Archaeology

Odd Pyramid Had Rooftop Homes, Ritual Sacrifices?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 21, 2010   View Article

Yes, it’s yielded human remains—including five females who may have been ritually sacrificed. But it’s the signs of life that make a half-excavated Peruvian pyramid of the Moche culture stand out, archaeologists say.

“Often these pyramidal mounds were built as mortuaries more than anything else,” said excavation co-leader Edward Swenson.

“In most instances [a pyramid] is not where people live, it is not where they were cooking their food,” the University of Toronto archaeologist added.

But the newly exposed 1,400-year-old flat-topped pyramid supported residences for up to a couple dozen elites, who oversaw and perhaps took part in copper production at the site, evidence suggests.

Seven priceless treasures lost to war

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: October 11, 2010   View Article

During the fall of Baghdad in 2003, thousands of artifacts were taken from the Iraqi capital’s National Museum, whose holdings documented the rise of civilization in ancient Mesopotamia. Scholars called the losses a tragedy for all of humanity.

Since the looting, about 5,000 artifacts have been recovered and returned to Iraq, including the antiquities shown here that were seized by Syrian authorities after they were smuggled across the border. About 600 of the artifacts that had been returned went missing once more – and were found again just this month, misplaced among kitchen supplies at the Iraqi prime minister’s office.

Experts believe more than 15,000 artifacts remain at large.

Check out six more historical and archaeological treasures lost to wars and conflict, from the invasion of Iraq to a 17th century attack on the Parthenon. Some treasures have been restored or replicated; others are gone forever.

Seven deep mysteries of history

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: August 24, 2010   View Article

What happened to Amelia Earhart?

Amelia Earhart raised the spirits of Depression-era America as she soared into the aviation record books with feats of altitude, distance and endurance. The mood took a gloomy turn, however, when she and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, during a much-heralded attempt to fly around the world. Their fate remains one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

Theories abound: They ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. They were captured by the Japanese and executed. They survived, and Earhart lived out her life as a housewife in New Jersey.

A prominent theory with tantalizing clues holds that they survived the crash landing and but perished as castaways on Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island in the republic of Kiribati. An expedition to the island in 2010 recovered pieces of a pocket knife and a glass jar that may have belonged to the castaways. If DNA analyses on these and other items match Earhart’s, the mystery may finally be resolved.

Check out six more stories of historical mysteries.

Seven rock-solid careers from the Stone Age

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: August 7, 2010   View Article

If nuclear war, the Great Recession or some other calamity turns the economy back to the Stone Age, what kind of jobs and industries will pay the bills?

Archaeologists, for reasons more to do with academic curiosity than preparing for doomsday, have been hard at work looking for an answer.

Pictures: Human Sacrifice Chamber Discovered in Peru

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 30, 2010   View Article

Found in Peru within a chamber used for an ancient human-sacrifice rite called the presentation, this woman was likely an offering to the site, archaeologists say.

Announced last week, the 197-foot-long (60-meter-long) sacrificial chamber or passageway at the Huaca Bandera archaeological site belonged to the Moche culture, a pre-Columbian agricultural civilization that flourished on the north coast of Peru from about 100 B.C. to AD 800.

The several burials found in the sacrifice chamber “are from a time apparently after the site had been abandoned but nevertheless continued to receive offerings to maintain the status of the elite sanctuary,” archaeologist Carlos Wester La Torre, leader of the excavation, said in an email translated from Spanish.

Bowl of Fingers, Baby Victims, More Found in Maya Tomb

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 21, 2010   View Article

Reeking of decay and packed with bowls of human fingers, a partly burned baby, and gem-studded teeth—among other artifacts—a newfound Maya king’s tomb sounds like an overripe episode of Tales From the Crypt.

But the tightly sealed, 1,600-year-old burial chamber, found under a jungle-covered Guatemalan pyramid, is as rich with archaeological gold as it is with oddities, say researchers who announced the discovery Friday.

How the ancients celebrated the solstice

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: June 18, 2010   View Article

At sunrise on the Northern Hemisphere’s longest day of the year – the summer solstice– thousands of modern-day druids, pagans and partiers gather in the countryside near Salisbury, England, to cheer as the first rays of light stream over a circular arrangement of stones called Stonehenge. The original purpose of the ancient monument remains a source of academic debate. The large stones erected about 4,000 years ago are aligned with the summer solstice sunrise, leading scholars to suggest a link to an ancient sun-worshipping culture. Click the “Next” arrow above to learn about seven more ways ancient cultures marked the solstices – the longest and shortest days of the year.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach