Tag Archives: settlement

Famous Egyptologist reports the discovery of a whole ancient settlement

A new ancient city has been discovered under the sands of Egypt, a team of archaeologists reported on Saturday. The settlement dates back to a golden era of ancient Egypt, roughly 3,000 years ago, they explain.

The site. Image credits Zahi Hawass / Facebook.

Zahi Hawass, one of the country’s best-known archaeologists and Egyptologists, announced the finding to the public. The ancient site includes brick houses, tools, and other artifacts dating back to the rule of Amenhotep III of Egypt‘s 18th dynasty.

The discovery will help us better understand how ancient people, particularly those in Egypt, lived three millennia ago.

New old place

“Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it,” said Dr. Hawass, a former antiquities minister, for the BBC. “[The site represents] a large city in a good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life.”

The city was known as Aten and is located in Luxor, on the west bank of the Nile, between the temple of King Rameses III and the colossi of Amenhotep III. Archaeologists started working there last year, there to look for the mortuary temple of King Tutankhamun. In a few weeks’ time, however, they eventually found a whole city built from mud brick. Whole buildings, rooms full of ovens, pottery meant for storing food, and general use tools were found here, even human remains.

The ancient city seems to have been organized into three major districts: one for administration, one for workshops and other industrial pursuits, and a district where workers could sleep and presumably live. There was also a dedicated area for dried meat, the team explains. The settlement dates back around 3,000 years, to the reign of Amenhotep III. We know of this timeframe because some mud bricks discovered at the site bear the seal of King Amenhotep III’s cartouche, or name insignia.

Hawass said he believes that the city was “the most important discovery” since the tomb of Tutankhamun was unearthed in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor in 1922. He ruled between 1391 B.C. and 1353 B.C. and built large parts of the Luxor and Karnak temple complexes in Thebes.

The discovery has been hailed by other Egyptologists around the world, both due to how unique it is and due to its incredible scale. The city has not been officially identified until now, as far as we know, and it could very well be just one part of a larger city.

Human bones in underwater Mexico cave dated to 13,000 years ago — thanks to a pelvis-stalagmite

In February 2012, researchers discovered a human skeleton in an underwater cave in Mexico. Their joy, however, was short-lived. Just days after photos were made public, unknown divers plundered the cave, stealing the complete skeleton and everything else they could find. They were never identified, the skeleton never located. Still, researchers managed to date a bone, based on measurements conducted on a stalagmite in the cave. The research findings have now been published in PLoS ONE.

Prehistoric human skeleton in the Chan Hol Cave near Tulúm on the Yucatán peninsula prior to looting by unknown cave divers. Picture: Tom Poole, Liquid Jungle Lab.

Settling a settlement debate

The earliest settlement in North America is still a matter of debate among anthropologists and archaeologists. The classical hypothesis is that the first migration took place 12,600 years ago through an ice-free corridor between retreating North American glaciers, over the Bering Strait which was still covered by an ice. That hypothesis is recently coming under more and more fire, with evidence from both North and South America suggesting that a migration took place earlier. However, that evidence is mostly hearths and artifacts — it’s extremely rare to find any human skeletons older than 10,000 years in the Americas. This is why this particular finding might be so important.

“The bones from the Chan Hol Cave near the city of Tulúm discovered five years ago represent one of the oldest finds of human bones on the American continent and are evidence of an unexpectedly early settlement in Southern Mexico,” says Prof. Wolfgang Stinnesbeck, who is an earth scientist at Heidelberg University.

The skeleton was found in a vast system of underwater carbonate bedrock caves filled alternatively with salt and sweet water. These caves, located near Tulúm on the Yucatán Peninsula, have proven a valuable trove for researchers. They contain archaeological, palaeontological and climatic information hidden there from the time before the flooding, which is extremely well preserved, according to Stinnesbeck.

“When my Mexican colleagues Arturo Gonzalez and Jerónimo Avilés showed me the first photos of the Chan Hol site, I immediately knew that we had something special,” says Stinnesbeck.

This is why, when the skeleton was stolen, it hurt even more. But scientists didn’t give up. They still had one bone to analyze — a pelvic bone that had since grown a stalagmite, a rock formation rising from the floor of a cave due to material deposited on the floor from ceiling drippings. Stalagmites are the floor counterpart of ceiling stalactites.

The ancient pelvis, as indicated by the orange arrow. Image credits: Wolfgang Stinnesbeck.

Left them a bone

Dating the bone was no easy feat, for all the potential it yielded. Bones this old have no more collagen, which is what is commonly used for dating bones. So instead, researchers took a different route: they dated it like a rock, not like a bone — something which was possible only thanks to the unique environment of the bone. They used the uranium, carbon, and oxygen isotopes in the bone itself and in the stalagmite that had grown through it. They then analyzed the oxygen and carbon isotope ratios, which are directly related to climate and precipitation data. This can be correlated to existing data, so the age of the stalagmite was estimated, and from it, the age of the bone. Researchers say it is at least 13,000 years old, which would add another nail in the coffin of the classic settlement theory.

More evidence would likely settle this debate once and for all, since this is still an indirect dating method, and more evidence likely lies in or around the cave system. But the area is threatened by growing tourism and urbanization in the area. It’s no coincidence that the skeleton was stolen after only a few photos, and researchers fear what is to happen to the cave if it is left unprotected. Whatever evidence may lie there could be gone forever.

This study fits in neatly with previous findings from the Paisley Cave in Oregon and Monte Verde, Chile, where there is evidence of early settlements.

Journal Reference: Wolfgang Stinnesbeck et al — The earliest settlers of Mesoamerica date back to the late Pleistocene.


north american settlers archaeology

Found: oldest settlement in North America, confirms local tribe history

When Alisha Gauvreau, an anthropology PhD student at the University of Victoria started excavating a rocky spit on Triquet Island, some 500 kilometers northwest of Victoria, she didn’t really know what to expect, but this definitely surpassed even her most ambitious expectations.

north american settlers archaeology

The first North American settlers might have arrived on the coast and not on a frozen land bridge through Siberia, as was previously believed. Image via Wikipedia.

The archaeological team patiently dug and then sifted through meters upon meters of soil and peat, before they finally found something interesting: the charred remains of an ancient hearth. As it so often happens, that’s just the start of interesting things. Not long after that, Gauvreau and collaborators found a trove of items, including tools for lighting fires, fish hooks, and spears, all dating back from 14,000 years ago.

“I remember when we get the dates back and we just kind of sat there going, holy moly, this is old,” said Gauvreau.“What this is doing is just changing our idea of the way in which North America was first peopled.”

The findings tell an interesting story, that of an early migration occurring on British Columbia’s ancient coastline, and challenges some of the most widely-held beliefs about humans migrating to North America. The classic story is that humans arrived some 13,000 or 14,000 years ago, crossing a land bridge that connected modern-day Siberia to Alaska. But more and more research is starting to challenge that belief. The challenging theory is that people arrived on the coast, settling down on a coastal strip of land that did not freeze during the ice age. In a radio interview with the CBC, Gauvreau says that her research adds significant weight to that idea.

“[A]rchaeologists had long thought that … the coast would have been completely uninhabitable and impassible when that is very clearly not the case,” she explains.

To make things even more interesting, these findings support the ancient, oral, histories of aboriginals. The Heiltsuk people are the descendants of a number of tribal groups who came together Bella in the 19th century. For countless generations, Heiltsuk First Nation elders have told the story about how their ancestors arrived in the area, on the coast.

“[I]t reaffirms a lot of the history that our people have been talking about for thousands of years,” William Housty, a member of Heiltsuk Nation, proudly stated.

Now, anthropologists and archaeologists want to explore more of the coast and the coastal islands, to further document how the migration happened.