Ancient Egyptians shared little DNA with sub-Saharan Africans. A recent study looked at the genomes of ancient Egyptians from the New Kingdom through the Roman era, and found their DNA was most closely related to Near East. Modern Egyptians are more related to sub-Saharan Africans than their ancient counterparts: the ancient samples were 6 to 15%, modern samples 14 to 21%. This suggests population movements post-Roman era. One particularly well-preserved DNA sample was even tested for physical characteristics, and suggested a lighter skin pigmentation, dark-colored eyes, and lactose intolerance.
This hand-crafted figure portrays a spirit being, or perhaps a shaman in spirit form, ready to battle supernatural forces. Given the shape of the shaman and the long walkway behind the shaman, it is likely a snuff tray! This artifact comes from the Jama-Coaque culture (in what is today Ecuador). The Jama-Coaque's religious figures are believed to have engaged in shamanic transformations. These spiritual events were aided by psychoactive plants that they ground into a fine powder, then ingested as a snuff, from trays like this one. Circa 300 BCE to 600 CE.
A rare painted leopard has been digitally reconstructed using fragments from a very fragile 100s BCE Egyptian sarcophagus. It was discovered in the Egyptian necropolis of Aswan in 2019. The leopard was a symbol of power and protection to the ancient Egyptians, but was not often used on sarcophagi. This makes the reconstructed leopard special -- and hints at either changing funerary practices or a singular deceased.
Someone living in Sweden during the Iron Age wore this cloak. Unfortunately, they wore it while they were murdered: forensic analysis found the holes in the cloak match how stabs would have penetrated the folds of the cloak when it was being worn. Dating to 360 to 100 BCE, is also the oldest known example of a houndstooth pattern!
Archaeologists have uncovered a total of 250 cairn circles in southern India’s trade and industrial center of Kodumanal, which was inhabited from the 400s through first century B.C.E. The cairn circles were made of giant rocks or megaliths. Most of the cairn circles were around rectangular chambers built of megaliths, which in turn contained burial cists and three or four bowls or pots. The pottery was likely for offerings placed outside the burial cists, showing a belief system that included something after death. An impressive ten pots and bowls were recently unearthed in a larger circle made of boulders and rectangular-shaped cists made of stone slabs, surrounding a three-chambered burial. This larger, more complex burial might have been intended for someone important in the community.
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.
Carthage's beliefs originated from its founding civilization, Phoenicia, but Carthage developed its own version of the Phoenician pagan polytheistic religion. This video has a nice overview of the city's religious origins, their pantheon, and their religious practices.
An intriguing stone sarcophagus has been found in an underground chamber lying below what was once the steps into the Curia Julia, or the Roman senate house, in the Roman Forum. The Curia Julia was built by Julius Caesar in 44 BCE as a new and modern senate house. But the sarcophagus and stone cylinder in front of it have been dated to as early as the late 500s BCE, based on studying the layers of the forum.
The combination of the sarcophagus and the cylinder suggest the cylinder could be an alter. Potentially even a symbolic tomb or shrine to the legendary founder of Rome, Romulus, at the center of the city that he founded. Similar monuments to mythic founders or ancient heros are known to have existed in other cities in the Graeco-Roman world. Excavations were due to continue in April 2020, which might have revealed more about the rediscovered chamber...but, well...
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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!