A magnificent tomb has been found at Hala Sultan Tekke/Dromolaxia Vizatzia, on Cyprus. It was just outside a newly discovered city quarter, dating to around 1,250 BCE, during the late Bronze Age. Inside were buried eight children ages 5 to 10 years old, and nine adults, the oldest adult being about 40 years old. Which tells you what life expectancy was like on Cyprus at the time.

The tomb is unusual for being outside the city, when most burials were in the city itself, and for the richness of its contents. The family was buried in style. They were laid to rest with over 100 ceramic vessels, several gold objects, and a number of imported goods including scarabs from Egypt, pottery from Turkey and Greece and Crete, and gemstones and cylinder seals from Syria and Mesopotamia. Of particular interest are the intact ceramics. They hold a lot of archaeological information, from what high-class pottery looked like in Mycenae at this time, to what wealthy women were wearing. Click through the image gallery to see some of the finds!

Walking in an Iron Age Swedish Hillfort

Ever wondered what Uppsala looked like back in the Iron Age? Now you can see for yourself -- a game designer and artist has re-created what the hillfort looked like, based on current archaeological research. Even the plants are based on species native to the area!

Where Did Numbers Come From?

Our earliest numbers were actually...letters. Confusing, right? Thank goodness for the Indians and their common-sense answer of creating a whole separate set of symbols for numbers.

Geneticists investigating the ancient domestication of cats happened to find that ancient cats had stripes -- but no spots. A specific gene is responsible for spotted fur, and it is absent in ancient cats. How fur patterns relate to when cats began to live with humans, I do not know. Anyways, the researchers' findings were confirmed by Egyptian murals, which only show striped cats. The gene causing blotched or spotted coats only began to appear in Europe during the Middle Ages.

The mosaic above comes from the House of the Faun, in Pompeii, during the early Roman Empire. Roman cats, which were descended from Egyptian cats, were striped too.

Source: National Geographic History, November/December 2017. "Finicky Felines Take Their Time with Domestication." Pp. 4 - 5

An extremely traditional Mesoamerican foodstuff, tamales have been cooked since at least 1500 BCE. Some evidence actually points to as long ago as 8000 BCE! The word itself is derived from the Nahuatl word for “wrapped food” (tamalii), and the correct singular form is tamal. But tamales are much, much older than the Aztec name we call them.

The forest in Korup National Park, in Cameroon, is Africa's oldest remaining forest at over 60 million years old! It is home to over 1,000 known species of plants. And if you're not into nature, there are over 90 plants with known medicinal value in Korup, and more that scientists are currently exploring -- including one, Ancistrocladus korupensis, which may be able to fight HIV!

Archaeologists have known that cats and humans have had a relationship that goes back a long ways -- eight to ten thousand years, to give numbers. That's about when agriculture first appeared in the Fertile Crescent. However, actually domestication of cats took longer. And that's just what the cats wanted.

A new study by the University of Leuven and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences used DNA to look closely at cat domestication. They found that full domestication was slow. DNA samples from 200 cats dating across the past 9,000 years revealed modern domestic cats come from two lineages of Felis silvestris lybica, a subspecies of wildcat. The first lineage was an Asian population, which likely were mousers for Fertile Crescent granaries. These cats traveled with humans into Europe as early as 4,400 BCE.

The second feline lineage was traced back to ancient Egypt. The cat-worshippers. This lineage came to Europe around 1,500 BCE. When the Asian and the African lineages met, they began to mix, and develop into the domestic cat we would recognize today.

It may not look like much, but this 6,100-year-old pottery sherd and the ancient leftovers stuck on it are actually an archaeological treasure! Researchers at the University of York analyzed burnt food remains from clay cooking pots, like this one, that were found in Neolithic dwellings in Denmark and Germany. On the clay, along with deer fats or traces of fish, they found the distinct remains of ground-up garlic mustard seeds.

While cumin, coriander, capers, basil, poppy and dill have been collected at other sites in southern Europe, the Middle East and India -- and some of those sites have been older than 6,100 years -- they may have been around for medicinal or even decorative purposes. These pots in Denmark and Germany are the first clear-cut evidence of spices being used with food, for food. Since no whole seeds were found, the Neolithic communities probably used well-ground seeds rather than whole ones in their cooking. One of the researchers tried re-creating the basic garlic mustard seed recipe. She reported it was pretty good, and tasted a lot like the mustard seed used by modern chefs!

Rice May Have Been Domesticated -- Separately -- In South America

Rice was domesticated in South America’s wetlands at least 4,000 years ago, according to a report in Science Magazine. Archaeobotanist José Iriarte examined a collection of rice phytoliths, or bits of silica made by plant cells, from Monte Castelo, an archaeological site in Brazil’s southwestern Amazon basin inhabited for more than 9,000 years. The study suggests that as the rice grains grown by the people living at Monte Castelo increased in size over time. Suggesting people were selectively growing larger and larger rice. Grown at lake edges and river edges, the crop would have ripened during the flooding season, when other food sources might be scarce.

If this truly was a rice domestication, that means South America joins Asia and Africa as an independent inventor of domesticated rice. Rice is thought to have been domesticated in Asia some 11,000 years ago, and in West Africa about 2,000 years ago.

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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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