The Effort to Save Colombia's Underground Mountaintop Tombs

Scientists and conservators are finally able to return to what was once an Andean war zone. Tierradentro is a cluster of 162 burial chambers hewn from the peaks of four parallel mountains near the Andean town of Inza. They span a few miles of mountainous terrain, with the tomb entrances at the peaks.

These burials were created between 600 and 900 CE, before Spanish colonization, as “homes for the dead” of the ancient society’s elite class. Some are the size of a closet. Others are large, with multiple rooms. And every single burial chamber has beautiful, unique paintings. Read all about archaeologist's recent return to Tierradentro in an Atlas Obscura article

Dragon's head with a wind chime dangling from its muzzle. This bronze dragon head would have been fitted over a wooden beam at the corner of a roof, probably of a Buddhist temple or royal residence. It is one of only two known rafter filials from this period. Korea, Goryeo Dynasty, 900s CE.

The Tiwanakus Expanded Their Minds

A 1,000-year-old bag found in southwest Bolivia has a very impressive collection of items to use with mind-altering substances. It includes two snuff tablets, a snuff tube with attached braids of human hair, a pouch made from three stitched-together fox snouts, and spatulas made from what appears to be llama bones. Analyses have revealed the items contain traces of tobacco, coca, the raw materials for a psychoactive snuff called vilca or cebil, and ayahuasca. Interestingly, the plant materials came from a variety of ecosystems suggesting either a wide-ranging traveler or a large trading network. The bundle was found in a cave in 2010 and radiocarbon dates to between 905 and 1170 CE. That date range matches the declining period of the Tiwanaku culture, which had once dominated much of the southern and central Andes. For the Tiwanaku, hallucinogens were an important aspect of religious observance.

Mayan Human Sacrifices Were From All Over

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.

Mysterious Tiawanaku Religion Pre-Dated Incas by 500 Years, Stunning Lake Discovery Reveals

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.

Ancient Settlement On Florida Island Revealed By Lasers

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.

Ancient Khmer Capital Failed Because of Poor Government Management of Infrastructure

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.

The Territory Ever Controlled By Istanbul, by Length of Control

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.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • >
  • Leave us a message

    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    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!

    Website design and coding by the Amalgama

    About us X