Category: archaeology

Drone-mounted lasers appear to have detected details of the architecture of an ancient island settlement off Florida’s Gulf coast, using 3D mapping technology. Archaeological remains were first noted on Raleigh Island in 1990. In-person exploration of the area in 2010 revealed the presence of a settlement dating from 900 to 1200 CE.

Unfortunately, the island’s dense foliage impeded traditional land-based surveys of what remained. That’s why this drone-based laser survey, almost ten years later, is so important.

Among other details we now can see 37 residential areas “enclosed by ridges of oyster shell” that are up to 12ft (4m) tall. Archaeological digs at 10 identified residential areas found evidence that beads made from large marine mollusks were produced in these settlements. Stone tools, used to make the beads, were also found. The beads were likely for import among inland chiefdoms. In areas that were far from the coast, such as the lower midwest of the US, mollusk beads and even sizable sea mollusks were imported, where they were used as social capital in economic and social interactions between groups.

When Ötzi the Iceman died around 5,300 years ago in the Italian Alps, he was surrounded by thousands of microscopic fragments of bryophytes, a plant group that includes mosses and the flowerless green plants known as liverworts. Now a team has analyzed bryophyte fragments recovered from Ötzi’s clothes, gastrointestinal tract, and pieces of ice around him.

Although only 23 bryophyte species currently live near the glacier where Ötzi was found, about 75 species were identified by the team. This included 10 liverwort species, which are rarely recovered from archaeological sites. The team also found that only 30% of the identified species were local to where Ötzi died. The rest came from lower elevations, helping to confirm the route Ötzi took as he journeyed to what became his final resting place more than 10,000 feet above sea level.

When Neanderthals Replaced Us:

Israeli cave finds challenge our theories about evolution’s winners and losers. Because the archaeological evidence shows that homo sapiens lived in the area between 115,000 and 75,000 years ago. Neanderthals lived in the area around the same time, successfully maintaining a population without interbreeding with the neighboring homo sapiens.

Homo sapiens are thinner, adapted for warmer and wetter climates. Neanderthals are stockier and carry more heat, adapted for cooler and drier climates.

So when the climate of the area changed, steppe-glaciers advancing and forests disappearing, homo sapiens retreated while Neanderthals stayed.  It’s unclear if the homo sapiens living in the area died out, or moved south to more favorable climes. The archaeological record does not say. 

But we do know that it about 5,000 years later, around 60,000 years ago, homo sapiens sent a second successful wave of settlers into the area. And of course, in the long run, the Neanderthals were the ones who died out. But the

evidence from Israel’s caves show that outcome was not always inevitable.

An astonishing late Bronze Age collection of swords, axes, spearheads and bracelets were found in Havering, in East London, in 2018. With 453 items it is the 3rd-largest hoard ever found in England! And the largest ever found in London. The Havering Hoard was uncovered as part of routine archaeological excavations before the land was opened up for gravel extraction.

The bronze axe heads and spear heads are shown here; they date to between 800 and 900 BCE.

Thirty-one objects thought to have belonged to one warrior have been found in a cache in northeastern Germany’s Tollense Valley, where an intense battle was fought by as many as 2,000 warriors around 1,300 BCE. The warrior’s kit included a bronze awl with a birch handle, a knife, a chisel, a decorated belt box, three dress pins, arrowheads, and fragments of bronze that may have been used as currency. Three thin bronze metal cylinders pierced with bronze nails found with the kit may have been fittings for a cloth bag or wooden storage box which degraded, leaving only its metal fittings.

The bronze items in the warrior’s kit are similar to those found in southern Germany and the Czech Republic, and combined with the chemical analyses of multiple warriors’ bones suggesting they did not grow up locally, it is thought that perhaps warriors from multiple regions came together in this valley to fight over trade routes along the Tollense River.

That is the image of a lost city, found beneath the Cambodian jungle. Mahendraparvata, sometimes dubbed the ‘lost city of Cambodia’, was an early capital city of the Khmer Empire (800s – 1400s CE). Historians and archaeologists knew Mahendraparvata existed – somewhere. And a recently-released paper suggests that it has been found, based on the combination of scriptural evidence stating the capital was on a specific mountainous plateau, and airborne laser scanning (above) that found the remains of a city in that area.

Traditional ground-based archaeological work was conducted after the laser scanning identified the site. The city appears to date to the late 700s CE to early 800s CE, the right era for Mahendraparvata. It is a city of linear axes denoting wide boulevards. The streets are large, 60 to 80 meters (~200 feet) wide, and up to 15 kilometers (9 miles) long. Dams, reservoir walls and the enclosure walls of temples, neighborhoods and even the royal palace are built next to or alongside the embankments.

With thousands of buildings Mahendraparvata will take decades to fully rediscover. This was a large city, a capital city, built to impress even centuries later.

This may be a female shaman.
This fragment of an earthenware vessel inscribed with a possible drawing of
a woman shaman wearing a bird costume was uncovered in western Japan at
Shimizukaze, a site dating to the middle of the Yayoi Period, around
100 BCE.

Nineteen other earthen vessels inscribed with human figures with
outstretched arms have been unearthed across Japan, but this is the
first to appear to have breasts.
Her eyes, nose, mouth, and one arm with five fingers are also visible on
the fragment, which measures just 5 inches by 6.5 inches.

Nearly 100 Amphorae Have Been Recovered From an Ancient Roman Shipwreck:

Archaeologists have recovered a rare and tantalising treasure just 160 feet offshore from Mallorca in Spain. Not gold or jewels, but 93 jug-like
terracotta vessels called amphorae from a Roman ship that sank 1,700
years ago.

The amphorae are still intact and some are even sealed. So there is a pretty good chance that their contents survived the millennia. The amphorae are currently undergoing desalinization in a lab, to make sure that the salt doesn’t crystallize, breaking the amphorae and destroying their contents. But once that’s finished there will be some exciting news in the archaeology world!


Obscure engravings on animal bones from the site of Lingjing in Henan Province suggest that early hominins who lived there 125,000 years ago may have had more advanced cognitive abilities than once believed. The mysterious markings proved to have been etched into the bone. The bone was then rubbed with red ochre powder to make the markings more visible. It is unknown why they made these marks, or what they represent.

New geological research suggests that the Incan city of Macchu Picchu is located at the spot where two faults in the tectonic plates meet. These faults produced an abundance of stone over millions of years, meaning that the Incans had plenty of stone easily available to build a city with. The researchers added that other Incan cities, including Ollantaytambo, Pisac, and Cusco, are located at similar intersections.

Those same fractures that provided stone also make for excellent drains. Which is important to help avoid flooding during the heavy rainstorms that can happen in the region. The excellent drainage almost certainly contributed to Macchu Picchu surviving so well, after its abandonment by the Inca, and being left to the elements for over 400 years.