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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

28 April 2004

Earliest evidence of use of fire in Eurasia discovered in Hebrew University Excavations at Benot Ya’aqov 

under embargo until 29 Apr 2004 19:00 GMT

 

The first solid evidence of human use of fire in Eurasia as early as 790,000 years ago has been found in excavations in Israel conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology.

 

The discovery was made in excavations, which have been conducted over seven seasons, at the Benot Ya’aqov bridge site along the Dead Sea rift in the Hula Valley of northern Israel. According to Prof. Naama Goren-Inbar, head of the Institute of Archaeology and director of the Benot Ya’aqov excavations, this is the best evidence yet found for human use of fire during the period of the Acheulian culture (from approximately 1.8 million years to 250,000 years ago).

 

An article on the discovery of this early use of fire appears in the current issue of the journal Science. The article details findings of burned fragments of flint, wood, fruit and grains, indicating that the early humans living at Benot Ya’aqov knew how to control fire and use it to process food. Additional concentrations of burned flint were also found in distinct areas of the site, suggesting that the inhabitants made hearths for cooking and possibly as a site for gatherings.

Prof. Goren-Inbar says that while earlier evidence of use of fire was found in Africa, the current findings from Benot Ya’aqov are definitely the earliest yet found for Eurasia and of a more definitive quality than some of the reported evidence from Africa. The waterlogged environment of Benot Ya’aqov has provided a unique site for preservation of prehistoric archaeological finds, she points out.

 

The manipulation of fire by early man was clearly a turning point for our ancient ancestors, says Prof. Goren-Inbar. Once “domesticated,” fire enabled protection from predators and provided warmth and light as well as enabling the exploitation of a new range of foods.

 

The evidence of use of fire has been unearthed in various layers of human occupation at the Benot Ya’aqov site, illustrating that once acquired, the ability to use fire remained with generations of early humans who occupied the area over the millennia.

 

http://news.telegraph.co.uk

How humans put the bite on Neanderthals

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

(Filed: 29/04/2004)

 

Evidence that the life of Neanderthal man was short and probably nasty, is published today. The research also provides evidence that our ancestors were responsible for their demise.

 

The direct ancestors of modern humans first migrated westward across Europe some 35,000 years ago and came face to face with the Neanderthals in Iberia about 30,000 years ago.

 

The Neanderthals disappeared from the record soon after, leading to much speculation about their fate: did our "superior" ancestors commit genocide, out-compete them or interbreed?

 

Today, a new clue comes from an analysis of the growth rate of Neanderthal front teeth, which hints that they may have reached adulthood by 15, while our ancestors took at least three more years.

 

The discovery provides evidence that Neanderthals and early modern humans were separate species, said Dr Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, of the CNRS, Paris, who reports the work today in Nature with Dr Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro.

"Only differences in growth can give a good idea of species distinction between Neanderthals and modern humans," he said. This meant that the Neanderthals did not disappear as a consequence of interbreeding.

 

Dr Rozzi could not say if our ancestors committed genocide but it seems clear that they did at least out-compete the Neanderthals: "We are still alive whereas there are no more living Neanderthals."

 

The growth finding is based on a curious feature of dental development - ridges called perikymata that are deposited every nine days. The growth of modern human teeth was found to slow as the tooth develops, while Neanderthal tooth enamel grew at a constant rate.

 

The World's No.1 Science & Technology News Service

Neanderthals matured faster than early humans

18:00 28 April 04

NewScientist.com news service

 

Neanderthals' teeth developed faster than their human cousins, new research has revealed. This may mean Neanderthals reached maturity at 15 years old, around three years earlier than our early human ancestors.

The study compared the growth rings in the enamel of 150 fossilised Neanderthal teeth with those of ancient humans. The rings are laid down at a rate of around one every nine days.

 

By counting the number of rings in adult teeth, José Maria Bermudez de Castro of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, Spain, and Fernando Ramirez Rozzi at the CNRS centre for anthropological sciences in Paris, France, calculated that the Neanderthal's teeth developed 15 per cent faster than those of Cro-Magnon man.

 

From this they inferred that Neanderthals matured around three years earlier. In primates, slow developers also tend to have teeth that take longer to reach maturity, notes Bermudez de Castro.

 

However, not everyone is happy with the link to overall development. "It's a very long reach to go from more rapid tooth crown formation to significantly earlier maturity," says Jay Kelly an expert in tooth development at the University of Illinois in Chicago. "In this one facet of development though, Neanderthals and modern humans were clearly on different tracks," he adds.

 

The tooth evidence is the latest to argue against the idea of a close relationship between Neanderthals and early humans, also known as Cro-Magnon man. Both hominids lived in Europe before Neanderthals died out around 30,000 years ago.

Other points of difference include a study of mitochondrial DNA from fossil hominid specimens that found Cro-Magnon mtDNA was indistinguishable from samples taken from living people, whereas Neanderthal mtDNA was distinct (New Scientist, 17 May 2003, p 14).

 

Separate research comparing the facial structure of Neanderthals, modern humans and various ape species has also concluded that the differences were too great to allow Neanderthals and humans to be placed within the same species (New Scientist, 31 January, p 15).

 

The case for interbreeding is getting weaker all the time, says David Serre at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. "All the information we have from different sources points in the same direction."

Journal reference: Nature (vol 428, p 936)

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/europe/3664093.stm

Noah's Ark quest heads for Turkey

 

American and Turkish explorers are hoping to discover traces of Noah's Ark on the slopes of Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey.

 

A joint expedition of 10 explorers from both countries intends to trek up the 5,346m (17,820ft) mountain in July.

 

They will spend a month searching for a large structure exposed in part by melting snow last summer.

 

Recounted in the Bible, Noah and his ark are said to have alighted on Mount Ararat after the Great Flood.

 

The trip is being organised by Daniel McGivern, a company president based in Hawaii, described in the local press as a Christian activist.

 

Mr McGivern told a press conference in Washington DC that satellite images had helped locate an object 13.5m (45ft) high, 22.5m (75ft) wide and up to 135m (450ft) long on the mountain.

 

"We are not excavating it. We are not taking any artefacts," he told reporters.

"We're going to photograph it and, God willing, you're all going to see it," he said.

The team of archaeologists and scientists will be lead by a Turkish climber, Ahmet Ali Arslan.

 

This is not the first sighting of a possible boat-like object on the mountain.

In 1957, Turkish air force pilots spotted a boat-shaped formation in Agri province.

But as yet, no team visiting the area has been able to find any trace of a vessel.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/europe/3664093.stm

Published: 2004/04/27 15:54:52 GMT

© BBC MMIV

 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/04/0427_040427_noahsark.html

Noah's Ark Found? Turkey Expedition Planned for Summer

Hillary Mayell

for National Geographic News

April 27, 2004

 

Satellite pictures taken last summer of Mount Ararat in Turkey may reveal the final resting place of Noah's ark, according to Daniel McGivern, the businessman and Christian activist behind a planned summer 2004 expedition to investigate the site.

 

"We're telling people we're 98 percent sure," said McGivern, a member of the Hawaii Christian Coalition. "In one image we saw the beams, saw the wood. I'm convinced that the excavation of the object and the results of tests run on any collected samples will prove that it is Noah's ark. "

 

This satellite image of Mount Ararat in Turkey shows what looks like a large object emerging from melting snow. An expedition is planned to visit the site to see if it is Noah's Ark.

 

McGivern wrote a list in his Bible more than 20 years ago of ten great projects. Finding Noah's ark was at the top of his list.

 

McGivern began his quest in earnest in 1995, when the publication of a book on the topic moved him to arrange for satellite images to be taken of Mount Ararat.

Attempts to take satellite images in previous years had been foiled by clouds, unavailability of imaging equipment, and lack of image resolution. But the attempts had helped pinpoint the location. In the summer of 2003, everything came together.

 

"Last year was the hottest summer in Europe since 1500; more than 21,000 people died of the heat wave," McGivern said. "The summer melt was far more extensive than it has been in years."

 

DigitalGlobe, a commercial satellite-imagery company, confirmed that they took the images that McGivern is using.

 

An international team of archaeologists, forensic scientists, geologists, glaciologists, and others is being recruited to investigate the site sometime between July 15 and August 15.

 

Ahmet Arslan, a professor in Turkey who has climbed the mountain 50 times in 40 years, will lead the expedition. Arslan reported an eyewitness sighting of the ark and took a photograph in 1989 from about 220 yards (200 meters) away. However, he couldn't get any closer, and the picture is not definitive.

 

"We hope to assemble what we're calling the Dream Team," Arslan said. "The slopes are very, very harsh and dangerous on the northern face—it is extremely challenging, mentally and physically."

 

The story of Noah's ark is told in the Book of Genesis. It says God saw how corrupt the Earth had become and decided to "bring floodwaters on the Earth to destroy all life under the heavens." God is said to have told Noah, an honorable man, to build an ark 450 feet (137 meters) long, 75 feet (23 meters) wide, and 45 feet (14 meters) high, and fill it with two of every species on the Earth. It reportedly rained for 40 days and 40 nights. After about seven months, the waters receded, and the ark came to rest, according to the Bible.

 

Three major world religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—believe in Noah and his ark. Reports of ark sightings have been numerous. Witnesses often describe an old wooden structure sticking out of the snow and ice near the summit of Mount Ararat.

Despite the numerous sightings and rumors—of pictures taken by the CIA and locked in vaults, of lost photographs taken by a Russian expedition at the behest of Tsar Nicholas Alexander in 1918—no scientific evidence of the ark has emerged.

 

"On the one hand, I'm hopeful. On the other hand, I'm very skeptical" of the validity of the satellite images, said Rex Geissler, president of ArcImaging (Archaeological Imaging Research Consortium). "There is no publicly available picture that readily shows a man-made object that has any clarity whatsoever … Some of the photos are outright misrepresentations, non-scientific, and do not prove anything.

 

"We think that with the hundreds of explorers who have visited the region, if the ark was jutting out of the ice, it would be obvious."

 

ArcImaging was the first organization to receive permission from the Turkish government to survey the mountain since 1981. The archaeological research organization conducted a preliminary investigation of the icecap using ground-penetrating radar in 2001.

 

The Bible states that Noah landed in the region of the ancient kingdom Urartu. Mount Ararat (its name probably a corrupted version of Urartu) has been the focus of those seeking the ark because it—at 17,000 feet (5,165 meters)—is the highest point in the area.

 

A volcanic mountain, Ararat is covered by an icecap from 14,000 feet (4,300 meters) to 17,000 feet (5,200 meters). The icecap is about 17 square miles (44 square kilometers) in size and is as deep as 300 feet (90 meters).

 

Known to locals as Agri Dagi—Turkish for "mountain of pain"— Ararat is not easy to access. Located in eastern Turkey—close to the borders of Armenia and Iran, and only 150 miles (240 kilometers) from Iraq—the region is politically volatile and often dangerous. Much of the region is part of a military zone, and getting permission to explore it is extremely difficult.

 

The ArcImaging team hopes to visit the region to continue their mapping of the icecap this summer.

 

McGivern is optimistic his group will also be on the face of the mountain this summer. He and Arslan met last week with the Turkish ambassador to the U.S. Arslan, who at one time worked in the Turkish prime minister's office, plans to meet with the prime minister next week.

 

"The ark is broken into a minimum of three pieces, up to six, from a huge earthquake that occurred in 1840. But it's been miraculously preserved. The satellite imagery shows vertical beams, and one horizontal beam," McGivern said.

 

Amazing mummy discovery in Egypt

Updated 27 April 2004, 10.22

 

Archaeologists have uncovered more than 50 mummies in Egypt in a discovery being hailed as something which happens only "two or three times a century".

The mummies were found in a maze of corridors deep below the ground in Saqqara, near the capital city Cairo.

 

Some of the mummies, wrapped in material and sealed inside stone or wooden coffins called sarcophagi, are in excellent condition.

 

It's thought the Egyptians started using the tombs in about 660 BC.

How do you make a mummy?

 

Describing the tomb, one of the archaeologists said there were "mummies everywhere".

 

"When people came, there was no more space so they put the coffins in the wall, or they put a mummy above a mummy," he added.

 

Some of the coffins are thought to contain precious jewellery.

 

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=588&art_id=qw1082999521852B221&set_id=1

Egyptologists find trove of 50 mummies

April 26 2004 at 07:12PM

 

Saqqara, Egypt - French and Egyptian archaeologists said on Monday they had found more than 50 mummies buried in deep shafts south of Cairo and dating from the first millennium BC.

 

Some of the mummies, wrapped in linen and sealed inside stone or wooden sarcophagi, are in an excellent state of preservation for the period, said Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Antiquities Council.

 

Hawass said Egyptians had used the network of shafts and corridors over several centuries, starting from the 26th dynasty (664-525 BC) and continuing into the Ptolemaic period, which ended with the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC.

 

"It's a maze of corridors with mummies everywhere, right and left, up and down. When people came, there was no more space so they put the coffins in the wall, or they cut another shaft, or they put a mummy above a mummy," he told Reuters.

 

The shafts are in Saqqara, 25 km (15 miles) south of Cairo and the main cemetery for the nearby city of Memphis.

 

Guy Lecuyot, an Egyptologist at France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, said one of the Ptolemaic mummies was exceptional for its state of preservation and its style.

 

"I hope that next week we will have a chance to open other sarcophaguses and find other mummies in this state, and the elements which will enable us to understand Pharaonic civilisation better," he added.

 

Hawass said: "I have never seen... a mummy from the Ptolemaic period that is so unique, that is well-preserved. The linen is covering it in a beautiful way."

 

He said some of the mummy wrappings could well contain hundreds of gold amulets, which are typical of the period.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/3659501.stm

Computer helps map ancient Rome

By Dr David Whitehouse

BBC News Online science editor

 

Progress has been made in piecing together the Forma Urbis Romae, a map of Rome carved into stone slabs about AD 210 but later broken into fragments.

Measuring 18m by 14m, it was originally hung in the Templum Pacis, one of the ancient city's major public landmarks.

 

The map was remarkably accurate but researchers looking for new sites to excavate in Rome had only managed to fit back together a few of the pieces.

A Stanford University computer program is now being used to aid restoration.

 

So complicated is the jumble of parts that for decades the map pieces have been referred to as "the biggest jigsaw in the world".

 

In doing so, we have created the largest and most detailed model of a cultural artefact

Professor Marc Levoy

 

Every few years, a researcher has suggested a match between two pieces. And now, the new computer program produced by Stanford's Dr David Koller has found seven high-probability matches and a host of other possibilities.

 

"When David put up a slide of his findings at a recent conference there was an audible gasp from the audience," said Professor Marc Levoy, also of Stanford University.

 

With the new computer analysis, experts are predicting a huge expansion in knowledge of the map and a new insight into ancient Rome.

 

The Forma Urbis showed almost every feature of the city from the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus, where the chariot races took place, down to individual shops and even staircases.

 

But shortly after the fall of Rome, it is thought that the lower part of the map was torn from the wall, probably to be burned in kilns to make lime for cement.

It may have lain for centuries as just a heap of jumbled fragments, occasionally plundered for other building works.

 

During the Renaissance, some recognised its importance, but still the pieces continued to be dispersed.

 

"The map will never be fully recovered; no more than 15% of it survives and that is in 1,186 pieces," Professor Levoy told BBC News Online.

 

"But there is much about ancient Rome hidden in this jigsaw, and many new computer techniques required to extract it.

 

"The first big task was to scan and digitise the existing pieces," Professor Levoy said. "In doing so, we have created the largest and most detailed model of a cultural artefact."

 

The Stanford team has also made its data available to anyone via the internet.

"Anyone can see our 3D models of the map fragments but our software does not allow them to download details of the fragments' geometry."

 

The need for security regarding the map fragments was dictated by Italian researchers but it is an interesting aspect of the database that Levoy believes may have other uses.

 

The algorithms developed for matching pieces could perhaps be employed in other areas of science where pattern recognition is required, such as looking for structure within the data obtained by the Human Genome Project.

 

Town planners and scientists studying urban sprawl may also benefit from the ancient map.

 

The pieces of the Forma Urbis show a mix of monuments, shops, private houses and open spaces which is remarkable given the size of the city at the time.

The relationship of private and public spaces has attracted some researchers' interest as a way to tackle town planning today.

 

But Professor Levoy believes the map will be forever unfinished business.

"With so little of it remaining, we will never match all the pieces we have, but what we can do is gain an insight into unexcavated parts of the city and point archaeologists towards particular sites.

 

"It's a curious feeling to be walking down a street in Rome and know what was on the same street some 2,000 years before."

 

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/3659501.stm

Published: 2004/04/28 14:46:12 GMT

© BBC MMIV

 

http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=515681

Mussolini's former home to be turned into a Roman Holocaust museum

By Peter Popham in Rome

27 April 2004

 

The estate that was Benito Mussolini's favourite home during his decades as Italy's dictator will house a museum devoted to commemorating the Holocaust experienced by Rome's Jews.

 

Walter Veltroni, the Mayor of the Italian capital, announced the decision at the weekend as Italy celebrated Liberation Day, which commemorates the defeat of the Nazis and Fascists in the Second World War.

 

The announcement, greeted warmly by leaders of Rome's Jewish community, is doubly symbolic. It was Mussolini who, under Nazi pressure, enacted the race laws that mandated discrimination against Jews in education, jobs and other areas, but no Italian Jews were deported to concentration camps until the Nazi takeover in 1943.

 

Deep beneath the Villa Torlonia, where Mussolini lived, is an enormous network of Jewish catacombs, some six miles in length, dating back to the third and fourth centuries, which contain some of the best-preserved paintings and inscriptions of the community. After the start of the war, Mussolini used some of them to construct an air-raid shelter for himself and his family.

 

Mr Veltroni, a centre-left politician of national stature, has made a speciality of grand humanitarian gestures since becoming Rome's Mayor.

 

He said on Sunday of the new project: "It will be a museum of the Roman Holocaust, not the national one. We have discussed it with the Jewish community and will work with them to realise it in a short period of time."

 

The architect would be decided through a competition, he said. "We will commission a great architect. It must be a low, extensive building, preserving the greenery in which the emotive experience of the Shoah will be able to live."

The Shoah Foundation, established 10 years ago by the film director Steven Spielberg, will "contribute materially" to the museum, he said, through its video resources. Spielberg visited Rome recently to receive a lifetime achievement award, and discussed the new project with the Mayor.

 

Of all countries touched by the Nazis' extermination programme, Italy's record is the least shameful. About 85 per cent of the country's 45,000 Jews survived, many thousands protected by Catholic priests and others in churches and monasteries around the country. But after seizing control of Rome in September 1943, the Nazis wasted little time in announcing their intention to deport the city's Jews, and on 16 October they struck without warning, rounding up 1,015 Jews and deporting them to death camps. Only 16 of them survived the war. A total of about 1,700 Jews were deported before the Nazis were driven out again by the Allies.

 

The catacombs were the subject of controversy four years ago when a plan was announced to restore Mussolini's old home. Rome's Jewish community denounced the fact that no mention was made of restoring the catacombs, which have been closed to the public for years because of toxic gases and vandalism. On Sunday, Leone Paserman, president of the Jewish Community of Rome, said: "Villa Torlonia has a very particular significance for us. In the construction of the museum, we hope also to be able to restore the Jewish catacombs."

 

 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/04/0423_040423_mayapanel.html#main

Archaeologists Uncover Maya "Masterpiece" in Guatemala

Sean Markey

National Geographic News

April 23, 2004

 

Archaeologists working deep in Guatemala's rain forest under the protection of armed guards say they have unearthed one of the greatest Maya art masterpieces ever found.

 

The artifact—a 100-pound (45-kilogram) stone panel carved with images and hieroglyphics—depicts Taj Chan Ahk, the mighty 8th-century king of the ancient Maya city-state of Cancuén.

 

The panel was excavated in perfect condition from a royal ball court. Exquisitely carved in precise high relief, the 80-centimeter-wide (31.5-inch) stone depicts the Maya king seated on an earth symbol and throne with a jaguar skin, installing subordinate rulers in the nearby city-state of Machaquila.

 

Guatemala's Minister of Culture, Manuel Salazar Tezahuic (in white hat), and the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, John Hamilton, assist archaeologists in the excavation of a 500-pound Maya altar stone.

 

Arthur Demarest, of the anthropology department, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, has received several grants from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. Excavations at Cancuén produced evidence that this strategically located site was one of the great political and economic powers of the ancient Maya civilization. Demarest's current project focuses on excavation of the buried 7th century royal palace. Aside from addressing architectural concerns applicable to restoration purposes, excavations will seek evidence for multifaceted uses of the royal palace. The findings will help answer theoretical questions about the function of architecture in elite political interaction, production, and trade and its impact on the rise, maintenance, and decline of Classic Maya royal power.

 

Researchers say the panel's text confirms Ahk's status as one of the last, great kings of classic Maya civilization who controlled a vast territory in the Petén rain forest. Ahk grew and held his power through savvy politics and economic clout, rather than war, at a time when most other great Maya city-states were in their final decline, experts say.

 

"This panel is incredibly important," Arthur Demarest, a Vanderbilt University archaeologist and excavation co-leader, said in a satellite telephone interview from the dig site. "Every once in a while you have a beautiful, spectacular piece of art that is also profoundly historically important."

 

"It is … the best piece of Maya art that has ever been found in an excavated context," he added. "It looks like it was made yesterday."

 

In a related development that sounds ripped from the pages of an Indiana Jones script, Demarest said he has received a number of death threats tied to an upcoming trial related to the looting of a 1,200-year-old stone altar from Cancuén in 2001.

 

Demarest helped undercover agents from the Guatemalan S.I.C. (the nation's equivalent to the F.B.I.) arrest the alleged thieves and recover the altar last October. The defendants' trial is set to begin May 20.

 

Last week, armed gunmen fired on the archaeologist's rain forest dig site. The gunmen fled after Demarest's security guards returned fire and gave chase. The archaeologist has hired six bodyguards, some Israeli-trained.

 

Meanwhile in a second discovery in Cancuén, archaeologists say they have uncovered a 500-pound (230-kilogram) stone altar from the stucco surface of the thousand-year-old royal ball court, the same court used by Taj Chan Ahk.

The discovery marks the first time researchers have excavated a stone altar from a Maya ball court in its original archaeological context. Such a find "has never happened in Maya archaeology," Demarest said. "These things have always turned up in [private] collections. They've always been looted."

 

The elaborately carved altar is the third, and final, marker from the royal ball court recovered over the past century. The first was found in 1905. The second marker is the same stolen by looters in 2001. The altars were used as goal posts.

All three depict Taj Chan Ahk in full royal regalia playing against the visiting ruler of a vassal state. Ahk used the symbolic games as political "photo ops" to mark treaties and stage-manage his grip on power, Demarest said.

 

The two new stone monuments will help archaeologists better understand the last 30 years of Maya civilization and its moment of collapse, experts say.

 

Five years ago little was known about Cancuén, an ancient port city on the Pasión River whose name means "Place of the Serpents."

 

The city-state's status as an economic powerhouse of the Maya empire started to emerge in 1999, when Demarest and a team of experts from Vanderbilt University (sponsored in part by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration) and the Guatemalan Ministry of Culture began to explore the city's ruins.

 

Their excavations soon uncovered the largest palace of the ancient Maya world found to date. The palace, constructed primarily in A.D. 770 during the reign of Taj Chan Ahk, sprawled over nearly a quarter-million square feet (23,000 square meters) and included 200 rooms with vaulted ceilings.

 

The royal residence was a "power-creating machine" cleverly laid out to inspire awe in visiting warrior-kings. The palace was used to convert rivals into vassals, Demarest said. "There were 11 courtyards. By the time you got to the foot of the king, you were ready to do anything for him," he said.

 

Under Taj Chan Ahk and earlier kings, Cancuén served as a principal gateway for trade between city-states of the volcanic southern highlands of Central America and the Petén rain forest lowlands to the north.

 

Strategically located on the Pasión River, the city-state brokered trade in the precious commodities of obsidian, jade, seashells, and stingray spines. Royal craftsmen used the materials to fashion intricate scepters, headdresses, pendants, and necklaces that were used by Maya kings to display and maintain their power.

 

Classic Maya civilization peaked between A.D. 250 and 900, a period six times longer than the reign of ancient Rome. During that time, the Maya built more cities than ancient Egypt.

 

What caused Maya civilization to collapse, however, remains a mystery. Experts believe a range of factors, from internecine warfare to severe drought, may have triggered the fall. But the true cause remains a mystery.

 

http://icteesside.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0001head/tm_objectid=14195016%26method=full%26siteid=50080%26headline=oz%2darrow%2dshaft%2dis%2dnot%2dcookundefineds%2dleg%2dbone-name_page.html

Oz arrow shaft is not Cook’s leg bone

Apr 29 2004

By Evening Gazette

 

Experts today revealed that an arrow held by an Australian museum was not made from Captain Cook's leg bone as previously thought - and probably is not even human.

 

DNA testing has shot down theories the arrow was made out of bone from the explorer's leg. The Sydney-based Australian Museum announced the findings of DNA tests on the arrow's shaft today, the 234th anniversary of the day Cook stepped ashore in what is now southern Sydney.

 

It is now believed the bone-like material, which is about six inches long and is attached to a metal arrow head, could be antler or a bone from a sea mammal.

Testing on the arrow at universities in Australia and New Zealand showed no presence of human DNA. A forensic archaeologist also determined the material was unlikely to be human bone.

 

The museum's Pacific collections manager Dr Jude Philp said the findings do not detract from the mystery surrounding the artefact.

 

But she said: "While it would be wonderful to conclusively be able to say that the 'bone' is from Captain Cook, the chances of this are highly unlikely."

 

The intrigue began in 1824 when the arrow was allegedly given to a London doctor.