Category Archives: WORLD

Code is hidden in Stone Age Art Maybe the Root of Human Writing

Code hidden in Stone Age art may be the root of human writing

A Recent Scientist article by Alison George – Code hidden in Stone Age art may be the root of human writing – reports on the painstaking investigation of Europe’s cave art which has revealed 32 shapes and lines that crop up again and again and could be the world’s oldest code.

‘When she first saw the necklace, Genevieve von Petzinger feared the trip halfway around the globe to the French village of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac had been in vain.

The dozens of ancient deer teeth laid out before her, each one pierced like a bead, looked roughly the same. It was only when she flipped one over that the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. On the reverse were three etched symbols: a line, an X and another line.

Von Petzinger, a palaeoanthropologist from the University of Victoria in Canada is spearheading an unusual study of cave art. Her interest lies not in the breathtaking paintings of bulls, horses and bison that usually spring to mind, but in the smaller, geometric symbols frequently found alongside them.

Her work has convinced her that far from being random doodles, the simple shapes represent a fundamental shift in our ancestors’ mental skills.

Black tectiforms at Las Chimeneas, Spain

The claviform symbol appears in the Magdalenian caves of France & Spain. There are 15 claviform symbols in Niaux alone. 

The first formal writing system that we know of is the 5000-year-old cuneiform script of the ancient city of Uruk in what is now Iraq. But it and other systems like it – such as Egyptian hieroglyphs – are complex and didn’t emerge from a vacuum.

There must have been an earlier time when people first started playing with simple abstract signs. For years, von Petzinger has wondered if the circles, triangles and squiggles that humans began leaving on cave walls 40,000 years ago represent that special time in our history – the creation of the first human code.’

Between 2013 and 2016, von Petzinger visited 52 caves in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. The symbols she found ranged from dots, lines, triangles, squares and zigzags to more complex forms like ladder shapes, hand stencils, tectiforms and penniforms. Her most startling finding was how few signs there were – just 32 in all of Europe. There was consistency in the use of symbols.

At El Castillo in Spain, a black penniform and bell-shapes

With von Petzinger’s database, she can now see trends – signs in regions, new signs appearing, other signs disappearing. In other words, cultural changes can be discerned, pointing at migration and trade routes.

Further research: some of the most stunning cave art in Europe was only discovered in 1985 when divers found the mouth of the Cosquer cave 37 metres below the Mediterranean coastline near Marseilles in southern France.

Its entrance had been submerged as sea levels rose after the last ice age. What other similar caves are waiting to be discovered? With this in mind, von Petzinger has teamed up with David Lang of OpenROV in Berkeley, California, which makes low-cost underwater robots.

Next year, they plan to use them to hunt for submerged cave entrances off Spain’s north coast. The region is rich in painted caves, many close to the shoreline, so it seems likely that others could be hiding below the waves. If they find any, the pair will send in the remote-controlled mini-submarines, armed with cameras, to safely explore the new sites.

Moreover, as well as the symbols painted, drawn and engraved onto the cave walls, von Petzinger plans to expand her ‘Stone Age dictionary’ by analysing the wealth of signs on portable objects, such as the etched deer teeth from Saint-Germain-de-la-Rivière in France.

Etched deer teeth from Saint-Germain-de-la-Rivière, France

The article describes how the research has allowed her to consider the meanings of the symbols, and possibly the origins of writing systems.

Von Petzinger believes the invention of the first code represents a complete shift in how our ancestors shared information. For the first time, they no longer had to be in the same place at the same time to communicate with each other, and information could survive its owners.

Found: The Oldest and Largest Maya Structure in Mexico

Found: The Oldest and Largest Maya Structure in Mexico

The oldest and largest Maya monumental structure on record has just been discovered after scientists shot millions of lasers from a plane to map an area in southern Mexico.

Seen via lidar, however, the Aguada Fénix platform stands out prominently on the Mexican landscape.

At the newfound site, called Aguada Fénix, researchers found an artificial plateau measuring about 0.9 miles (1.4 kilometers) long, 0.2 miles (399 meters) wide, and between 33 and 50 feet (10 and 15 m) high. And it likely served as a communal gathering place for the Maya. 

The discovery pushes back when archaeologists thought this civilization built large structures, especially because there weren’t yet any dynasties to organize such an endeavor.

“It forced us to change our understanding of the development of Maya civilization and the development of human society in general,” said Takeshi Inomata, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, who led a new study on the finding.

Archaeologists have traditionally thought that the Maya civilization developed gradually. From 1200 B.C. to 1000 B.C., the people in the Maya lowlands were thought to have moved about, with a combination of hunting, gathering, and some farming, including growing maize.

It wasn’t until the Middle Preclassic period (1000-350 B.C.), the thinking went, that small village began to emerge, along with the creation of ceramics and a transition to sedentism — staying in one place for a long time.

According to this theory, the Maya didn’t begin building ceremonial centers with large pyramids until much later, sometime between 350 B.C. and 250 B.C. However, this idea is now under fire. Radiocarbon dating of 69 samples from Aguada Fénix shows that it was used between 1000 B.C. and 800 B.C. After it was largely abandoned by 750 B.C., small groups returned to use the structure.

Aguada Fénix isn’t the only site overturning the traditional interpretation. For instance, a ceremonial complex and artificial plateau built at Ceibal in 950 B.C. (until now, considered the oldest Maya ceremonial center), indicates that the early Maya built large structures even before the civilization became organized under dynasties with centralized government, the researchers said.

To the naked eye, the ancient site of Aguada Fénix is invisible among the rural ranches of Tabasco.
The adorable “Choco,” a peccary-esque sculpture found at the site.

Not ‘deep in the jungle’

Aguada Fénix wasn’t hidden deep in the jungle, but rather on a cattle ranch in Tabasco, Mexico, near the northwestern Guatemalan border. Nobody knew about this site because it’s so big, that if you walk on the site it just looks like a natural landscape, Inomata told Live Science. 

After finding the site in 2017, Inomata and his colleagues did a lidar (light detection and ranging) survey at Tabasco. With lidar, a plane flies over an area while equipment on board shoots millions of lasers that can pass through vegetation and generate 3D maps depicting the shape of the Earth and the structures on it.

The lidar survey revealed the artificial plateau and nine causeways radiating from it. The main plateau is up to 151 million cubic feet (4.3 million cubic meters) in volume. The next largest Maya structure, the La Danta complex at El Mirador in Guatemala, is 98 million cubic feet (2.8 million cubic meters).

“In other words, the main plateau of Aguada Fénix is the largest construction in the pre-Hispanic Maya area,” the researchers wrote in the study. After the lidar survey, the researchers excavated the plateau to learn more about its construction. During that time, the team found jade and stone artifacts that were likely used in rituals at Aguada Fénix. 

Power to the people

Aguada Fénix bears some similarities to San Lorenzo, an even larger artificial plateau built by the Olmec, who thrived there from 1400 B.C. to 1150 B.C. in what is now the Mexican state of Veracruz. San Lorenzo also has colossal sculptures of stone heads and thrones, a clue that the Olmec society already had a hierarchy because it was honoring certain elites. 

There is a debate on whether the Olmec civilization led to the Maya, or whether the Maya developed independently, Inomata noted. 

That said, unlike San Lorenzo, Aguada Fénix had far less evidence of social inequality, the researchers found. “Unlike those Olmec centers, Aguada Fénix does not exhibit clear indicators of marked social inequality, such as sculptures representing high-status individuals,” the researchers wrote in the study. “The only stone sculpture found so far at Aguada Fénix depicts an animal” — a peccary, or wild pig.

Aguada Fénix differs in other ways from San Lorenzo; it incorporates distinctly Maya features, including raised causeways and reservoir systems, said Lisa Lucero, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who was not involved with the study.

While later Maya pyramids were built for the elite, Aguada Fénix was built by the people, for the people. “This big plateau is basically for everybody,” Inomata said. “It’s a place where people [could] gather.”

It’s no surprise that the Maya built a place to congregate, Lucero said. Other monumental structures, including Stonehenge in Great Britain and Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, show “when people lived dispersed and/or a more nomadic lifestyle, that they created a community to build such places,” and they didn’t need elite political leaders to organize it, she said. 

At Aguada Fénix, Maya who was dispersed due to agricultural demands could come together to work, celebrate, share knowledge, exchange goods, meet potential mates, worship, and so on, Lucero told Live Science. 

“Based on the different soils, it is likely that people from many different communities built Aguada Fénix, even bringing soils from their homes,” she added. The study was published online June 3 in the journal Nature. 

World’s oldest pyramid is hidden in an Indonesian mountain, claimed scientists

World’s oldest pyramid is hidden in an Indonesian mountain, claimed scientists

An immense structure like a pyramid in Indonesia, which could be remains of an ancient temple that hid for thousands of years underground. At the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), scientists provided proof of the extraordinary structure.

Located atop Mount Padang in West Java, the structure is topped by an archaeological site that holds rows of ancient stone pillars.

Situated at top of Mount Padang in western Java, the building is surrounded by an archaeological site, discovered at the beginning of the 19th century, with rows of ancient stone pillars. But the sloping “hill” underneath isn’t part of the natural, rocky landscape; it was crafted by human hands, scientists discovered.

“What is previously seen as just surface building, it’s going down—and it’s a huge structure,” said Andang Bachtiar, an independent geologist from Indonesia who supervised core drilling and soil analysis for the project.

Though the buried structure may superficially resemble a pyramid, it differs from similar pyramids built by the Mayans, Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, lead project researcher and a senior scientist with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, told Live Science.

While Mayan pyramids tend to be symmetrical, this structure is elongated, with what appears to be a half-circle in the front.

“It’s a unique temple,” Natawidjaja said.

He and his colleagues suspected that the exposed megalith might be more than it appeared because some partly exposed features in the existing archaeological site didn’t quite match the standing stones. The “peculiar” shape of the hill also stood out from the landscape, he said.

“It’s not like the surrounding topography, which is very much eroded. This looks very young. It looked artificial to us,” Natawidjaja explained.

Using an array of techniques to peer underground—including ground-penetrating radar surveys, X-ray tomography, 2D and 3D imaging, core drilling, and excavations—the researchers gradually uncovered several layers of a sizable structure.

It spread over an area of around 15 hectares (150,000 square meters) and had been built up over millennia, with layers representing different periods.

At the very top were pillars of basalt rocks framing step terraces, with other arrangements of rock columns “forming walls, paths, and spaces,” the scientists reported at AGU. They estimated this layer to be about 3,000 to 3,500 years old.

Underneath the surface, to a depth of about 10 feet (3 m), was the second layer of similar rock columns, thought to be 7,500 to 8,300 years old.

And a third layer, extending 49 feet (15 m) below the surface, is more than 9,000 years old; it could even date to 28,000 years ago, according to the researchers. Their surveys also detected multiple chambers underground, Natawidjaja added.

Today, local people still use the exposed site at the top of the structure as a sacred destination for prayer and meditation, and this could also be how it was used thousands of years ago, Natawidjaja said.

Ancient pyramid discovered in Antarctica

Ancient pyramid discovered in Antarctica

Three ancient pyramids have been discovered in Antarctica by a team of American and European scientists.

Two of the pyramids were “supposedly” discovered about 16 kilometers inland, while the third would be very close to the coast.

The first images of the pyramids between the ice, appeared in the Western media a year after their discovery, circumstances indicate that there may be evidence that the South Pole in the past had been quite warm to be inhabited by ancient and flourishing civilizations.

So far little is known about the pyramids, the team of explorers continues to maintain silence about the discovery.

The only reliable information provided by scientists was that they were planning an expedition to investigate and determine with certainty if the structures were of synthetic or natural origin, but to date has been disclosed yet no official confirmation.

If the researchers were able to show that the pyramids are of artificial origin, their findings could lead to a bigger and shocking review of the history of humanity.

Always in Antarctica, in 2009, scientists founded the particles of pollen in the atmosphere, a discovery that would lead to the hypothesis that once grew there palm trees and summer temperatures could reach at least 21°C.

Three years later, in 2012, scientists at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada have identified 32 species of bacteria in water samples of Lake Vida in East Antarctica.

It is difficult to believe that 50 million years ago palm trees thrived on today’s icy coasts of Antarctica.

The question then arises: is it possible that Antarctica was once warm enough so as to hosting an ancient civilization? But above all, in addition to the pyramids, what is hidden beneath that ice?

So the dilemma that still does not give us peace is: who, or what has created these pyramids in Antarctica? It is a pure invention, three mountains of natural origin, or of a disturbing reality?

Fossil Forest Unearthed in the Arctic

Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals

Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals

Archaeologists have long known about the common practice in ancient Incan culture to use human sacrifices as offerings to the gods. But it wasn’t until recently that they’d ever found a mummified llama sacrifice — let alone four of them.

According to the Guardian, a team of researchers led by archaeologist Lidio Valdez from the University of Calgary unearthed the mummified remains of four llamas during the excavation of Tambo Viejo, once an important administrative hub for the Incas.

The fur on the llama remains had matted together but still appeared relatively fluffy, highlighting how well-preserved the naturally mummified animals were. Their bodies were decorated in colorful strings and bracelets and are estimated to have been interred between 1432 and 1459.

The study noted that researchers could not identify any cuts or wounds on the llama bodies, suggesting that the animals may have been buried alive.

“Historical records indicate animal sacrifices were important to the Inca, who used them as special offerings to supernatural deities,” said Valdez, who uncovered the llama sacrifices with a team of archaeologists from San Cristóbal of Huamanga University. “This was especially the case of llamas, regarded second only to humans in sacrificial value.”

Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals
The Incas dressed the llamas in ritual adornments, including necklaces and long, colourful strings of red, green, yellow, and purple, which hang from their ears as tassels
The llamas were likely sacrificed 500 years ago during a celebratory feast.

In addition to the four sacrificial llamas that were found, another decayed llama corpse was discovered separately, indicating there may have been an attempt to loot the burial, which was decorated with feathers from tropical birds. Archaeologists also found the carcasses of decorated guinea pigs at the site.

Further excavations of Tambo Viejo found traces of what seemed to be a massive feast. Researchers uncovered large ovens and other findings which pointed to some sort of celebration.

The new study — published in the journal Antiquity in late October 2020 — suggests that the estimated date of the llama sacrifice about five centuries ago happened during the period after the territory was peacefully annexed by the Incas.

The llamas were decorated with bracelets and colorful string, as shown here.

The finding supports the idea that the celebratory feast that took place was likely meant to appease the new resident subjects.

Besides being made as offerings to the gods to bring good health and a bountiful harvest, it seems that animal sacrifices were also used to stake a territorial claim for political purposes.

“The offerings likely were part of much larger feasts and gatherings, sponsored by the state,” said Valdez.

“The state befriended the local people with food and drink, cementing political alliances, whilst placing offerings allowed the Inca to claim the land as theirs.”

Excavation at Tambo Viejo first began in 2018. Since then, in addition to the llama burial discovery, researchers have found the remains of a large plaza and a distinct religious Inca structure called ushnu. They also unearthed a connecting road to the Nazca Valley, where the famous Nazca Lines geoglyphs are located.

Past studies have determined that llamas were significant to Inca culture. While the four-legged animals were hunted for their meat as food, they were also most frequently used as sacrificial offerings, more so than human sacrifices.

The Inca rituals were performed at specific times of the year. A hundred llamas were sacrificed in October to promote a healthy rainy season, and in February another 100 llamas were sacrificed to bring the rainstorms to a stop.

Bernabé Cobo, a colonial-period Spanish chronicler, wrote that the animals were used for different sacrifices based on their colouring. Brown-furred llamas were sacrificed to the creator god, Viracocha, while white llamas were presented as offerings to the sun. Llamas with mixed-coloured coats were sacrificed to the thunder.

It’s clear that each offering made by the Incas had its own significance and purpose.

As the researchers wrote in their study, “Through these ceremonies, the Inca created new orders, new understandings and meanings that helped to legitimise and justify their actions to both the conquerors and the conquered.”

The Lovers of Valdaro: for 6,000 years, a pair of skeletons had been locked in an eternal embrace

The Lovers of Valdaro: for 6,000 years, a pair of skeletons had been locked in an eternal embrace

For 6,000 years, two young lovers have been locked in an eternal embrace, hidden from the eyes of the world.

A pair of human skeletons found at a construction site outside Mantua, Italy, is believed by archaeologists to be a man and a woman from the Neolithic period, buried around 6,000 years ago

This past weekend, the Lovers of Valdaro — named for the little village near Mantua, in northern Italy, where they were first discovered — were seen by the public for the first time.

The lovers are in fact two human skeletons, dating back to the Neolithic era; they were found in a necropolis in the nearby village of Valdaro in 2007, huddled close together, face to face, their arms and legs entwined.

They were displayed this past weekend at the entrance of Mantua’s Archaeological Museum, thanks to the effort of the association Lovers in Mantua, which is seeking a permanent home for the ancient couple.

After the discovery, many thought that the couple had been killed. It would fit in well with the history of an Italian region famous for many tragic love stories.

Mantua is the city where Romeo was exiled and was told that his Juliet was dead. The composer Giuseppe Verdi chose it as the location for his opera Rigoletto, another story of star-crossed love and death.

But subsequent research revealed that the skeletons did not have any signs of violent death. They were a woman and a man, ages between 18 and 20 years old. Some have wondered if they died together, holding each other in a freezing night.

Professor Silvia Bagnoli, the president of the association Lovers in Mantua, doesn’t exclude this possibility, but she says that more likely the skeletons were laid out in that position after their deaths.

The mystery might never be solved. Still, many want to see the couple. The association Lovers in Mantua is campaigning for their right to have a room of their own.

According to Bagnoli, €250,000 will be enough for an exhibition centre and another €200,000 could pay for a multimedia space to tell the world the mysterious story of these prehistoric lovers.

8,000-year-old stone tools found in Arabia were made using the same technique first created by Native Americans 13,000 years ago

8,000-year-old stone tools found in Arabia were made using the same technique first created by Native Americans 13,000 years ago

The fluted point is created by a flintknapper removing a flake from the base or tip of a spear point. It is generally done on both sides, but there are some cases wherein only one side of the point is fluted.

Fluted point stone tools are well-identified throughout the Americas, extending from the Arctic to Patagonia. But the recent discovery of 8,000-year-old fluted points in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, which included Yemen, Oman, and United Arab Emirates, indicates that the Early Holocene people in that region made tools using the fluting method.

Across other countries, such as in eastern and northern Africa, there has been no record of fluted point stone tools recorded. That means that the Arabian fluting method could be a local innovation of southern Arabian people originating from the central region of the peninsula’s southern extremity.

Various types of North and South American fluted points.

8,000-Year-Old Fluted Stone Tools in the Arabian Peninsula

A study published in the journal PLOS One revealed that archaeologists recently discovered some 8,000-year-old fluted point stones on the Arabian Peninsula. It is the same technology that was developed by Native Americans about 13,000 years ago.

8,000-year-old stone tools found in Arabia were made using the same technique first created by Native Americans 13,000 years ago
Pictured, atone fluted points dating back 8,000 years ago which were discovered on archaeological sites in Manayzah, Yemen and Ad-Dahariz, Oman. Until now, the prehistoric technique of fluting had been uncovered only on 13,000 year-old Native American sites

At first, researchers suspected that the stone tools they discovered bear some familiarity about them. The scientists then took note of the flute-like grooves along the sides of the stone points.

They said that the tools examined for the study were found in Ad-Dahariz in Oman and Manayzah in Yemen.

Lead researcher Remy Crassard, the head for archaeology in the French Center for Archaeology and Social Sciences, said that they recognized the technique used in making those stone tools as probably the most famous prehistoric techniques that Native Americans once used.

It took the researchers some time to recognize the technique but more time in understanding how fluting could be present in the Arabian Peninsula.

Fluting is a specific technique that involves the extraction of an elongated flake along the length of a projectile point, leaving a distinctive groove or depression at the base of the spearhead or arrowhead (pictured)

How Did Fluted Point Stone Tools Arrive in Arabia?

For almost a hundred years, archaeologists have discovered evidence of fluted point stone tools at Native American sites that dates back between 10,000 to 13,000 years old.

The fluted stone points found in the Americas are characterized by markings along with the spear points’ bases and blades. But the ones found in Arabia have fluted markings closer to the tips of the stone points.

Both Native Americans and Arabians used hafting to fix blades and points to handles and arrows more securely, but they do so for different purposes.

In Arabia, it was used to create a flat zone in the back of the points and most likely to show ‘bravado’ or display their skills, Crassard said.

Moreover, the authors said that the result of cultural exchange could not have brought the technologies as the two stone fluted points are separated by too much time and space. They think that the latest discovery could be an example of cultural convergence.

Crassard noted that many examples of cultural divergence are recorded in diverse human periods in human history.

“For example, polished stone axes are known from the Western European Neolithic, the Mayan culture of Central America and the 19-20th century tribes of Indonesia,” Crassard said.

According to archaeologists, they were all never connected in time and space, but the objects they made during their time were found to be very similar.

120,000-Year-old Neanderthal Artifacts Unearthed in Denmark

120,000-Year-old Neanderthal Artifacts Unearthed in Denmark

Ancient flint tools in the hills of a Danish island gave an indication that 120,000 years ago Neanderthals may have been living there. The first humans in Denmark have been thought to be reindeer hunters from 14,000 years ago.

The slopes of Isefjord’s Ejby Klint between Roskilde and Holbæk were excavated by archaeologists from Denmark’s National Museum and Roskilde Museum. The researchers found ancient mussel shells and flintstones that may have been shaped by humans.

In Denmark Ejby Klint is one of the few places archaeologists can easily locate deposits from the warm time between two ice ages between the ages of 115,000-130,000 years ago.

But more than 100,000 years earlier, Neanderthals lived in Germany, and researchers believe they could have reached modern-day Denmark. 

In a six week dig, archaeologists investigated two slopes at Ejby Klint, finding the tools which are now on display in Denmark’s National Museum. 

The National Museum has found a number of stones (pictured) that appear to have been carved by human hands
Archaeologists from the National Museum and Roskilde Museum are excavating part of Ejby Klint. Even in a small area of ​​only six square meters, they have already found exciting objects

Lasse Sørensen, head of research at the National Museum, says “It’s absolutely wild and very unique that we’ve had the opportunity to dig here at all.”

“I did not think we would find anything at all, but we have actually found some stones that have possible traces of being worked by people, and that in itself is amazing.”

“If we find out that these stones have been worked by Neanderthals, it will resonate all over the world.”

During the warm period between the last two ice ages 115,000 to 130,000 years ago, it was four degrees warmer in Denmark than it is today. 

The country’s large hornbeam forests were home to large prey such as beavers, steppe bison, fallow deer, wood rhinos, forest elephants, Irish giant deer and red deer.

At the National Museum, there is already a flint that has been carved with the same technique as the one used by the Neanderthals. However, the flint was not found in a layer of soil that can be dated accurately.

Excavation leader Ole Kastholm from Roskilde Museum said, “Helping to dig on a steep cliff looking for the oldest people in Denmark right here around Roskilde has been a huge experience. 

“It must be up to the experts to decide how interesting what we have found is. But now the door may have been opened for more excavations to be made for Neanderthals in Denmark.”

A map showing the relative dates at which humans arrived in the different Continents, including Europe 45,000 years ago. Humans and Neanderthals co-existed for about 8,000 years before Neanderthals went extinct.