Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ancient Mammoth Bone Used in Apparent Olmec Construction Ritual

This is absolutely fascinating!  Why did the builders use this ancient fossil (a few other examples have also been discovered)?  Did they understand how old it was?  Was there a legend that related to an ancient behemoth that they knew but was never recorded in a form that survived so that we of today could learn of it?  So many questions!

Posted at Art Daily -- sometime in July, 2014
Archaeologists find mammoth's tusks used during pre-Hispanic times as an offering

MEXICO CITY.- A mammoth’s tusks —whose approximate antiquity is 10 thousand years before our time—, used in pre-Hispanic times as an offering to consecrate the beginning of a construction, was discovered by specialists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Cerro de los Magueyes, municipality of Metepec, Estado de Mexico.

Investigators from the INAH Center of Estado de Mexico, found the remains of the extinct animal, as part of their archaeological salvage. Photo: Centro INAH Estado de Mexico.

Investigators from the INAH Center of Estado de Mexico, found the remains of the extinct animal, as part of their archaeological salvage. The tusks were placed in a tepetate (limestone) stratum, covered by ceramic fragments, ashes, carbon and some carbonized seeds, which is why archaeologists conclude that it was an offering placed there by ancient inhabitants of Olmec influence during the Middle Preclassic era (1000 – 400 BC).

“Over this offering, the inhabitants placed floors and walls in order to edify. In the Valle de Toluca archaeologists have found mammoth remains, as well as in the municipality of Metepec, but never an offering such as this, which is the first of its type in the region”, said Maria del Carmen Carbajal Correa, who was responsible for the salvage.

To archaeologist Paz Granados Reyes, who also participated in the salvage labors, the offering discovered in the hill is extremely important because it is a very early “building” tribute, since it was made in the Middle Preclassic era.

“Being almost three meters (9.84 feet) long, the remains were carried to the hill from the marshlands. The appropriation of this element must have had ritualistic meaning, since it was given great symbolic value from nature and used as an offering”, explained archaeologist Maria del Carmen Carbajal.

Another finding registered in Cerro de los Magueyes (to the east), are the walls that date back to the Middle Preclassic era. “This is meaningful because the elements are the first vestiges of architecture in the whole Valle de Toluca”, added the investigator Paz Granados.

El Cerro de los Magueyes, a sacred place
• This region, which belonged to Valle de Toluca from the Preclassic era (1000 BC) to the Late Postclassic period (1521 AD), groups with Olmec influence were present; in the Classic period some groups from Teotihuacan arrived, and during the Postclassic they hosted groups of Malatzincas and Mexicas.

• In 1993, at the top of the hill (north), archaeologist Maria del Carmen Carbajal Correa found a cemetery with the remains of Matlatzincas and Mexicas, which leads investigators to conclude there was cohabitation among these groups during the Late Postclassic.    

Was It Race, Or Climate Change, That Triggered A War?

I do wish writers and editors would stop using such misleading lead-ins to articles. 

Saharan remains may be evidence of first race war, 13,000 years ago

This is a very interesting article, once one gets past the crap about it possibly (later in the article it is essentially stated as fact) being a race-based war instead of what a current look at the evidence actually suggests -- it was a war triggered between different population groups competing for the same scarce resources (fresh water and animals going to that water source for food) ... something that is coming to a country near you in the next 50 years or so thanks to global climate changes.

Article by
Scientists are investigating what may be the oldest identified race war 13,000 years after it raged on the fringes of the Sahara.

French scientists working in collaboration with the British Museum have been examining dozens of skeletons, a majority of whom appear to have been killed by archers using flint-tipped arrows.
The bones – from Jebel Sahaba on the east bank of the Nile in northern Sudan – are from victims of the world’s oldest known relatively large-scale human armed conflict.

Over the past two years anthropologists from Bordeaux University have discovered literally dozens of previously undetected arrow impact marks and flint arrow head fragments on and around the bones of the victims.

This is in addition to many arrow heads and impact marks already found embedded in some of the bones during an earlier examination of the skeletons back in the 1960s. The remains – the contents of an entire early cemetery – were found in 1964 by the prominent American archaeologist, Fred Wendorf, but, until the current investigations, had never been examined using more modern, 21 century, technology.

Some of the skeletal material has just gone on permanent display as part of the British Museum’s new Early Egypt gallery which opens officially today. The bones – from Jebel Sahaba on the east bank of the River Nile in northern Sudan – are from victims of the world’s oldest known relatively large-scale human armed conflict.

Now British Museum scientists are planning to learn more about the victims themselves – everything from gender to disease and from diet to age at death. The discovery of dozens of previously undetected arrow impact marks and flint arrow fragments suggests that the majority of the individuals – men, women and children – in the Jebel Sahaba cemetery were killed by enemy archers, and then buried by their own people. What’s more, the new research demonstrates that the attacks – in effect a prolonged low-level war – took place over many months or years.

Parallel research over recent years has also been shedding new light as to who, in ethnic and racial terms, these victims were.

Work carried out at Liverpool John Moores University, the University of Alaska and New Orleans’ Tulane University indicates that they were part of the general sub-Saharan originating population – the ancestors of modern Black Africans.

The identity of their killers is however less easy to determine. But it is conceivable that they were people from a totally different racial and ethnic group – part of a North African/ Levantine/European people who lived around much of the Mediterranean Basin.

The two groups – although both part of our species, Homo sapiens – would have looked quite different from each other and were also almost certainly different culturally and linguistically. The sub-Saharan originating group had long limbs, relatively short torsos and projecting upper and lower jaws along with rounded foreheads and broad noses, while the North African/Levantine/European originating group had shorter limbs, longer torsos and flatter faces. Both groups were very muscular and strongly built. [So we're going Hitleresque here -- making the "enemy" the "other" -- somehow inferior to YOU; but the bottom line is that it was not what the people looked like, it was the fact that they were taking water and animals that the "other" wanted and needed to survive.  Thus - war.  The rest is just gloss.]

Certainly the northern Sudan area was a major ethnic interface between these two different groups at around this period. Indeed the remains of the North African/Levantine/European originating population group has even been found 200 miles south of Jebel Sahaba, thus suggesting that the arrow victims were slaughtered in an area where both populations operated.

What’s more, the period in which they perished so violently was one of huge competition for resources – for they appear to have been killed during a severe climatic downturn in which many water sources dried up, especially in summer time.

The climatic downturn – known as the Younger Dryas period – had been preceded by much lusher, wetter and warmer conditions which had allowed populations to expand. But when climatic conditions temporarily worsened during the Younger Dryas, water holes dried up, vegetation wilted and animals died or moved to the only major year-round source of water still available – the Nile.

Humans of all ethnic groups in the area were forced to follow suit – and migrated to the banks (especially the eastern bank) of the great river. Competing for finite resources, human groups would have inevitably clashed – and the current investigation is demonstrating the apparent scale of this earliest known substantial human conflict .

[Note:  So, the information in bold is the crux of the matter.  Race war?  Oh please!  War over scarce resources, yes.  Isn't it interesting how in the 21st century, when we are supposedly so advanced, we still insist upon applying 18th century lenses to our perceptions of what may have happened in the past!]

The skeletons were originally found during UNESCO-funded excavations carried out to investigate archaeological sites that were about to be inundated by the Aswan High Dam. All the Jebel Sahaba material was taken by the excavator Fred Wendorf to his laboratory in Texas, and some 30 years later was transferred to the care of the British Museum which is now working with other scientists to carry out a major new analysis of them.

“The skeletal material is of great importance – not only because of the evidence for conflict, but also because the Jebel Sahaba cemetery is the oldest discovered in the Nile Valley so far,” said Dr. Daniel Antoine, a curator in the British Museum’s Ancient Egypt and Sudan Department.

Of the 59 Jebel Sahaba victims, skeletal material from two has been included in the new Early Egypt gallery. The display includes flint arrowhead fragments and a healed forearm fracture, almost certainly sustained by a victim seeking to defend himself by raising his arm during an episode of conflict.

Nanjing Man is a Woman

Interesting facial reconstruction.  I wonder, if the people doing the reconstruction had chosen a "masculine" jawbone instead of a "feminine" one, would Nanjing Man still be a dude?  I was also much struck that this face is remarkably human, given the age of the fossil bones upon which it was reconstructed.  Nanjing woman is not depicted as an "ape-woman."  Only goes to shows how perceptions of human "evolution" have changed over time, as we get more enlightened on the subject.  Some day they'll get it right!  Posted at Women of China:

Experts Reconstruct Face of Ancient Woman

July 19, 2014
Editor: Amanda Wu

Experts have succeeded in giving a face to the ancient Nanjing Man from 300,000 years ago, but it's no man.

Based on the appearance of the reconstructed face, it has been identified as a woman about 30 years old, according to Zhao Chengwen, criminalist and archaeologist at the National Police University of China, which led the reconstruction work.

Zhao said the reconstruction was based on the No 1 skull of Nanjing Man, which lacked a lower jaw and right cheekbone.

Experts repaired the skull's defective parts on a computer, selected a lower jaw from skull banks to match it, and made up the base of the ancient Nanjing woman's face, Zhao added.

The reconstructed face is scheduled to be on exhibit in August in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, when the Youth Olympic Games are held in the city, according to an earlier report from Xinhua net.

Nanjing Man is a subspecies of Homo erectus found in China. Fossils of it were discovered in 1993 in Tangshan cave near Nanjing.

(Source: ECNS)
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