ArtiFacts: Recent News in the Field of Archaeology

Yet Another Ancient Observatory

In Brazil, archaeologists have discovered a circle of granite blocks, 127 in all, that reach as much as 9 feet in height. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and it’s reported that on this day the shadow is absent from one of the rocks since it aligns perfectly with the sun. This alone is indicative of the astronomical function of the site.

Such circles of stone are not uncommon in antiquity.

The Nabta Playa, discovered in Egypt in 1974 by SMU professor of anthropology Fred Wendorf, was constructed between 7,000 and 6,500 years ago about 100 km west of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt.

The Solar Circle in Goseck, Germany was discovered in 2002 and dates to about 7,000 years ago. This enclosure was probably representative of hundreds of other circular henges in Europe at around 4600 BCE. Goseck’s henge measures 220 feet in diameter and was originally comprised of a narrow ditch that surrounded a wooden enclosure and had three gates, the two southern most marking the beginnings of the summer and winter solstices.

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you might remember that I commented on the Peruvian observatory in a previous ArtiFacts . This one is located in the Andes at the top of a 33-foot pyramid and dates to about 4,200 years ago -also marking the summer and winter solstices.

Egyptology

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered the sarcophagi of Neb Ra Khatow, as painted on one of his two sarcophagi. They date to the 26th dynasty (c. 2,500 years ago), one nestled in the other. The outer sarcophagus was painted with hieroglyphs that refer to Osiris and Ra in red, blue and green. The inner sarcophagus "was in good condition," according to Zahi Hawass, and of human form. The mummy inside was encircled with a wreath of plant material. These sarcophagi were found about 1 km from the pyramids of Giza, suggesting that there may still be much to discover even in this heavily examined location.

Meanwhile, about 700 km away in Luxor, archaeologists "fully unveiled the first tomb discovered in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings in over 80 years, and cracked open the last of eight sarcophagi inside to reveal embalming materials and jewelry."

"This is even better than finding a mummy it’s a treasure," said chief curator Nadia Lokma, beaming at the sarcophagus packed with fragile fabrics and other materials that would crumble into dust if touched.

"It will tell us about the religious plants and herbs used by ancient Egyptians, what they wore, how they wove it, how they embalmed the dead," she said.

Again, if you’ve read my blog in the past, you may remember that I’ve commented on KV63, the 63rd tomb found in the Valley of the Kings, both here and here. That first link includes a YouTube video of the dig. It was hoped that this sarcophagus would contain the mummy of Tutankhamun’s mother, but instead it contained strips of cloth and dehydrated flowers, woven together.

"I prayed to find a mummy, but when I saw this, I said it’s better—it’s really beautiful," Nadia Lokma, the chief curator of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, told reporters gathered for the opening. "It’s very rare—there’s nothing like it in any museum. We’ve seen things like it in drawings, but we’ve never seen this before in real life. It’s magnificent," Lokma said.

Rather than a tomb for royalty, it would seem that KV63 is an embalming and mummification cache used for the funerary process. In the video, archaeologist Ted Brock describes the use of natrum, a salty desiccant used to mummify a corpse, which was found in the tomb.

Pseudoarchaeology

It’s expected that if a few religious apologists get together an "expedition" to look for Noah’s Ark that they would be reported on by a religious apologist news organization. Particularly if these "explorers" claim to have actually found it!

What bothers me, however, is that the mainstream media has actually allowed themselves to be duped yet again. Apparently, the Bosnian Pyramid con by Samir Osmanagic hasn’t sunk in with them that they were actually conned.

ABC News online has printed their Good Morning America story that "[a] team of Texas archaeologists believe they may have located the remains of Noah’s Ark in Iran’s Elburz mountain range." Again, I commented on this previously, but there are other examples of mainstream media hyping this pseudo-archaeological claim. Such bogus claims, given legitimacy by the media, do little to reassure the lay-public that science is careful or reliable. Is it any wonder that the public might have a hard time accepting a scientific consensus that global warming is a significant problem or that stem cell research is a worthy and much needed endeavor?

The ABC News article closes with:

The biggest hurdle in identifying Noah’s Ark comes down to "gopher wood." The Bible says the Ark was made of gopher wood but no one knows what it is.

This is so obvious: Noah was in a hurray to build his boat. When his sons asked what they could do to help he said, "gopher more wood."

About Carl Feagans 313 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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