And the winner is…

Over the course of this semester, we have talked about a lot of archaeological sites. Some of these sites are extremely well known to the common person, some not so much. These sites include Ancient Egypt, the Moundbuilders, cave paintings, Stonehenge, Ancient Africa, and Ancient South America. Out of all of these great places, my favorite has to be the cave paintings at sites such as Lascaux, Chauvet, and many more. Ever since I first learned about cave paintings when I was a small boy, I have been completely awestruck! I am “supposedly” more evolved than the hominids that painted in these caves 40,000 years ago, but they are much better artists than I am now! It is just so impressive to me that they not only had the artistic ability to make these detailed and accurate paintings, but the cognitive ability that went along with the symbolism and representation of real animals living at the time. Although I think that this is the most impressive thing that we have talked about, I do not think that it is the most important. I am not saying it is not important, because it absolutely is! These paintings are a window into the lives of these hominids 40,000 years ago. I think that the ancient ruins in Egypt are more important because not only do we have their art, but we have their architecture, their records, and so much more. In the public’s eye, there are very few people in the developed world that have not heard of Egypt, it’s pyramids, pharaohs, and all of its glory! Egypt was truly an empire and the reason I believe that it is more important than ruins in South America such as Uxmal, is because it has been so well preserved, rather than destroyed by imperialistic foreigners. I know that I have skipped over the Mississippian Moundbuilders, but to be honest, that was my least favorite discovery. I found their history very boring and I have a few theories as to why. I think it is mainly because I live in North America and Native Americans aren’t very exotic, especially compared to Egyptians! Regardless of what I think, all of these sites are very important for their own reasons and I feel fortunate to have learned about them in such great detail. At the end of the day, I am going to stick with the cave painters though! Sorry to everyone else, but I think it is impressive.

Peruvian Water Cult?

If you haven’t read one of my blogs prior to this, I thank you for reading this one. It has been a great semester full of learning about fascinating archaeological sites! I get all of my articles from the National Geographic Society website because I am obsessed with their magazine, of which I am a subscriber. I generally go to the archaeology tab and see what is new and exciting and pick one of them to write about. This week I came across an article about ancient South American life, which is something that we have been very focused on lately with the Maya, Inca, and so on. The article is titled “Ancient Tomb Built to Flood – Sheds Light on Peru Water Cult?” Peruvian archaeologists were excavating a site of a pre-Incan priestess, but what caught their attention was what was below it. Below this tomb was another tomb that is nearly 800 years old. The presence of this tomb shows the importance this culture placed on water and their worship of it. These people are called the  Sicán, a people that are referenced in our book for this course. This specific burial is of their elite and they chose to bury him in the water table because it was in alignment with their beliefs. They believed that upon death, the body became a seed that would sprout into new life. Knowing this, it is obvious that they would want to bury their leaders deep in the water table, that way they could be reborn and rule again! Typically elite tombs are found in isolation, but then why is this specific site a stacked tomb? It is because they shared lineage, religious importance, or political succession of ruling these people. The water table has changed a lot over the last 800 years, but what we do know is that they were a very wealthy people that worshiped and had great control over water. Although they had great irrigation systems, they were still vulnerable to droughts and floods, which inevitably caused their demise. To wrap it up, it is very interesting that they worshiped water, but it is extremely understandable, especially in ancient times. We are all at the mercy of Mother Nature and are constantly reminded of it. Again, if you are reading this, thank you. I have enjoyed reading your posts as well. Have a great summer and good luck on your finals! And when you are preparing your will… think about having a water burial!

Rabbit Season!

Although I am in college, I absolutely LOVE cartoons. Some of my favorites are Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, and many more. I always love when Bugs Bunny tricks either Elmer Fudd or Daffy Duck that instead of it being rabbit season, it was duck season. Well perhaps if our ancient ancestors had eaten more rabbits, then perhaps they could’ve survived and perhaps altered our evolutionary history. Perhaps resulting in an outcome other than Homo sapiens. As an avid reader of National Geographic publications, I came across a story last week about Neanderthals. I am a Biological Anthropology major, so human evolutionary history is right up my alley. The article that I came across was titled “Failure to Hunt Rabbits Part of Neanderthals’ Demise?” and it was truly fascinating. Neanderthals are part of the same genus as we are, Homo. This means that they are not too far away from us in the evolutionary ladder and gave rise to modern humans through adaptation and evolution. Neanderthals mainly hunted the mega-fauna of their age, meaning that they hunted very large animals such as mammoths. As the global climate changed due to plate tectonics and other widespread factors, many species had to adapt. Primates, especially hominids, are extremely adaptable animals and Neanderthals were able to survive in a range of environments, so long as there were enough food resources. Climates continued to change and the mega-fauna species were becoming extinct, but small animals were on the rise. Animals such as rabbits were high in population, but Neanderthals did not possess the skills necessary to hunt and kill these animals. Hunting large animals took more brawn than brain, but small animals took talent. Other species of the genus Homo were popping up at this time and they were better equipped to survive in this changing environment. As the other species thrived, Neanderthals eventually died out and evolution continued to produce all humans today. Why didn’t the Neanderthals adapt to their changing environment? Maybe they viewed larger animals as having a greater reward, or maybe they tried to hunt smaller animals, but lacked the tool making or intelligence to be successful. I don’t know the answer, but learning about ancient cultures is still very interesting to me. Neanderthals gave rise to many of the species responsible for the archaeological discoveries we have been learning about in class. In conclusion, maybe Bugs Bunny tricked the Neanderthals into thinking it wasn’t rabbit season resulting in their demise and the birth of modern man. So thanks, Bugs. Life’s good.–demise-/

Europe’s Oldest Town?

I was browsing around on the National Geographic App on my phone earlier this week looking for a good article. I came across one titled At “Europe’s Oldest Town,” Unusual Fortifications Hint at Prehistoric Riches and it instantly sparked my interest since we have been talking about what the the towns near the “Land of the Dead” in Ancient Egypt are like. The site is located in Bulgaria and is 6,500 years old, very close to the age of earliest known golden horde of the continent. The way that they knew this site was a town was due to the very large wall that surrounded the settlement. This settlement was a great discovery because it shows that the Balkan trade network has been around for a very long time. Salt, an important resource used for preserving meat, was packaged and shipped out of this settlement all over the region. Although salt was important, it doesn’t justify the massive size of the walls surrounding this site, especially when trees were in such large supply in the region at the time. The only explanation is that there was something worth guarding within this settlement! The only thing that remains is ancient pottery that pre-dates Greek civilization, but archaeologists are determined to make links between gold and this settlement.

Now, how does this relate to what we have been talking about in class? Just as in The Valley of the Kings, many tombs were found with very little left inside. Although they had been looted for all of their riches, they left people all around the world to dream about the amazing amounts of gold and other artifacts that were once inside. I hope that archaeologists are able to connect ancient gold artifacts from the surrounding region to this site because it would tell us a lot about the culture of this ancient settlement. Another link that can be made about this finding to our class are it’s similarities to the Mounds of North America. 

As you can see from the picture above, it looks like the mounds we learned about it class today. It is called a Bulgarian tell, which means it is an archaeological mound created by building new structures atop old ones. The Mounds of North America, the Bulgarian Tells, and some of the Egyptian structures were all formed this way. One feature that distinguished this site from the others we have learned about is that it was a part of life, not death. There is a cemetery located nearby, but the mound itself was meant for living. I hope you enjoyed my post!

Sicilian Mummies!

I am a Biological Anthropology major, and as a requirement we have to take ANP 203 – Introduction to Archaeology. What we learned in the first week or so of this class, ANP 264, was review of ANP 203. I am very happy I took ANP 203 first because it really allows me to appreciate the hard work that went into making all of these remarkable discoveries. Speaking of discoveries, I love to read National Geographic Magazine for their wide array of captivating articles. With all of this talk about Ancient Egypt, I can’t stop thinking about mummies! I came across an article about Sicilian mummies that were taken from crypts and churches in Italy.

Archaeology is about understanding past cultures through analyzing their material remains. The Sicilian Mummy Project has been going on for 5 years now, and a recent discovery has allowed archaeologists to understand this culture in a different way. The Sicilians mummified their dead by letting them sit and drain of bodily fluids while surrounded by leaves and straw to maintain the shape of the body and keep down the smell. After all of the fluids had drained, they would wash the corpse in vinegar and then dress and display them. Due to their process of mummification, modern scientists were able to analyze the gastrointestinal systems of the mummies to draw conclusions about how they lived and died.

These bodies were mummified and placed in crypts because during their lives they were wealthy and/or members of the clergy. By analyzing their stomach contents, these people were blessed with a diet of meat, fish, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. This diet reflects their social status, but diseases were found that explained a lot about the mummies’ lives. A whip worm infection tells us that although these people were well-to-do, their lives involved interaction with the poor. One of the mummies actually turned out to have cancer, but was using medicinal plants not from the region to treat it. This is a remarkable finding because it shows they had and used knowledge from beyond their geographical limitations.

The Sicilian view of death has changed significantly over the centuries ranging from embracing death to ignoring it completely. The World Wars caused the people of this region viewed death as a negative event and treated their dead as such. As a result of the Sicilian Mummification Project, they began to remember that death is a part of life and it is not taboo. Just as centuries ago when mummification was a common practice in Sicily, these people are beginning to acknowledge the relationship between the living and dead once again.

Hope you enjoyed my post!

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