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Archeology

Egyptian Chambers Of Mystery Found Near Abydos

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Chambers Of Mystery
Photo Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Archaeologists exploring inside the sacred valley south of the royal cemetery of Umm Al-Qaab, in the desert west of Abydos, in Egypt have discovered a series of mysterious openings located high up a cliff face. Now they are trying to explain the purpose behind those strange Egyptian chambers.

Located near the modern Egyptian towns of El Araba El Madfuna and El Balyana, about 11 kilometres (6.84 miles) west of the Nile, Abydos was one of the oldest and most important cities of ancient Egypt. This vast necropolis contained the remains of the earliest Egyptian royalty, thus, over time, it became a major cult and pilgrimage center for the worship of Osiris, the god of the underworld.

Archaeologist Mohammed Abd Al-Badea led the Egyptian archaeological survey team and Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that their recent investigation demonstrated that the openings discovered high up in a cliff face are “entrances to carved out chambers, which probably have sacred religious importance.”

The openings discovered high up in a cliff face are “entrances to carved out chambers, which probably have sacred religious importance.” (Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)
The openings discovered high up in a cliff face are “entrances to carved out chambers, which probably have sacred religious importance.” (Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)
A Matrix of Ancient Egyptian Underworld Chambers

A report in Ahram says that some of the cliff chambers had been created by enlarging natural tunnels in the bedrock that had been made by water flowing over thousands of years. Deep vertical well-like shafts follow natural water tunnels down into the bedrock, but these are currently blocked by debris. Some of the openings lead to one chamber, while others lead to groups of two, three, and five chambers which are interconnected by narrow doorways cut through the bedrock.

The chambers measure around 1.2 meters (3.94 ft.) high and are largely undecorated, with only one carving of two small figures cut in bas relief on the side of one entry point. But there are many shallow rock-cut niches, benches, rows of circular depressions or troughs cut in the floor, and many small holes in the walls just below the ceiling, which Waziri said are ropes or hand holds.

No burials were found inside any of the Egyptian chambers, but pottery and graffiti found inside one chamber gives the names of “Khuusu-n-Hor, his mother Amenirdis, and grandmother Nes-Hor,” which dates to the Ptolemaic period, 332-30 BC.

The newly found Egyptian chambers are not decorated. (Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)
Evidence of Environmental Adaptation, Perhaps?

A report on Archaeology News Network says Matthew Adams of the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, who is co-director of the North Abydos Expedition, suggested that because the chambers are located inside the sacred valley of Abydos, in hard-to-reach positions high on a cliff face, they may have had “great religious significance.”

A paper published on ESA Academic by Ashraf Aboul-Fetooh Mostafa explains that in ancient Egypt caves were one of “the most important morphological features of the Nile Valley landscape.” They can be divided into three types: “dissolution caves, caves of rock-cut tombs dated from the dynastic period and caves derived from ancient quarries.”

The researchers explain that the functional role of caves varied in different areas across Egypt throughout the centuries, reflecting the people’s interrelationship with the environment. Furthermore, the geographic nature of the Nile valley, the morphology of the caves, and the political and social conditions explain why natural caves had not been exploited since Pharaonic times and why man-made caves, especially caves of rock-cut tombs, were used instead.

The chambers are located inside the sacred valley of Abydos. (Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)
The chambers are located inside the sacred valley of Abydos. (Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)
But there is Not a Jot of Evidence of Any Burials in the Egyptian Chambers

The ancient Egyptians often left natural caves alone, preferring to dig chambers in the rocks on the sides of the Nile Valley, and these man-made caves were conceived for functional purposes that natural caves could not perform. And while in the beginning holes were dug in the ground at the desert margin near the floodplain for protection from floods and resulting swamps, subsequent tombs were dug on high scarps for protection against theft and sabotage that prevailed during periods of social and political unrest.

Tombs were often dug high up on cliff faces for protection against theft and sabotage. (Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)
Tombs were often dug high up on cliff faces for protection against theft and sabotage. (Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

However, the archaeologists researching these newly discovered ancient Egyptian chambers found no evidence that they had ever been used as tombs. According to Ashraf Aboul-Fetooh Mostafa, “other caves were dug for economic purposes like quarrying during the Pharaonic and Romanic periods and “Quarry-caves were used as human shelters in later times.”

Until the debris from the deep shafts has been excavated and tested it looks like the original purpose of these chambers will remain a mystery.

This article (Egyptian Chambers of Mystery Found Near Abydos) was originally created for Ancient Origins and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Archeology

Long Lost Palace And Death Site Of Moctezuma II Discovered In Mexico

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Paul SeaburnGuest Writer

Those up on their real Aztec history know that the derogatory phrase “Montezuma’s revenge” refers to the consequences bestowed on the descendants of Europeans for the murder of the greatest Aztec emperor by the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. They also know that his real name was Moctezuma II (also Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, which means Moctezuma the Younger) and his imprisonment and mysterious death — possibly in the crossfire of a battle between Spaniards and Aztecs — occurred in his own palace of Axayácatl. While its general location was long thought to be buried somewhere under Mexico City, it has never been found … until now.

“Below the subflooring of the house of Cortés, more than 3 meters deep, the remains of another floor of basalt slabs, but from pre-Hispanic times, were detected. Given its characteristics, the specialists deduced that it was part of an open space in the former Palace of Axayácatl, probably a courtyard.”

Moctezuma II
Moctezuma II

A press release from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History describes the recent discovery and identification of a house built by Hernan Cortes next to what is now known to be the remains of the courtyard of Moctezuma II’s Palace of Axayácatl. (Photos here.) The discovery was made during excavations being done as part of renovations to the historic Nacional Monte de Piedad, which was once a pawnshop dating back to 1775 but most recently housed a charitable nonprofit organization. Urban archaeologists Raúl Barrera Rodríguez and José María García Guerrero led the excavations.

“Barrera and García emphasize that the vestiges of the nascent Viceregal era correspond to reused materials from the Old Houses of Axayácatl. These premises, like so many other structures of the Sacred Precinct of Tenochtitlan, were destroyed by the Spanish and their indigenous allies, almost to their foundations.”

The archaeologists identified materials in the construction of the living quarters of Cortes that were taken from destroyed Aztec buildings, including from the palace of Moctezuma II’s father, Axayacatl – a desecration and destruction of Aztec culture that continued long after Cortes was gone. A wall in one room contained “two pre-Hispanic dressed stones carved with sculptures” depicting a feathered serpent (Quetzalcóatl – the Plumed Serpent god) and a headdress of feathers. They also found pottery and earthenware was dated to the time of Moctezuma II.

Quetzalcóatl
Quetzalcóatl

Sadly, Moctezuma II had welcomed Cortes and his men to stay at the palace and in its adjacent houses, only to see the beginning of their destruction before he was imprisoned and killed. Unfortunately, this discovery of his palace so far has not revealed any more clues as to how died or where his remains were taken. The best accounts of the time say he was either killed immediately by a stone hitting his head or died later of multiple wounds that were not treated. His body was said to have been removed and possibly cremated.

In the press release, Raúl Barrera decries the “paucity” of material evidence of the existence of the palaces of Axayácatl and Moctezuma II because of the utter destruction of the main buildings “both for symbolic and practical purposes.” “Practical” as in the near genocide of an ancient culture and the destruction of its heritage for quick-and-easy building materials.

It’s not the water. Perhaps Moctezuma II is exacting revenge in some other way. Any ideas?

Recommended Articles by Paul Seaburn
About the Author

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as “The Tonight Show”, “Politically Incorrect” and an award-winning children’s program. He’s been published in “The New York Times” and “Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humour. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humour to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn’t always have to be serious.

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Archeology

Astonishing Zapotec Ruins And Carvings Found In Mexico

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Astonishing Zapotec Ruins and Carvings Found in Mexico
A monument found among the Zapotec ruins in south-west Mexico. Source: EFE

An astonishing discovery has been made on top of a mountain in Mexico. Archaeologists and locals have been exploring a site where previously unknown Zapotec ruins and carvings have been found. The Zapotec ruins date back 2500 years and are providing new insight into an important culture in Mesoamerica before the coming of the Conquistadors.

The discovery was made by local people from the village of Santa Cruz Huehuepiaxtla, which is in Puebla State in south-west Mexico. This area of the country is rich in historic ruins and archaeological sites. The finds were made on the summit of Cerro de Peña Mountain at a height of 6000 feet (1,828.8 meters). It is reported by Reporter Choice that ‘Access to the site is along a rocky path, which takes two and a half hours to climb’.

It takes two and a half hours to climb up to the Zapotec ruins. (Oro Noticias)
It takes two and a half hours to climb up to the Zapotec ruins. (Oro Noticias)
Significant Zapotec Ruins on the Summit

Archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) were amazed at what they found on the mountain top. José Alfredo Arellanes, who works with the INAH, stated, “Initial investigations suggest a ceremonial area, flanked by temples and the homes of the rulers, would have been located at the top of the mountain.”

The mountain top was home to seven-step pyramids, a public space used as a ceremonial area, and a ball court. Here pelota, a game played with a heavy rubber ball, was played. This game had immense social and even ceremonial significance throughout Mesoamerica. Pelota involved players using their hips to put a ball through a hoop.

So far, investigators at the Zapotec ruins have found two stelae that have panels of engravings, as well as a number of smaller stones with carvings that are all well-preserved. Mr. Arellanes is quoted by the BBC as saying that “87 glyphs, or symbols, have been found so far.” They include depictions of horned figures and animals, including iguanas and eagles. There is also a large female figure, which may possibly be a goddess, that resembles a bat.

Two stelae that have panels of engravings, as well as a number of smaller stones with carvings, have been found at Zapotec ruins. (The Yucatan Times)
Two stelae that have panels of engravings, as well as a number of smaller stones with carvings, have been found at Zapotec ruins. (The Yucatan Times)
The Cloud People

Archaeologists think it lay hidden since the 6th Century,’ according to the BBC. The team from INAH are still examining the site and they hypothesize that it was built by the Zapotec culture. The Zapotecs are known as the ‘Cloud People’ because they lived in the highlands of Mexico. Their culture flourished over 2000 years and developed a very sophisticated civilization and distinctive writing system.

The Zapotec people emerged from the Oaxaca Valley and they developed an extensive state that was centred on the city Monte Alban, which is now in ruins. Eventually, the Zapotecs established an Empire. They flourished for many centuries and were even able to beat off repeated Aztec efforts to conquer them.

However, their state eventually did fall to the Spanish, after its population was devasted by plagues brought by the Europeans. In modern Mexico, there are still many communities of Zapotec Indians who are descended from the ‘Cloud People’.

Carvings to Honor the God of the Underworld

The Zapote had a polytheistic religion and worshipped gods associated with farming and animals. Arab News reports that ‘The carvings suggest it may have been dedicated to the god of the underworld’.

The site on top of the mountain was likely an important religious and ceremonial center in the Zapotec state. This ancient religion still plays an important role in modern Zapotec beliefs, as they have merged with Catholic practices.

Archaeologists think the site may have been dedicated to the Zapotec god of the Underworld. (EFE/Hilda Rios)
Archaeologists think the site may have been dedicated to the Zapotec god of the Underworld. (EFE/Hilda Rios)

The BBC reports that ‘locals said they were proud to have led archaeologists to this latest find.’ Investigations are continuing at the site but are slow because of the area’s remoteness and the difficult terrain. More discoveries will probably be made among the Zapotec ruins that will provide more insights into this part of Mexico in the ancient past.

This article (Astonishing Zapotec Ruins And Carvings Found In Mexico) was originally created for Ancient Origins and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Archeology

Astonishing Neolithic Circle Of 30-Foot “Shafts” Discovered Near Stonehenge

“This is an unprecedented find of major significance within the UK,” said archaeologist Vincent Gaffney.

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Stonehenge
Photo Credit: Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project.

(TMU) – An international archaeological consortium called the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project says it has unearthed a stunning constellation of monuments very close to Stonehenge. While their purpose is unclear, scientists say the discovery could help to unlock new clues about the sophisticated and complex nature of prehistoric societies.

Led by The University of Bradford and several other institutions, researchers used geophysical surveys and remote sensing technology to discover a 2-kilometer circular pattern of “astonishing” shafts in Durrington Walls. Carbon-dating places the shafts at 2500 B.C. Each one measures around 10 meters (33 feet) and is buried 5 meters (16 feet) below the ground.

Astonishing discovery’ near Stonehenge offers new insight into Neolithic ancestors. Research on the pits at Durrington was undertaken by a consortium of archaeologists as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project.

Professor Vincent Gaffney of the University of Bradford explains why the discovery is an important one:

“The area around Stonehenge is among the most studied archaeological landscapes on Earth and it is remarkable that the application of new technology can still lead to the discovery of such a massive prehistoric structure which, currently, is significantly larger than any comparative prehistoric monument that we know of in Britain, at least.”

Scientists discovered the circle, or ring of monuments, in the “empty spaces” of the UNESCO World Heritage Site for Stonehenge, one of the most popular prehistoric monuments in the world. It’s also one of the most mysterious, as archaeologists and historians have struggled to determine why the legendary stones were positioned according to the solstices and the sun’s movements in the sky.

The new discovery of shafts–from what scientists believe was probably the Neolithic era–presents another vexing mystery.

“Clearly sophisticated practices demonstrate that the people were so in tune with natural events to an extent that we can barely conceive in the modern world we live in today,” said Richard Bates, from the University of St. Andrews’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Some researchers believe there could be a cosmological link between the newly discovered circle of monuments and Stonehenge. The circle may have served as a sacred gateway or boundary connected to Stonehenge.

In a press release, the university stated:

“….no comparative prehistoric structure in the UK encloses such a large area as the circle of shafts at Durrington, and the structure is currently unique….The presence of such massive features, and perhaps an internal post line, guided people towards the religious sites within the circle or may have warned those who were not permitted to cross the boundary marked by the shafts.”

Bates adds the new site “is giving us an insight to the past that shows an even more complex society than we could ever imagine.”

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project says the discovery will bolster their work to create a detailed archaeological map of the ‘invisible’ landscape of the area. Eventually, they plan to create a digital model of all monuments contained within a “seamless map of sub-surface and surface archaeological features and structures.”

Astonishing’ Stonehenge discovery offers new insights into Neolithic ancestors.

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Archeology

Mother Found Still Cradling Baby After 4,800 Years

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Mother Found Still Cradling Baby After 4800 Years
A man cleans a fossil of a mother and baby in Taichung City, Taiwan, April 26, 2016 in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/via Reuters.

Oftentimes, few people are interested in the findings of archaeological digs – broken pots, scattered bones; it usually takes a sign of cannibalism or extraordinarily old carbon dating to draw the mainstream media’s attention. Yet a Taiwanese discovery announced last year proved to be an exception to the rule. Photos of the exhumed bodies went viral and major news organizations from Fox News to the Huffington Post reported on the story.

What was that discovery? A Stone Age skeleton of a mother cradling a baby in a shared grave.

The Origins of the Mummified Mother and Baby

The scientific excavation began in 2014 and took about a year to complete. A team of archaeologists led by Chu Whei-Lee of Taiwan’s National Museum of Science was working on a Neolithic site 6.2 miles (10 kilometres) inland from Taiwan’s western coast. Today, that area is called Taichung City but the site itself has been dubbed An-ho. Experts believe shorelines have shifted over the years and that An-ho was once a coastal village. Indeed, over 200 shark teeth have been found in the site’s dwellings, however, whether these teeth were practical, decorative, or spiritual is not known. The inhabitants of An-ho were most likely Dabenkeng people.

The Dabenkeng people were the first farmers in Taiwan, who may have come from the south and southeast coasts of China about 5,000 years ago,” says Chengwha Tsang of Taiwan’s Academia Sinica. “This culture is the earliest Neolithic culture so far found in Taiwan.” (Drake, 2016) Taiwanese Dabenkeng culture featured corded ware pottery and stone adzes.

An example of corded ware pottery. (Einsamer Schütze/CC BY SA 3.0) Taiwanese Dabenkeng culture (to which experts believe the mother and baby belonged) featured corded ware pottery and stone adzes.

While the Dabenkeng lasted until the 3rd millennium BC on Mainland China, Taiwanese Dabenkeng lasted only until around 4,500 BC. Yet from Taiwan, the Dabenkeng spread across Southeast Asia and Oceania, bringing their culture and language with them. “They were probably the earliest ancestors of the Austronesian language-speaking people living nowadays in Taiwan and on the islands of the Pacific,” said Tsang (Drake, 2016).

The Touching Find of the Mother and Baby

At An-ho, 48 graves were discovered, among them were five children. Most interesting of all was the shared grave of a mother looking down at a baby cradled in her arms. It is not clear how they died.

The remains of the young mother holding the baby. (National Museum of Natural Science)

The young mother holding the baby surprised us most,” said team leader Chu Whei-Lee. “I guess they were buried under the house by their loved ones,” she adds, although more evidence is needed to support that idea (Drake, 2016). “When it was unearthed, all of the archaeologists and staff members were shocked. Why? Because the mother was looking down at the baby in her hands,” said Chu Whei-lee (Hamacher, 2016).

Further testing, including DNA analysis, of the mother and child as well of the other graves, is still ongoing. What we know already is that the mother was 5 feet 2 inches (160cm) tall and the baby was a foot and a half (50cm). Carbon dating puts their time of burial at about 4,800 years ago, putting them squarely in the island’s Stone Age. The bodies were interred in a typical north-south alignment. Unconventionally, they were laid on their backs (as opposed to being face down like the other graves at the site). Moreover, the mother’s face is titled to the right and downward so that she gazes upon the baby in her arms, even in skeleton form some 5000 years later.

4,800 Year Old Fossil Of Mother Cradling Baby Found In Taiwan

Undoubtedly, this ancient maternal moment is what enabled the pair to become a modern-day viral sensation.

This article (Mother Found Still Cradling Baby After 4800 Years) was originally created for Ancient Origins and is published here under Creative Commons.

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