The Maya at Chichen Itza were known to practice human sacrifice a thousand years ago. Who they were sacrificing, though, has long been a mystery. A recent isotope analysis of tooth enamel from sacrificial victims thrown into the city’s Sacred Cenote shows that there was some variety in who was sacrificed. Some grew up locally, while others hailed from the Gulf Coast, the Central Highlands, and as far away as Central America.
How the mix of individuals were chosen, and how those from further away ended up in Chichen Itza, remains unknown -- there is always something more to investigate!
In Laconia, the district around Sparta, and specifically in Maina, now Mani Peninsula, the inaccessible middle finger of the Peloponnese, there were people who worshipped the Greek gods until the 800s CE. They finally began converting to Christianity under Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867–886 CE). However they were still having to be re-converted for generations, which we know because the Orthodox preacher (and eventual saint) Nikon the Metanoeite did missionary work in Maina around the 950s.
The Tiwanaku state dominated the Andean highlands for centuries yet we know very little about them. What we do know comes from their archaeological remains. They appear to have developed in the Lake Titicaca region, and at their peak, they may have only numbered 10,000 to 20,000 people. Recent underwater excavations near the lake's Island of the Sun reveal ritual offerings made by the Tiwanaku centuries before the Island of the Sun was converted into a major Incan pilgrimage site. The finds include puma-shaped incense burners with fragments of charcoal present on the excavated deposits, and a number of gold, shell, and stone ornaments. They date from the 700s to the 900s CE. And they were, intriguingly, found near anchors -- like the offerings had been deliberately weighed to drift the bottom of the lake.
Drone-mounted lasers appear to have detected details of the architecture of an ancient island settlement off Florida’s Gulf coast, using 3D mapping technology. Archaeological remains were first noted on Raleigh Island in 1990. In-person exploration of the area in 2010 revealed the presence of a settlement dating from 900 to 1200 CE.
Unfortunately, the island’s dense foliage impeded traditional land-based surveys of what remained. That’s why this drone-based laser survey, almost ten years later, is so important.
Among other details we now can see 37 residential areas “enclosed by ridges of oyster shell” that are up to 12ft (4m) tall. Archaeological digs at 10 identified residential areas found evidence that beads made from large marine mollusks were produced in these settlements. Stone tools, used to make the beads, were also found. The beads were likely for import among inland chiefdoms. In areas that were far from the coast, such as the lower midwest of the US, mollusk beads and even sizable sea mollusks were imported, where they were used as social capital in economic and social interactions between groups.
The ancient city of Koh Ker had a very brief spell as the capital and center of the Khmer Empire, between 928 and 944 CE. The capital was then moved back to Angkor Wat. A new study has used ground-penetrating radar and manual excavation to uncover some of the hidden structures of the Koh Ker settlement, discovering a chute some seven kilometers long (4.3 miles), designed to ferry water from the Stung Rongea river to the city.
But the chute has been calculated to be too small. This meant there were likely overflows and flooding, and the water would end up being wasted, without reaching where it was supposed to go. In 944 CE after just 16 years in Koh Ker, King Jayavarman IV decided to move the capital back to its previous location in Angkor Wat. It was probably no coincidence that Angkor Wat's water infrastructure actually worked.
Note that in this map, the Aceh Sultanate is considered a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans did send a fleet and other military aid to help the Acehnese in wars with the Malay kingdoms and the Portuguese, and the Acehnese did acknowledge the Ottoman sultan as caliph. It's still a stretch to say that the Ottomans in Istanbul "controlled" the Aceh territory on Sumatra.
Remote-controlled cameras are giving humanity our first glimpse of dozens of wrecks entombed in the icy depths off the coast of Bulgaria. These cameras were originally sent down for an entirely different purpose: studying how changing sea levels affected prehistoric humanity. But once the underwater cameras were sent down, the research team was stunned at the number -- and highly preserved state -- of shipwrecks spanning from the 800s to the 1800.
TLDR: an article on why you keep hearing about Black Sea shipwrecks.
Roopkund Lake is a shallow body of water filled with human bones, high in the Himalayas of India. Its not-very-creative nickname is "Skeleton Lake." As you might imagine, finding a mysterious lake filled with human bodies has generated much archaeological interest.
A recent genome-wide DNA analysis of 38 of the remains indicates that they came from multiple groups. The largest group (23 individuals) were similar to that of people from present-day India. The second-largest group (14 individuals) were most similar to people from present-day Crete and Greece! Very surprising. The last individual, if you are curious, had DNA suggesting a Southeast Asian origin.
Another recent finding was that these individuals did not all die at the same time, in a disaster of some kind. Radiocarbon dating placed the Indian-related bones between the 600s and 900s CE. The analysis does not tell us if within that span, multiple groupings were put in Roopkund Lake together, or if each individual's remains were placed individually into the lake. The other groups, the Mediterranean individuals and the Southeast Asian individual, were placed in the lake between 1600 and 1900 CE. That's pretty recent.
These DNA analyses were conducted only on a handful of the individuals buried at Roopkund Lake, the ones whose whole-genome DNA could be generated. There may be more surprises in store as more of the remains are tested.
Located on Peru’s northwest coast, Pañamarca was one of many ceremonial centers sacred to the Moche people. It is home to some of the best-preserved murals from the Moche, dating to the 500s to 900s CE. After early archaeological work in the 1950s, which documented some impressive murals, the site was quietly forgotten until an archaeologist and art historian decided to examine it again in 2010, and see what art might still remain. They didn't expect much. But not only were a number of the previously-documented murals still in good condition, many more had been missed by the earlier archaeologists, left in situ and intact. “We were soon looking at things that no one had seen since A.D. 780, when parts of the site were deliberately buried,” said lead researcher Dr. lisa Trever.
This particular mural was one of their new discoveries. Based on evidence from Moche ceramics, it is believed to depict the mythical hero Ai-Apaec fighting a Strombus monster whose shell is adorned with a two-headed serpent.