sábado, 28 de diciembre de 2013

Significance of sun alignment with two Roman monuments

Significance of sun alignment with two Roman monuments
An archaeo-informaticist from Indiana University has used virtual simulations to turn back the clock over two thousand years to show the significance of an alignment of the sun with two monuments tied to the founder of the Roman Empire – Caesar Augustus.
For half a century, scholars had associated the Ara Pacis, the “Altar of Peace” (dedicated in 9 BCE to Emperor Augustus), and the Obelisk of Montecitorio (a 71-foot-high granite monument brought by Augustus from Egypt), with the 23rd September – the founder’s birthday.
Research had previously shown that on this day, the shadow of the obelisk (which served as a gnomon, for a giant sundial on the plaza floor), would point toward the middle of the Ara Pacis. The Senate had commissioned the Ara Pacis to recognise the peace brought to the Roman Empire through Augustus’ military victories.

Another explanation

However, informatics and computing professor Bernie Frischer announced that there was another explanation for the original placement of the two landmarks that lay both parallel and adjacent to a major road, the Via Flaminia. This road led from Rome over the Apennine Mountains to the coast of the Adriatic Sea.
“What’s important is not the shadow of the obelisk, but the sun’s disk seen over the centre of the top of the obelisk from a position on the Via Flaminia in front of the Ara Pacis,” Frischer said. New computer simulations now show that German scholar Edmund Buchner’s long-standing theory that the shadow of the obelisk hit the centre of the façade of the Ara Pacis was wrong.

Campus Martius

GPS coordinates, known dimensions and additional bibliographical sources were also used to create the 3-D models of the Ara Pacis, the meridian, and the obelisk, all of which would have been located at the 490-acre site then known as the Campus Martius. Frischer said his Rome-based assistant Ismini Miliaresis conducted critical research on the meridian line location, and independent scholar and professional meridian designer and engineer Paolo Albèri Auber conducted the refined work on the obelisk’s original size.
Using NASA’s Horizons System, which gives the position of objects in the solar system in the sky at any time in history as seen from any spot on earth, along with surveys of the location of the sundial’s original meridian line, and the height of the obelisk in exacting detail, Frischer and a team that included John Fillwalk, director of the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts at Ball State University, determined that the Sun’s placement at the top of the obelisk occurred on the 9th October.
“Inscriptions on the obelisk show that Augustus explicitly dedicated the obelisk to his favourite deity, Apollo, the Sun god,” Frischer said. “And the most lavish new temple Augustus built, the Temple of Palatine Apollo, was dedicated to his patron god and built right next to Augustus’ own home. The new date of the alignment, the 9th October, is actually what we know to be the annual festival of the Temple of Palatine Apollo.

Using virtual environments

The work is a statement to the possibilities inherent in using information technology to support the work of archaeologists, and specifically for Frischer, the use of 3-D modelling.
“Empiricism, that sense of direct observation of nature through the senses, in some cases has had to give way to thought experiments and likewise, to computer simulations, as objects of study recede beyond our innate sensory apparatus in time, space and scale,” he said. “I call it ‘simpiricism,’ where we create computer simulations to bring our object back within the ken of the natural senses so it can be observed again, in a way analogous to what was done in the time of classic empiricism.”

8 very old sites in the New World

By Leslie Gilbert Elman, Special to CNN
CNN) -- When European explorers were planting their flags all over North and South America, they referred to the territory as the "New World." That was a misnomer. For while the Americas might have been "new" to the Europeans, they weren't new on the world timeline.
Things were happening in the Western Hemisphere a long, long time ago, as the sites on this list (a very small sampling) demonstrate. Some you might know already; others might come as a surprise. Many of them are sites of active archaeological research that continues to unearth new examples of very interesting old stuff.
Tiwanaku, Bolivia
Tiwanaku, Bolivia
Theorists have explained Tiwanaku as everything from a temple complex built by nomads to the work of an extraterrestrial society. Its truth is only slightly less extraordinary, and it tantalizes with questions of why and how a city of temples, public buildings, homes, streets and irrigation systems was built at 13,000 feet above sea level in the Altiplano of the Bolivian Andes.
Between 500 and 900 A.D., the Tiwanaku civilization numbered in the hundreds of thousands. By 1200, they were gone. Archaeologists continue to study the site, even constructing reed boats to demonstrate how stones weighing several tons might have been transported from one shore of nearby Lake Titicaca to the other. You'll need imagination to picture Tiwanaku as it was; a visit during the winter or summer solstice celebrations can enhance its mystical qualities.
Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada

About 75 million years ago, western Canada was part of an island continent called Laramidia, and this 30-square-mile expanse of badlands was populated by creatures great and small. Sounds like the start of a fantasy novel, but it's a dream come true for anyone fascinated by dinosaurs.

Since the turn of the last century, when paleontologists began working here in earnest, the park has yielded thousands of prehistoric remains, including hundreds of complete dinosaur skeletons from the Late Cretaceous Period.
At the park you can join in or observe current fieldwork. There are activities for families and kids, guided and self-guided tours, and sunset excursions for photographers. To see more specimens recovered from the park, visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, two hours away.
Tikal, Petén, Guatemala
With its five towering pyramids, probably built between 250 and 900 A.D. (ongoing research regularly revises the dates) and situated to correspond with the position of the sun, Tikal is the site by which other Mayan archaeological sites are measured, both in scope and significance. Tikal National Park also encompasses Uaxactún -- once a separate city -- as well as nearly 55,000 acres of rainforest that add to its beauty and mystery.

Tikal, Petén, Guatemala
With its five towering pyramids, probably built between 250 and 900 A.D. (ongoing research regularly revises the dates) and situated to correspond with the position of the sun, Tikal is the site by which other Mayan archaeological sites are measured, both in scope and significance. Tikal National Park also encompasses Uaxactún -- once a separate city -- as well as nearly 55,000 acres of rainforest that add to its beauty and mystery.
The Petén Region in northern Guatemala continually yields archaeological discoveries from the Maya, such as the stunning frieze found in Holmul earlier this year. The murals at San Bartolo are under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage site status. In neighboring Honduras, is the Mayan site of Copán -- founded by a splinter group from Tikal.
Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico
Monte Albán is a marvel of urban planning, especially when you consider that the Olmecs -- and later the Zapotecs -- who built it did so by carving its terraced landscape out of the mountainside. And they began construction sometime around 500 B.C. It was built to be grand, from the ceremonial pyramids to the stadium surrounding the ball court, and because it's so impressive Monte Albán tends to be heavily visited today.
The most famous artifacts are the series of Olmec carved stone slabs known as Los Danzantes (The Dancers) because it was originally assumed they depicted dancing men. Current scholarship says they depict disemboweled prisoners of war, which would be strange, yet in keeping with the unusual artistic sensibilities of the Olmecs.
Parque Museo La Venta, Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
It's hard to know what to think about the Olmecs. They practiced ritual human bloodletting and raised dogs that they subsequently ate as part of their regular diet. On the other hand, they're probably responsible for introducing chocolate to the world. They also left a wondrous legacy of carved stone sculptures, especially the enormous stone heads for which they're known.
Many Olmec sculptures discovered at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán in Veracruz and at La Venta in Tabasco -- Olmec settlements dating back to 1200 B.C. -- have been relocated to museums where they're more accessible for public viewing. You'll find more than 30, including three 20-ton heads, at Parque Museo La Venta in Villahermosa. The 16-acre park is known for its tropical foliage and for the dramatic sound and light show that illuminates the sculptures at night.
Chan Chan, Peru
Machu Picchu is the most widely known archaeological site in Peru, the Nazca Lines are arguably the most mysterious, but Chan Chan, located about three miles from Trujillo, deserves mention because while its past is documented, its future is uncertain.
The capital of the Chimú culture, Chan Chan probably dates back to before 850 A.D. At its peak in the early 1400s it had a population of 30,000 before the Inca came and wiped it all out. What remains of the huge earthwork city is still astounding -- networks of beautifully carved and sculpted adobe walls delineate enclaves devoted to work, worship and family life.
About five square miles of the Chan Chan site is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, but even UNESCO can't stop the wind and weather from slowly eroding Chan Chan.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Collinsville, Illinois, United States
Cahokia Mounds looks like a grouping of giant lumps in the earth -- hills where no hills should be, built by the Mississippian culture more than 1,000 years ago. The largest is 100 feet high and bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza at its base.
Around it once stood wooden houses and plazas where people gathered for ceremonies that involved a potent concoction called Black Drink and competitions in a vigorous sport called chunkey. Inside the mounds, archaeologists have found a wealth of objects including unexpected specimens like shark's teeth carried from the Gulf of Mexico to western Illinois in some way yet to be determined. In fact, much of what went on at Cahokia is still undetermined, including why this thriving community -- the oldest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico -- disappeared in the early 14th century.
Rock Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, Texas, United States
Around Comstock, Texas, where the Pecos River meets the Rio Grande, acres of unremarkable terrain hold a remarkable surprise: cave paintings (pictographs) and carvings (petroglyphs) made by the prehistoric hunter-gatherers who lived here thousands of years ago. They're not especially easy to reach, which has been their salvation, having left them largely unmolested throughout the centuries.
Recently archaeologists have been working to raise awareness of the sites in order to catalog, preserve and protect them. Guided tours at Seminole Canyon State Park take you on a rigorous 1.5-mile hike to the Fate Bell Shelter. Other tours conducted by members of the nonprofit Rock Art Foundation visit sites located on private land. Panther Cave and Parida Cave in the Amistad National Recreation Area near Del Rio are accessible by boat.

An unidentified royal statue head found in Luxor

A black granite head of an unidentified New Kingdom king's statue has been uncovered in Luxor

The Egyptian-Spanish archaeological mission unearthed on Thursday a large granite head of a statue of an unidentified New Kingdom king during routine excavation at King Thutmose III’s funerary temple on Luxor’s west bank.

Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section at the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA), explained that the head is 29.6cm high, 24.3cm wide and 26.9cm deep. The head depicts a round face of a royal figure, not identified yet, wearing a wig, with traces of a broken nose, and two long ears that each reach 8cm. The eyes, he continued, have traces of kohl, with thick eyebrows.

Abdel-Maqsoud said that the head was found buried in sand in a pit on the northern side of the second court of the temple. Studies are underway in an attempt to determine which New Kingdom king it belongs to.

The temple of Thutmose III is a vey small temple located beside the temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Al Deir Al-Bahari. It was first discovered in February 1962 during routine restoration work carried out by a Polish excavation mission of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology led by archaeologist Kazimierz Michalowski.

The temple is poorly preserved and was dedicated to god Amun-Re.  Although Thutmose III’s actual funerary temple Henkhet-Ankh is located a short distance away, such a temple had played some role within the king’s funerary cult.

martes, 24 de diciembre de 2013


6,000-year-old tombs unearthed in northeast Vietnam

Tombs built 6,000 years have just been excavated in Bac Kan Province in the Northeast region, reported newspaper The Thao & Van Hoa (Sports & Culture) this week.


Six tombs have been dug up at the province’s Na Mo Cave in Huong Ne Commune, Ngan Son District, 180 kilometers north of Hanoi.
Local archaeologists used the absolute dating method on snail shells found inside the tomb to determine that the relics dated back more than 6,000 years ago.
The items, of which four have been exposed to the open air, were found together with broken skeletons excluding skulls and teeth, said excavation team leader Professor Trinh Nang Chung of the Hanoi-based Institute of Archaeology.

 That the team couldn’t find any traces of the human skulls and teeth at the site raised the hypothesis among the scientists that the corpses were victim to “headhunting” practices in which the early peoples of Southeast Asia would steal skulls to rob the dead of their power


Two skeletons among the six were buried with cutting tools made of stone as burial belongings. The tombs were made of stones.
The discovery is considered new evidence and a major stepping stone in the study of the prehistory of Bac Kan in particular and Vietnam in general since the cave is known to have been the home of many generations of early humans.
According to researchers and scientists, the first residents of the cave were of the Hoa Binh – Bac Son culture (4,000 BC – 5,000 BC), whereas the last ones had lived there during the late Stone Age – early Iron Age.
Aside from the cutting tools, hundreds of artifacts made of ceramic and stone, including jewelry, tools, ochre (a soil of yellow color, mixed with water to decorate the bodies of both the dead and the living) that represent the two cultures have been unearthed at the site.
In addition, scientists have collected many samples of spores for further research on the ancient ecological environment of the area.


Ancient Ohio cultures were devoted to sun and moon

Ancient Ohio cultures were devoted to sun and moon


About 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean, certain magi were said to have observed the rising of a star to which they attached portentous significance. Those wise men must have been paying close attention to the night sky to have noticed a new star among the 3,000 or so visible each night.

About the same time in the Ohio Valley, the indigenous American Indians must have had their own magi carefully observing the heavens because they aligned their most magnificent earthen monuments to the rising and setting of the sun and moon.

The Newark Earthworks showcase how astronomical alignments were woven into the designs of Hopewell culture architecture. They extend across nearly 5 square miles between Raccoon Creek and the South Fork of the Licking River.

These earthworks include the Great Circle, the Octagon Earthworks (which combine an enormous octagon with a circle only slightly smaller than the Great Circle), a large square enclosure and an oval earthwork surrounding numerous burial mounds. Only the Great Circle and the Octagon Earthworks survive largely intact.

In 1982, Ray Hively and Robert Horn, professors at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., showed that the Octagon Earthworks encoded the 18.6-year cycle of moonrises and moonsets into its walls. The duo’s latest research, published this year in Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, suggests the Newark magi made their incredibly precise astronomical observations from the tops of prominent hills surrounding the earthworks.

Hively and Horn identified four key hilltops overlooking the earthworks that offer unobstructed views to the horizon. From one of these — the most prominent overlook to the southwest — you can see directly across the center of the Octagon Earthworks to where the moon rises at its northernmost point on the eastern horizon.

From that same hilltop, you can look across the center of Newark's Great Circle to a point about 14 degrees to the south, which marks the minimum northern moonrise.

The three other prominent hilltops provide vantage points for observing alignments of key elements of the earthworks with the southern maximum and minimum moonrises and the four moonsets that, together with the four moonrise alignments, encompass the entire 18.6-year lunar cycle.

Astonishingly, sightlines between these four hilltops mark the sunrises and sunsets on both the summer and winter solstices. Those alignments intersect at the approximate center of the earthworks at a point that is midway between the Great Circle and the large circle at the Octagon Earthworks.

These observations make it clear that the Newark Earthworks represent an unprecedented interweaving of geometry, astronomy and landscape into monumental architecture on a mind-boggling scale. Pilgrims from the ends of the Hopewell

lunes, 9 de diciembre de 2013

Serbian archaeologist finds 4,000-year-old chariot

Pirot – During the protective archaeological works, carried out in parallel with the construction of Corridor 10, archaeologist Zoran Mitic found the remains of beautifully decorated chariot, assumed to be aged between 3,000 and 4,000 years and to have belonged to a Thracian from the elite of the time.
According to Mitic, this an unique and extremely important item, which he found near the village of Stanicenje.
“This is a chariot, drawn by two horses. My assumption is that the chariot belonged to a Thracian citizen,” Mitic told Tanjug.
He said that this is backed by the fact that, at the location where the chariot was found, was also found a tumulus – a tomb.
“Judging by the manner of burial, I guess that it was a member of Thracian people, not ordinary, but someone who occupied an important place in the hierarchy, due to the fact that the chariot is decorated with beautiful bronze applications,” he said.

Roman Jupiter donated to Cambridge museum

A Roman sculpture of the god Jupiter, dating from between the 2nd and 4th Century AD, has been donated to a Cambridge University museum.
Hanson Aggregates, which owns the Earith quarry where it was found in, has given the piece to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
It was discovered by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit which excavated the site between 1997 and 2007.
The sculpture is made from Upwell limestone from Norfolk.
It originally formed part of a larger monument topped with a freestanding figure (lion, sphinx or gryphon). Paws can be seen at the top of the cornice.
'Amazing find' The drilled eyes of the face would have once been filled with coloured paste to make the sculpture more lifelike.
The historians did not find any other fragments of the original larger sculpture, suggesting this section was taken to the area, near Huntingdon, as a fragment.
It is likely it was re-used as a grave marker.
Christopher Evans, of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, said: "It was an amazing piece to find on a Fenland site, and it is truly gratifying that it can now be appropriately displayed for the wider public to appreciate."
The sculpture will be on display in the museum's ground floor Cambridge gallery from 10 December.


Neolithic wooden tridents – mystery artefacts

Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, Northwest England, has two rare Neolithic wooden tridents now on display. The artefacts were discovered in 2009 during excavation work, but so far, despite much examination and discussion, these 6000 year old objects have baffled archaeologists as to their intended function.

A rare find

Only four other similar tridents exist in the UK and they were all found in the nineteenth century, two from Ehenside Tarn, in Cumbria, Northwest England, and two from a bog in Armagh, Northern Ireland. They are all almost identical in design and this suggests that they were made for a purpose that required a very specific form that was understood when crafted.

River Eden flood plain

The two tridents displayed at Tullie House, were discovered during archaeological excavations prior to the construction of the Carlisle Northern Development Route (CNDR) by a team from Oxford Archaeology North in advance of a new transport route on the River Eden flood plain to the west of the village of Stainton. Archaeological surveying in an area rich in Roman heritage was an important part of the planning and pre-construction process and the exceptional preservation found in the ancient paleochannels has excited everyone, including the construction firm building the road.

National importance

Andy Dean, Regional Director from Balfour Beatty said, “The discovery of these tridents was an important and exciting event during the preparation work for the new road. The project team expected there to be archaeological finds in the vicinity of Hadrian’s Wall and Vallum, however the tridents, tools and flints discovered in the flood plain is of [equal] national importance.”

The tridents both measure over 2 metres in length and each has been expertly crafted – using stone tools – from a single plank of mature split oak (c 300 year old tree). They would have been heavy objects, seemingly built for their strength.
An exceptional opportunity

The fieldwork was undertaken in 2009, and a programme of post-excavation analysis is ongoing involving specialists from a wide range of fields and different organisations.

One of the most exciting areas uncovered – which produced the tridents – was a a multi-period prehistoric site to the west of the village of Stainton, perched upon an early Holocene terrace of the River Eden and excavations soon unearthed a large assemblage of finds, dating predominantly from the very end of the Mesolithic and into the Neolithic period.

It comprised a series of palaeochannels, with a dense, in situ scatter of struck lithic material (c 300,000 pieces) on an island between two of these channels. Finds of worked wood and stone within the channels, associated with well-preserved palaeoenvironmental assemblages, indicate various phases of human activity from from c 5500 BC cal onwards.

The lithic material is predominately characteristic of a narrow-blade, geometric microlithic technology and so is in general, consistent with a late Mesolithic date (OA North 2011). The other types which were also recovered, such as leaf-shaped points and polished stone pieces are usually considered to be later in date. One possible conclusion is that the site is transitional, encompassing the Mesolithic-Neolithic continuum
Palaeochannel assemblages

Within the palaeochannels, finds of worked wood and stone, associated with well-preserved palaeoenvironmental assemblages, indicate various phases of human activity. The earliest of these, dating to the later Mesolithic represents the opportunistic reuse of beaver-made structures bearing the scars left by voracious gnawing.

Beavers can have a dramatic effect on their environment, coppicing woods to create clearings, ponding streams with their dams and creating artificial islands with their lodges. Human hunter-fishers may have been attracted to such modified environments, perhaps explaining the evidence for human activity at this level within the channel at Stainton West.

One log bore what has been interpreted as claw marks of a brown bear that had once climbed a tree prior to felling and then reused within a beaver dam.

Neolithic and later activity

Subsequently, a later Neolithic phase of activity starting in the early part of the fourth millennium cal BC comprised the construction of a wooden platform and other structures in a channel and the accidental or deliberate deposition of various wooden and stone artefacts. This included the two large wooden tridents, several polished axeheads and fragments of polissoirs (stones for polishing stone axeheads).

Burnt mounds, a sauna type structure, fish traps and medieval exploitation of the river continue to show the areas importance over thousands of years. To learn more about the finds, visit the dedicated website: http://cndr.thehumanjourney.net/ where hundreds of images can be viewed.
Trident mystery

Despite detailed study of the Stainton West tridents, the function of these objects still remains a mystery. They do not appear to be well-suited for use as digging forks or fishing spears, or once covered in skin and used as paddles, as was speculated in the case of the Ehenside tridents from Penrith. However, there was no evidence for this at Stainton West, and they do not seem ideally formed for use as paddles.

Generally, it is not possible to deduce the function of the objects from patterns of wear on the tines or elsewhere, as none is evident. Taylor and Bamford (2013) have examined the tridents and then compared them to wooden forks of known function, concluding that there are no clear parallels.