6

The Unbelievable Crystal Caves of Naica, Mexico

Hidden 300 meters below the earth, Naica’s Cave of Crystals is a site of sheer magnificent beauty. A big geode of red walls filled with selenite crystals of extraordinary shapes and sizes were accidentally discovered during the exploration of a mine. This mineral wonderland is a site of extreme scientific interest and an extraordinary natural phenomena.

Located in Chihuahua, Mexico, the Naica caves were discovered when a mining facility pumped an immense amount of water out of the ground to continue to mining. When the water was drained out of the caves, an extraordinary natural treasure was discovered. The crystals discovered represent the most extraordinary examples of selenite ever found. By chance, four caves of unique characteristics and sizes have been discovered. Although all four caves contain stunning crystals, only one of the caves in particular features the mammoth crystals seen above, the Crystals’ Cave.

The Crystals’ Cave is one of the world’s most spectacular geographical discoveries of all time. The cave features giant selenite crystals of a size never seen before. Most of them measure six meters in length, with some of them reaching eleven meters. The temperature at this depth varies from 45°C to 50°C, while the percentage of humidity ranges from 90 to 100%, meaning that humans cannot survive there for longer than two hours.

sources 1, 2

5

Ancient Worlds - BBC Two

Episode 1 “Come Together”

Uruk - "the mother of all cities"

Uruk was one of the most important cities in ancient Mesopotamia; an ancient city of Sumer -and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river.  According to the Sumerian King List, it was founded by King Enmerkar sometime around 4500 BCE.

Uruk is considered the first true city in the world. It was home to 40.000 or perhaps 50.000 people, a population density unprecedented in human history.

In myth and literature, Uruk was famous as the capital city of Gilgamesh. The great epic poem The Legend of Gilgamesh contains a proud description of his city:

Go up, pace out the walls of Uruk.
Study the foundation terrace and examine the brickwork.
Is not its masonry of kiln - fired brick?
And did not seven masters lay its foundations?
One square mile of city, one square mile of gardens,
One square mile of clay pits, a half square mile of Ishtar’s dwelling,
Three and a half square miles is the measure of Uruk

PART I

Uruk, Iraq

Face Inlay of the Pharaoh Akhenaten


Egypt, New Kingdom, Amarna Period, Dynasty XVIII, about 1353-1336 BC
Cast, then cold-worked to refine the sculptural quality of the portrait and to create cavities for additional inlays for the eye and eyebrow
Overall H: 4.2 cm, Th: 0.6 cm, Gift of the Ennion Society
Collection of The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (^^2012.1.2^^)


[ NEWS ] Forensic examination determines weapons used on 9th-14th century remains, Turin, Italy

In this paper, "Weapon-related Cranial Lesions from Medieval and Renaissance Turin, Italy", remains recovered from the Cathedral of S. Giovanni in Turin were examined to determine if they had died due to violent injuries (combat), and to attempt to identify the weapons used to perpetrate these injuries.

A total of 113 sets of remains were recovered, including 17 children below the ages of 14. Of the adults, 69 were male, 22 were female and 5 were unidentifiable. Anthropological examination of the remains allowed the researchers to specifically identify those exhibited extensive bone trauma to the skull and skeleton.

Two sets were from the early Medieval period (9th century) and the rest from the Renaissance period (14-15th century).   Except for two injuries, all traumas were identified as taking place perimortem (before death).

As the researchers note: "The aim of this study was to investigate these traumas from an osteological perspective, in order to better understand the patterns of interpersonal violence in medieval and Renaissance periods in Italy."

  • Defining weapons and the types of damage they inflict

The authors started by defining the types of damage they expected to see, and the nature of the weapons which would cause such injuries.

"Sharp force traumas are caused by bladed instruments, such as swords, daggers, axes and poleaxes, which produce linear lesions with clean well-defined edges and flat and smooth cut surfaces; blunt force fractures are produced by blunt instruments, including war hammers, maces and top spikes of poleaxes, which leave concentric or radiating fractures with an internal bevel; and projectile force traumas are inflicted by projectile weapons, such as arrows and crossbow bolts."

For sharp force trauma, direction of the cut was determined by the effects of the trauma:  if entering at right angles, damage would be equal on both sides of the cut.  If entering at an angle, the entry side cut would appear smooth, the stop-point would fracture/flake. Whether a fracture was caused by blunt weapon impact or a projectile weapon was determined by what side of the skull exhibited “beveling” fractures (internal bevels indicating a blunt weapon, external bevels indicating a “rhrough-and-impact” projectile strike on the victim’s skull.

  • The nature of the remains

The authors note that the two early Medieval remains were found in individual graves of a type reserved for the upper social classes of the time.  The Renaissance remains were all found in the same large grave, suggesting they had all perished in the same combat.

  •  Examination of the remains

The researchers then go into the details of the remains, were they were located, and describe any traumas identified on both the main skeleton and cranium, but focusing specifically on the skull traumas. This is because skeletal remains only allow for injuries reaching the bone to be identified.

Forensic anthropologists would not, for example, be able to assign a cause of death to a fatal soft-tissue injury, such as the heart being struck or a major artery being cut (at least one other set of remains buried in the Renaissance grave showed well-healed traumas; it may well have been that this person died of soft tissue injuries).

The analysis of the cranial traumas is extremely detailed.  Interestingly, several of the remains show old, well-healed traumas, suggest many previous wounds in battle. Traumas identified included (listed in order of remains being examined:

  1. (Early Medieval) 7 cm long sharp force cut, with fractures indicating the attacker pulled the blade out of the wound with force;  followed by a cut indicating it was delivered from above, with the victim reclining.
  2. (Early Medieval) 5cm long sharp force cut, shaving away the surface of the skull.  A second, apparently glancing blow would have likely have caused severe injury to the victim’s face.
  3. (Renaissance) A massive trauma to the front of the skull indicates a blade impacting and removed with force.  A second, healed trauma shows signs of medical intervention from a previous wound.
  4. (Renaissance) A diamond-shaped trauma on the right-rear of the cranium suggests a blunt force or projectile strike from behind.
  5. (Renaissance) A beveled impact on the top of cranium suggests the use of a blunt force weapon or a projectile strike.  A second, larger trauma is indicative of sharp force, penetrating and forcibly removed.
  6. (Renaissance) Multiple traumas, including sharp force blows and a projectile strike delivered with the victim both standing and on the ground.  The fatal blow is identified as a massive blunt force trauma.  Additionally, one long-healed blunt force trauma was noted.
  • What weapons caused the injuries

The researchers go into a quite detailed discussion of types of weapons and the nature of the traumas they inflict, quoting many previous researchers to defend their analysis. In the main, the results of the research resulted in the following table (click to view):

  • Why are cranial trauma so frequently found?

The authors then discuss why cranial trauma is so frequently found on the remains of those who died in combat, as both their research and previous researchers have noted.  While this seems a simple question, the authors seek to prove what is commonly held beliefs in these reasons through scientific observation and fact.  Most simply put, they theorize that:  the head was a main target;  that men fighting on foot vs. those on horseback must receive more head trauma simply by nature of their respective platforms;  that body armour was so effective it made the head a primary target.

  • Examination of the Renaissance historical record and conclusion

At least for the Renaissance remains, there were a number of historical records — dated to the same time as the grave — which suggests these warriors did not die in a major battle.  There was no recorded major conflict fought by Turin forces during this period.  There were, however, a number of city revolts and riots which took place.

Taking this fact into account, and the additional fact that the remains recovered included women and children, and that a number of the men showed previously healed traumas, the authors conclude: "Three sharp force lesions caused by bladed weapons were identified in two individuals from the early medieval period; in the Renaissance sample, the majority of the nine peri mortem injuries were sharp force wounds, followed by blunt force traumas caused by hand-held weapons. The lack of lesions caused by projectile force lesions and of post-cranial wounds at Piazza S. Giovanni was evidenced."

"Despite the presence of weapon injuries, the results obtained from the study of the Renaissance sample are different from the findings of other contemporary battlefields. It is highly likely that the individuals of the Renaissance age were not young soldiers employed in war episodes and brought back to Turin for burial after battles that had taken place elsewhere. As attested by some old wound, they were probably mercenary soldiers, who had died in riots or in other violent episodes that had taken place in the city, as the historical records for the Renaissance age seem to confirm."

Source: Copyright © 2014 Randy McCall | Academia.edu

2

Built more than 2,000 years ago, the ancient Nabataean city of Petra has a religious history embedded in its very walls.

Some refer to Petra as the Rose City for the rosy sandstone rock faces into which the Nabataeans carved their capital city. The rocky walls hold even greater significance than their color, though, as a team of archaeoastronomers recently discovered.

Petra may have been built for the gods, and it’s not hard to see why.

Richard III’s remains riddled with roundworms

NBC News: New analysis of the Richard III’s remains indicate that the king had a clear case of intestinal parasites. A team of researchers  found the eggs of Ascaris lumbricoides, a roundworm, in a sample taken from Richard III’s remains. Roundworm eggs were not found at other locations on the site where Richard III’s remains were found, suggesting the worms were buried with the king.

Photo: The skeleton of king Richard III was found at the Grey Friars Church excavation site in Leicester in September 2012. (University of Leicester File)

6

Game of Hounds and Jackals

Period: Middle Kingdom

Dynasty: Dynasty 12

Reign: reign of Amenemhat IV

Date: ca. 1814–1805 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt, Upper Egypt; Thebes, el-Asasif, Birabi, pit tomb CC 25, debris, Carnarvon/Carter 1910

Medium: Ebony, ivory

Dimensions: Board: h. 6.3 cm (2 1/2 in); w. 15.2 cm (6 in)

Credit Line: Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926 

Metropolitan Museum of Art , 26.7.1287a–k


Description from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:  ”The board rests on four bulls’ legs; one is completely restored and another only partially. There is a drawer with a bolt to store the playing pieces: five pins with hounds’ heads and five with jackals’ heads. The board is shaped like an axe-blade, and there are 58 holes in the upper surface with an incised palm tree topped by a shen sign in the center. Howard Carter and the Earl of Carnarvon reconstructed the game as follows in their publication of the find (Five Years of Explorations at Thebes, A Record of Work Done 1907-1911, London, Oxford, New York, 1912, p. 58): “Presuming the ‘Shen’ sign … to be the goal, we find on either side twenty-nine holes, or including the goal, thirty aside. Among these holes, on either side, two are marked ..nefer, ‘good;’ and four others are linked together by curved lines.. Assuming that the holes marked ‘good’ incur a gain, it would appear that the others, connected by lines, incur a loss.. Now the moves themselves could easily have been denoted by the chance cast of knuckle-bones or dice….and if so we have before us a simple, but exciting, game of chance.” 

Egyptians likened the intricate voyage through the underworld to a game. This made gaming boards and gaming pieces appropriate objects to deposit in tombs.”


An ancient unknown language engraved on a clay tablet was unearthed by archaeologists working in Turkey.

The tablet, dating back more than 2500 years, is believed to be from the ancient Assyrian city of Tushan.

In general, females were buried with a wider variety and larger quantity of artifacts than males, and seven female graves contained iron swords or daggers, bronze arrowheads, and whetstones to sharpen the weapons. Some scholars have argued that weapons found in female burials served a purely ritual purpose, but the bones tell a different story. The bowed leg bones of one 13- or 14-year-old girl attest a life on horseback, and a bent arrowhead found in the body cavity of another woman suggested that she had been killed in battle. The Pokrovka women cannot have been the Amazons of Greek myth- who were said to have lived far to the west- but they may have been one of many similar nomadic tribes who occupied the Eurasian steppes in the Early Iron Age.
—  Description of the Sarmatian burial mounds at Pokrovka, excavated by Russian and American archaeologists in 1992-95

Hathor Holding Nefertari’s Hand

Image and description from touregypt.net:  ”In an extremely delicate gesture, Hathor the Western goddess holds the hand of the dead queen. Around her arms, Nefertari wears a piece of jewelry made up of beads and the udjat-eye, symbol of restored wholeness. This is detail of the northern face of the northwest pillar of the sarcophagus room at Nefertari’s tomb.”

7

Recovered artifacts & treasures from the Philippines.
The Angono Petroglyphs

Binangonan, Rizal, Philippines

The Angono petroglyphs is currently the oldest known work of art in the Philippines dating from 3000 BC based on pottery shards and tools found when the carvings and cave was discovered. The carvings are of 127 figures of humans, lizards, frogs. and a turtle. It was discovered in 1965 by Carlos V. Francisco, a mural painter and National Artist of the Philippines awardee, who was leading a Boy Scout troop hike. It is one of the national treasures of the Philippines alongside other national treasures such as the Laguna Copperplate and Manunggul Jar.

As important as they are to our history as a people and nation however, today the petroglyphs are at risk of disappearing forever. Erosion and vandalism are the two major reasons. According to anthropologist Jesus Peralta, “Eventually they will disappear… preservation is out of the question.”

Despite the amount of years since it’s been discover it really hasn’t been studied and not much is known about the cave, the petroglyphs, and the people who stayed in the cave and etched the drawings on the wall and why. What some believe the purpose of the petroglyphs based on various human figures squatting is that it was a place of worship. After all, based on Spanish written records our ancestors were known to worship in caves, often having figures of their ancestors and deities in caves.

Other than the approximate dating of the petroglyphs and cave, which even now isn’t 100% accurate as there hasn’t been an intensive research due to lack of support of the government and lack of finances as well as jobs and pay for the anthropologists who are eager to study this piece of written history, nothing else is really known. The National Museum of the Philippines isn’t supported by the government in studying the petroglyphs of Binangonan, as well as many other caves that have petroglyphs in various parts of the Philippines such as Cagayan Valley, Palawan, Bontoc, and the red hematite handprints in Bohol, let alone continue excavations of sites which are known, but are neglected due to the lack of interest from the government for “more important” things. The lack of funds to support the anthropologists and to enforce security around the cave to discourage the vandalism is something that isn’t helping either. Some of that vandalism is people scratching their names on the walls or just scratching slashes on the figures. 

The Angono Petroglyphs are an important document in our history and culture prior to the Spaniards. It is something left by our ancestors through pictographs, for whatever reason they were carved. Much research still needs to be done before we discover the purpose of the cave and who were the people who stayed and carved in the cave. It is up to us to help preservation and to support the study of the cave as well as other caves and archaeological studies throughout the country as these studies is what will help uncover our precolonial past and with it bring a sense of pride for ourselves and ancestors.

Photo Sources: [x], [x], [x]

5

Archaeology: A Secret History - BBC Four

Episode 2 “The Search for Civilisation”

During excavations in Mesopotamia in the 1850s, thousands of photographs were taken of cuneiform tablets which had been found there. The inscriptions were written in a mysterious language which nobody yet understood. The photographs were distributed all over Europe, and all of its finest scholars quickly got to work, in a race to try and decipher this mysterious code.

The French-German scholar Julius Oppert (together with other 19th century Assyriologists) made decisive contributions to the decipherment of cuneiform inscriptions. In 1855, he published Écriture Anarienne, advancing the theory that the language spoken originally in Assyria belonged to the Ural-Altaic group (non-Semitic) and he classified it as Casdo-Scythian. In 1869 he renamed it Sumerian language -based on the known title “King of Sumer and Akkad”, reasoning that if Akkad signified the Semitic portion of the kingdom, Sumer might describe the non-Semitic annex-. He also asserted that the entire system of cuneiform writing was Sumerian in origin

Sumerian is generally regarded as a language isolate (a language that has no known historical or linguistic relationship to any other language family) and is the oldest written language in existence. Sumerian was spoken in Sumer, in southern Mesopotamia, from perhaps the 4th millennium BC and it flourished during the 3rd millennium BC. Sumerian was replaced as a spoken language by Semitic Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) but continued in written usage almost to the end of the life of the Akkadian language, around the beginning of the Christian era.

Some of the very first pictures of cuneiform tablets took during excavations in Mesopotamia in the 1850s

French National Archives, Paris, France

Labyrinth on the portico of the cathedral of San Martino at Lucca,Tuscany, Italy



The Latin inscription:  Hic Quem Creticus Edit. Daedalus Est Laberinthus. De Quo Nullus Vadere. Quivit Qui Fuit  Intus. Ni Theseus Gratis  Adriane. Stamine  Jutus


Description from Wiki:  ”The labyrinth or maze is embedded in the right pier of the portico and is believed to date from the 12th or 13th century. Its importance is that it may well pre-date the famous Chartres maze, yet is of the Chartres pattern that became a standard for mazes.

The rustic incised Latin inscription refers to ancient pagan mythology: “This is the labyrinth built by Dedalus of Crete; all who entered therein were lost, save Theseus, thanks to Ariadne’s thread” (Hic Quem Creticus Edit. Daedalus Est Laberinthus. De Quo Nullus Vadere. Quivit Qui Fuit  Intus. Ni Theseus Gratis  Adriane. Stamine  Jutus”).” Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


More about  Lucca Cathedral from wiki:  ”Lucca Cathedral  (Italian: Duomo di Lucca, Cattedrale di San Martino) is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to Saint Martin in Lucca, Italy. It is the seat of the Bishop of Lucca. Construction was begun in 1063 by Bishop Anselm (later Pope Alexander II).

Of the original structure, the great apse with its tall columnar arcades and the fine campanile remain. The nave and transepts of the cathedral were rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 14th century, while the west front was begun in 1204 by Guido Bigarelli of Como, and consists of a vast portico of three magnificent arches, and above them three ranges of open galleries adorned with sculptures.

In the nave a small octagonal temple or chapel shrine contains the most precious relic in Lucca, the Holy Face of Lucca (Italian: Volto Santo di Lucca) or Sacred Countenance. This cedar-wood crucifix and image of Christ, according to the legend, was carved by his contemporary Nicodemus, and miraculously conveyed to Lucca in 782. Christ is clothed in the colobium, a long sleeveless garment. The chapel was built in 1484 by Matteo Civitali, the most famous Luccan sculptor of the early Renaissance.

The tomb of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia of Siena, the earliest of his extant works was commissioned by her husband, the lord of Lucca, Paolo Guinigi, in 1406.

Additionally the cathedral contains Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Madonna and Child with Saints Peter, Clement, Paul and Sebastian; Federico Zuccari’s Adoration of the Magi, Jacopo Tintoretto’s Last Supper, and finally Fra Bartolomeo’s Madonna and Child (1509).

There is a legend to explain why all the columns of the façade are different. According to the tale, when they were going to decorate it, the inhabitants of Lucca announced a contest for the best column. Every artist made a column, but then the inhabitants of Lucca decided to take them all, without paying the artists and used all the columns.”


5

Ancient Worlds - BBC Two 

Episode 1 “Come Together”

Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, king of Akkad.

Naram-Sin was the grandson of king Sargon, founder of the Akkadian Dinasty and the first to unify the whole of Mesopotamia in the late 24th century BC. The Sumerian king list states that he reigned for 36 years, between 2254 and 2218 BC.

Naram-Sin was the "King of the Four Quarters", a “living god”, the first Mesopotamian king known to have claimed divinity for himself.. This status was an innovation that is recorded in an inscription that says the deification was at the request of the citizens, possibly because of a series of military victories. Naram-Sin spent most of his years of reign fighting. He pushed back the frontiers of the empire farther than they had ever been, from Ebla in Syria to Susa in Elam, and led his army “where no other king had gone before him.” He also improved administration and increased the religious prominence of Akkad in Babylonian cities.

The large victory stele of Naram-Sin is carved in pink limestone. It celebrates the triumph of the king over a mountain people, the Lullubi. The Akkadian king led his troops over the steep slopes of the enemy territory, mercilessly crushing all resistance. The conqueror’s victory march is coupled with the personal ascension of a sovereign who could now claim equal footing with the gods. Alongside the existing inscription in primitive cuneiform, the king added another one dedicated to his own glory and in which he declares that the stele was carried off after the pillage of the city of Sippar.

The Akkadian sovereign wears a conical helmet with horns (a symbol traditionally the privilege of the gods) and is armed with a large bow and an axe.

Louvre Museum, Paris, France

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