archaeological science

In 2007, archaeologists discovered the 2,200-year-old remains of a man with a deformed knee attached to a prosthetic leg tipped with a horse hoof, in a tomb in Turpan, China. They uncovered that the man’s leg was extremely deformed with the patella, femur, and tibia fused together at an 80 degrees angle with the prosthetic leg attached. Wear indicated that the prosthetic had been used for a prolonged period.
Facial reconstruction made of 'brutally-killed' Pictish man - BBC News
The face of a Pictish man who was "brutally killed" 1,400 years ago is reconstructed by Dundee University researchers.

Here it is! The big archaeology secret I’ve been not allowed to talk about for nearly 6 months…

I’m part of a voluntary organisation called the Rosemarkie Caves Project, and we’ve been doing small excavations on some of the caves that line the south coast of the Black Isle to investigate their potential for archaeology. Last September, on our last day of digging (typical!) we uncovered something truly incredible… The excellently preserved remains of a pretty violently killed Pictish man, tucked into a small nook of the cave. He was on his back with his ankles crossed and arms down by his sides, boulders on his hands and between his legs - a very odd position that screams “ritual”.

Prof Sue Black and her team - forensic anthropologists who usually don’t deal with archaeological remains but those of the more recent past such as identifying victims of war crimes - took on the task of examining the skeleton and detailing his violent demise (the article has the full account). They also created an incredible facial reconstruction of the man - handsome guy.

Archaeologically speaking, human remains in Scotland are generally poorly preserved due to the soil’s acidity. These remains were from a sandy context, protected from the elements by the cave itself, and are perhaps unique in their excellent preservation for their Pictish date.

There’s still a lot more work to be done - we’re waiting for isotope analysis to be carried out to determine a little more about the individual’s origins, and eventually he’ll be written into the broader context of Pictish archaeology, a section of history we still don’t know very much about. What he was doing there and why he was killed we may never know (Sacrifice? Murder? Did the people carrying out the metal working nearby know about the remains, were they the ones who killed him? So many questions!) - but we do know there are plenty more caves to be investigated… Who knows what else we’ll find in them!

If anyone has an questions, give me a shout. 

Humans’ Hungry Brains

Studying 35 skulls from 12 hominin species, a team of researchers wanted to hone in on an often-overlooked gauge of intelligence: cerebral metabolic rate. Unfortunately it’s a bit hard to tell how much blood (and therefore how much energy) the brain used just looking at skulls. As an estimate of the amount of blood delivered to the skulls of the 12 hominin species, the researchers compared the size of openings at the base of the skull, where internal carotid arteries pass.

They found that over more than 3 million years of evolution, hominin brain size increased 350 percent while cerebral blood flow increased 600 percent! That suggests that blood flow accompanied brain growth. And greater blood flow was highly selected for, even more perhaps than brain size. The brain’s growing demand for energy, the researchers speculate, was likely due to increased synaptic activity and interconnection among neurons.


The oldest depiction of the universe

This is one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th Century and the oldest depiction of the universe so far. Called the Nebra sky disc, named for the town where it was found in 1999, the artifact has been dated back to 1600 BC. It was buried about 3,600 years ago but could be much older. It has been associated with the European Bronze Age Unetice culture.

When it was first crafted, it would have been golden brown because the disc itself is made from bronze. Over time, the it corroded to green. Fortunately, the symbols are made of gold and thanks to them we know it was possibly an astronomical instrument.
There’s Sun, a central to northern European Bronze Age religion and the crescent moon (in ancient times, the moon was used to represent time). The clump between the sun and moon are thought to be the Pleiades constellation, which was an imporant constellation for Bronze Age farmers because it appeared and disappeared in important farming times. So the Nebra disc could have told people the right time to plant and harvest.

What’s more, astronomer Wolfhard Schlosser, at the University of Hamburg, found that if you draw a line from the center of the disc to the top and bottom end of the right arc, the angle between the two ends measures exactly 82 degrees. And it’s the same value for the left golden arc. This number is very important for only a small group of people who live at the same latitude as the current German town of Nebra since it’s the angle between where the sun sets on the horizon in mid-winter and mid-summer.

The bronze disc combines an extraordinary comprehension of astronomical phenomena enabling to peak into the early knowledge of the heavens. It’s   shocking it was almost lost to the black market.
Mexican pyramid has two more inside, scientists discover
Kukulkan pyramid built like ‘Russian nesting doll’ – a second structure had already been found under its exterior and now a third has been revealed

Experts have discovered a third structure within the Kukulkan pyramid in eastern Mexico, revealing that it was built like a “Russian nesting doll”, experts said on Wednesday.

A 10m tall pyramid was found within another 20m structure, which itself is enveloped by the 30m exterior visible at the Mayan archeological complex known as Chichen Itza in Yucatan state.

The smallest pyramid was built between the years 550 and 800, engineers and anthropologists said.

The middle structure had already been discovered in the 1930s and dates back to the years 800-1,000 while the largest one was finished between 1050-1300.

The discovery suggests that the pyramid, also known as El Castillo (The Castle), was built in three phases.

Continue Reading.


Researchers have discovered a vast network of hidden cities laying deep under the lush Cambodian jungle near the medieval mega-city of Angkor Wat. The cities range from 900 to 1,400 years old and at their peak around the year 1,100 may have made the Khmer regime in Angkor the biggest empire on the planet. The team has made groundbreaking discoveries that promise to upend key assumptions about south-east Asia’s history.

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Researchers studying ancient Assyrian texts from Mesopotamia dating between 1300 BCE and 609 BCE discovered references to ancient soldiers afflicted with symptoms that sound remarkably similar to our current understanding of PTSD. One researcher explained to the BBC “They described hearing and seeing ghosts talking to them, who would be the ghosts of people they’d killed in battle – and that’s exactly the experience of modern-day soldiers who’ve been involved in close hand-to-hand combat.”

Diagnosing diseases from ancient texts, however, is not without its difficulties—not only because our understanding and ability to describe disease is so culturally dependent, but also because, as the authors acknowledge in the paper, “it is difficult for us to exclude other explanations such as neuro-psychological signs of head injury,” today known as Traumatic Brain Injury. TBI has very similar psychological symptoms as PTSD, and in fact was only acknowledged as a psychological disorder, and not just a medical diagnosis, in the past decade. Interestingly, there is evidence that many cases of “shell shock” from World War I may not have been PTSD, as previously believed, but pressure from exploding bombs causing brain injuries and eventually TBI. So our retrospective diagnosis of soldiers in the 1910s has changed and evolved as our understanding of psychological illnesses has evolved. And the 1910s is much closer to our own time than 1300 BCE.
This 2,500-year-old corpse could change history
A rare genome has been identified in an ancient body pulled from a sarcophagus on a site near ancient Carthage, in a discovery which could throw new light on the history of human movement. The DNA of the 2,500-year-old remains of the ‘Young Man of Byrsa’ , discovered in 1994 and believed to be that of a young male Phoenician, was sequenced by a team of scientists.

The apatosaurus was basically a slow-moving magnitude-4 earthquake. Paleontologist Philip Currie teamed up with Microsoft computer wizard Nathan Myrhvold to create a computer model of a living one, and together they found that the dinosaur’s extremely long, tapered tail could be whipped at supersonic speeds – a theory bolstered by the fact that the apatosaurus fossils they examined had an area of fused vertebrae near the end of the tail, indicating repeated stress. What does all this mean? Well, have you ever gone to a circus and seen a performer put on a show with a bullwhip? And do you remember the loud crack the whip made when snapped? That’s because the loop of the whip breaks the sound barrier and produces a miniature sonic boom. Now, take that crack and amplify it by a factor of apatosaurus.

Of course, other paleontologists say the bullwhip theory is a bunch of bunk, and to those paleontologists we say, “Shhh, it’s better this way. Some truths are not meant for man.”

6 Dinosaurs We Just Found Out Had X-Men Powers