Posts Tagged ‘Archeology’

The oldest ancient Maya ceremonial compound ever discovered in the Central American lowlands dates back 200 years before similar sites pop up elsewhere in the region, archaeologists announced today (April 25). The recently excavated plaza and pyramid would have likely served as a solar observatory for rituals.

The finding at a site called Ceibal suggests that the origins of the Maya civilization are more complex than first believed. Archaeologists hotly debate whether the Maya – famous for their complex calendar system that spurred apocalypse rumors last year – developed independently or whether they were largely inspired by an earlier culture known as the Olmec. The new research suggests the answer is neither.

“This major social change happened through interregional interactions,” said study researcher Takeshi Inomata, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona. But it doesn’t look like the Olmec inspired the Maya, Inomata told reporters. Rather, the entire region went through a cultural shift around 1000 B.C., with all nearby cultures adopting similar architectural and ceremonial styles. [See Images of the Ancient Maya Observatory]

“It’s signaling to us that the Maya were not receiving this sophisticated stuff 500 years later from somebody else, but much of the innovation we’re seeing out of the whole region may be coming out of Ceibal or a place like Ceibal,” said Walter Witschey, an anthropologist at Longwood University in Virginia, who was not involved in the study.

Residential Structures

© Takeshi Inomata
Archaeologists uncover some of the earliest residences in Ceibal. The oldest layers of the city were buried under 23 to 60 feet (7 to 18 meters) of dirt and later construction.

Oldest ritual compound

The finding comes from seven years of archaeological excavations at Ceibal, a site in central Guatemala that was occupied continuously for 2,000 years. Getting to Ceibal’s origins was no small feat: The earliest buildings were buried under 23 to 60 feet (7 to 18 meters) of sediment and later construction, said study co-researcher Daniela Triadan, also a University of Arizona anthropologist.

The earliest structures recently discovered include a plaza with a western building and an eastern platform, a pattern seen at later Maya sites and also at the Olmec center of La Venta on the Gulf Coast of what is now Mexico. The researchers used radiocarbon dating to peg the date of construction to about 1000 B.C. This technique analyzes organic materials for carbon-14, an isotope or variation of carbon that decays predictably. As such, carbon-14 acts as a chemical clock archaeologists can use to figure out how long something has been in the ground.

A construction date of 1000 B.C. makes the Ceibal structures about 200 years older than those at La Venta, meaning the Olmec’s construction practices couldn’t have inspired the Mayans, the researchers report Thursday (April 25) in the journal Science. Instead, it appears that the entire region underwent a shift around this time, with groups adopting each other’s architecture and rituals, modifying them and inventing new additions.

“We are saying there was this connection with various groups, but we are saying it was probably not one directional influence,” Inomata said.

There was an earlier Olmec center, San Lorenzo, which declined around 1150 B.C., but residents there did not build these distinctive ceremonial structures. By 850 B.C. or 800 B.C., the Maya at Ceibal had renovated their platform into a pyramid, which they continued refining until it reached a height of about 20 to 26 feet (6 to 8 m) by 700 B.C.

Starting a civilization

This early phase of Maya culture occurs before the group developed written language and before any record of their elaborate calendar system, so little is known about their beliefs, Inomata said. But the pyramid-and-plaza area was almost certainly a space for rituals. Among the artifacts found in the plaza are numerous greenstone axes, which seem to have been put there as offerings.

The architecture layout is what’s known as a “group-E assemblage,” said Witschey. These assemblages appear all over the Maya world and worked as solar observatories. From the western building, a view could stand and look at the eastern platform or pyramid, which would have posts at each end and at the center. On the summer solstice, the sunrise would occur over the northernmost marker; on the spring and fall equinoxes, it would be right over the center marker; and finally, on the winter solstice, the sun would rise over the southernmost marker, Witschey said.

“The first people who settled at Ceibal had, already, a well-developed idea about what a village would look like,” Triadan said. “The transition from a mobile hunter-gatherer and horticultural lifestyle to permanently settled agriculturalists was rapid.”

It’s not clear what might have prompted the lowland Maya to give up their semi-settled life for permanent villages and cities, Inomata said. One possibility is that maize production became more efficient around 1000 B.C. The coastal Olmec people had long been able to grow maize reasonably well, given fertile soil from rivers feeding into the Gulf of Mexico. But the Maya lowlands were less wet and less fertile, with fewer fish and fowl that the Olmec could have depended on to round out their diets. If maize farming became more productive around 1000 B.C., however, it may have prompted the Maya to start staying put.

“At that point, it probably made sense to cut down many forest trees in the Maya lowlands and then commit more strongly to an agricultural way of life,” Inomata said.

Members of the research team are currently working on environmental analysis to try to better understand the climate and weather of the area around the time of settlement. What does seem clear, Inomata said, is that Maya civilization didn’t have to arise from an earlier, failing civilization.

“This study is not just a study about this specific civilization,” he said. “We also want to think about how human society changed and how human society develops.”

What the Maya findings suggest is that a new civilization doesn’t have to arise from the dust of a previous one, but can happen through the interaction of multiple groups trading ideas, Inomata said.

“What they’re reminding us is how much the jungle still hides, how much more there is to learn and how complex a story of the evolution of this civilization we really have on our hands,” Witschey said.

Stephanie Pappas, Senior writer

Live Science – Four mysterious disk-shaped copper plates were discovered by archaeologists conducting excavations close to a necropolis of the ancient archaeological site just east of the Sea of Galilee, Israel.

Recently, from the fascinating region of the Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake of Tiberias), near the Golan Heights, in the Jordan Rift Valley, northeast Israel, archaeologists reported the discovery of a submerged cone-shaped structure.

Now, the four copper plates – first unearthed during a survey two years ago at Hippos-Sussita – baffle archaeologists working in the area.


Click on image to enlargeThe excavated remains of Hippos, an aerial view. Credits: Michael Eisenberg/Hippos Excavation Project

What was the plates’ true purpose? How old the artifacts are?

Dr. Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, Israel along with other reseachers of the Hippos Excavation Project asks for help:


The four plates, showing the “inner” sides with decorative incisions and apparent nail marks. Courtesy Michael Eisenberg and the Hippos Excavation Project

“Has anyone encountered such plates and if so, do you know if they were set on wooden coffins?”

“They were found in the Hippos necropolis during several surveys”, says Israeli archaeologist Dr. Michael Eisenberg.

He directs the Hippos Excavation Project, which has uncovered remarkably well-preserved monumental remains and artifacts at this ancient mountaintop Greco-Roman city, a site that overlooks the Sea of Galilee.


“None were found during excavation, but all were found very near to robbed and open graves.

It was Dr. Alexander Iermolin, conservator from the institute of Haifa, who first found the pieces during a metal detector survey. They were totally ignored even by us as at first glance they look rather modern.”

The disk-shaped plates, approximately 20 cm in diameter, were found at the necropolis hill located 300 m south of Hippos, feature what appear to be incisions in a decorative pattern on what has been interpreted as their inner sides, with clear marks of nails and a hole in the middle of each.


As the necropolis has not yet been systematically excavated, the age and specific context of the plates could not be determined.


Click on image to enlargeHippos, the main excavation areas. Above and below, aerial views. Credits: Michael Eisenberg/Hippos Excavation Project


Hippos – The temenos south wall. Credits: Michael Eisenberg/Hippos Excavation Project


Credits: Michael Eisenberg/Hippos Excavation Project

According to Dr. Eisenberg, the necropolis is probably dated to the broad Hellenistic-Byzantine time range, as does the nearby Hippos-Sussita polis, which has been extensively excavated.
However, the plates were found outside of graves, not inside, so it is difficult to determine the provenance as they could not be associated with surrounding artifacts and human remains within the internments.

“The plates seemed to have been thrown out of the graves by ancient robbers,” says Dr. Eisenberg, who suspects that the relics were first exposed as a result of looting.

They may not be the only extant examples. “One similar plate was located recently in the Israeli treasury department, but without any context”, says Eisenberg.

The mystery surrounding the relics still remains.

The discovery in Chattisgarh is being billed as India’s biggest archaeological find in at least half a century
New Delhi: Explorers claim they have evidence of a 2,500-year-old planned city—complete with water reservoirs, roads, seals and coins—buried in Chhattisgarh, a discovery that is being billed as the nation’s biggest archaeological find in at least half a century.
The discoveries were made from Tarighat in Durg district and spanned five acres of a sparsely inhabited region beside a river, according to archaeologists from the state’s department of culture and archaeology.
“As of now, we have four 15ft high mounds around which we have evidence of pottery, coins and some terracotta figures,” said J.R. Bhagat, deputy director in the department. “Once we begin, the entire digging could take at least 5-10 years.”
The 5th and 3rd century BC—to which the Tarighat finds date—points to a period when the region was ruled by the Kushan and Satavahana dynasties in central India. While there have been extensive, previous evidence of urban growth after the first century, such finds are extremely rare for preceding periods.
“These were among the most interesting times in early India,” said Abhijit Dandekar, an archaeologist at the Deccan College, Pune. “It was the end of the period of the 16 mahajanapadas (loosely translated to great kingdoms) when the Mahabharata was supposedly set, and the beginning of the Maurya empire. There’s very little known about urban structures in this period, in regions spanning modern-day Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.”
Dandekar, who is not involved in these finds, added that evidence of towns and urbanization spanning five acres was quite significant in an Indian context, though only excavations and peer review would throw true light on the import of these findings.
He added that the excavations at Ahichhatra, near Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, that began in 1960s were the most recent evidence of large-scale town planning in India for a comparable period and, if the Chattisgarh findings were as extensive, then it would be a significant find.
“In an Indian context, an excavation has rarely been disappointing,” said Dandekar. “If you believed there’s a city, it usually turns out to be one and bigger than what you first expected.”
To be sure, Bhagat clarified that the finds still haven’t been dated using methods such as radiocarbon or thermoluminescence dating—modern, established techniques that measure the amount of carbon or the relative proportions of other elements from which exact ages of materials are deduced—but he added that the texture of the pots, the typical pattern of raised mounds etc all pointed to evidence of an urban agglomeration.
“The kind of pottery called the Red and Black Northern Pottery, the coins, etc., at the surface of the site itself show very visible signs of complex urbanization.”
Arun Raj, a Chhattisgarh-based archaeologist with the Archaeological Survey of India, characterized Chhattisgarh as being an untapped “gold mine” for archaeology.
“We’ve just given them permission for this dig, and I think it will be some time before we understand how important this is,” Raj said. “But this region, which has been relatively unexplored due to Naxalite conflict, could throw up several such finds.”
He added that one strand of Indian archaeological research sought to find common threads urban lifestyle patterns of the Indus Valley civilization that declined around 1300 BC, to urban formations in central India. “This may possibly falsify or add more credibility to such theories,” he said.
Jacob P. Koshy
Alister Doyle / Reuters

Marianne Vedeler of Norway’s Museum of Cultural History shows off a 1,700-year-old tunic in the mountains of southern Norway.


OSLO — A pre-Viking woolen tunic found beside a thawing glacier in south Norway shows how global warming is proving something of a boon for archaeology, scientists said on Thursday.

The greenish-brown, loose-fitting outer clothing — suitable for a person up to about 5 feet, 9 inches tall (176 centimeters) — was found 6,560 feet (2,000 meters) above sea level on what may have been a Roman-era trade route in south Norway. Carbon dating showed it was made around the year 300.

“It’s worrying that glaciers are melting, but it’s exciting for us archaeologists,” Lars Piloe, a Danish archaeologist who works on Norway’s glaciers, said at the first public showing of the tunic, which has been studied since it was found in 2011.

A Viking mitten dating from the year 800 and an ornate walking stick, a Bronze Age leather shoe, ancient bows, and arrowheads used to hunt reindeer are also among 1,600 artifacts found in Norway’s southern mountains since thawing accelerated in 2006.
“This is only the start,” Piloe said, predicting many more finds.One ancient wooden arrow had a tiny shard from a seashell as a sharp tip, revealing intricate craftsmanship.

Receding glaciers
The 1991 discovery of Otzi, a prehistoric man who roamed the Alps 5,300 years ago between Austria and Italy, is the best-known glacier find. In recent years, other finds have been made from Alaska to the Andes, many because glaciers are receding.

The shrinkage is blamed on climate change, stoked by human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.

The archaeologists said the tunic showed that Norway’s Lendbreen glacier, where it was found, had not been so small since 300. When exposed to air, untreated ancient fabrics can disintegrate in weeks because of insect and bacteria attacks.

Oppland County Council via Reuters

A view over a valley in the mountains of south Norway where a 1,700-year-old loose-fitting tunic was found.

“The tunic was well-used — it was repaired several times,” said Marianne Vedeler, a conservation expert at Norway’s Museum of Cultural History.

The tunic is made of lamb’s wool with a diamond pattern that had darkened with time. Only a handful of similar tunics have survived so long in Europe.

Climate’s impact
The warming climate is having an impact elsewhere.

Patrick Hunt, a Stanford University expert who is trying to find the forgotten route that Hannibal took over the Alps with elephants in a failed invasion of Italy in 218 B.C., said the Alps were unusually clear of snow at the level of 2,500 meters last summer.

Receding snows are making searching easier.

“I favour the Clapier-Savine Coche route (over the Alps) after having been on foot over at least 25 passes including all the other major candidates,” he told Reuters by e-mail.

The experts in Oslo said one puzzle was why anyone would take off a warm tunic by a glacier.

One possibility was that the owner was suffering from cold in a snowstorm and grew confused with hypothermia, which sometimes makes suffers take off clothing because they wrongly feel hot.

More about climate change and history:

Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.

Fossilised giant camel bone found in High Arctic

Posted: March 7, 2013 by phaedrap1 in News
Ancient beast stood almost three metres tall at the hump, about a third higher than its modern descendant

The High Arctic camel on Ellesmere Island during the Pliocene warm period, about 3.5m years ago

The High Arctic camel on Ellesmere Island during the Pliocene warm period, about 3.5m years ago.
Illustration: Julius T Csotonyi


Fossil hunters have unearthed fragments of leg bone belonging to a giant camel that lived in the forests of the High Arctic more than three million years ago.

The ancient beast stood almost three metres tall at the hump, about a third higher than its modern descendant, the single-humped dromedary, or Arabian camel.

Scientists who found the remains said the extinct mammal may have already had the wide, flat feet and fatty hump associated with adaptation to life in the desert, because they could have helped the animal endure its harsh, snow-covered habitat.

Remnants of the oversized ungulate, 30 pieces in all, were recovered from a steep, sandy slope at Fyles Leaf Bed on Ellesmere island, the most northern and mountainous of the Canadian Arctic archipelago.

The sediments around the fossils date to at least 3.4m years old, when the region was much warmer than today and dominated by larch forests. Temperatures hovered a few degrees below zero, and winters plunged the region into six months of darkness.

Extinct camel discovery in High ArcticFossils from previous expeditions have shown that the camel’s ancestors originated in North America 45m years ago, and crossed the Bering Strait into China and Eurasia more than 7m years ago. In 1913, the first giant camel remains were uncovered in Yukon, about 1,200km south of the Fyles Leaf Bed site.

“This is the first evidence of camels in the High Arctic,” said Mike Buckley, a researcher at Manchester University who studied the remains.

The frigid conditions on Ellesmere island preserved connective tissue called collagen in the specimens. When Buckely compared the chemical makeup of the collagen with tissue from the Yukon camels, he found they were closely related, and possibly the same species. They also matched modern dromedaries, but not the twin-humped Bactrian camel. The study appears in the journal, Nature Communications.

“This ancestor of modern camels may already have had some of the adaptations that helped it survive in harsh climates – the hump for fat storage for instance. The large flat feet were ideal for soft ground, so it didn’t sink through sand or snow. The large eyes perhaps helped with poor visibility in the long, dark winters,” said Buckley.

No other mammal remains have been unearthed at Fyles Leaf bed, but at a nearby site, expeditions uncovered fossilised remnants from a beaver, a three-toed horse and a badger, that lived at the same time.

“We now have a new fossil record to better understand camel evolution,” said Natalia Rybczynski, at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ontario. “Perhaps some specialisations seen in modern camels, such as their wide flat feet, large eyes and humps for fat may be adaptations derived from living in a polar environment.”

Ian Sample, Science Correspondent

The Guardian

Temple of ‘Jupiter the Stayer’ found

Posted: March 6, 2013 by phaedrap1 in Monuments, News
Tags: ,
Romulus started cult to god who made Romans unstoppable
Temple of 'Jupiter the Stayer' found

Rome, February 28 – The temple built by Romulus to celebrate the hand of Jupiter giving Roman troops their unstoppable force has been found at the foot of the Palatine Hill, Italian archaeologists say. The ruins of the shrine to Jupiter Stator (Jupiter the Stayer), believed to date to 750 BC, were found by a Rome University team led by Andrea Carandini. “We believe this is the temple that legend says Romulus erected to the king of the gods after the Romans held their ground against the furious Sabines fighting to get their women back after the famous Rape (abduction),” Carandini said in the Archeologia Viva (Living Archaeology) journal. According to myth, Romulus founded Rome in 753 BC and the wifeless first generation of Roman men raided nearby Sabine tribes for their womenfolk, an event that has been illustrated in art down the centuries. Carandini added: “It is also noteworthy that the temple appears to be shoring up the Palatine, as if in defence”. Rome’s great and good including imperial families lived on the Palatine, overlooking the Forum. Long after its legendary institution by Romulus, the cult of Jupiter the Stayer fuelled Roman troops in battle, forging the irresistible military might that conquered most of the ancient known world. In the article in Archeologia Viva, Carandini’s team said they might also have discovered the ruins of the last Palatine house Julius Caesar lived in – the one he left on the Ides of March, 44BC, on his way to death in the Senate.

GazzettaDelSud Online – Every now and then archaeologists stumble upon artifacts that are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or at least so it seems to us.

When it happens, an archaeological discovery can easily become an ancient detective story.

In order to learn what took place, scientists need to use historical data to travel back in time, and search for clues. It is not always an easy task, as there is still so much we do not know about our ancient past.

Archaeologists are currently scratching their heads trying to solve the mystery of some ancient, shoes that were deliberately hidden in an Egyptian temple.

The two pairs of children’s shoes were among the seven found concealed in a jar placed into a cavity between two mudbrick walls in a temple in Luxor, site of the ancient city of Thebes. Oddly, the shoes were tied together using palm fibre string and placed within a single adult shoe. A third pair that had been worn by an adult was found alongside them.

The shoes were originally discovered by an Italian archaeological team in 2004, but new research offer more clues and scientists hope they can solve the mystery soon.


Strange foreign shoes were discovered in an ancient Egyptian temple.

The shoes are extraordinary in many ways. They are ‘relatively expensive’ and have design features that suggest they were produced in Medieval Europe.

So, why were the shoes never retrieved after they were left in the temple just over 2,000 years ago when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of Greek descent?

They shoes are obviously of foreign origin, as they were concealed at the time when most Egyptians would normally have worn sandals.


‘The find is extraordinary as the shoes were in pristine condition and still supple upon discovery,’ wrote Dr Veldmeijer assistant director of the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo and an expert in ancient Egyptian footwear in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt.Dr Veldmeijer explained that the shoes were eye-striking at the time.

If you wore such shoes “everybody would look at you”, Dr. Veldmeijer said.

Unfortunately, he added, after they were unearthed the shoes became brittle and ‘extremely fragile’.

Dr. Veldmeijer’s examined the shoes with help of photographs and he concluded that most surprising was that the single shoe discovered with the child’s pairs inside was made with a feature that shoemakers know as a ‘rand’. It is a structural device that was thought to have been first used in Medieval Europe.


Who left the shoes in the temple?

Folded leather strips that go between the soles and the upper parts of shoes, rands reinforce the stitching as ‘the upper is very prone to tear apart at the stitch holes’, Dr Veldmeijer explained. The shoes would be practical to wear in muddy conditions. Therefore, to find the device in the dry climate of Egypt is surprising and indicates that the shoes were made somewhere abroad.

According to Dr. Veldmeijer “the shoe was exposed to unequal pressure, which showed that person who wore it ‘walked with a limp, otherwise the wear would have been far more equal’.


The shoes date back more than 2,000 years and this picture shows the inside of the jar before the shoes were removed.


The wear and tear and subsequent repair showed that the people who wore them valued the shoes as ‘highly prized commodities'”.

Dr. Veldmeijer cannot explain why someone would leave the shoes in the temple without having the intention of getting them back.

One can only speculate what might have happened. Was the shoe owner forced to quickly leave the temple? Was he or she scared to go back and retrieve the shoes? There are number of possibilities.

For the time being, this ancient case remains an unsolved mystery.


El Paraiso site
The temple was discovered in one of the wings of the main pyramid at the ancient site of El Paraiso

Archaeologists in Peru say they have discovered a temple at the ancient site of El Paraiso, near the capital, Lima.

Entry to the rectangular structure, estimated to be up to 5,000 years old, was via a narrow passageway, they say.

At its centre, the archaeologists from Peru’s Ministry of Culture found a hearth which they believe was used to burn ceremonial offerings.

With 10 ruins, El Paraiso is one of the biggest archaeological sites in central Peru.

The archaeologists found the structure, measuring 6.82m by 8.04m (22ft by 26ft), in the right wing of the main pyramid.

‘Interconnected civilisation’

They had been carrying out conservation work on the site on behalf of Peru’s Ministry of Culture when they came across the remains, which had been obscured by sand and rocks.

Archaeologists examine the remains of a hearth at the centre of a temple structure
The walls would have been 2.5m (8ft) high, but only about 70cm remain with the hearth at the centre

They said the temple walls were made of stone and covered in fine yellow clay which also contained some traces of red paint.

The archaeologists said the find suggests that the communities in the Late Pre-ceramic Age (3500 BC to 1800 BC) were more closely connected than had been previously thought.

Peru’s Deputy Minister for Culture Rafael Varon said the the temple was the first structure of its kind to be found on Peru’s central coast.

“It corroborates that the region around Lima was a focus for the civilisations of the Andean territory, further bolstering its religious, economic and political importance since times immemorial,” Mr Varon said.

Archaeologist Marco Guillen, who led the team which made the discovery, said the hearth gave insight into the civilisation which had used the site.

“The main characteristic of their religion was the use of fire, which burnt in the centre,” he told the BBC’s Mattia Cabitza in Lima.

“The smoke allowed the priests to connect with their gods,” Mr Guillen said.

The Paraiso settlement once supported a farming and fishing community numbering hundreds of people.

Our correspondent says thousands of ruins are thought to remain undiscovered, making Peru a treasure-hunting destination for archaeologists and looters alike.

BBC News

35 Ancient Pyramids Discovered in Sudan Necropolis

Posted: February 6, 2013 by phaedrap1 in Monuments, News
pyramids discovered at Sedeinga in Sudan
Among the discoveries are pyramids with a circle built inside them, cross-braces connecting the circle to the corners of the pyramid. Outside of Sedeinga only one pyramid is known to have been built in this way.
CREDIT: Photo copyright Vincent Francigny/SEDAU

At least 35 small pyramids, along with graves, have been discovered clustered closely together at a site called Sedeinga in Sudan.

Discovered between 2009 and 2012, researchers are surprised at how densely the pyramids are concentrated. In one field season alone, in 2011, the research team discovered 13 pyramids packed into  roughly 5,381 square feet (500 square meters), or  slightly larger than an NBA basketball court.

They date back around 2,000 years to a time when a kingdom named Kush flourished in Sudan. Kush shared a border with Egypt and, later on, the Roman Empire. The desire of the kingdom’s people to build pyramids was apparently influenced by Egyptian funerary architecture.

At Sedeinga, researchers say, pyramid building continued for centuries. “The density of the pyramids is huge,” said researcher Vincent Francigny, a research associate with the American Museum of Natural History in New York, in an interview with LiveScience. “Because it lasted for hundreds of years they built more, more, more pyramids and after centuries they started to fill all the spaces that were still available in the necropolis.” [See Photos of the Newly Discovered Pyramids]

pyramids discovered at Sedeinga in Sudan
This aerial photo shows a series of pyramids and graves that a team of archaeologists has been exploring at Sedeinga in Sudan. Since 2009 they have discovered at least 35 small pyramids at the site, the largest being 22 feet (7 meters) in width.
CREDIT: Photo copyright B-N Chagny, SEDAU/SFDAS

The biggest pyramids they discovered are about 22 feet (7 meters) wide at their base with the smallest example, likely constructed for the burial of a child, being only 30 inches (750 millimeters) long. The tops of the pyramids are not attached, as the passage of time and the presence of a camel caravan route resulted in damage to the monuments. Francigny said that the tops would have been decorated with a capstone depicting either a bird or a lotus flower on top of a solar orb.

The building continued until, eventually, they ran out of room to build pyramids. “They reached a point where it was so filled with people and graves that they had to reuse the oldest one,” Francigny said.

Francigny is excavation director of the French Archaeological Mission to Sedeinga, the team that made the discoveries. He and team leader Claude Rilly published an article detailing the results of their 2011 field season in the most recent edition of the journal Sudan and Nubia.

The inner circle

Among the discoveries were several pyramids designed with an inner cupola (circular structure) connected to the pyramid corners through cross-braces. Rilly and Francigny noted in their paper that the pyramid design resembles a “French Formal Garden.”

Only one pyramid, outside of Sedeinga, is known to have been constructed this way, and it’s a mystery why the people of Sedeinga were fond of the design. It “did not add either to the solidity or to the external aspect [appearance] of the monument,” Rilly and Francigny write.

A discovery made in 2012 may provide a clue, Francigny said in the interview. “What we found this year is very intriguing,” he said. “A grave of a child and it was covered by only a kind of circle, almost complete, of brick.” It’s possible, he said, that when pyramid building came into fashion at Sedeinga it was combined with a local circle-building tradition called tumulus construction, resulting in pyramids with circles within them.

skeletal remains of a child found at pyramids in sudan
People were buried beside the pyramids in tomb chambers that often held more than one individual. This image shows a child who was buried with necklaces.
CREDIT: Photo copyright Vincent Francigny/SEDAU

An offering for grandma?

The graves beside the pyramids had largely been plundered, possibly in antiquity, by the time archaeologists excavated them. Researchers did find skeletal remains and, in some cases, artifacts.

One of the most interesting new finds was an offering table found by the remains of a pyramid. . It appears to depict the goddess Isis and the jackal-headed god Anubis and includes an inscription, written in Meroitic language, dedicated to a woman named “Aba-la,” which may be a nickname for “grandmother,” Rilly writes.

It reads in translation:

Oh Isis! Oh Osiris!

It is Aba-la.

Make her drink plentiful water;

Make her eat plentiful bread;

Make her be served a good meal.

The offering table with inscription was a final send-off for a woman, possibly a grandmother, given a pyramid burial nearly 2,000 years ago.

By Owen Jarus

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  • Glass necklace discovered inside 2,400-year-old burial mound
  • Jewellery thought to have belonged to a 25-year-old virgin priestess
  • Experts want to pinpoint precise origin of priceless beads

Extraordinary brightly-coloured glass jewellery believed to be from Ancient Egypt has been found in a 2,400-year-old burial mound in Siberia.

Nicknamed ‘Cleopatra’s Necklace’ by the Russians who found it, the jewellery was discovered on the skeleton of a 25-year-old woman, believed to have been a virgin priestess.

Although it was discovered during a dig nine years ago, this is the first time a picture of the priceless 17-bead necklace has been shown since it was found in the Altai Mountains by archaeologist Yelena Borodovskya.

Rare find: The necklace was discovered around the neck of a skeleton in a 24,000-year-old burial moundRare find: The necklace was discovered around the neck of a skeleton in a 24,000-year-old burial mound


Valued: The intricate beads are believed to have belonged to a 25-year-old virgin priestessValued: The intricate beads are believed to have belonged to a 25-year-old virgin priestess


Intricate: The beads were created using the 'Millefiori technique' where glass canes or rods are combined to produce multicoloured patternsIntricate: The beads were created using the ‘Millefiori technique’ where glass canes or rods are combined to produce multicoloured patterns

Siberian academics have released the images in the hope of finding experts from across the world who may be able to pinpoint the necklace’s exact origin.

 ‘It has a striking variety of colours, beautiful shades of deep and light yellow and blue, said Professor Andrey Borodovsky, 53, of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Novosibirsk.

‘I have worked with Altai antiquities for more than 30 years, and this necklace is probably the most beautiful find I’ve ever seen.’

Discovery: The precious necklace was found by archeologist Yelena Borodovskaya in the Altai mountains of SiberiaDiscovery: The precious necklace was found by archeologist Yelena Borodovskaya in the Altai mountains


Investigating: Professor Andrey Borodovsky is keen to discover how the necklace came to SiberiaInvestigating: Professor Andrey Borodovsky is keen to discover how the necklace came to Siberia

Professor Borodovsky said that the intricate beads were made using the ‘Millefiori technique’, which involves production of glass canes or rods with multicoloured patterns that can only be seen from the cut ends.

It is believed that the jewellery pre-dates Egyptian queen Cleopatra, who died in 30BC, but Professor Borodovsky wants to find experts to help him date the piece, according to the Siberian Times.

The owner of the necklace was believed to have been 25-years-old when she was buried with the beads around her neck.

Unusual: Professor Borodovsky, pictured left, said the skeleton was also found with a bronze mirrorUnusual: Professor Borodovsky, pictured left, said the skeleton was also found with a bronze mirror

She was believed to have been a ‘blue-blooded’ woman, who was likely to have come from a highly regarded tribe or clan.

‘It is quite likely she was a priestess,’ said Professor Borodovsky.

‘What points to this status is a bronze mirror which was packed into her “burial bag”.

‘The mirror had a chain of bronze pendants attached to it, also there was a set of sacrificial bones with a little butcher knife.

‘It shows that the mirror was treated as a living creature, which points to its magical function.

‘If she performed some priestly functions, she could have been a virgin, not having a family and belonging to a completely different social sphere.’

Academics also suspect the mystery necklace owner was a kinswoman of the famous tattooed ‘Princess Ukok’, whose body artwork was preserved in ice following her death.

An artifact such as the necklace has never been found in Russia before, although Professor Borodovsky said that he was not surprised that the jewellery reached remote Siberia from Egypt more than two millennia ago during the Scythian period.

‘Siberia has always been a kind of ‘stream of civilization’ – a transit territory, rich with resources and attractive for migration,’ he said.

He added that the necklace, and its owner had probably come to Siberia via present-day Kazakhstan, along an old silk road.

‘It is most likely by this route that those beads got to Altai,’ he said.

‘Obviously, this area was a very busy place.’

Intrigue: Professor Borodovsky suspects that the necklace arrived in Siberia via silk road through modern-day KazakhstanIntrigue: Professor Borodovsky suspects that the necklace arrived in Siberia via silk road through modern-day Kazakhstan

Ancient: The necklace and skeleton were discovered at this Siberian burial ground, believed to be around 2,400-years-oldAncient: The necklace and skeleton were discovered at this Siberian burial ground, believed to be around 2,400-years-old