Early urban planning: Ancient Mayan city built on grid


In the course of excavating remains of the Mayan city, archaeologists uncovered a corridor containing shiny white plaster that originally would have covered the city. (Photo by Evelyn Chan)

An ancient Mayan city followed a unique grid pattern, providing evidence of a powerful ruler, archaeologists working at Nixtun-Ch’ich’ in Petén, Guatemala, have found.

The city, which contains flat-topped pyramids, was in use between roughly 600 B.C. and 300 B.C., a time when the first cities were being constructed in the area. No other city from the Maya world was planned using this grid design, researchers say. This city was “organized in a way we haven’t seen in other places,” said Timothy Pugh, a professor at Queens College in New York.

“It’s a top-down organization,” Pugh said. “Some sort of really, really, powerful ruler had to put this together.”

The ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan also used a grid system. But that city is not considered to be Mayan, and so far archaeologists have found no connections between it and the one at Nixtun-Ch’ich’, Pugh said. [In Photos: Mayan Art Discovered in Guatemala]

People living in the area have known of the Nixtun-Ch’ich’ site for a long time. Pugh started research on it in 1995 and has been concentrating on Mayan remains that date to a much later time period,long after the early city was abandoned. However, in the process of studying these later remains, his team has been able to map the early city and even excavate a bit of it.

Ceremonial route

From the mapping and excavations, Pugh can tell that the city’s main ceremonial route runs in an east-west line only 3 degrees off of true east. “You get about 15 buildings in an exact straight line — that’s the main ceremonial area,” he said. These 15 buildings included flat-topped pyramids that would have risen up to almost 100 feet high. Visitors would have climbed a series of steps to reach the temple structure at the top of each of these pyramids.

At the end of the ceremonial way, on the eastern edge of the city, is a “triadic” structure or group, which consists of pyramids and buildings that were constructed facing each other on a platform. Structures like this triadic group (the name comes from the three main pyramids or buildings in the group), have been found in other early Mayan cities.

The residential areas of the city were built to the north and south of the ceremonial route and were also packed into the city’s grid design, Pugh said.

From the excavations, archaeologists can tell that many of the city’s structures were decorated with shiny white plaster. “It was probably a very shiny city,” Pugh said.

The city’s orientation, facing almost directly east, would have helped people follow the movements of the sun, something that may have been of importance to their religion.

A wall made of earth and stone also protectedthe city, suggesting defense was also a concern of these Mayans.

Were the people miserable?

While the city was a sight to behold, its people might not have been happy with it, Pugh said.

“Most Mayan cities are nicely spread out. They have roads just like this, but they’re not gridded,” said Pugh, noting that in other Mayan cities, “the space is more open and less controlled.”

Cities in early Renaissance Europe that adopted rigid designs were often unpleasant places for their residents to live, Pugh said. It’s “very possible” that the residents of this early Mayan city “didn’t really enjoy living in such a controlled environment,” Pugh said.

Preserving the city

Archaeologists said they are thankful to the cattle ranchers who own the land the site is on and are protecting it against looters, Pugh said.

This location is one of the few Mayan sites in the area that hasn’t been looted, and that’s because the ranchers are “really protective, and they don’t want people messing with the Maya ruins,” Pugh said.

Additionally, the ranchers use a type of quick-growing grass, which, in addition to helping feed cattle, also protects the site from erosion, helping preserve it.

Pugh’s team presented their research recently at the Society for American Archaeology’s Annual Meeting, in San Francisco.

Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Mysterious Greek tomb holds bones from 5 corpses

Mysterious Greek tomb holds bones from 5 corpses

This picture provided by Greece’s Culture Ministry, Oct. 20, 2014, shows the head of a marble sphinx, which adorned the entrance of a 4th-century-BC tomb under excavation at Amphipolis in Greece. (AP Photo/Greek Culture Ministry)

A giant tomb found in Greece’s Macedonia region over the summer contains more than simply sphinxes and a mosaic. Researchers say bones found at the ancient Amphipolis site are from at least five people—including a newborn and a 60-year-old woman, the country’s Culture Ministry said in a statement today.

According to the AP and Reuters, the remains of the woman and baby were found with bones from two men ages 35 to 45, as well as those of a fifth person who had been cremated.

Although initial reports speculated that Alexander the Great may have been among the occupants of the tomb (dating between 325BC and 300BC, with Alexander’s death in 323BC), some scientists wonder if the bones belong to Alexander cronies—perhaps one of his generals, his wife Roxana, or even his mom, Olympias (though AFP reports the ministry last month pooh-poohed the Olympias theory.) The Culture Ministry said 157 human bone fragments out of the 550 found so far have been matched with specific bodies; animal bones were also found.

Scientists also discovered evidence of looting: “The condition in which the bones were found indicates that they had been disturbed,” the ministry stated, though the scavenging could have happened as far back as the second century BC.

Although only one of the corpses lends a clue to his demise—chest marks suggest a deadly knife or sword wound—DNA testing will be carried out to see if the corpses may have been kin.

“Part of the analysis will look into a possible blood relationship … but the lack of teeth and cranial parts … used in ancient DNA analysis may not allow for a successful identification,” the ministry statement said.

(Researchers say that remains in a Vergina tomb were those of Alexander the Great’s dad.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: In Mystery Greek Tomb, Bones From 5 Corpses

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Man goes exploring with metal detector, finds Roman-era grave


A glass mosaic dish from about the year A.D. 200. (Tony Fitzpatrick-Matthews)

A man in England went exploring with a metal detector and made the discovery of a lifetime: an exquisitely preserved Roman-era grave filled with artifacts, including bronze jugs, mosaic glassware, coins and hobnails from a pair of shoes, all dating to about A.D. 200.

The grave likely belonged to a wealthy individual, said Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, the archaeology and outreach officer for the North Hertfordshire District Council. Once Fitzpatrick-Matthews and his colleagues located the grave, they also found evidence of a nearby building, likely a shrine or temple, attached to a villa.

The man with the metal detector, Phil Kirk, found the grave in a field in Kelshall, a small village located between London and Cambridge. He had once found a Roman coin in the same field, and had a hunch that there were more Roman artifacts nearby, Fitzpatrick-Matthews said. [See Photos of the Roman-Era Artifacts]

In October 2014, Kirk hit the jackpot. His metal detector led him to a buried bronze jug that stood roughly 10 inches tall. Next, he pulled out a bronze patera (a dish used for pouring wine or blood libations) and two other jugs.

Elated with what he had found, Kirk contacted local experts and told them about the findings. They returned to the spot later that month and in November and found even more artifacts: a bronze pin, an iron lamp, glassware and bottles of different shapes, including octagonal, hexagonal, rectangular and square, Fitzpatrick-Matthews said.

The hexagonal bottle held an unusual and macabre surprise.

“It quickly became apparent that the large hexagonal bottle was stuffed full with cremated bone,” said Fitzpatrick-Matthews, who hadn’t realized they were digging into a grave. “Suddenly, that explained everything. We were looking at a wealthy burial.”

The entire grave measures about 6.2 feet by 5.2 feet, and contains a plethora of Roman artifacts. They found hobnails, which are small iron nails used on the soles of leather sandals. The sandals had straps that people would tie around their legs, but the sandals must have decayed over the ages. Only the hobnails remained.

“The idea of providing footwear in a Roman grave is that the journey to the underworld, taken by the soul after death, is taken on foot to the River Styx, where you’re ferried across,” Fitzpatrick-Matthews told Live Science. “It’s a walking journey, so you need a pair of footwear. Anybody who could afford it was buried with their best sandals.” [In Photos: Ancient Roman Cemetery Unearthed]

Grave date

The archaeologists also found mosaic glass plates, possibly from Egypt or western Europe; a small piece of lava; and the remains of a wooden box containing two glass cups. A silver coin, called a denarius, sat inside the box and likely slowed the wood’s decomposition, Fitzpatrick-Matthews said. The coin features Emperor Trajan, who ruled Rome from A.D. 98 to A.D. 117.

A second coin helped them date the grave. The worn bronze coin sat inside the cremation urn. It likely served as payment for Charon, the man thought to ferry people across the River Styx, Fitzpatrick-Matthews said. Emperor Marcus Aurelius issued the coin in the A.D. 170s, he said.

“You never find these things in Roman burials, except in this one,” Fitzpatrick-Matthews said. “The fact that it’s worn means it was a good 20 to 30 years old by the time it got into the ground, which gives us a really nice date for the burial ground — about 200.”

The glass mosaic dishes also date to about A.D. 200, and a square bottle, with the initials IAS on its bottom, has a twin at a Roman fort in Scotland that also dates to about A.D. 200, Fitzpatrick-Matthews said.

“Everything is absolutely perfect, except for this wretched coin of Trajan,” which is about 100 years younger than the other artifacts, he said. “Who knows what it’s doing there. It may have been completely accidental, and have fallen into the box without anybody really noticing.”

Field archaeology

The entire grave was lined with flint, which partly smashed the artifacts under its weight, but also preserved the burial. The farmer who owns the field recalled his family noticing that area, and how the plow was unable to dig into the earth there.

The newly discovered grave fits with other clues of an earlier civilization on the farmer’s property. In 1954, the farmer’s family found Roman pottery in the field and donated it to a local museum.

In 2013, a circular hole about 23 feet deep suddenly appeared in the field. Fitzpatrick-Matthews remembers looking at the hole, about 3.2 feet in diameter, and realizing that it was the remains of a Roman well.

Now, having found the grave, the group decided to look for more clues. They found postholes, suggesting the grave neighbored a building, probably a shrine or a temple, which was attached to a villa.

“Whoever had this burial was quite clearly extremely wealthy. They’ve been buried with the second-century equivalent of bling,” Fitzpatrick-Matthews said, referring to the lavish artifacts.

The field is about 2.5 miles from the nearest Roman town. It’s possible the buried individual worked in the town, made a lot of money and built an estate out in the country, Fitzpatrick-Matthews said.

He plans to send several bone samples from the urn to an expert, who will attempt to determine the individual’s age and sex.

The archaeological findings belong to Kirk and the farmer, but Fitzpatrick-Matthews hopes to acquire funds to buy, preserve and display the artifacts in a local museum, he said.

“Once you take ancient metalwork out of the ground, it starts to degrade,” he said. “We need to stabilize it again. That’s done with chemical treatments.”


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Archaeologists may have uncovered world’s first tools

Archaeologists may have uncovered world's first tools

File photo of an archaeological site near the Lake Turkana area in Kenya. The world’s earliest known tools may have been found in the region. (AP Photo/Nature, Rhonda L. Quinn)

Archaeologists may have just rewritten the book on the first use of tools in a major way. The team found what it says are unmistakable stone tools at a site near Lake Turkana in Kenya that date back 3.3 million years, reports Science.

That doesn’t just eclipse the previous mark by a smidge, it shatters it by about 700,000 years. The new date is significant because the first modern humans—the Homo genus—didn’t arrive until 2.8 million years ago, meaning these tools would have been used by our ancient predecessors, like the famed Lucy.

Their use of tools has never been proven. The work hasn’t been published yet, but a Stony Brook archaeologist on the team presented the findings at the Paleoanthropology Society meeting in San Francisco this week.

“The obvious implication is that stone tools were invented and used by multiple lineages of early hominins,” University of Wisconsin anthropologist John Hawks, who wasn’t part of the research, writes at his blog.

Previous researchers have speculated as much after the discovery in 2010 of what looked like marks made by tools on animal bones, specimens dated to the same era that were found in Ethiopia.

But skepticism overshadowed the theory because no tools were found. The new research may have uncovered them—stones that were “knapped,” or deliberately chipped, along with anvils, reports Phys.org.

The next step will likely be to see if cuttings on the bones found in 2010 are a match, the site notes. (Another discovery of late: the skeleton of a camel found in 17th-century trash.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Archaeologists May Have Found World’s First Tools

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WWII ship used for atomic bomb tests found ‘amazingly intact’

The USS Independence aircraft carrier, which operated during World War II, has been located about a half mile underwater off California’s Farallon Islands.

Using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) dubbed the Echo Ranger and a 3D-imaging sonar system, researchers have created a detailed picture of the 622-foot-long ship, revealing that it is “amazingly intact,” said scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The 3D images also showed what appears to be a plane in the carrier’s hangar, the researchers noted.

“After 64 years on the seafloor, Independence sits on the bottom as if ready to launch its planes,” James Delgado, chief scientist on the Independence mission,said in a statement. “This ship fought a long, hard war in the Pacific and, after the war, was subjected to two atomic blasts that ripped through the ship. It is a reminder of the industrial might and skill of the ‘greatest generation’ that sent not only this ship, but their loved ones to war,” added Delgado, maritime heritage director for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. [See Images of the USS Independence Shipwreck and Dive Mission]

After operating in the Pacific Ocean from November 1943 to August 1945, the carrier became one of 90 vessels in a target fleet for atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean in 1946. Called Operation Crossroads, the project consisted of two atomic bomb tests: an airstrike and an underwater strike meant to reveal the effects of a nuclear explosion on a naval fleet, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (The tests continued until 1958 and included the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb in 1952, according to UNESCO.)

The USS Independence, like dozens of ships involved in Operation Crossroads, was damaged by the shock waves, heat and radiation from the tests and ultimately was sent back to U.S. waters. While the Independence was moored at San Francisco’s Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, the U.S. Navy ran decontamination studies on it. Then, on Jan. 26, 1951, the U.S. Navy towed the carrier out to sea and sank it, according to the NOAA statement.

The U.S. Navy, after sinking the ship, documented its location, but those numbers weren’t exact and the different entries varied from one another, with one suggesting the USS Independence was 300 miles off the coast, Delgado said. In actuality it is 30 miles off the coast.

NOAA’s most recent multibeam echo-sounding survey, which was from the water’s surface, revealed “something big” down there; but from so far away the pictures were “pixelated,” Delgado said. “It really looked like a big fuzzy caterpillar stretched out on the bottom,” Delgado told Live Science.

To figure out if the “caterpillar” was the USS Independence, last month, NOAA scientists, in collaboration with Boeing, completed sonar imaging closer to the wreck. The endeavor was part of a two-year mission to find, map and study the 300 or so historic shipwrecks in and around the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The team used the Echo Ranger, Boeing’s 18.5-foot-long underwater bot, outfitted with an integrated 3D-imaging sonar system provided by tech company Coda Octopus.

Aboard the R/V Fulmar research vessel, scientists followed the autonomous underwater vehicle as it glided 150 feet above the Independence wreck, located beneath 2,600 feet of water.

“We imaged the same spot on that shipwreck multiple times; that gives us very, very high definition,” Blair Cunningham, technology president at Coda Octopus, said in a NOAA video.

Results showed that the carrier is upright, slightly tilted toward the starboard, or right side, and that much of the hull and flight deck are intact. But there was damage to the ship from the testing.

“The sonar images showed the damage the Navy had initially documented is still very much there, the flight deck has been distorted. Some of the areas of the flight deck have started to collapse and there are holes in the deck,” Delgado said.

Also, some of the radiation — in the form of fission fragments from the decay of plutonium-239, a radioactive isotope of plutonium — from those blasts can still be found in the ship, the researchers noted. “The ship was partially decontaminated, but some of the fission fragments are expected to be still bound to the ship,” said Kai Vetter, a nuclear physicist at UC Berkeley, who is involved in the project. [Facts About Hiroshima, Nagasaki & the First Atomic Bombs]

“Even if some of the radioactive materials ‘leaked’ or still ‘leak’ from the ship, this radioactivity will be diluted very quickly in the water reducing the concentration substantially,” Vetter told Live Science. “In addition, the radiation emitted by the radioactive materials on the ship will not travel very far as the water is an excellent shield.”

As the ship’s metal corrodes, the associated chemical reactions can cause some of the radioactive material to leak into the water, added Vetter, who is also at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The researchers are interested in studying the long-term effects of the changing radioactivity on the ship. “We are considering to get closer to the ship next time and to potentially remove some parts of the ship for further analysis in our labs,” Vetter said. That closer look would require more safety precautions to ensure no radioactive contamination of the people or equipment, he added.

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WWII wreck gives up millions in silver


SS City of Cairo silver coins. (Image from Deep Ocean Search LTD company)

The deepest salvage operation in history has recovered a haul of coins that Britain planned to use to fund the fight against Nazi Germany 73 years ago.

The SS City of Cairo was carrying 100 tons of silver rupees from India in November 1942 when it was hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat and sank nearly 17,000 feet to the bottom of the Atlantic, reports CNN.

Underwater recovery company Deep Ocean Search, working under a contract from the British government, brought up coins worth millions from the record-breaking depth. The 100 tons would be worth about $50 million today, and the salvage team’s leader tells the BBC a “large percentage” of the coins were reclaimed.

The haul, recovered in 2013 but only disclosed now, was melted and sold, with the proceeds split between the company and Britain’s Treasury. The wreck, which sits more than 4,000 feet deeper than the Titanic, is also the grave of six people who died in the sinking.

The U-boat captain waited 20 minutes before firing a second torpedo, giving around 300 passengers and crew time to board lifeboats. But 104 survivors died in the weeks before the lifeboats were spotted, the Telegraph reports, with one lifeboat ending up off South America after 51 days; only two people aboard it were still alive.

After the ship went down, the German captain told people in the lifeboats, “Goodnight, sorry for sinking you.” Before salvage divers left the wreck for the final time, they left a plaque in memory of the dead reading, “We came here with respect,” reports the BBC.

(In other WWII news, Anne Frank likely died earlier than thought.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Millions in Silver Recovered From WWII Wreck

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Battered remains of medieval knight discovered in UK cathedral


The skeleton of the medieval man, a possible knight, in his stone grave. (Headland Archaeology)

The battered remains of a medieval man uncovered at a famous cathedral hint that he may have been a Norman knight with a proclivity for jousting.

The man may have participated in a form of jousting called tourney, in which men rode atop their horses and attacked one another, in large groups, with blunted weapons.

Archaeologists uncovered the man’s skeleton, along with about 2,500 others — including a person who had leprosy and a woman with a severed hand — buried at Hereford Cathedral in the United Kingdom. The cathedral was built in the 12th century and served as a place of worship and a burial ground in the following centuries, said Andy Boucher, a regional manager at Headland Archaeology, a commercial archaeology company that works with construction companies in the United Kingdom.

A few years ago, the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is financed by the national lottery in the United Kingdom, awarded money to the cathedral for the landscaping and restoration of its grounds. But first, workers had to relocate the thousands of skeletons, many of which were near the ground’s surface. [See Images of the Burial of Another Medieval Knight]

“By church law, anybody who died in the parish had to be buried in the cathedral burial ground,” almost continuously from the time the cathedral was built until the early 19th century, Boucher told Live Science.

From 2009 to 2011, his team respectfully removed the human remains. But one stood out — a 5-foot-8-inch man with serious trauma on his right shoulder blade, 10 of his right ribs and left leg.

“He’s the most battered corpse on the site,” Boucher said. “He had the largest number of broken bones.”

The man was about 45 years or older when he died, according to a bone analysis. He was buried in a stone-lined grave, a type of grave that was used between the 12th and 14th centuries, the researchers said.

Four of the man’s ribs showed healed fractures that may have occurred simultaneously, suggesting a single instance of trauma, researchers wrote in the pathology report. Another four ribs were in the process of healing, indicating that the man was still recovering from the injuries when he died. The other two damaged ribs also show evidence of trauma, and his left lower leg has an unusual twisting break, one that could have been caused by a direct blow or a rolled ankle, according to the report.

In addition, the man had lost three of his teeth during his lifetime. A chemical analysis of his other teeth that matched different isotopes (a variation of an element) to foods and water samples from different geological locations showed that the man likely grew up in Normandy and moved to Hereford later in life, Boucher said.

Jousting battle

It’s impossible to know what wounded the man, but his injuries are in line with those that nobility got through tourney, or jousting, the researchers said.

“Tourney, the true form of jousting, is open combat between large groups of people in fields — basically, a mock battle,” Boucher said. “They just laid into each other with blunted weapons, which is another reason we think he might be a knight, because none of the wounds to him are caused by sharp weapons. They’re all caused by blunt-force trauma.”

Perhaps the man injured his leg during a horse ride during one of these tourneys, if the foot had gotten stuck in the stirrup, Boucher said. Moreover, the injuries to his right shoulder and ribs could have happened if he fell from his horse, or was hit with a blunt weapon on the right side of his body, according to the report.

However, the man may have sustained his injuries in other ways. The coroner’s files show that men older than age 46 who died of accidental deaths during medieval times were likely to die while traveling or transporting goods, according to the report. [8 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]

The archaeologists also found several other intriguing human remains, including those of a man with leprosy and a woman with a severed hand.

The man with leprosy, likely about 20 years old at the time of his death, stood about 5 feet 5 inches tall. People with this disease, which causes skin lesions and nerve damage, were usually buried in separate grounds because of stigma toward the condition. But perhaps the medieval bishop at the time, known to have suffered from leprosy, felt sympathy for this person and allowed for his burial at the cathedral, Boucher said.

The researchers aren’t sure what happened to the woman. The punishment for thieves of that era was to cut off their hand, but it’s unclear why a thief would have been buried at the cathedral, Boucher said.

“She’s a shroud burial, so she’s probably medieval — sometime between 1100 and 1600,” he said.

The archaeologists are storing the exhumed skeletons in a clean and dry place, and will treat them in accordance with the cathedral’s wishes, Boucher said.


Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tombs filled with dozens of mummies discovered in Peru


A burial of a young woman found in the middle of a tomb. Analysis of her skeletal remains reveal that she suffered dental problems, including tooth loss. At one point in her life she suffered an internal hemorrhage in the meninges of her cranium. (Matthew Edwards)

Dozens of tombs filled with up to 40 mummies each have been discovered around a 1,200-year-old ceremonial site in Peru’s Cotahuasi Valley.

So far, the archaeologists have excavated seven tombs containing at least 171mummies from the site, now called Tenahaha.

The tombs are located on small hills surrounding the site. “The dead, likely numbering in the low thousands, towered over the living,” wrote archaeologist Justin Jennings, a curator at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, in a chapter of the newly published book “Tenahaha and the Wari State: A View of the Middle Horizon from the Cotahuasi Valley” (University of Alabama Press, 2015).

Before rigor mortis set in, the mummies had their knees put up to the level of their shoulders and their arms folded along their chest, the researchers found. The corpses were then bound with rope and wrapped in layers of textiles. The mummies range in age from neonate fetuses to older adults, with some of the youngest mummies (such as infants) being buried in jars. While alive the people appear to have lived in villages close to Tenahaha. [See Photos of the Peru Mummies and Tenahaha Site]

Bits and pieces of mummies

The mummified remains were in poor shape due to damage from water and rodents. Additionally, the researchers found some of the mummies were intentionally broken apart, their bones scattered and moved between the tombs. In one tomb the scientists found almost 400 isolated human remains, including teeth, hands and feet.

“Though many individuals were broken apart, others were left intact,” Jennings wrote in the book. “People were moved around the tombs, but they sometimes remained bunched together, and even earth or rocks were used to separate some groups and individuals.” Some grave goods were smashed apart, while others were left intact, he said.

Understanding the selective destruction of the mummies and artifacts is a challenge. “In the Andes, death is a process, it’s not as if you bury someone and you’re done,” Jennings told Live Science in an interview.

For instance, the breakup and movement of the mummies may have helped affirm a sense of equality and community. “The breakup of the body, so anathema to many later groups in the Andes, would have been a powerful symbol of communitas (a community of equals),” wrote Jennings in the book. However, while this idea helps explain why some mummies were broken up, it doesn’t explain why other mummies were left intact, Jennings added.

A changing land

Radiocarbon dates and pottery analysis indicate the site was in use between about A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000, with the Inca rebuilding part of the site at a later date.

Tenahaha, with its storerooms and open-air enclosures for feasting and tombs for burying the dead, may have helped villages in the Cotahuasi Valley deal peacefully with the challenges Peru was facing. Archaeological research indicates that the villages in the valley were largely autonomous, each likely having their own leaders.

Research also shows that between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000 Peru was undergoing tumultuous change, with populations increasing, agriculture expanding and class differences growing, Jennings said. At sites on the coast of Peru,archaeologists have found evidence for violence, with many people suffering cranial trauma (blows to the head), Jennings said. In some areas of Peru, scientists have found pottery containing drawings of fanged teeth and human trophy skulls (skulls that could have been taken in battle) the researchers note.

At Tenahaha, however, there is little evidence for violence against humans, and pottery at the site is decorated with what looks like depictions of people smiling, or “happy faces,” as archaeologists referred to them. [Fight, Fight, Fight: The History of Human Aggression]

Tenahaha may have served as a “neutral ground” where people could meet, bury their dead and feast. As such, the site may have helped alleviate the tensions caused by the changing world where these people lived, Jennings said.

“It’s a period of great change and one of the ways which humans around the world deal with that is through violence,” Jennings said in the interview. “What we are suggesting is that Tenahaha was placed in part to deal with those changes, to find a way outside of violence, to deal with periods of radical cultural change.”

Excavations at the site were carried out between 2004 and 2007 and involved a team of more than 30 people from Peru, Canada, Sweden and the United States.


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Ghostly faces and invisible verse found in medieval King Arthur text


A page (49r) of “The Black Book of Carmarthen” showing the stylized drawing of a dog and text in the margins. (National Library of Wales)

Ghostly faces and lines of verse previously invisible to the naked eye have been uncovered in the oldest surviving medieval manuscript written entirely in Welsh.

“The Black Book of Carmarthen,” dating to 1250, contains texts from the ninth through 12th centuries, including some of the earliest references to Arthur and Merlin.

“It’s easy to think we know all we can know about a manuscript like the ‘Black Book,’ but to see these ghosts from the past brought back to life in front of our eyes has been incredibly exciting,” Myriah Williams, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement. “The drawings and verse that we’re in the process of recovering demonstrate the value of giving these books another look.” [See Images of the Black Book and Ghostly Faces]

In 1904, Sir John Williams, the founder of the National Library of Wales, bought the book, which measures 6.7 by 5 inches. Only recently did Myriah Williams and Paul Russell, a professor at Cambridge’s department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC), examine the pages of the book.

“The margins of manuscripts often contain medieval and early modern reactions to the text, and these can cast light on what our ancestors thought about what they were reading,” Williams explained. “The ‘Black Book’ was particularly heavily annotated before the end of the 16th century.”

Williams and Russell said they think a man named Jaspar Gryffyth, a 16th-century owner of the book who copied his name in Hebrew onto the book, likely erased such “reactions.” These verses and doodles would’ve been added to the manuscript over centuries as it was passed from one owner to another. “He fits the time frame for the erasures, which we know would have been in the late 16th century, but we can only speculate that he might have been the one to take it upon himself to ‘cleanse’ the manuscript,” Williams told Live Science in an email.

Using UV light and photo-editing software, Williams and Russell revealed glimpses of some of the erased doodles. For instance, page fol. 39v of the newly visible work includes ghostly faces and a line of text accompanying them, which date to the 14th or 15th century, Williams said. On the following page, fol. 40v, a full verse, possibly dating to the 13th century, came to light. “There is one more drawing so far that we are still working on,” Williams said.

“What we have discovered may only be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be discovered as imaging techniques are enhanced,” Russell said in the statement. “The manuscript is extremely valuable and incredibly important — yet there may still be so much we don’t know about it.” [10 Words in Medieval Voynich Manuscript Decoded]

Scientists think a single scribe collected and recorded the book’s contents, ranging from religious verse to different types of poetry, over that individual’s lifetime. The text in the 54-page book changes from large script written on alternating ruled lines of vellum to later pages with much smaller lettering and lines that are much closer together.

Williams, who studied the manuscript for her doctoral dissertation, has some favorite pages and verses, she said. Her favorite page, fol. 49r, holds various styles and layouts, along with an example of the scribe’s penchant for writing on the book’s margins. “It also contains a fantastic stylized image of a dog, possibly a greyhound,” Williams said, adding that the book’s scribe likely made the drawing. Two verses were also added, likely by this scribe, on the right margin of 49r.

“I am also fond of the central poem of this page, a short series of verses cursing a goose for pulling out the eye of Gwallawg, the figure after whom the poem has been named by scholars,” Williams said.

In another entry, the legendary hero Arthur describes the virtues of his men in order to gain entrance to a court, the researchers noted. Two prophetic poems are attributed to the famed Merlin, as well, with the first poem of the book a conversation between him and Welsh poet Taliesin.

And in a text entitled “Englynion y Beddau” (or “Stanzas of the Graves”), a narrator claims to know where some 80 warriors are buried.

Williams said she hopes to continue to improve the reading of the newly revealed work on page fol. 40v and to learn more about the scribe’s process of collecting works for the book. “Furthermore, I hope that I can use the information that we have gained from the margins and gaps to continue to develop a picture of the life of the ‘Black Book’ after the ‘Black Book’ scribe had completed his work,” Williams said.


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First complete Battle of Waterloo skeleton identified as German soldier


A musket ball placed between the ribs of the skeleton of a soldier killed in the Battle of Waterloo, is pictured at the site where the bones were found in Waterloo. (REUTERS/Dominique Bosquet/SPW-DG04/Handout)

A 200-year old skeleton discovered beneath a parking lot at the Battle of Waterloo site has been identified as a German soldier. The remains are the first full skeleton to be recovered from the famous battlefield in Belgium.

The soldier, 23-year old Friedrich Brandt, was a member of the King’s German Legion of British monarch George III, the Sunday Times reports. Brandt, who had curvature of the spine, known at the time as “hunchback,” was killed when a musket ball fired by Napoleon’s troops lodged in his ribs.

Recent analysis revealed Brandt’s identity after his remains were unearthed by a mechanical digger at the site in 2012.

“It is unique. No other complete skeleton has been retrieved [from Waterloo] in 200 years,” Dominique Bosquet, an archaeologist working for the Walloon government in Belgium, told the Sunday Times.

While Waterloo claimed tens of thousands of lives, the bodies of soldiers and horses on the battlefield were used for fertilizer in subsequent years, making the full skeleton a notable find.

Brandt’s skeleton was found with 20 German and French coins. A box near the remains also bore the initials F.C.B., which proved a vital clue.  Military historian Gareth Glover reportedly cross-referenced soldiers’ names against records of combatants, identifying Brandt, a Hanoverian, as the likeliest candidate.

The 1815 battle was a decisive victory for a coalition of powers that included the U.K. and the kingdoms of Prussia and Hanover, which comprise parts of modern-day Germany. The battle was also the last military engagement fought by Napoleon.