boy king,” he inherited the throne at just nine years old and mysteriously died less than a decade later, with his legacy seemingly wiped from the face of the planet, leading many to claim he was murdered.

When Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, it received worldwide interest as the pharaoh’s body was discovered alongside 5,000 artifacts in 1922.

One of the best-known Egyptologists believes that he has finally solved and the mystery of the death of Tutankhamun. He claims that the young pharaoh died after his leg became infected after an accident.

The expert claims that he has conclusive evidence that Tutankhamun was not murdered, a theory that is popular among some specialists.

He was the son of Akhenaten, the notorious heretic pharaoh, who married his own sister. As a result, Tutankhamun is believed to have been born with a number of deformities, including an elongated skull.

Tutankhamun died while he was very young. Because of damage to his mummified corpse, it has been very difficult to officially establish the cause of death, reports the Tutankhamun.com London website. There are several theories about the cause of death of the young monarch.

One theory holds that he was murdered, which was developed in the 1960s after a loose piece of bone was found in his skull. This was believed to have been the result of “a hard blow to the head” according to Tutankhamun.com London.

Close-up of King Tut’s head.

However, the theory that he was murdered has been challenged by Dr. Zahi Hawass, one of the most high-profile experts on ancient Egypt in the world. He long ago rejected the theory that King Tutankhamun was murdered.

The expert argues that the piece of loose bone fell from the skull of the pharaoh after death. A recent scan indicates that there are no traces or marks that would indicate that Tutankhamun received a blow to his head before he died.

The other widely accepted theory is that “a leg fracture suggests an accident may have led to his downfall” reports the Daily Star. Tests have shown that King Tut’s leg had a jagged fracture. This possibly became infected and ultimately led to his death.

The mummy of King Tut.

The Egyptologist now believes that he will soon prove that the pharaoh died as a result of this accident and was not murdered.

Zahi Hawass and his team have developed a ‘new machine’ that will confirm the theory, states The Daily Mail. This will finally prove that the pharaoh died from a leg wound claims Hawass.

The Egyptologist states that the new techniques will allow Tut’s leg to be scanned.

Dr. Hawass also told the Daily Star, “We know that he had a fracture on his left leg and that fracture was an accident that happened to him two days before he died”. This scan will determine if he died of an infection in his leg.

King Tut’s chariot.

In the ancient world, even relatively minor infections could prove fatal. Dr. Hawass has previously proven that Tut was suffering from malaria and as a result may have been too weak to fight off any infection.

The world-renowned Egyptologist told the Daily Star that “if he had an infection then this will confirm the idea that he died in an accident”.

This would have meant that he probably died after falling from a chariot, possibly during a hunt. However, it is likely that we may never know for certain how he fractured his leg.

An expert claims that King Tut died from injuries resulting from a chariot accident.

Dr. Hawass believes that he and his team will finally prove how King Tutankhamun died in the coming year. He also hinted that their tests may reveal more secrets about the famous boy king.

At present many of the treasures from King Tut’s tomb are on display at an exhibition, in London at the Saatchi Gallery, which runs until the summer of 2020.

France Returns to Senegal an 18th-Century Saber That It Looted During the Colonial Period

France Returns to Senegal an 18th-Century Saber That It Looted During the Colonial Period

As a symbolic gesture of France’s commitment in its dedication to restoring African cultural heritage, French Prime Minister Edouard Philip handed the historic sword to the President of Senegal Macky Sall.

Omar Saïdou Tall, a leading Muslim religious leader in the 19th century who fought French colonialists in the 1850s in a region of West Africa that is now Senegal.

Decades later, French troops seized its possessions including the sword.

Omar Saïdou Tall’s sword was seized by French troops

The act followed one year after a report by the French president Emmanuel Macron was published that recommends the return of African artifacts in French museums.

There are about 90,000 Sub-Saharan artifacts in French public collections, many of them looted or acquired during the colonial era. Senegal gained independence from France in 1960.

France has yet to make good on Macron’s pledges: nothing has as yet been definitively returned, and a promised conference on the subject has yet to materialise.

Permanent repatriations will also require a change in French law, which deems museum collections to be “inalienable.”

Today’s ceremony is, therefore “not strictly speaking restitution,” the French government said in a statement.

The sword, whose leather handle is trimmed with a base shaped like a bird’s beak, has already been on display in Senegal’s new Museum of Black Civilisations as a loan from the Musée de L’armée in Paris.

Nonetheless, Sall welcomed the return as “historic,” saying it signals “a new chapter in French-Senegalese relations.”

UK family finds Indian treasure worth millions looted under British rule lying in the attic

UK family finds Indian treasure worth millions looted under British rule lying in the attic

An auction for around 107000 pounds was made of a collection of rare objects found by a couple of years later in the English county of Berkshire and identified as artefacts from Tipu Sultan’s weapons.

The most impressive item was a silver-mounted 20-bore flintlock gun and bayonet from the personal arms of Mysore’s last ruler. Proved hugely popular as it attracted 14 bids before going under the hammer for 60,000 pounds.

“Unlike other Tipu Sultan guns, this one exhibits clear signs of having been badly damaged in its past…rather than being taken directly from the rack after the fall of Seringapatam it appears to have been collected from the battlefield,” the lot description notes.

Tipu’s battle-damaged flintlock musket
The war booty was brought back to Britain by Major Thomas Hart of the British East India Company

The other highlight lot, a gold-encrusted sword and suspension belt ensemble believed to be one of Tipu Sultan’s personal swords, attracted as many as 58 bids before being sold to the winning bidder for 18,500 pounds.

The two centrepieces formed part of a collection of eight items brought back by Major Thomas Hart of the East India Company after the Tiger of Mysore’s defeat at Seringapatam in 1799.

This golden snack box was home to some 220-year-old betel nuts
Major Thomas Hart’s solid gold seal ring

Alongside the arms, an intricately designed Betel Nut Casket (17,500 pounds) and a Gold East India Company Seal ring (2,800 pounds) belonging to Major Hart, believed to have passed down generations before landing in the hands of the current owners, were among the other big sellers for sale.

Berkshire-based Antony Cribb Ltd auctioneers, who specialise in arms and armoury related sales, had announced the auction following the “exciting discovery” earlier this year and said that majority of the buyer interest had come from Indian based.

The Indian High Commission in London was made aware of the artefacts by the India Pride Project, a worldwide volunteer network set up to track “India’s stolen heritage”, and attempted to convince the auction house to consider voluntarily restoring the items to India.

The India Pride Project, which was instrumental in the restitution of a 12th century Buddha statue stolen from Nalanda in Bihar last year via the Indian High Commission in London, said it would continue lobbying for such artefacts to find their way back to India.

“You haven’t really decolonised a nation unless you’ve given back what’s theirs,” said Anuraag Saxena, founder of the India Pride Project.

However, the auction house insisted that no laws were being broken and also confirmed that the beneficiary family had decided to make a sizeable donation to a school in India from the money generated from the auction.

“The family is not motivated by money and sincerely hope these items find their way back to India, maybe to a museum, for future generations to have access to it,” said Antony Cribb of the auction house.

An Indian miniature painting of Tipu Sultan, the famous Indian freedom fighter

The latest cache of Tipu Sultan related artefacts, which included three further swords from the ruler’s armoury and a lacquered leather shield, was described as special because of its rare discovery under one roof after nearly 220 years.

The items bore the trademark tiger and tiger stripes associated with the Tiger of Mysore as proof of their provenance.

The lots came to light in this year when the couple who made the discovery of this innocuous family heirloom contacted Antony Cribb Ltd about a sword they had in their attic.

After an evaluation, a gold “Haider” symbol found on the sword confirmed that the sword belonged Haider Ali Khan Tipu Sultan’s father. The three other swords bearing similar gold markings were found soon after, along with the other items.

Ancient Egypt: Archaeologists Discover Hidden Palace Marked With Symbols of Ramesses the Great

Ancient Egypt: Archaeologists Discover Hidden Palace Marked With Symbols of Ramesses the Great

An Egyptian palace was discovered on the same site as Ramesses II’s adjacent Temple by New York archeologists.

The palace and temple are located at the ancient site of Abydos, Egypt, where numerous kings are also buried.

Archaeologists were excavating in and around the temple when they discovered the palace.

Ramesses II

They first found a walkway made from stones at the southwest entrance to the temple and they ended up finding a new entrance to a different building that had the markings of Ramesses II.

When the researchers excavated the cornerstones of the temple, they noticed very similar royal symbols.

The newly found symbols and the discovery of the palace give archaeologists more information regarding temples from that period of time.

In fact, for the first time in around 160 years, the floor plan of the temple will have to be changed because of these new discoveries.

Ramesses II was also known as Ramesses the Great and is considered to be one of the most important rulers in Egypt’s ancient times.

It is believed that he ruled from 1279 B.C. to 1213 B.C. He is said to have built huge temples and put cartouches (an oval engraving that represents the name and title of a monarch) on several of the monuments.

Cartouche found at the palace site identifying Ramesses the Great.

Professor Joann Fletcher from the University of York informed Newsweek that King Ramesses III’s Luxor funerary temple also included a palace.

The ancient city of Abydos is located about 300 miles south of Cairo and is where pharaohs from the dynasties of the earliest times are believed to be lying in tombs.

These early dynasties include Qaa from the first one ever, as well as Peribsen from the second dynasty.

Abu Simbel, the Great Temple of Ramesses II, Egypt

The city also includes temples that are dedicated to the god Osiris and the Pharaoh Seti I.

In fact, around the years 2025 B.C. to 1700 B.C. (also known as the Middle Kingdom), many people went to the city to worship Osiris.

Fletcher stated, “The new discovery will certainly emphasize the way Ramesses II, like his father Seti, saw Abydos as the origin of royal power,” adding, “The fact Ramesses II required a palace at Abydos also reveals that he didn’t just order a new temple at the site but was spending enough time there to warrant such accommodation.”

She went on to explain that the discovery “begins to balance out Abydos’ role as purely a cemetery and temple site. To have a building in which people lived their lives is always a fascinating thing to find.”

2,500-Year-Old Chariot Found – Complete with Rider And Horses

2,500-Year-Old Chariot Found – Complete with Rider And Horses

In Yorkshire, a Chariot from the Iron Age was found, making it the second such find in two years.

In a small town in Yorkshire named Pocklington, on a construction site, houses were built. The discovery was made.

There has now been a delay in construction on the homes as a new dig begins in October.

Interesting is that not only the chariot is discovered but the horse’s skeletons are also found that pulled up the wagon and the driver’s human remains.

2,500-Year-Old Chariot Found – Complete with Rider And Horses

The managing director of Persimmon Homes in Yorkshire confirmed that an archaeological discovery of significant importance had been made. That discovery is a horse-drawn chariot from the Iron Age.

He went on to say that excavation is ongoing by archaeologists who will date the find along with detailing it.

During the Iron Age, it was common practice to bury chariots. What the archaeologists were not expecting to find was the remains of the rider of the chariot and the horses that pulled it.

The find dated back to 500 BC and at the time it was the only find of the kind in 200 years. To date, there have only been 26 chariots excavated in the UK.

Archaeologists said that it was unusual for horses to be buried along with the chariot and human remains.

Paula Ware the managing director of MAP Archaeological Practice Ltd said:

“The chariot was located in the final square barrow to be excavated and on the periphery of the cemetery. The discoveries are set to widen our understanding of the Arras (Middle Iron Age) culture and the dating of artifacts to secure contexts is exceptional.”

In the Iron Age, the chariot was seen to be something of a status symbol owned by those with money.

Including horses in the burial of human remains of such a person is unknown. It is something that has the researchers puzzled.

The Dig Revealed Numerous Artifacts

Archaeologists found pots, shields, swords, spears, and brooches among the many findings.

These all gave researchers a good look into the lives of the people who lived more than 2,500 years ago.

Yorkshire has been a good spot to find the remains of the Arras culture, which have been very well preserved.

Around 150 skeletons were found in the region during 2016, with researchers believing the skeletons were those of the Arras culture.

The skeletons along with their possessions were found in the Yorkshire Wolds, a small market town.

Climate change may be behind fall of an ancient empire, say researchers

Climate change may be behind fall of an ancient empire, say researchers

Despite a plethora of cuneiform textual documentation and archaeological excavations and field surveys, archaeologists and historians have been unable to explain the abruptness and finality of the historic empire’s collapse.

Numerous theories about the collapse have been put forward since the city and its destruction levels were first excavated by archaeologists 180 years ago.

But the mystery of how two small armies — the Babylonians in the south and the Medes in the east — were able to converge on Nineveh and completely destroy what was then the largest city in the world, without any reoccupation, has remained unsolved.

A team of researchers — led by Ashish Sinha, California State University, Dominguez Hills, and using archival and archaeological data contributed by Harvey Weiss, professor of Near Eastern archaeology and environmental studies at Yale — was able for the first time to determine the underlying cause for the collapse.

By examining new precipitation records of the area, the team discovered an abrupt 60-year megadrought that so weakened the Assyrian state that Nineveh was overrun in three months and abandoned forever. The research was published in Science Advances on Nov. 13.

An artist’s vision of the interior of an Assyrian palace, based on drawings made in 1849 by Austen Henry Layard on the site of 19th-century excavations.

Assyria was an agrarian society dependent on seasonal precipitation for cereal agriculture. To its south, the Babylonians relied on irrigation agriculture, so their resources, government, and society were not affected by the drought, explains Weiss.

The team analyzed stalagmites — a type of speleothem that grows up from a cave floor and is formed by the deposit of minerals from water — retrieved from Kuna Ba cave in northeast Iraq.

The layers of a stalagmite record the climate conditions of the time when they were created.

The speleothems can provide a history of climate through the oxygen and uranium isotope ratios of infiltrating water that is preserved in its layers.

Oxygen in rainwater comes in two main varieties: heavy and light. The ratio of heavy to light types of oxygen isotopes is extremely sensitive to variations in precipitation and temperature. Over time, uranium trapped in speleothems turns into thorium, allowing scientists to date the speleothem deposits.

Weiss and the research team synchronized these findings with archaeological and cuneiform records and were able to document the first paleoclimate data for the megadrought that affected the Assyrian heartland at the time of the empire’s collapse when its less drought-affected neighbors invaded.

The team’s research also revealed that this megadrought followed a high-rainfall period that facilitated the Assyrian empire’s earlier growth and expansion.

The Neo-Assyrian Empire rose during an unusual time of wet climate and collapsed soon after conditions swung to unusual dryness.

“Now we have a historical and environmental dynamic between north and south and between rain-fed agriculture and irrigation-fed agriculture through which we can understand the historical process of how the Babylonians were able to defeat the Assyrians,” said Weiss, adding that the total collapse of Assyria is still described by historians as the “mother of all catastrophes.”

Through the archaeology and history of the region, Weiss was able to piece together how the megadrought data were synchronous with Assyria’s cessation of long-distance military campaigns and the construction of irrigation canals that were similar to its southern neighbors but restricted in their agricultural extent.

Other texts noted that the Assyrians were worrying about their alliances with distant places, while also fearing internal intrigue, notes Weiss.

“This fits into a historical pattern that is not only structured through time and space but time and space that is filled with environmental change,” says Weiss. “These societies experienced climatic changes that were of such magnitude they could not simply adapt to them,” he adds.

With these new speleothem records, says Weiss, paleoclimatologists and archaeologists are now able to identify environmental changes in the global historical record that were unknown and inaccessible even 25 years ago. “History is no longer two-dimensional; the historical stage is now three-dimensional,” said Weiss.

Weiss’ previous research defined the 2200 B.C.E. global megadrought that generated societal collapse from the Mediterranean to China.

In addition to Weiss, researchers from California State University-Dominguez Hills, Xi’an Jiaotong University, University of Minnesota, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Ankara, and the University of Southern California contributed to the study.

Restored Pompeii Kitchens Give Us An Idea Of How Romans Cooked

Restored Pompeii Kitchens Give Us An Idea Of How Romans Cooked

In a new project that seeks to give visitors a taste of the everyday life within the city the ancient roman kitchens of the Pompeii launderette were once again equipped with pots and pans.

The kitchens were once used to provide food for the hungry attendants of the three-story launderette, Fullonica di Stephanus before they were destroyed by a volcanic eruption in AD 79.

It was the location where rich Roman patricians were sent to clean their togas to be washed in huge baths using clay and urine. The garments were then rinsed, dried and placed on special presses to ensure they returned to their noble owners crease-free.

Thanks to a refurbishment which finished on Monday, the kitchens inside the Fullonica now appear as they did 2,000 years ago, complete with metal grills, pots, pans, and earthenware crockery.

The new installment provides an interesting window on Roman cooking practices.

Instead of using gas or electric hobs, the Romans cooked their food over specially-made troughs, in which beds of flaming charcoal were placed.

Hunks of meat, fish, and vegetables were then laid on grills directly over the coals, while soups and stews simmered away in pots and pans that were stood on special tripods to elevate them above the scorching embers.

All of the cooking equipment now on display was found in and around the kitchens when they were first excavated in 1912 by the then Superintendent of Pompeii, Vittorio Spinazzola.

Restored Pompeii Kitchens Give Us An Idea Of How Romans Cooked
The kitchens at the Fullonica di Stephanus.

Spinazzola initially left all the items in the kitchen, but his predecessors packed them away in storage or placed them in glass display cabinets in different areas of the site.

“We’re delighted the pieces have finally been put back on display where they were found and we’re certain they will be appreciated by modern tourists, eager to learn how people lived in antiquity,” said Massimo Osanna, the current Archaeological Superintendent of Pompeii.

As part of the same initiative, further examples of ancient Roman culinary practices were also given a permanent exhibition at the city gym, the Palestra Grande, on Monday.

Visitors can now marvel at a carbonized loaf of two-millennia-old bread and admire a metal pot containing the fossilized remnants of a bean and vegetable soup.