Category: archaeology

On the Island of South Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland is a peculiar tomb. The site is a chambered tomb, built into the cliff’s edge around 3,500 BCE, and it wasn’t re-discovered until the 1950s. As you probably guessed from this post’s title, the tomb is the final resting place of 8 to 20 people – and 14 white sea eagles. Recent dating tells us the people were buried in it about 1,000 years before the eagles were.

It’s an amazing example of how a neolithic tomb was in use for many generations, and evolved in its meaning over time. Personally, I think its pretty cool that 1,000 years after their ancestors died, someone added eagles to accompany them.

Two gilded silver dragon figurines featuring detailed horns, eyes, teeth, and feathers have been discovered in a Xiongnu elite tomb in north-central Mongolia. The dragons bear obvious characteristics of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 9 CE). They are evidence of the cultural exchange and interaction between the prairie in the north and central China, as well as the high status of the Xiongu buried in the tomb.

Of course, the silver dragons were not the only rich items they were buried with: a trove of gold, silver, bronze, jade and wood artifacts have also been found.

Answer

One of the earliest sites showing Aboriginal occupation of northwestern Australia — dating to some 50,000 years ago — has been discovered at the Drysdale River catchment in the Kimberley region of Australia. They also found evidence of an early ax production industry at the Minjiwarra site, which had previously been interpreted as a dune feature indicating a break in Aboriginal occupation.

The “dune feature” is actually a sedimentary flood feature which built up over 50,000 years. It preserves early, intermediate and more recent occupation by Aboriginal people. Minjiwarra was settled even through the peak of the Ice Age 19,000 years ago, when environmental conditions were especially cold and dry.

historical-nonfiction:

Did you know that high in India’s
Himalayan mountains lies a shallow lake filled with medieval bodies?
You might have heard of it because some of those bodies looked
suspiciously European.

Well recently, researchers studied the full genome of a few of those bodies!

Link is fixed! Sorry about that

Did you know that high in India’s
Himalayan mountains lies a shallow lake filled with medieval bodies?
You might have heard of it because some of those bodies looked
suspiciously European.

Well recently, researchers studied the full genome of a few of those bodies!

TIMELESS Travels Autumn 2019 is out now: https://www.timeless-travels.co.uk/. Discover Iceland, the Land of the Living Sagas and much more!

The known, Dynastic Egypt began around 3,100 BCE. But the magnificent, complex civilization we still learn about in elementary school did not suddenly emerge, fully-formed. What came before? Archaeologists know that roughly between 9,300 BCE and 4,000 BCE, an enigmatic Neolithic people built a proto civilization in Egypt. But there has been little research on them, so a new excavation of three burial sites has the possibility of adding greatly to the understanding of how ancient Egypt became, well, ancient Egypt.

During the Neolithic, Egypt was much greener, allowing ancient herders to populate what is now the middle of a barren desert. During the Final Neolithic (4,600 – 4,000 BCE) they began to bury the dead in formal cemeteries. We know this from excavations at three burial sites which were not lone graves but large cemeteries housing over 100 burials each.

One cemetery appears to be for the elite. It had a low childhood mortality rate, tall stature, and relatively long lifespans for the Neolithic. Men averaged about 170 cm tall (5’7"), and women about 160 cm (5’3"). Most had lived beyond 40, and some even into their 50s. That’s not old today, but for the Neolithic, that’s nothing to scoff at. And most tellingly, those in this cemetery were buried with many artifacts including ornamental pottery, jewellery from stones and ostrich eggshells, sea shells far from the sea, and animal remains. Two other cemeteries appear to be for lower-status individuals. They had few artifacts, high child mortality, were physically shorter, and had shorter lifespans. The larger of the two cemeteries had a separate burial area for children under 3 years old, although most of the remains were infants and late-term fetuses. It is the earliest known infant cemetery.

These three very different burial sites suggest that by 4,600 BCE, Neolithic society had developed stratified social hierarchies. It also suggests that age 3 is when children became “people” and were included in adult cemeteries. Finally, there was evidence of respect for those previously buried, because when coming across old skeletons in reused graves, they often carefully repositioned their ancestors’ bones, sometimes even replacing teeth that had fallen out! The archaeological evidence suggests a sophisticated herding society, one slowly evolving towards what would become Dynastic Egypt.

A team of archaeologists excavating a Bronze Age cemetery in the region of Karaganda, in central Kazakhstan, has unearthed the remains of a man and a woman who were buried facing one another. Their exact relationship is unclear, and the archaeologists did not speculate on whether they were a romantic couple or held some other relationship, such as siblings.

The two were buried with varied, high-quality grave goods including beads, large ceramic pots, knives, and gold jewelry. Together the grave goods suggest the two came from wealthy families. The couple are believed to have been buried sometime around 2000 BCE. In this part of Kazakhstan, that time was marked by increasing conflict, as well as the introduction of the chariot.

Bronze strap union (part of a chariot) from Nant-y-cafn in southern Wales (mid 1st century CE). This replica, based on an archaeological find, approximates what it would initially have looked like before it spent nearly 2,000 years in the dirt.