The people buried in one of America’s most famously ornate prehistoric graves are not who we thought they were, according to a new analysis. A new study of 900-year-old human remains, originally unearthed nearly 50 years ago at what was once Cahokia, reveals that their burial has been fundamentally misunderstood. The number of people buried there was wrong. The sexes of those buried there was wrong. Basically, archaeologists had been mis-interpreting Cahokia's most magnificent burial, and what that implies about its culture, for decades.
When Cahokia's Mound 72 was first excavated in 1967, researchers uncovered more than 270 people buried there in a series of mass graves sometime between 1000 and 1200 CE. But the mound’s centerpiece was a scene that that archaeologists described as a resplendent grave of six elite men.
It was nicknamed "The Beaded Burial" because of the centerpiece. Two bodies, stacked on top of each other, blanketed with more than 20,000 beads made from marine shells. The coating of beads appeared to be arranged into a tapered shape, resembling the head of a bird. Archaeologists theorized these beads connected Cahokia to the beliefs of modern Native American groups, specifically in the Bird Man: a legendary falcon-warrior hero whose beaked face has appeared on artifacts from Cahokia to Georgia. The two men underneath were real-life representations of the Bird Man, or perhaps his chosen rulers on earth. They were surrounded by four other men, perhaps the leaders' servants, perhaps representing other figures in the Bird Man myth. Regardless, the implications were clear: Cahokia was ruled by male warriors.
A recent re-analysis of the Beaded Burial shows this interpretation is fundamentally wrong. Because it was not two men buried under the beads, but a man and a woman. Likewise, a bundle of unarticulated bones that had been interpreted as one man's remains was actually the remains of both a male and female. And the team even discovered remains that had never been reported before, those a child between the ages of 3 and 6, alongside another female. All told, the researchers accounted for the remains of 12 people, not six, and at least four of them were female. Which makes you wonder if the original archaeologists were sexist, or bad at their job. Or both!
The Maya city of Tulum, once a major trading port on the Yucatan Pensinsula, was still occupied in the 1500s. While the Maya civilization precipitously declined in the 800s CE, a handful of cities survived and even grew when their neighbors shrank and vanished. Tulum was one such city. A Spanish expedition in 1518 sailed past and the crew was said to be astonished by the city's grandeur, apparently describing it as "a village so large that Seville would not have appeared larger or better."
Unfortunately, Tulum could survive 600 years after their wider civilization collapsed, but Tulum could not survive 100 years of European contact. It was abandoned by the end of the century after diseases carried from Europe decimated the population.
Easter Island was first visited by Spanish explorers in the 1770s. There they encountered the indigenous Easter Islanders, or the Rapa Nui. They had been living on Easter Island since at least the 1200s CE, and possibly since the 300s CE.
Sometime between 1650 CE and 1860 CE, the Rapa Nui developed a type of picture writing called “rongo rongo” or “to recite.” There is great debate about whether they independently invented writing. Or whether the Spanish gave them the idea of symbols to represent sounds. Unfortunately, by the 1860s the Rapa Nui had forgotten how to read the script. Today it remains undeciphered.
The Moroccan tradition of Fantasia is a stylized reenactment of a wartime cavalry charge. If done perfectly, a group of horsemen charge in unison, then shoot their muskets at precisely the same time. The audience should hear only one sound. (For those worried, the guns are loaded only with gunpowder, no bullets.)
Also known as lab al baroud (Arabic for “gunpowder game”) or Tbourida, it is practiced in a couple of North African countries and dates back to the 700s CE. During the Islamic Golden Age, only the cavalry charge was practiced. Around the 1200s, the now-traditional musket firing was added. Used to intimidate enemies or impress visitors, the stylized war game would be performed before sultans and kings as well as at local events, like festivals.
Today, Fantasia competitions happen at weddings and the harvest festival. It is practiced by both Arab and Berber communities. And, increasingly, by women. Making Fantasia a sort of unifying national sport in Morocco. Click through the image gallery to see photographs from a 2018 Fantasia, taken by Italian-Morocco photographer Karim El Maktafi.
No, not that history of Japan. Another history of Japan.
Archaeologists were scanning a Mexican pyramid for damage, after a devastating 7.1-magnitude earthquake in September 2017, and they accidentally uncovered traces of an ancient temple. The temple is nestled inside the Teopanzolco pyramid in Morelos state, about 40 miles south of Mexico City. The pyramid dates to the 1200s CE. It is believed to have been built by the Tlahuica culture, one of the Aztec peoples living in central Mexico.
The temple found inside the pyramid is not large, just 20 feet by 13 feet. Inside were found traces of incense, and ceramic sherds. It is dated to 1150 CE. Which makes it older than the pyramid built on top. Apparently, it was not uncommon for the Tlahuica to build on top of older structures.
Unfortunately, the pyramid the temple is within did get damaged. Its core was "rearranged" to use one archaeologist's terminology. And two temples at Teopanzolco were also heavily damaged. But from a disaster, a new discovery emerged, and I think that's pretty cool.
Women in ancient Japan blackened their teeth with dye. White teeth were considered ugly. Evidence for this practice, called ohaguro, exists from as far back as the Kofun Period and (250 to 538 CE) in bone remains and on clay human figurines.
Ohaguro continued until the late 1800s and the Meiji Restoration.
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