Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Analysis of an Ancient War Wound (and the Soldier Survived, Too)

From Live Science

Well, I'm not sure how the formatting is going to turn out on this article, I hope it is readable!  It sure is interesting.  
Date: 02 July 2013 Time: 06:58 PM ET
Dr. Helise Coopersmith is a musculoskeletal and body imaging radiologist for the North Shore-LIJ Health System, assistant professor of radiology at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and a member of the Hofstra medical school's admissions committee. She contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
I have worked as a musculoskeletal radiologist for many years and have seen a wide range of bone injuries. But recently, I found myself for the first time using my X-ray table to look at a 2,500-year-old bone and a piece of an ancient arrow.
The bone, discovered in Northern Greece, was brought to me by Anagnostis Agelarakis, a professor and chair of anthropology at Adelphi University. It was a section of the ulna bone, which is the inner of two forearm bones.  
My initial impression was surprise. Although the outer region of bone, the cortex, was thinned by time, and the inner region, the medullary cavity, had long since disintegrated, the girth and contours of the bone were quite similar to a human bone one would see today.
But, most notably, there was a turquoise-colored object jutting out from the bone, and according to Agelarakis, this was one of four sides of a bronze arrowhead. He proposed that this piece of the arrowhead was never removed by the field surgeons of the time because a barbed component anchoring it into the bone would have damaged the superficial soft tissues if removal were attempted.

Beside my X-ray table, I had a photograph of the re-assembled skull that was found with the ulna bone and a sketch by scientific illustrator Argie Agelarakis (Anagnostis's wife) of what the soldier's face may have looked like around the time of his eventual death, presumably at about 58 to 62 years of age.

My team and I took three X-rays of the ulna bone, and we found that indeed the films confirmed what Anagnostis Agelarakis had suspected.

There was a barbed component to the arrowhead that could not be seen with the naked eye. The full extent of the remaining arrowhead could now be seen and was seated superficially within the bone, located only within the cortex, or outer shell. This supported Agelarakis's notion that the arrowhead could have been removed if not for its barbed component.

There was a large bony (osseous) spur adjacent to the arrowhead, which make sense as the human body can form extra bone material in response to trauma. Such spurs take many months to fully mature, which implies that the soldier lived for a long time after the injury. Also, there was no bony erosion adjacent to the arrowhead, confirming that the arrowhead did not cause life-threatening infection.

We also noted that the arrowhead and the osseous spur were in the region of the flexor digitorum profundus muscle, which means the injury would have made it difficult for the soldier to flex his fingers and grasp objects.

There was a story behind the objects we were seeing, the story of an ancient Greek warrior who was an injured veteran, like many who are celebrated today and served by the hospital I work in.
It is amazing to think that the same X-ray technology that we use to diagnose conditions for our patients can answer age-old questions and help solve historical mysteries.

Farming Invented at Least Twice -- Once on the Persian Plateau

Absolutely fascinating.  I've long believed that if there is some truth, however mangled, in the old biblical accounts, then maybe, just maybe, the biblical traditionalists are looking for the remains of Noah's ark in the wrong area (Ararat in Turkey).  To my train of thought, it follows that when Noah and his family eventually disembarked the ark (har!), it wasn't too long thereafter that the first evidences of agriculture appeared in our archaeological record, including the first evidence of deliberate grape-growing (called "vineyards" but methinks they weren't anything like the vineyards of today).  Just imagine...


Farming was so Nice, It was Invented at Least Twice

on 4 July 2013, 2:15 PM
The invention of farming some 10,000 years ago set the stage for the rise of civilizations in the Near East. Yet archaeologists disagree about how it happened. Some say it arose in a single spot near the Mediterranean, and spread from there. Others argue it had multiple independent origins, a view that is getting new credence, thanks to findings from an early farming site in Iran.
Whether farming arose once or a hundred times, it happened first in the Fertile Crescent, a broad region stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to Iran. Most research over the past decades has focused on the western stretches of the Fertile Crescent—including modern-day Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Turkey—in large part because those were the easiest areas to work in, both logistically and politically. Recent excavations in those areas have suggested that hunter-gatherers first began to gather and plant seeds from wild cereals and legumes, such as wheat, barley, and lentils, as early as 13,000 years ago. Over a few thousand years of such cultivation, the wild forms of these plants mutated into new, domesticated species that were easier to manage and harvest, making farming more productive and efficient.
Until recently, the oldest known farming villages had been found at sites in Palestine, Syria, and eastern Turkey, where archaeologists radiocarbon dated the earliest domesticated plant species to about 10,500 years ago. Only a few sites were known as far east as Iran, and most of them had been excavated in the 1960s and 1970s, before that country's 1979 Islamic Revolution made it nearly impossible for Western archaeologists to work there—and also before the advent of modern archaeobotanical techniques that make it much easier for researchers to recover tell-tale plant remains.
About five years ago, archaeologist Nicholas Conard and archaeobotanist Simone Riehl of the University of Tübingen in Germany hooked up with researchers at the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research (ICAR) in Tehran, and particularly Mohsen Zeidi, an experienced ICAR excavator, to begin work at the early farming village of Chogha Golan, in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains in western Iran. Iranian archaeologists had discovered the village about 15 years earlier, but never fully excavated it. While digging in 2009 and 2010, the team uncovered extensive evidence for the processing of plants in the village, including mortars, pestles, and grinding stones. The dig also yielded a huge quantity—more than 21,000 individual pieces—of charred plant remains, which Riehl analyzed for a report online today in Science.
Radiocarbon dating of the archaeological deposits, some 8 meters in depth, showed that Chogha Golan had been occupied continuously between about 12,000 and 9,700 years ago or even later . That allowed Riehl and her colleagues to trace the use of plants over that entire period of time. They found that the people of Chogha Golan apparently began cultivating wild barley, wheat, and lentils more than 11,500 years ago, and that domesticated forms of wheat appeared about 9,800 years ago, nearly as early as at sites to the west. The team concludes that the advent of farming at Chogha Golan, and in the eastern Fertile Crescent, was an independent event that paralleled developments much farther west. This suggests, researchers say, that farming was more or less inevitable once the Ice Age had ended and climatic and environmental conditions were right for it, rather than being a fluke that arose in just one location.
"These results do support the idea of multiple origins of agriculture," says Roger Matthews, an archaeologist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. He adds that the findings are consistent with recent DNA studies that also suggest multiple origins for both domesticated plants and animals. They also echo work that he, along with other British and Iranian archaeologists, has carried out at another Iranian site called Sheikh-e Abad, where it appears that wild goats were herded and penned, "a transitional stage between wild and domesticated that matches well with the transitional stages in plant use" found at Chogha Golan.
George Willcox, an archaeobotanist affiliated with the University of Lyon in France, agrees that the geographical distance of the Zagros Mountains from the western Fertile Crescent could suggest an independent origin for crop cultivation. But he cautions that "it is too early to argue one way or the other" whether the actual domestication of cereals, as opposed to cultivation of wild forms, was an independent event. It is still possible, Willcox says, that the domesticated wheat found at Chogha Golan, which at 9800 years was several hundred years younger than the earliest known domesticated species, was introduced from further west.

Part of Old Kingdom Sphinx Uncovered in Tel Hazor (Northern Israel)


Unique Egyptian sphinx unearthed in north Israel (Update)

Jul 09, 2013 by Jonah Mandel
Part of an ancient Egyptian king's unique sphinx was unveiled at a dig in northern Israel on Tuesday, with researchers struggling to understand just how the unexpected find ended up there.
An Australian excavation volunteer on July 9, 2013, displays part of an ancient Egyptian king's unique sphinx with a hieroglyphic inscription dating circa 3rd century BCE, found during excavation at the northern Israeli site of ancient Tel Hazor. The sphinx was unveiled with researchers struggling to understand just how the unexpected find ended up there.
The broken granite sphinx statue—including the paws and some of the mythical creature's forearms—displayed at Tel Hazor archaeological site in Israel's Galilee, is the first such find in the region.
Its discovery also marks the first time ever that researchers have found a statue dedicated to Egyptian ruler Mycerinus who ruled circa 2,500 BC and was builder of one of the three Giza pyramids, an expert said.

"This is the only monumental Egyptian statue ever found in the Levant - today's Israel, Lebanon, Syria," Amnon Ben-Tor, an archaeology professor at the Hebrew University in charge of the Tel Hazor dig, told AFP.  It is also the only sphinx of this particular king known, not even in Egypt was a sphinx of that particular king found."

Ben-Tor said that besides Mycerinus's name, carved in hieroglyphics between the forearms, there are symbols reading "beloved by the divine souls of Heliopolis".  "This is the temple in which the sphinx was originally placed," Ben-Tor said of Heliopolis, an ancient city which lies north of today's Cairo.

Tel Hazor, which Ben-Tor calls "the most important archaeological site in this country," was the capital of southern Canaan, founded circa 2,700 BC and at its peak covering approximately 200 acres and home to some 20,000 Canaanites. It was destroyed in the 13th century BC.
"Following a gap of some 150 years, it was resettled in the 11th century BC by the Israelites, who continuously occupied it until 732 BC," when it was destroyed by the Asyrians, Ben-Tor said.

He said the find was approximately 50 centimetres (20 inches) long, and estimated the entire statue was 150 centimetres (60 inches) long and half a metre (20 inches) high".

How, when and why it reached Tel Hazor remains a mystery.  "That it arrived in the days of Mycerinus himself is unlikely, since there were absolutely no relations between Egypt and this part of the world then," said Ben-Tor.

"Egypt maintained relations with Lebanon, especially via the ancient port of Byblos, to import cedar wood via the Mediterranean, so they skipped" today's northern Israel, he said.
Another option is that the statue was part of the plunders of the Canaanites, who in the late 17th and early 16th century BC ruled lower Egypt, the expert said.  "Egyptian records tell us that those foreign rulers... plundered and desecrated the local temples and did all kinds of terrible things, and it is possible that some of this looting included a statue like this one".

But to Ben-Tor the most likely way the sphinx reached Tel Hazor is in the form of a gift sent by a later Egyptian ruler.
"The third option is that it arrived in Hazor some time after the New Kingdom started in 1,550 BC, during which Egypt ruled Canaan, and maintained close relations with the local rulers, who were left on their thrones," he said.  "In such a case it's possible the statue was sent by the Egyptian ruler to king of Hazor, the most important ruler in this region."

Shlomit Blecher, who manages the Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin, was the archaeologist who actually unearthed the finding in August 2012.  The statue's incrustation was meticulously removed over a period of many months by the excavation's restorer, before the intricate carvings and hieroglyphics were fully visible.

"It was the last hour of the last day of the dig," she told AFP of the moment of the find. "We all leapt with joy and happiness, everyone was thrilled."
"We hope the other pieces are here and that we find them in the near days," she said. [So do I!]

Ben-Dor said the statue was most likely deliberately broken by new occupiers at Tel Hazor in an act of defiance to the old rule.  Finding the sphinx was "unexpected," said Ben-Tor, "but fits" archaeological facts and findings. "When you're in a bank, you find money," he said.

To Ben-Tor, however, the true coveted find would be archives buried somewhere on Tel Hazor that could serve as an inventory to the ancient city's content.  "I know there are two archives," he said. "We already have 18 documents from two periods, the 17th and 14th century BC. If I found those archives, people would come running here."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Big News: Untouched Wari Tomb Discovered in Peru

Lots of news stories about this find -- THREE QUEENS!

Heather Pringle
Published June 27, 2013

First Unlooted Royal Tomb of Its Kind Unearthed in Peru
Three queens were buried with golden treasures, human sacrifices.

June 27, 2013 4:25 pm
Smart News

Unlooted Royal Tomb Found in Peru


Archaeologists Keep Wari Tomb Discovery Secret to Prevent Looting

Buried With Flowers

Hola darlings!  I took a brief respite and when I was ready to come back, I was confronted with internet connectivity problems, ACHHHH!  Anyway, connectivity issues have FINALLY been resolved.  So now I'm going to try and play catch-up with some of the fascinating stories that have come and gone.

A very interesting story about definitive evidence of flowers having been buried with two bodies some 12,000 years ago. Amazingly, the only grave with evidence of flowers being buried with the body is a 70,000 year old Neanderthal burial -- which is controversial. 

Here's the story from National Geographic:

Mysterious Pair Buried With Flowers—Oldest Example Yet

Aromatic sage and mint lined graves found on Israel's Mount Carmel.

Ker Than
Published July 1, 2013

Imprints of stems and blossoms stamped into the dirt of ancient graves are the oldest definitive proof of flowers decorating graves—a common practice around the world today—a new study says.
Scented flowering plants, such as mint and sage, were imprinted in soft mud after they decomposed some 12,000 years ago in the graves, which are located in a cave on northern Israel's Mount Carmel.
Ancient mourners lined four graves with the flowers, most notably one that holds the bodies of two people.
The pair—an adult male and an adolescent of undetermined sex—belonged to the primitive Natufian culture, which flourished between 15,000 and 11,600 years ago in an area that is now Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
The Natufian society was one of the first—possibly the first—to transition from a roaming hunter-gatherer lifestyle to permanent settlements, and was also the first to establish true graveyards, said study leader Daniel Nadel, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa in Israel.
"There are examples of groups living in a camp for a few years, but some of the [Natufian] sites we know about were used for thousands of years," Nadel said.
So what's new?
The new discovery indicates that the Natufians were also among the first to use flowers to honor their dead.
The only potentially older instance of funerary flowers is a dusting of pollen found at the site of an approximately 70,000-year-old grave of a Neanderthal dubbed Shanidar IV in Iraq. However, some scientists have argued that holes found at that site were made by burrowing rodents that stored seeds and flowers in the grave.
"From [the Neanderthal] example until the Natufians"—a period spanning some 50,000 years—"there is not one example [of flowers decorating graves]," said Nadel, whose study appears this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
He noted, however, that this doesn't necessarily mean that people weren't using flowers at graves during that entire time. More likely, the flowers decayed over time.
"Finding such flowers is very difficult," Nadel said. "Asking for such preservation is asking for a lot."
Why is it important?
The evidence suggests the pair's grave was prepared with great care. First, a pit was dug, and then a thin veneer of mud was used to cover the sides. The bottom of the grave was lined with the plants—which bloom in pink and lavender—before the bodies were placed inside.
The scented flowers were likely chosen as much for their aromas as their appearance.
"There are hundreds of flowers on Mount Carmel during the spring, but only a small group provide very strong fragrances. It's impossible that the Natufians didn't recognize the smell" when they chose them for the graves, Nadel said.
What does this mean?
Based on items found in other graves at the cave cemetery—such as animal bones—Nadel thinks the pair was buried with great pomp and circumstance.
"They didn't just place the bodies inside the graves and leave," he said. "We have to envision a colorful ceremony that maybe included dancing, singing, and eating. They may have hunted a few animals and had a big meal around the graves and then threw bones or meat inside."
If Natufian burial practices were anything like those of modern cultures, the grave flowers were intended not only for the dead, but also for the living, Nadel said.
"We create ceremonies and make a big fuss to show our respect for the dead," Nadel said.
What's next?
Nadel and his team are currently working to identify the age, gender, and relationship of the individuals in the flower-lined graves.
For example, in the case of the double burial, "are they relatives?" he said. "Are they parent and child? Are they brothers? Or friends? Did they die together? And how come they were buried together? We don't know."

Daniel Nadel's research was funded in part by the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration.
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