The Little-Known Prehistoric Botai-Tersek Culture

The Botai-Tersek culture (3700-3100 BCE) was an neolithic culture on the central Asian steppe. They were named after the village Botai, in northeastern Kazakhstan, where some of the earliest evidence for their existence comes from. The Botai were one of the first people, if not the first people, to use domesticated horses in context of food production. It is pretty significant that the vast majority of bones at their sites are horses' bones. Which would mean they were living off the horses, either by hunting them or by herding them. Research on the bones, though, indicate the Botai drank horses' milk. Drinking milk means they probably at minimum tamed wild horses, if not outright domesticated them. The Botai-Tersek also provide the oldest evidence of bitwear -- so they were riding horses as well as drinking their milk. Yet more evidence suggesting the Botai were the first to domesticate horses for food.

Ochre Mine Found in Mexican Cenote

Archaeologists, examining underwater caves in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula for Mayan artifacts, have found evidence of something much older than the Maya. The remains of an underwater ochre mine from 12,000 years ago. It may be the oldest mine in the Americas, dating to when lower sea levels meant the caves were dry and on land.

The mine was a large operation, with enough ochre taken out to alter the landscape of the caverns permanently. The large operation also left behind lots of evidence. The team found a range of evidence of prehistoric mining activities, including digging tools, ochre extraction beds, navigational markers, and ancient fireplaces to light the caves. Then suddenly, 10,000 years ago, they stopped mining ochre at the site. It is unknown why. But with more than 2,000 kilometers of known cave systems they may simply have moved on to another site.

One thing the find makes clear is that ochre was very, very important in ancient Palaeoindian culture. They were willing to travel deep into a complex cave system that was illuminated only by small torches. Once inside they were willing to work hard, striking the ground with hammers made of stalagmites, then make the reverse journey carrying out the valuable pigment. For 2,000 years miners risked their lives deep in the darkness so it must have been a very important resource indeed.

Turkish Stele Found, Mentions Famous King Midas

The stele has hieroglyphs boasting off the conquest of Phyrgia and its king. Phyrgia, an Iron Age kingdom in the 700s BCE in Anatolia, was ruled by a couple of King Midases. But the dating of this particular stele suggests it commemorates the most famous King Midas of myth.

The stone markings also contained a special hieroglyphic symbolizing that the victory commemoration was created by a different king, a man called Hartapu. The hieroglyphs suggest Midas was captured by Hartapu's forces. This makes the stele doubly significant as nothing was previously known about this King Hartapu or the kingdom he ruled. The newly-found stele suggests the giant mound of Türkmen-Karahöyük that the archaeologists were excavating may have been Hartapu's capital city. And it was a big city, sprawling over 300 acres in its heyday.

How Birds Got (And Kept) Their Beaks

Turtles and some dinosaurs (and platypuses!) have beaks, too. But birds are the biggest beak-having group. Why?

How To Live Well At The Red Sea

Humans migrating from Africa to Arabia some 5,000 years ago may have traveled along a now-submerged Red Sea coastline, and despite the desert conditions, lived well off marine mollusks. It had been previously thought that drought conditions would have slowed down or stopped hunter-gatherers from moving through this region. But researchers found millions of marine shells at Saudi Arabia’s Farasan Islands, and calculations suggest that Conomurex fasciatus (lined conchs) were plentiful and gathered year-round by prehistoric fishers, meaning they had a stable source of food despite the drought.

Mysterious "Thing" Found in Antarctica Finally Identified

The football-shaped fossil has been sitting in a Chilean museum waiting for identification. Now, it appears scientists have the answers: it is the largest soft-shell egg ever found. Likely laid by a marine reptile, it is the second-largest egg ever, the only one bigger was laid by the now-extinct elephant bird from Madagascar.

Canada Repatriates 5,000-Year-Old Artifacts to Ecuador

Researchers from Canada’s University of Calgary have given to Ecuador 166 crates of human remains and artifacts belonging to the Valdivia culture. The returned items include five human skeletons, a type of well-known ceramic figurine known as the “Venus of Valdivia," and all of the information on Valdivia the Canadians had gotten from studying the artifacts. The objects were excavated in southwestern Ecuador during the early 1980s and removed to Canada. They date to between 3800 and 1500 BCE, and have changed perceptions of Ecuador's development pre-contact. It had been previously thought that the first populations to settle and develop pottery were people who lived along the coast. But studying the Valdivia artifacts suggest that pottery -- and thus settlements -- were developed first inland. In other words it was farmers, not fishermen, who developed pottery first.

Ancient Egyptian artwork from the New Kingdom to the Ptolemaic Period (so 1549 BCE to about 30 BCE) frequently depicts Egyptians wearing cones perched on their heads. But despite their common appearance in artwork, no physical examples of the cones have been found -- until now. Excavations at Amarna unexpectedly found the remains of such cones, worn by the deceased in two non-elite tombs. Results of analyses show these were hollow cones constructed out of wax. Why people wore hollow cones of wax on their heads, however, remains a mystery.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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