[I will try to keep the news pages updated while John is recovering but this will not be as good and timely as the service John has provided over the past almost 20 years as our Web Editor. Thank you again to everyone who continues to send in news stories, and the many good wishes for John. We really appreciate your support and cannot thank you enough - Polly]
However, economic inequality has been hard to study in ancient societies for which we do not have written records, which adds to the challenge of placing current wealth disparities into a long-term perspective.
Although various archaeological proxies for wealth, such as burial goods, or exotic or expensive-to-manufacture goods in household assemblages, have been proposed, the first is not clearly connected with households, and the second is confounded by abandonment mode and other factors.
As a result, numerous questions remain concerning the growth of wealth disparities, including their connection to the development of domesticated plants and animals and to increases in sociopolitical scale."
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[From a look at this Abstract the study is an excellent addition to our knowledge of the past, especially the early period when people began to settle, domesticate animals and cultivate plants. We've gone downhill ever since. A visit to read the full Abstract is highly recommended, and the full study can be bought online for non-subscribers - Ed.]
[This is a really incredible story from In Serbia Today, and is supported by many really great photos of Nan Madol. Nan Madol is an enigma, and is forcing mainstream archaeology to try to squeeze it into already suspect timefames, but non-one really knows when it was built. It's well worth a visit to read the story and see the may images - Ed.]
The Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University announced last month that experts recently dated the Bakhshali manuscript to as early as 200 BCE and, because it is full of symbols that signify the number zero, said it represents the earliest known use of that number.
The next recorded use occurred about 500 years after the alleged date of the manuscript.
But a group of historians specializing in Indian mathematics are challenging this discovery.
According to a statement from the University of Alberta, the calculations would have been written much later than asserted."
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[This is an excellent story from IB Times. The debate over which ancient peoples first used the number ZERO seems to be hotting up, and it would be worth monitoring developments. There are many in mainstream archaeology who simply will not accept that many ancient peoples were numerate and in some cases very sophisticated. Little wonder the 'ancient aliens' community are growing so fast. It's well worth a visit to read the full story and see the videos - Ed.]
[An excellent article by The Wire, that shows there are very credible alternative interpretations to those offered by commentators who always seem to project the destructive traits of their own modern western societies onto the peoples of the past.
Are they simply jealous of the achievements of ancient peoples? Or just trying to play them down? I highly recommend a visit to the site to read the full story - Ed.]
There are 500 or so exhibits and the artwork here spanning some 4,000 years until the end of the first millennium AD.
Every major civilisation added their own distinct imprint to the collection of rock art at Dus-Dag mountain in modern-day Tuva Republic, literally from the age of the spear until well into medieval times.
Archeologist Dr Marina Kilunovskaya said: 'This way they were marking their presence, showing that they were now the owners here.'
To their credit, successive civilisations coming here did not destroy the jottings of those who went before them.
Each new incoming group on this crossroads of ancient civilisation enriched the collection with their own artistic flourishes."
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[It really is a refreshing change to find that in some parts of the world ancient artistic drawings were respected by incoming peoples migrating to this area. It's well worth a visit to read the full story and see the many incredible images of the ancient art - Ed.]
They integrated their observations into their oral traditions - cultural narratives that served as a system of laws, social rules, and general knowledge transmission.
European astronomers realized that red giants changed in brightness in 1596, when David Fabricius registered the variability of the star Mira.
Johannes Hevelius went on to calculate the amplitude and periodicity of Mira's changes in 1662.
But the oral traditions of Australian Aborigines could go much further back in time: they have inhabited the fifth continent for more than 65,000 years.
Research examining oral tradition for geological events, such as volcanic eruptions or meteorite impacts, have shown that such oral traditions can survive for thousands of years."
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[It is good again to see that ancient oral traditions are being taken seriously as evidence of the accurate observations of ancient peoples. It is well worth reading the full story - Ed.]
Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, explained that the markings can be dated to the late pre-Dynastic era, and were found engraved on sandstone rocks.
They depict scenes of troops of renowned animals at that time, such as hippopotamuses, wild bulls and donkeys, as well as gazelles.
Markings showing workshops for the production of tools and instruments were also found on some of the rocks."
[Read The Full Story]
[This is a really interesting unique discovery, and these pre-dynastic rock drawings urgently need to be protected from vandalism. It is well worth reading the full story and seeing the two phtotos of the site and the markings - Ed.]
"The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project" Cardiff/Athens Universites (Cymru/Greece)
[In October 1900, Captain Dimitrious Kondos was leading a team of sponge divers near the the island of Antikythera off the coast of Greece. They noticed a shipwreck about 180 feet below the surface and began to investigate. Amongst the artifacts that they brought up was a coral-encrusted piece of metal that later archaeologists found was some sort of gear wheel.
The rest of the artifacts, along with the shape of the boat, suggested a date around 2000 years ago, which made the find one of the most anomalous that had ever been recovered from the Greek seas. It became known as The Antikythera Mechanism.
In 2006 the journal "Nature" published a letter, and another paper about the mechanism was published in 2008, detailing the findings of Prof. Mike G. Edmunds of Cardiff University. Using high-resolution X-ray tomography to study the fragments of the anomalous Antikythera Mechanism, they found that it was in fact a bronze mechanical analog computer that could be used to calculate the astronomical positions and various cycles of the Moon - as seen from the Earth: - Ed]
"Howard Crowhurst in this book has presented the most brilliant analysis of a megalithic site in the entire history of archaeology.
His elucidations of the geometrical, mathematical, and astronomical principles by which ancient Carnac was constructed prove that megalithic science was astonishingly advanced.
The book gives us unprecedented insight into the minds of the intellectuals of a lost civilisation, which we may at last begin to comprehend as a result of what Crowhurst has found during more than twenty years of living on site.
"The 2300 BC Event takes a new look at an old puzzle: what happened at this date to cause the various advanced societies on the Earth to simultaneously collapse?
Civilizations in Anatolia and Greece, through Egypt and the Middle East, and eastward to India and Central Asia were at their height. The collapse of these civilizations due to earthquakes and climatic changes has been mirrored by similar interruptions on all continents, in the Arctic, and extending to the Pacific.
The discontinuities have long puzzled archaeologists and historians. New religions and accompanying mythologies appeared at this time in all cultural regions describing bombardment and flooding from the skies.
Strangely, the dominant aspect of the mythologies, however, is the observation and worship of a ring appearing to surround the Earth, oriented to the two Ursa (Bear) constellations."
"Some time around 2300 BC the Earth encountered a dense clustering of space debris, the early Southern & Northern Taurid meteoroid stream. The result was an intense fall of meteoroids, some of them sufficiently large to cause surface destruction.
Simultaneous with the meteoroid fall was a huge downpouring of water which caused flash flooding. Extensive destruction and loss of life resulted. An astonishing aspect of the event was the formation of a ring surrounding the Earth, reflecting sunlight during the day, hiding some stars at night, and moving around the sky through a 24-hour period.
Following the 'main event', there were crustal movements which shifted the location of water sources, and caused earthquakes which destroyed settlements. Abrupt severe climate changes occurred."
"The Northern/Southern Taurid meteoroid stream is identified as the specific meteoroid stream that the Earth encountered at 2300 BC.
The Earth's encounter with a dense cluster of large objects would produce atmospheric phenomena very different from the pleasant and interesting night displays of meteor trails that are within our own experience.
The rain of objects would have generated extraordinary visual and auditory effects combined with ground vibrations; and under extreme conditions would bring about severe surface destruction and loss of life.
The overall event was associated by the people with powerful deities and formed the basis for major religions. The mythologies and traditions are, in large part, the residues of those religions."