7,800-year-old female figurine discovered in Ulucak Höyük in western Turkey

7,800-year-old female figurine discovered in Ulucak Höyük in western Turkey

7,800-year-old female figurine discovered in Ulucak Höyük in western Turkey
The 7,800-year-old female figurine found in Ulucak Mound, Izmir, Türkiye.

A clay statuette of a female figure dating back 7,800 years were unearthed during the Ulucak Mound excavation in the Kemalpaşa district of the western province of Izmir.

Professor Özlem Çevik from the Department of Protohistory and Pre-Asian Archeology at Trakya University’s Faculty of Letters, who is leading the excavations in Ulucak, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the mound is the site of the first farmer village settlement of Izmir.

“It is among the oldest settlements in Western Anatolia, and we have unearthed findings dating back 8,850 years in the mound,” Çevik said.

Archaeologists work in Ulucak Mound, Izmir, Türkiye, Aug. 8, 2022. (AA)

Noting that the team discovered that the Ulucak Mound had been inhabited continuously for 45 generations with villages established one on top of the other, Çevik added: “During the excavations of a house this year, we found a whole female figurine made of clay.

We have previously found similar statuettes but they were usually broken.

The latest figurine is important for us as it is the third figurine found in an intact form here.”

According to Çevik, these kinds of statuettes were previously thought to depict gods and goddesses, however, they were also found in the dumpsite of the ancient mound which leads researchers to believe that they were not sacred pieces.

Archaeologists think that the figurines may be related to important events like births, deaths or the harvest and may be used to increase abundance and fertility or for witchcraft.

7,800-year-old female figurine discovered in Ulucak Höyük in western Turkey
The 7,800-year-old female figurine found in Ulucak Mound, Izmir, Türkiye.

The Ulucak Mound, located 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of Izmir, features cultural artifacts from the early Neolithic period to the late Roman-early Byzantine era.

The site was discovered by British archaeologist David French in the 1960s but it remained unexplored until excavations began in the middle of 1990s.

The very first excavation period between 1995 and 2008 was headed by archaeologist Altan Çilingiroğlu and the Izmir Archaeological Museum.

Since 2009, Çevik of Trakya University has been directing the studies at the archaeological site.

The excavations in Ulucak have already produced valuable insights into the emergence and development of prehistoric cultures in western Türkiye.

A sleeve button set from the 1780s discovered at Colonial Michilimackinac

A sleeve button set from the 1780s discovered at Colonial Michilimackinac

A set of joined sleeve buttons, believed to be from the 1780s, was recently discovered on Colonial Michilimackinac.

Sleeve button

According to a press release from Mackinac State Historic Parks, archaeologists continue to uncover incredible artefacts late into the 2022 archaeological field season.

“We are still finding interesting artifacts,” said Dr. Lynn Evans, Mackinac State Historic Parks Curator of Archaeology, in a press release.

“This set of joined sleeve buttons, like a modern cufflink, was found in the 1781 demolition rubble layer.

The green glass paste ‘stones’ are set in brass.”

The current excavation site is House E of the Southeast Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac.

The house, according to Mackinac State Historic Parks, was first occupied by Charles Henri Desjardins de Rupallay de Gonneville.

Other finds this season have included a red earthenware bowl, a one-ounce brass weight marked with a crown over GR, for the king, a second brass weight from a set of nesting apothecary weights, stamped with a fleur-de-lis, and a King’s 8th button.

The dig at Michilimackinac began back in 1959; it’s reportedly one of the longest-running archaeology programs in North America.

17th-Century Coin Unearthed at a Castle in Slovakia

17th-Century Coin Unearthed at a Castle in Slovakia

A coin minted at the end of the 17th century is just one of the finds archaeologists have made during research work at the Sivý Kameň castle ruins in the Prievidza district.

The coin, which was among other items including ceramics and a knife found in the area around the former castle gates, dates back to when the castle served as a prison.

The castle, which was built in the 14th century, is now largely ruins, but using old photographs, experts identified where the castle gate and a forecourt once stood and began to unearth what was left of the structure belowground.

Archaeologist Dominika Andreánska told the TASR newswire: “Structures that are still preserved under the ground are important to us, but, of course, finds in castles inevitably include tiles from kilns, ceramic remnants, be they kitchen or painted tableware, small metal objects, nails, and we were also pleased with the first coin.”

According to Andreánska, the coin is a denarius dating back to the time of Leopold I. Habsburg with a minting date of 1679, and produced at the Kremnica mint.

“It is interesting in that it dates from the end of the 17th century, when Sivý Kameň castle functioned only as an occasional prison, or was a ruin, because it was burnt down during the anti-Habsburg uprisings,” she explained.

Research work at the castle is likely to continue for the next few years and once fieldwork has been completed it is expected that some of the finds will be exhibited at the Hornonitrianske Museum in Prievidza which is also involved in the dig.

Sivý Kameň was built around the middle of the 14th century for use in governing properties on the left bank of the Nitra River.

It was owned by the Majthényi family throughout the Middle Ages and into modern times but suffered a similar fate to many other castles in Slovakia as the Majthényis gradually moved to mansions in Nováky.

However, they always considered Sivý Kameň to be their ancestral seat and used it as an ancestral archive.

Rock Crystals Recovered from Neolithic Burial Mound in England

Rock Crystals Recovered from Neolithic Burial Mound in England

Distinctive and rare rock crystals were moved over long distances by Early Neolithic Brits and were used to mark their burial sites, according to groundbreaking new archaeological research.

Rock Crystals Recovered from Neolithic Burial Mound in England

Evidence for the use of rock crystal – a rare type of perfectly transparent quartz which forms in large hexagonal gems – has occasionally been found at prehistoric sites in the British Isles, but the little investigation has previously been done specifically into how the material was used and its potential significance.

A group of archaeologists from The University of Manchester worked with experts from the University of Cardiff and Herefordshire County Council on a dig at Dorstone Hill in Herefordshire, a mile south of another dig at Arthur’s Stone.

There, they studied a complex of 6000-year-old timber halls, burial mounds and enclosures from the Early Neolithic period, when farming and agriculture arrived in Britain for the first time. 

As well as a range of artefacts including pottery, stone implements and cremated bones, they uncovered rock crystal which had been knapped like the flint at the site, but unlike the flint, it had not been turned into tools such as arrowheads or scrapers – instead, pieces were intentionally gathered and deposited within the burial mounds.

The experts say the material was deposited at the site over many generations, potentially for up to 300 years.

Only a few places in the British Isles have produced pure crystals large enough to produce the material at Dorstone Hill, the closest being Snowdonia in North Wales and St David’s Head in South West Wales – this means that the ancient Brits must have carried the material across large distances to reach the site. 

As a result, the researchers speculate that the material may have been used by people to demonstrate their local identities and their connections with other places around the British Isles. 

“It was highly exciting to find the crystal because it is exceptionally rare – in a time before the glass, these pieces of perfectly transparent solid material must have been really distinctive,” said lead researcher Nick Overton.

“I was very interested to discover where the material came from, and how people might have worked and used it.”

“The crystals would have looked very unusual in comparison to other stones they used, and are extremely distinctive as they emit light when hit or rubbed together and produce small patches of rainbow – we argue that their use would have created memorable moments that brought individuals together, forged local identities and connected the living with the dead whose remains they were deposited with.„

Dr Nick Overton

The researchers plan to study materials found at other sites to discover whether people were working with this material in similar ways, in order to uncover connections and local traditions.

They also intend to look at the chemical composition of the crystal to find out if they can track down its specific source.  

Pathogens Detected in Bronze Age Remains in Greece

Pathogens Detected in Bronze Age Remains in Greece

A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the British School at Athens and Temple University has found evidence of pathogens in the teeth of individuals from the Bronze Age that could explain why two ancient civilizations failed.

Pathogens Detected in Bronze Age Remains in Greece
Location of archaeological sites with evidence of Y. pestis and S. enterica subsp. enterica from the LNBA (A) Map of Eurasia indicating relevant LNBA sites with genetic evidence of Y. pestis (circles) and S. enterica subsp. enterica (triangles). Hagios Charalambos in pink, previously published sites in black. (B) Map of Crete showing the location of Hagios Charalambos (pink) and important Bronze Age palatial sites (black).

In their paper published in the journal Current Biology, the group describes their genetic study of teeth found inside a cave called Hagios Charalambos on the island of Crete.

Prior research has shown that the Old Kingdom of Egypt and the Akkadian Empire, both Bronze Age civilizations, experienced sudden declines in population several thousand years ago.

It has been suggested that climate change and/or other unknown factors led to the decline, which also resulted in damage to infrastructure, reductions in trade and major cultural changes.

In this new effort, the researchers have found evidence suggesting that diseases could have been behind the decline.

The work involved studying the teeth from the remains of people dated back to approximately 2290 and 1909 BCE that had been brought to them from the dig site on Crete.

They found evidence of typical bacteria found in the modern human mouth—the kind that can lead to tooth decay. But more importantly, they also found evidence of Yersinia pestis—the bacteria behind the plague—and Salmonella enterica, which is the bacteria responsible for typhoid fever.

The findings suggest that an epidemic could have been responsible for the population decline in either or both of the Bronze Age civilizations.

The researchers note that there is one caveat—the strain of Yersinia pestis they found was not the same one that devastated so much of Europe centuries later; it has gone extinct, as has the Salmonella enterica strain they found.

Thus, it is not known how transmissible either were, or how deadly. Still, the evidence of such pathogens means that historians must factor in the possibility of disease as a reason for the fall of the two major civilizations.

They suggest further genetic studies be done on other ancient samples to determine how widespread such infections may have been.

5000-Year-Old Water System Discovered In Western Iran

5000-Year-Old Water System Discovered In Western Iran

Ancient Water System in Iran

Archaeologists in Iran made an unexpected discovery during excavations at the Farash ancient historical site at the Seimareh Dam reservoir – a 5,000-year-old water system.

The research team is working hard to recover the water pipes, along with hundreds of other artefacts, before they are submerged by the new dam.

The Persians are one of the earliest cultures to implement advanced systems of water distribution and are among the greatest aqueduct builders of the ancient world.

They are particularly well-known for their construction of qanāts, a series of well-like vertical shafts, connected by gently sloping tunnels, which were used to create a reliable supply of water for human settlements and for irrigation.

The water system comprises a small pool and a long earthenware pipeline. Each earthenware conduit measures about one metre in length and the team leader Leili Niaken said it is likely that the structure was made and baked in the region.

The newly discovered water system.

In addition to the ancient water pipes, the team of archaeologists from the Iranian Centre for Archaeological Research (ICAR) have also uncovered more than 100 sites dating back to the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Copper Age, Stone Age, Parthian, Sassanid and early Islamic periods. Signs of the Mesopotamians’ influence in the region were identified by studies carried out on the ancient strata at the reservoir.

The archaeological team is now working hard to unearth the rest of the pipeline, which may lead archaeologists to its source. 

The aim is to recover as much as possible before it all goes underwater when the filling of the dam is complete.

Archaeologists Discover Missing Link in Human Evolution, in Israel

Archaeologists Discover Missing Link in Human Evolution, in Israel

Researchers working in Israel have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human that lived alongside our species more than 100,000 years ago.

Archaeologists Discover Missing Link in Human Evolution, in Israel
The skull fragment and jawbone were found near Ramla in Israel

They believe the remains uncovered near the city of Ramla represent one of the “last survivors” of a very ancient human group.

The finds consist of a partial skull and jaw from an individual who lived between 140,000 and 120,000 years ago.

Details have been published in the journal Science.

The team members think the individual descended from an earlier species that may have spread out of the region hundreds of thousands of years ago and given rise to Neanderthals in Europe and their equivalents in Asia.

The scientists have named the newly discovered lineage the “Nesher Ramla Homo type”.

Dr Hila May of Tel Aviv University said the discovery reshaped the story of human evolution, particularly our picture of how the Neanderthals emerged. The general picture of Neanderthal evolution had in the past been linked closely with Europe.

“It all started in Israel. We suggest that a local group was the source population,” she told BBC News. “During interglacial periods, waves of humans, the Nesher Ramla people, migrated from the Middle East to Europe.”

The human finds were uncovered during the excavation of a sinkhole. Thousands of stone tools and animal remains were also found

The team thinks that early members of the Nesher Ramla Homo group were already present in the Near East some 400,000 years ago. The researchers have noticed resemblances between the new finds and ancient “pre-Neanderthal” groups in Europe.

“This is the first time we could connect the dots between different specimens found in the Levant,” said Dr Rachel Sarig, also from Tel Aviv University.

“There are several human fossils from the caves of Qesem, Zuttiyeh and Tabun that date back to that time that we could not attribute to any specific known group of humans. But comparing their shapes to those of the newly uncovered specimen from Nesher Ramla justify their inclusion within the [new human] group.”

Dr May suggests that these humans were the ancestors of Neanderthals.

“The European Neanderthal actually began here in the Levant and migrated to Europe, while interbreeding with other groups of humans.”

Others travelled east to India and China, said Prof Israel Hershkovitz, suggesting a connection between East Asian archaic humans and Neanderthals in Europe.

“Some fossils found in East Asia manifest Neanderthal-like features as the Nesher Ramla do,” he said.

One of the stone tools used by the Nesher Ramla humans. It was produced with the same techniques used by modern humans at the time

The researchers base their claims on similarities in features between the Israeli fossils and those found in Europe and Asia, though their assertion is controversial. Prof Chris Stringer, from the Natural History Museum in London, UK, has recently been assessing Chinese human remains.

“Nesher Ramla is important in confirming yet further that different species co-existed alongside each other in the region at the time and now we have the same story in western Asia,” he said.

“However, I think it’s a jump too far at the moment to link some of the older Israeli fossils to Neanderthals. I’m also puzzled at suggestions of any special link between the Nesher Ramla material and fossils in China.”

The Nesher Ramla remains themselves were found in what used to be a sinkhole, located in an area frequented by prehistoric humans. This may have been an area where they hunted for wild cattle, horses and deer, as indicated by thousands of stone tools and bones of hunted animals.

According to an analysis by Dr Yossi Zaidner at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, these tools were constructed in the same manner that modern humans of the time also made their implements.

“It was a surprise that archaic humans were using tools normally associated with Homo sapiens. This suggests that there were interactions between the two groups,” Dr Zaidner said.

“We think that it is only possible to learn how to make the tools through visual or oral learning. Our findings suggest that human evolution is far from simple and involved many dispersals, contacts and interactions between different species of human.”

Medieval Artifacts Uncovered in Iceland

Medieval Artifacts Uncovered in Iceland

Archaeologists in Seyðisfjörður have excavated jewellery that dates from 940 – 1100, just after the initial settlement of Iceland. Notably, one of the beads found in the excavation even bears the colours of the Icelandic national flag.

Remarkably well-preserved structures in Seyðisfjörður

Archaeological digs have been underway in Seyðisfjörður, a fishing village in the East Fjords of Iceland, since 2020. Due to the high slopes of the valley, Seyðisfjörður is subject to land slides, and local authorities plan to build defensive barriers to protect the village, which has suffered damage in recent years.

However, these same land slides have also preserved archaeological sites in the region particularly well.

Archaeologists have been called in to perform exploratory digs where the defensive barriers will be erected, and have found remarkably intact manmade structures and artefacts such as game pieces and pearls.

The most recent discoveries are centred around the farmstead where Bjólfur, a settler named in Landnámabók, is believed to have had his farmstead. Significant finds at this site have included the remains of a man, a horse, a spear, and a boat.

Archaeologists have been able to date the site with a fair amount of accuracy, given tephra layers from eruptions, and landslide layers.

A unique bead

The artefact that has generated the most interest by far has been a bead which coincidentally has the colours of the Icelandic flag: blue, white, and red.

Ragnheiður Traustadóttir, an archaeologist and director of the team, has stated to RÚV that the find has caused quite the stir on social media, even causing some to claim a more recent provenance.

However, Ragnheiður has stated that it is certainly from the period 940 – 1100, given that it was found under known tephra and land slide layers.

“It will be interesting to put this in context with the four mounds we dug up last year,” she said to RÚV. 

“There is a unique opportunity to look at the history of Seyðisfjörður from the second half of the tenth century until the eleventh century.”

Some twenty archaeologists are currently at work excavating in Seyðisfjörður. The field season is expected to last through the middle of August, and continue next year.

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