Archaeologists discover 2,700-year-old tomb in Mexico

Tomb of dignitary inside pyramid in southern Mexico may be oldest such burial documented in Mesoamerica

Associated Press in Mexico City


Tuesday 18 May 2010 16.25 BST


Archaeologists in southern Mexico have discovered the 2,700-year-old tomb of a dignitary inside a pyramid that may be the oldest such burial documented in Mesoamerica.


The tomb held a man aged about 50, who was buried with jade collars, pyrite and obsidian artefacts and ceramic vessels. Archaeologist Emiliano Gallaga said the tomb dates to between 500 and 700BC.


"We think this is one of the earliest discoveries of the use of a pyramid as a tomb, not only as a religious site or temple," Gallaga said.


Pre-Hispanic cultures built pyramids mainly as representations of the levels leading from the underworld to the sky; the highest point usually held a temple.


The tomb was found at a site built by Zoque Indians in Chiapa de Corzo, in southern Chiapas state. It may be almost 1,000 years older than the better-known pyramid tomb of the Mayan ruler Pakal at the Palenque archaeological site, also in Chiapas.


The man probably a high priest or ruler of Chiapa de Corzo, a prominent settlement at the time was buried in a stone chamber. Marks in the wall indicate wooden roof supports were used to create the tomb, but the wood long ago collapsed under the weight of the pyramid built above.


Archaeologists began digging into the pyramid mound in April to study the internal structure pyramids were often built in layers, one atop another when they happened on a wall whose finished stones appeared to face inward. In digging last week, they uncovered the 4 x 3 metre tomb chamber about 6 or 7 metres beneath what had been the pyramid's peak.


The body of a one-year-old child was laid carefully over the man's body inside the tomb, while that of a 20-year-old male was tossed into the chamber with less care, perhaps sacrificed at the time of burial. The older man was buried with jade and amber collars and bracelets and pearl ornaments. His face was covered with what may have been a funeral mask with obsidian eyes. Nearby, the tomb of a woman (left), also about 50, contained similar ornaments.


The ornaments some imported from as far away as Guatemala and central Mexico and some of the 15 ceramic vessels found in the tomb show influences from the Olmec culture, long considered the "mother culture" of the region.


The find raised the possibility that Olmec pyramids might contain similar tombs of dignitaries, especially at sites such as La Venta. Olmec pyramids, while well-known, have not been excavated, in part because the high water table and humidity of their Gulf coast sites are not as conducive to preserving buried human remains.


"The Olmec sites have not been explored with the depth they deserve," said Lynneth Lowe, an archaeologist at Mexico's National Autonomous University who participated in the dig. "It is possible that this type of tomb exists at La Venta."


Despite the Chiapa de Corzo tomb's location, experts said it is not clear the later Maya culture learned or inherited the practice of pyramid burials from the Zoques, or Olmecs.


"While I have no doubt it relates to Olmec, there is no tie to Maya at this time per se," said archaeologist Lisa Lucero of the University of Illinois, who was not involved in the Chiapa de Corzo project. "There are scholars who would like to see Olmec-Maya connections so they can show direct ties from Olmec to Maya, but this would be difficult to show with evidence at hand."



93 Warring States Period to Han Dynasty tombs found in Hebei

16:46, May 27, 2010     


Archeological teams unearthed 93 tombs from China's Warring States Period to the Han Dynasty at the Zhangduo Ruins in Neiqiu of Xingtai, Hebei. (The Warring States period covers the period from 475 B.C. to the unification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 B.C.) Earlier, two Han Dynasty(206 B.C.220 A.D.) kiln sites and 104 Warring States period to Han Dynasty tombs were unearthed.


The 93 tombs found in the south of Zhangduo Village are divided into Number One and Two cemeteries. There are 42 tombs in the Number One Cemetery and 51 tombs in the Number Two Cemetery. Funerary objects unearthed totaled more than 260 pieces, including spade-shaped coins, bronze belt hooks, brass bells, tripods, clay workshops, jars, pots, cups and bowls.


The structure of tombs during the Warring States period was generally funnel-shaped and rarely belonged to earth-shaft graves. The burial form of these tombs was primarily under the unique burial customs of the Qin people with the skeletons of the dead maintaining the fetal position. Objects buried with the dead were few and only some clay tripods, jars, stemmed bowls and plates were found in certain graves.


During the western Han period, there were two types of tombs, earth-shaft graves and brick-chambered graves, and funerary utensils were generally similar with that of the Warring States period, but had some changes. For instance, the graves were surrounded by a wall of bricks and covered by wooden boards to replace previous wooden chambers.


In the earth-shaft graves, funerary objects were more plentiful than that of the Warring States period. The objects were mainly jars and there were also cups and pots in some graves, generally placed in front of the grave occupant's head. In the brick-chambered graves, funerary objects were generally composed of tripods, pots, boxes and jars and there were also figurines and basins in certain graves.


The Archeological Team for the South-to-North Water Diversion Project under Xingtai Municipal Cultural Relics Management Office initiated the excavation at the Number Two site in 2009 and unearthed two Han Dynasty kiln sites and 104 Warring States period-Han Dynasty tombs.



3,300-year-old tomb of Ancient Egyptian official Ptah Mes discovered at Saqqara

Submitted by Ann on Sun, 05/30/2010 - 17:14


Archaeologists have discovered the 3,300 year-old tomb of Ptahmes, 19th Dynasty army leader and royal scribe, at Saqqara. The discovery of the tomb dated to the second half of the 19th Dynasty (1203-1186BC) - by the Archaeological Faculty of the Cairo University was announced today, putting an end to a 300-year-old archaeological riddle.


Ptahmes' tomb is 70 metres long and contains numerous chapels. Dr Zahi Hawass commented its design is similar to that of the tomb of Ptah Im Wiya, a royal sear bearer who lived during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten, discovered in 2007 by Dutch archaeologists.


As Ptahmes was appointed to several official posts including mayhor of Memphis, royal scribe and supervisor of the Ptah temple Dr Ola El-Egezi, who led the excavations, concluded he must have been a prominent figure. The 19th Dynasty cemetery, located on the south side of the ramp of the Pyramid of King Unas, was reserved for the burial of ancient Egypt's top government officials.


The excavation revealed several stelae, amongst which an unfinished depiction of the deceased. It shows Ptahmes and his family before the Theban triad: Amun, Mut and Khonsu. Such a stela, El-Egezi said, reveals that during the second half of the 19th dynasty, the cult of Amun was revived.


The sand revealed several fragments of the statue of Ptahmes and his wife.  A painted head depicting a female most probably the mayor's wife or one of his daughters was unearthed, along with a limestone statue that belongs to the deceased. The archaeologists also unearthed clay vessels, shabti figurines and amulets.


According to archaeologist Dr Heba Mustafa, part of the excavation team, the pillars of the tomb were reused for the construction of chapels during the Christian era. Part of its walls are severely deteriorated. Several pieces of the wall were found in the debris inside the tomb.  These pieces were collected in order to be registered and restored.  It is thought most of the damage to the walls was sustained when the tomb was first opened in the 19th century.


The location of the tomb of Ptahmes was last recorded in 1885 and artifacts from the burial site were taken to museums in the Netherlands, the United States, Italy and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  Its location was soon forgotton, and Egypt's desert sands covered up the tomb again.


Ptahmes' sarcophagus is not yet located. Excavations to find the main shaft of the tomb leading to the burial chamber with the coffin and funerary equipment continue.


Saqqara, located 40 kilometres south of Cairo is one of Egypt's oldest burial sites, also known as the 'City of the Dead'. It is a 6 kilometres long necropolis and home to a great number of mastabas, rock-cut tombs and pyramids, amongst which the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser.


Earlier this year at Saqqara, French archaeologists discovered the burial chamber of 6th Dynasty Queen Behenu wife to either Pepi I or Pepi II and an Egyptian mission found a 26th Dynasty tomb, the largest rock-cut tomb ever discovered at the necropolis.  Several archaeological teams are excavating at the vast site, amongst which the team of Dr Dobrev hoping to find Userkare's pyramid (watch the video).



57 ancient tombs with mummies unearthed in Egypt

Sun May 23, 2:13 pm ET



Archeologists have unearthed 57 ancient Egyptian tombs, most of which hold an ornately painted wooden sarcophagus with a mummy inside, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said Sunday.

The oldest tombs date back to around 2750 B.C. during the period of Egypt's first and second dynasties, the council said in a statement. Twelve of the tombs belong the 18th dynasty which ruled Egypt during the second millennium B.C.

The discovery throws new light on Egypt's ancient religions, the council said.

Egypt's archaeology chief, Zahi Hawass, said the mummies dating to the 18th dynasty are covered in linen decorated with religious texts from the Book of the Dead and scenes featuring ancient Egyptian deities.

Abdel Rahman El-Aydi, head of the archaeological mission that made the discovery, said some of the tombs are decorated with religious texts that ancient Egyptians believed would help the deceased to cross through the underworld.

El-Aydi said one of the oldest tombs is almost completely intact, with all of its funerary equipment and a wooden sarcophagus containing a mummy wrapped in linen.

In 31 tombs dating to around 2030-1840 B.C, archeologists discovered scenes of different ancient Egyptian deities, such as the falcon-headed Horus, Hathor, Khnum and Amun, decorating some of the tombs.

The council said the findings were unearthed at Lahoun, in Fayoum, some 70 miles (100 kilometers) south of Cairo.

Last year, some 53 stone tombs dating back to various ancient periods were found in the area.



Divers explore sunken ruins of Cleopatra's palace


Associated Press Writer


Originally published May 25, 2010 at 10:02 AM | Page modified May 25, 2010 at 2:56 PM


Plunging into the waters off Alexandria Tuesday, divers explored the submerged ruins of a palace and temple complex from which Cleopatra ruled, swimming over heaps of limestone blocks hammered into the sea by earthquakes and tsunamis more than 1,600 years ago.


The international team is painstakingly excavating one of the richest underwater archaeological sites in the world and retrieving stunning artifacts from the last dynasty to rule over ancient Egypt before the Roman Empire annexed it in 30 B.C.


Using advanced technology, the team is surveying ancient Alexandria's Royal Quarters, encased deep below the harbor sediment, and confirming the accuracy of descriptions of the city left by Greek geographers and historians more than 2,000 years ago.


Since the early 1990s, the topographical surveys have allowed the team, led by French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio, to conquer the harbor's extremely poor visibility and excavate below the seabed. They are discovering everything from coins and everyday objects to colossal granite statues of Egypt's rulers and sunken temples dedicated to their gods.


"It's a unique site in the world," said Goddio, who has spent two decades searching for shipwrecks and lost cities below the seas.


The finds from along the Egyptian coast will go on display at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute from June 5 to Jan. 2 in an exhibition titled "Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt." The exhibition will tour several other North American cities.


Many archaeological sites have been destroyed by man, with statues cut or smashed to pieces. Alexandria's Royal Quarters - ports, a cape and islands full of temples, palaces and military outposts - simply slid into the sea after cataclysmic earthquakes in the fourth and eighth centuries. Goddio's team found it in 1996. Many of its treasures are completely intact, wrapped in sediment protecting them from the saltwater.


"It's as it was when it sank," said Ashraf Abdel-Raouf of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, who is part of the team.


Tuesday's dive explored the sprawling palace and temple complex where Cleopatra, the last of Egypt's Greek-speaking Ptolemaic rulers, seduced the Roman general Mark Antony before they committed suicide upon their defeat by Octavian, the future Roman Emperor Augustus.


Dives have taken Goddio and his team to some of the key scenes in the dramatic lives of the couple, including the Timonium, commissioned by Antony after his defeat as a place where he could retreat from the world, though he killed himself before it was completed.


They also found a colossal stone head believed to be of Caesarion, son of Cleopatra and previous lover Julius Caesar, and two sphinxes, one of them probably representing Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy XII.


Divers photographed a section of the seabed cleared of sediment with a powerful suction device. Their flashlights glowing in the green murk, the divers photographed ruins from a temple to Isis near Cleopatra's palace on the submerged island of Antirhodos.


Among the massive limestone blocks toppled in the fourth century was a huge quartzite block with an engraving of a pharaoh. An inscription indicates it depicts Seti I, father of Ramses II.


"We've found many pharaonic objects that were brought from Heliopolis, in what is now Cairo," said Abdel-Raouf. "So, the Ptolemaic rulers re-used pharonic objects to construct their buildings."


On the boat's deck, researchers displayed some small recent finds: imported ceramics and local copies, a statuette of a pharaoh, bronze ritual vessels, amulets barely bigger than a fingernail, and small lead vessels tossed by the poor into the water or buried in the ground as devotions to gods.


Alexandria's Eastern Harbor was abandoned after another earthquake, in the eighth century, and was left untouched as an open bay - apart from two 20th century breakwaters - while modern port construction went ahead in the Western Harbor. That has left the ancient Portus Magnus undisturbed below.


"We have this as an open field for archaeology," Goddio said.



The Franck Goddio Society: http://www.franckgoddio.org

The Franklin Institute: http://www.fi.edu



Unearthing a New Islamic Coastal Settlement

20 May 2010


Recent excavations by Qatar Museums Authority and Lampeter archaeologist Dr Andrew Petersen have discovered an old Islamic coastal settlement complete with a fort, mosque, domestic dwellings and auxiliary buildings.


The discovery by Dr Petersen, lecturer in Islamic archaeology at the University of Wales Lampeter, was made at Ras al-Shairig in the northern part of Qatar earlier this year.


In addition to the building structures, which in total measure more than 400 metres north to south, there were a large number of burnt mounds or middens, pottery, bones and shells demonstrating a long period of human occupation.


The pottery found, which altogether weighs approximately 80kg, appears to originate from as far afield as China, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Iran. Other fascinating finds from the site include Indian rupee coins deliberately placed within the walls of the mosque, Arabic inscriptions on plaster, and a surprising diversity of different date presses.


These artefacts, together with its proximity to the sea, indicate that the site was a trading settlement.  Surprisingly however there were none of the usual artefacts associated with fishing and pearling that are typically found in coastal regions.


Preliminary examination of the pottery suggests that the settlement ceased to be occupied in the mid to late 19th century but the reason why the site was abandoned is unknown.  However the presence of a cannonball embedded in the wall of a fort provide indicates that life was not always peaceful.


Dr Petersen, whose research interests include Islamic urbanism, pilgrimage routes and fortifications, has carried out fieldwork in many parts of the Islamic world including Iraq, Oman, Jordan, Palestine, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. This excavation work was undertaken in collaboration with the Qatar Museums Authority and the Qatar Islamic Archaeology and Heritage Project.



Settlement found under Qatar sand by Lampeter academic

Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 16:05 UK


A Welsh academic has revealed how he discovered a Middle East settlement buried under sand for about 125 years.


Dr Andrew Petersen first became aware of a possible settlement after finding masonry and pottery at Ras Al-Sharig in Qatar.


He thought something might be there after reading sources naming a town called Rubayqa.


"But we certainly weren't prepared for the scale of the find," said the expert from the University of Wales, Lampeter.


The haul includes the remains of a fort, a mosque, several industrial and domestic buildings, and 100 kilos of pottery and artefacts.


Among the more unusual discoveries were Indian rupee coins set into the walls of a building believed to have been a mosque, porcelain originating from as far afield as China and Burma, and several date presses, even though dates are impossible to grow in the area.


However, Dr Petersen, a specialist in Islamic archaeology, and the team from the Qatar Museums Authority are more puzzled at what they did not find.


"Aside from the mosque, there's very little evidence of cultural or domestic life. It appears that this was a very early example of an industrial settlement, with only very basic barrack-style accommodation.


"The principal industry seems to have been processing sugars and oil from dates, and given that they're not native to the region, they must have been brought in by sea, probably from the world's biggest oasis in Al-Hasa, Saudi Arabia, measuring over 100 miles end to end."


He said the whole site was "baffling".


The best theory we can come up with at the moment is that Rubayqa was used as some sort of processing and storage facility for nomadic tribes


"Despite being located on the coast, there's none of the artefacts you'd expect to find, connected with fishing or pearl diving.


"Also, given that it's on a natural deep water harbour, rare on the Qatari coast, it's strange that there's no evidence of even more extensive trade links with the outside world.


"The best theory we can come up with at the moment is that Rubayqa was used as some sort of processing and storage facility for nomadic tribes who'd stock up there before wandering the deserts of the Arabian hinterland."


Interior of prayer hall of mosque found at the site in Qatar

Almost as big a mystery surrounds who lived or worked there, and why they abandoned it.


Dr Petersen believes that documentary evidence in Turkey points towards an Ottoman Empire outpost in the area, from as early as the 15th Century.


It is thought that the Ottomans seized territory to use as a base from which to invade neighbouring Bahrain.


Qatari sources point to a major attack on Rubayqa during the 1760s by the Wahhabi tribe from what is now Saudi Arabia.


Burnt roofing timbers

The last human occupation of the site has been dated from remains as being around the 1890s, but why it was finally left to the sands is unclear.


"We suspect that there was another major assault on Rubayqa in the 1890s, possibly even larger than the attack during the 1760s," Dr Peterson added.


"We've found burnt roofing timbers on top of day-to-day objects, which would suggest that the fires occurred suddenly, and while the buildings were still occupied.


"This is probably why the inhabitants fled, but who attacked them, and why they never came back is a mystery which can only be revealed through further excavations over the next few years."



Italy: Ancient Etruscan home found near Grosseto

Grosseto, 25 May (AKI)


An ancient Etruscan home dating back more than 2,400 years has been discovered outside Grosseto in central Italy. Hailed as an exceptional find, the luxury home was uncovered at an archeological site at Vetulonia, 200 kilometres north of Rome.


Archeologists say it is rare to find an Etruscan home intact and believe the home was built between the 3rd and 1st century BC.


Using six Roman and Etruscan coins uncovered at the home, archeologists believe the house collapsed in 79 AD during wars unleashed by Roman general and dictator, Lucio Cornelio Silla.


Archeologists have discovered a large quantity of items which have revealed a great deal about life in the home and the construction techniques of the era.


"These are the best ruins that have ever been found in Italy," said Simona Rafanelli, director of the Isidoro Falchi archeological museum in Vetulonia, told journalists.


"They represent something incredibly important from an archeological and historical point of view, because they finally give us an understanding of new techniques linked to Etruscan construction that we did not know until today.


"Here today we are rewriting history. It is a unique case in Italy because with what we have found we will be able to completely reconstruct the entire house."


From the ruins they discovered a basement or cellar in which the family is believed to have stored foodstuffs.


A beautiful earthenware pot was found in the corner of the room and an olive press.


Pieces of vases and plates were also uncovered at the house, while the walls were made of sun-dried clay bricks.



Derbyshire Iron Age bones were of pregnant woman


Tests carried out on a skeleton discovered at an archaeological dig in Derbyshire have found it was that of a pregnant woman.


Experts said they were surprised by the female find because the site, near Monsal Dale in the Peak District, had been believed to be a military scene.

Now, extra lottery funding means there can be a second dig at the Fin Cop hill fort site to find out more.

Archaeologists unearthed the Iron Age skeleton last August.

During the excavation, the woman was uncovered among the jumbled stone of a collapsed rampart.


 When you get back to the lab, throw the scientific techniques and analysis at them, that's when you start to get the story out 

Jim Brightman, project manager

The main focus of the dig was to find how the ramparts of the hill fort were built and when they were erected and archaeologists described the skeleton find as "unexpected".

Experts said it was evident the woman had been thrown into the ditch as the stone wall of the hill fort was being pushed in.

Specialist analysis of the bones revealed the woman to have been about 21 to 30 years of age when she died between 300 and 200 BC.

The Longstone Local History Group has now been awarded a grant of nearly 50,000 to continue to research the area with the help of Archaeological Research Services Ltd.

One of the project managers, Jim Brightman, said: "Quite a lot of very important finds cannot look like much on site.

"But when you get back to the lab, throw the scientific techniques and analysis at them, that's when you start to get the story out.

"The bones are a great example of that, we found out so much more by analysing them."



Anglo-Saxon finds at new Cheltenham academy site


An Anglo-Saxon settlement has been discovered on the site of the new All Saints' Academy in Cheltenham.

Two skeletons, pottery and a large timber hall, all thought to date back to between the 6th to 8th Century, have been uncovered.

Steve Sheldon, of Cotswold Archaeology, said it was previously thought the area did not succumb to Saxon control during that period.

He said the settlement was one of the best finds of his career.

'Saxon influence'

It is thought the hall, measuring 11m by 6m (36ft by 20ft), was used for communal events such as feasts.

Mr Sheldon, who is directing the excavation, said he "didn't expect to find much" when the team started work.

Cliff Bateman, project manager at Cotswold Archaeology, said: "It would now appear that there were more pockets of Anglo-Saxon control in the Severn Valley than we previously thought.

"Anglo-Saxon burials have been found in Bishops Cleeve and Tewkesbury, but this discovery shows Saxon influence right on the very doorstep of Gloucester."

The academy is being built on the site of the former Kingsmead School.

'Learning opportunity'

Pupils from the former school, and from Christ College, will have a chance to look at the finds on 25 May before they are removed for dating and recording.

The items will then be donated to Cheltenham Museum.

Construction on the site is continuing and the academy is still on track to open in September 2011.

Helena Arnold, director of children and young people's department at Gloucester Diocese, said: "This will provide an excellent learning opportunity for students even before the construction process is under way.

"Whilst the academy looks to the future to provide first class facilities for the 21st Century, the archaeological find is an opportunity too for students to learn about the past and the culture from which we have developed."



Thousands of pieces of slave pottery found in Berkeley Co.

The Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.

Last Modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 11:14 a.m.


CHARLESTON An archaeological dig has uncovered thousands of pieces of slave pottery and other artifacts at an industrial site on the South Carolina coast.


The Post and Courier of Charleston reports that archeologists digging at the Berkeley County site found 58,000 pieces of colonoware, a handmade pottery crafted by slaves. Officials say it is one of the largest concentrations ever found in the country.


Other artifacts include bone buttons, silver coins, pipe stems and porcelain doll heads.


In all, 125,000 artifacts were found at the site that used to be part of Dean Hall Plantation. The plant site is located where there once were 19 slave cabins.


Other items found during the dig included stoneware bowls, glass bottles, pipe stems and gold coins.


Archaeologist Ralph Bailey said the finds show that families lived on the site for 150 years.


The artifacts were found as part of a dig on land owned by DuPont where the company plans to build a Kevlar fibers plant. The work was part of a routine archaeological survey of the site before construction.


"We went into it not expecting this," said Ellis McGaughy, the plant site manager. "We rearranged some work to allow archaeologists to do their work. When you hear archaeologists get excited, everybody else gets excited too."


Some of the artifacts go on display next month at the Heritage Room at Cypress Gardens, a park near the site.


DuPont spent about $250,000 on the dig. Berkeley County, which owns Cypress Gardens, spent an additional $100,000 renovating what was a reptile house at the park to create the Heritage Room.

Only a small fraction of the items found during the dig will be able to be displayed, said Dwight Williams, the director of Cypress Gardens. He said the display will help tell the story of the gardens which were also part of the plantation.


The Kevlar plant begins operation in 2012.