Archive for the ARCHAEOLOGY Category

Before Hatshepsut: Early Egyptian Queen Revealed in Hieroglyphs

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on January 19, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Before Hatshepsut: Early Egyptian Queen Revealed in Hieroglyphs

Fate of Ark of the Covenant Revealed in Hebrew Text

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on January 17, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Fate of Ark of the Covenant Revealed in Hebrew Text

A newly translated Hebrew text claims to reveal where treasures from King Solomon’s temple were hidden and discusses the fate of the Ark of the Covenant itself.

But unlike the Indiana Jones movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the text leaves the exact location of the Ark unclear and states that it, and the other treasures, “shall not be revealed until the day of the coming of the Messiah son of David …” putting it out of reach of any would-be treasure seeker.

King Solomon’s Temple, also called the First Temple, was plundered and torched by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II in the sixth century B.C., according to the Hebrew Bible. The Ark of the Covenant is a chest that, when originally built, was said to have held tablets containing the 10 commandments. It was housed in Solomon’s Temple, a place that contained many different treasures. [Religious Mysteries: 8 Alleged Relics of Jesus]

The newly translated text, called “Treatise of the Vessels” (Massekhet Kelim in Hebrew), says the “treasures were concealed by a number of Levites and prophets,” writes James Davila, a professor at the University of St. Andrews, in an article in the book “Old Testament Pseudepigrapha More Noncanonical Scriptures Volume 1” (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013).

“Some of these (treasures) were hidden in various locations in the Land of Israel and inBabylonia, while others were delivered into the hands of the angels Shamshiel, Michael, Gabriel and perhaps Sariel …” writes Davila in his article.

The treatise is similar in some ways to the metallic “Copper Scroll,” one of the Dead Sea Scrolls found near the site of Qumran in the West Bank. The Copper Scroll also discusses the location of hidden treasure, although not from Solomon’s Temple.

The Treatise of the Vessels (Massekhet Kelim) is recorded in the 1648 Hebrew book Emek Halachah, published in Amsterdam. In the book the Treatise is published as Chapter 11 (one of its two pages shown here). The two pages also contain material from other book chapters.
Credit: Scanned images courtesy http://www.hebrewbooks.org, they can also be seenhere and here.

The treatise describes the treasures in an imaginative way. One part refers to “seventy-seven tables of gold, and their gold was from the walls of the Garden of Eden that was revealed to Solomon, and they radiated like the radiance of the sun and moon, which radiate at the height of the world.”

The oldest confirmed example of the treatise, which survives to present day, is from a book published in Amsterdam in 1648 called “Emek Halachah.” In 1876, a scholar named Adolph Jellinek published another copy of the text, which was virtually identical to the 1648 version. Davila is the first to translate the text fully into English.

A story of legends

The writer of the text likely was not trying to convey factual locations of the hidden treasures of Solomon’s Temple, but rather was writing a work of fiction, based on different legends, Davila told LiveScience. [In Photos: Amazing Ruins of the Ancient World]

“The writer draws on traditional methods of scriptural exegesis [interpretation] to deduce where the treasures might have been hidden, but I think the writer was approaching the story as a piece of entertaining fiction, not any kind of real guide for finding the lost Temple treasures,” he wrote in the email.

The structure of the story is confusing. In the prologue it states that Shimmur the Levite (he doesn’t appear to be a biblical figure) and his companions hid the treasures, “but later on the text mentions the treasures being in the keeping of or hidden by Shamshiel and other angels,” Davila said. “I suspect the author collected various legends without too much concern about making them consistent.”

Similarities to the Copper Scroll

The Copper Scroll, which dates back around 1,900 years, and is made of copper, shows several “striking parallels” with the newly translated treatise, Davila said.

The treatise says that the treasures from Solomon’s Temple were recorded “on a tablet of bronze,” a metal like the Copper Scroll. Additionally, among other similarities, the Treatise of the Vessels and Copper Scroll both refer to “vessels” or “implements,” including examples made of gold and silver.

These similarities could be a coincidence or part of a tradition of recording important information on metal.

“My guess is that whoever wrote the Treatise of Vessels came up with the same idea [of writing a treasure list on metal] coincidentally on their own, although it is not unthinkable that the writer knew of some ancient tradition or custom about inscribing important information on metal,” wrote Davila in the email, noting that metal is a more durable material than parchment or papyrus.

An ongoing story

The study of the treatise is ongoing, and discoveries continue to be made. For instance, in the mid-20th century a copy of it (with some variations) was discovered and recorded in Beirut, Lebanon, at the end of a series of inscribed plates that record the Book of Ezekiel.

Those plates are now at the Yad Ben Zvi Institute in Israel, although the plates containing the treatise itself are now missing. Recent research has revealed, however, these plates were created in Syria at the turn of the 20th century, about 100 years ago, suggesting the treatise was being told in an elaborate way up until relatively modern times.

Follow us @livescienceFacebookGoogle+. Original article on LiveScience.

Photos: 19th-Century Whaling Ships Stuck in Alaskan Pack Ice

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on January 11, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Photos: 19th-Century Whaling Ships Stuck in Alaskan Pack Ice

Photos: 6 Statues Reveal Round-Faced Ancient Egyptian Family

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on January 11, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Photos: 6 Statues Reveal Round-Faced Ancient Egyptian Family

Photos: Ancient Farmhouse and Church Uncovered in Israel

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on January 11, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Photos: Ancient Farmhouse and Church Uncovered in Israel

 

6,000 Year Old Death Pit Points to One Hell of a Brawl

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags , on December 14, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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6,000 Year Old Death Pit Points to One Hell of a Brawl

Biblical King’s Royal Seal Unearthed Near Temple Mount

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on December 7, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Biblical King’s Royal Seal Unearthed Near Temple Mount

Photos: Evidence of Ancient Ritual Beheading Discovered

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on December 7, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Photos: Evidence of Ancient Ritual Beheading Discovered

 

Huge Geometric Shapes in Middle East May Be Prehistoric

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags on December 2, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Huge Geometric Shapes in Middle East May Be Prehistoric

Thousands of stone structures that form geometric patterns in the Middle East are coming into clearer view, with archaeologists finding two wheel-shaped patterns date back some 8,500 years. That makes these “wheels” older than the famous geoglyphs in Peru called Nazca Lines.

And some of these giant designs located in Jordan’s Azraq Oasis seem to have an astronomical significance, built to align with the sunrise on the winter solstice.

Those are just some of the findings of new research on these Middle East lines, which were first encountered by pilots during World War I. RAF Flight Lt. Percy Maitland published an account of them in 1927 in the journal Antiquity, reporting that the Bedouin called the structures “works of the old men,” a name still sometimes used by modern-day researchers.  [See Photos of the ‘Nazca Lines’ in the Middle East]

Wheel-shaped structures located in the Black Desert of Jordan were built around 8,500 years ago, new research shows.

The two wheels seen in this image were dated using a technique called optically stimulated luminescence (osl). The dates indicate that both structures were built around 8,500 years ago. The wheels are located in the Black Desert of Jordan at a site called Wadi Wisad. In this photo a massive meandering wall can also be seen in the distance. These walls are also called “works of the old men” and their purpose is unknown. (Photo modified from © Robert Bewley APAAME_20091004_RHB-0108)

The “works of the old men” include wheels,which often have spokes radiating out from the center, kites (stone structures used for funnelling and killing animals), pendants (lines of stone cairns) and meandering walls, which are mysterious structures that meander across the landscape for up to several hundred feet.

The works “demonstrate specific geometric patterns and extend from a few tens of meters up to several kilometers, evoking parallels to the well-known system of geometric lines of Nazca, Peru,” wrote an archaeological team in a paper published recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science. (Peru’s Nazca Linesdate to between 200 B.C. and A.D. 500.)

They “occur throughout the entire Arabia region, from Syria across Jordan and Saudi Arabia to Yemen,” wrote the researchers. “The most startling thing about the ‘Works’ is that they are difficult to identify from the ground. This stands in contrast to their apparent visibility from the air.”

New research on the Middle East lines was published recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science and the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy.  Live Science also got an advance copy of an article set to be published in the journal Antiquity.

Here, the wheel structures at the Wadi Wisad site in Jordan's Black Desert can be seen from the ground level. From this perspective it's difficult to see the wheel patterns that are visible from above.

The appearance of the wheels at Wadi Wisad at ground level. It’s difficult to see the patterns of the wheels at ground level although they become clear once you are airborne. (Photo courtesy C.D. Athanassas)

Prehistoric date

Tests indicate that some of the wheels date back around 8,500 years, a prehistoric time when the climate was wetter in parts of the Middle East.

Using a technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), archaeologists dated two wheels at Wadi Wisad, in the Black Desert of Jordan. One wheel dated back 8,500 years, while the other wheel had a mix of dates that suggest it was built about 8,500 years and was remodeled or repaired around 5,500 years ago. [See Aerial Photos of the Giant Wheels]

At the time these wheels were built, the climate in the Black Desert was more hospitable, and Wadi Wisad was inhabited. “Charcoal from deciduous oak and tamarisk [a shrub] were recovered from two hearths in one building dated to ca. 6,500 B.C.,” wrote researchers in a forthcoming issue of Antiquity.

Solar alignments?

Spatial analysis of the wheels showed that one cluster of wheels, located in the Azraq Oasis, has spokes with a southeast-northwest orientation that may align with sunrise during the winter solstice.

“The majority of the spokes of the wheels in that cluster are oriented for some reason to stretch in a SE-NW direction,” researchers wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science. This points to “where the sun rises during the winter solstice.”

Whether this alignment was intentional is unknown, researchers wrote in the journal article. “As for the rest of the wheels, they do not seem to contain any archaeoastronomical information.”

What were they used for?

The two dated wheels “are simple in form and not very rigidly made, according to geometric standards,” said Gary Rollefson, a professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. “They contrast sharply with some other wheels that appear to have been set out with almost as much attention to detail as the Nazca Lines.”

It’s possible that different wheels may have served different uses, Rollefson said. In the case of the two dated wheels, “the presence of cairns suggests some association with burials, since that is often the way of treating people once they died.” Rollefson is careful to point out that “there are other wheels where cairns are entirely lacking, pointing to a different possible use.”

Rollefson is co-director of the Eastern Badia Archaeological Project. His team is hoping to excavate a few of the cairns, which are located within the wheels, in the next few years.

Visible from the sky

Why people in prehistoric times would build wheel-shaped structures that can’t be seen well from the ground remains a mystery. No balloon or glider technologies existed at that time. Additionally, researchers say that climbing to a higher elevation to view them was probably not possible, at least not in most cases. [In Photos: Google Earth Reveals Sprawling Geoglyphs in Kazakhstan]

Though the wheels are often difficult to make out on the ground, they are not invisible. “Granted, one can’t see the finished product standing at ground level, but one can still determine a general geometric configuration,” Rollefson told Live Science.

He said that to create the more precisely designed wheels, people might have used a long rope and stake.

Saudi Arabia wheels

Wheels located in Saudi Arabia and Yemen look different than those found farther north, a team with the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME) has found.

They’ve been investigating wheels, and other “works of the old men,” by using free satellite imagery that is available through Google Earth and Bing. They are also using historical aerial images taken of Saudi Arabia and Yemen during the 20th century.

The circles tend to be small and have only one or two bars instead of spokes, said David Kennedy, of the University of Western Australia, who co-directs the project.  Some of the “wheels” are actually shaped like squares, rectangles or triangles, he said.

Some of the "wheels" found in Saudi Arabia have a bull's-eye design.
Some of the “wheels” found in Saudi Arabia have a bull’s-eye design.
Credit: Image courtesy Google Earth

One type of wheel structure actually looks like a bull’s-eye, according to an image of the structure that Kennedy sent to Live Science. Three triangles point toward the bull’s-eye wheel, and there are small piles of stones that lead from the three triangles to the wheel. Kennedy calls it “a central bull’s-eye tomb with, in this case, three triangles each with at least a part of a connecting line of stone heaps running to the center.”

At present, the archaeologists are not able to conduct fieldwork or aerial imaging (using planes or helicopters) in Saudi Arabia or Yemen.

Desert gates

Archaeologists have found several hundred structures shaped like gates in Saudi Arabia.

Archaeologists also found “works of the old men” that looked like gates from above. To date, they have discovered 332 gates in Saudi Arabia, with no examples of this design found to the north. The gates have two thick walls (or heaps of stone) with one or more connecting walls. This image shows four gates on the side of a volcano known as “Jabal al-Abyad.” The purpose and age of the gates are unknown. (Image courtesy Google Earth)

Gates on a volcano

Gate-shaped structures found on the side of the Jabal al-Abyad volcano in Saudi Arabia.

Another gate found on the side of the Jabal al-Abyad volcano. ( Image courtesy Google Earth)

Another form of “works of the old men,” which Kennedy and his team have found in Saudi Arabia, is of structures that he calls “gates.”

So far, 332 gates have been found in Saudi Arabia (none are known to exist farther north). The gates “consist of two short thick walls or heaps of stones, between which one or more connecting walls stretch,” wrote researchers in an article published recently in the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy. The researchers note that, “from above, these features resemble an old-fashioned barred gate laid flat.” The longest gate is over 500 meters (1,640 feet), but most are much smaller.

Scientists don’t know how far back the gates date, nor their purpose. “I coined the term ‘gate’ for no better reason than that I needed a convenient label to describe them and they reminded me of the sort of field gates I saw all around in my rural childhood in Scotland,” said Kennedy.

The researchers found that gates tend not to be located near kites (which were used for hunting). Indeed, some of the gates were built in places, such as barren volcanic slopes, which were unlikely to support large animal herds. Archaeologists found “five [gates] on the outer slopes of the bowl of one of the volcanoes [called Jabal al-Abyad]” in Saudi Arabia, they wrote in the Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy journal article.

Kennedy said that his team is finishing up its research on the gates and will be publishing another journal article in the future describing the team’s findings in greater detail.

Follow us @livescienceFacebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

 

Ancient ‘Mud Dragon’ Worm Had Spiky Coat of Armor

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY, SCIENCE with tags on December 2, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Ancient ‘Mud Dragon’ Worm Had Spiky Coat of Armor

Like the fictional, fearsome sandworms from the “Dune” sci-fi novels, a recently discovered worm that lived 535 million years ago had an armored body, a mouth ringed with teeth and rows of thornlike spines on its flanks. But while the “Dune” sandworms were big enough to carry people on their backs, this ancient species, whose modern relatives are known as “mud dragons,” was significantly smaller, measuring less than a tenth of an inch (2 millimeters) in length.

Scientists found the mighty miniworm, which they calledEokinorhynchis rarus (EE-oh-kie-no-RIN-kis RAH-rus) in Nanjiang County, part of China’s Jiangsu province. Today, steep mountains march across the region, raised 200 million years ago when China’stectonic plates collided.

But turn the dial back to the Cambrian period (543 million to 490 million years ago), and the mountains disappear, replaced by a shallow, phosphate-rich ocean, according to previous research. Marine “mud dragon” E. rarus would have made its home in the sea bottom’s sediments. [Watch Ancient ‘Ironman’ Worm Was ‘Armed’ and Armored | Video]

And the phosphate in the oceans is what fossilized them millions of years ago, replacing their bodies’ soft tissue with calcium phosphate, the material that makes up human teeth and bones.

Rolling rocks

Finding microscopic fossils of tiny organisms like E. rarus is far from easy. Shuhai Xiao, a professor of geobiology at Virginia Tech and corresponding author of the study, told Live Science that he and his colleagues excavated about half a ton (500 kilograms) of rock from the site. In other words, they literally moved mountains to find traces of ancient life.

“The fossils are so small that you can’t see them in the field,” Xiao said. So the scientists brought half a ton of rocks into the lab. They dissolved the rocks using acetic acid, which is similar to vinegar and had no effect on the calcium phosphate fossils. Once the hundreds of kilograms of chalky rock had melted away, a handful of tiny fossils remained.

Then came time for the really challenging part: identifying them. Merely processing samples this small is “a tricky business,” Xiao told Live Science, partly because of their size and partly because of how delicate they are. “You can’t shake or sieve the residue violently, or you’ll break them,” he said.

Finding E. rarus, however, made all the effort worthwhile. The study describes a head that tapers to a pinched-in region where it meets the neck. There are at least 20 armored body segments, each one circled by plates and studded with spines, and five additional pairs of large spines span the worm’s trunk.

Meet the family

The Cambrian wormEokinorhynchus rarusseen in this scanning electron micrograph.
Credit: Dinghua Yang

Spiky E. rarus shares similarities with a small group of marine invertebrates still around today, called kinorhynchs (KIE-no-rinks.) These tiny, armor-plated worms originated during the Cambrian explosion — a period of time when life on Earth diversified dramatically — and are part of a larger group that includes molting animals like arthropods.

Some of the features E. rarus has in common with modern kinorhynchs are its segmented, limbless body and its spines, though E. rarus‘ spines are larger than those of its distant kinorhynch relatives. According to the study authors, E. rarusmay well be an ancestor of this lineage. [See Cambrian Creatures Gallery: Photos of Primitive Sea Life]

E. rarus also helped the scientists to recognize “orphan” fossil fragments of its species that had been found years before but had not been fully described. Now that Xiao and his colleagues have a complete fossil of the ancient worm to compare the fragments to, broken pieces that were previously unidentifiable are falling into place.

For such a small fossil, E. rarus is big news. Kinorhynchs are poorly represented in the fossil record; though they’ve been around for half a billion years, their evolutionary history is largely undocumented. According to the study, kinorhynchs could provide important clues about how segmented bodies evolved — and until now, all that was missing were the fossils. “So, this discovery has a lot of implications,” Xiao told Live Science.

The findings were published online today (Nov. 26) in the journalScientific Reports.

Follow Mindy Weisberger on Twitter and Google+. Follow us@livescience,Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.