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  • Amazonian Societies Built 'Islands' On The Floor Of The Rainforest To Use As Burial Mounds on Random Groundbreaking Archaeological Finds That Have Been Discovered Since You Were In School

    (#24) Amazonian Societies Built 'Islands' On The Floor Of The Rainforest To Use As Burial Mounds

    In the middle of the Bolivian Amazon, in an area known as Llanos de Moxos, there are several "islands" or mounds that jut out of the forest floor. These are basically 10,000-year-old dumping grounds. Then scientists discovered the existence of human bodies in the mounds. They were intentionally buried by other humans and date back 6,300 years.

    "As far as I am aware, these are the oldest human remains documented in southwestern Amazonia," José Capriles, co-author of a study of the remains, explained to Smithsonian. "There are older human skeletons from neighboring regions such [as] the karstic cave complexes of the Mina[s] Gerais region in Brazil or the Andean highlands, but not from this region."

    The discovery of multiple buried bodies in the same region implies the area was home to non-nomadic hunter-gatherer societies earlier than ever expected. Typically, people who move from place to place don't bother burying their loved ones in a specific place, as they are not tied to any set region and typically wouldn't build landfills in areas they planned to vacate.

    These mounds, or islands, give researchers a new idea of how seasonal hunter-gatherers may have constructed semi-permanent residences, or seasonal residences, long before the development of agriculture and domestication.

  • What Is Believed To Be Largest Underground City In The World Was Found In Turkey on Random Groundbreaking Archaeological Finds That Have Been Discovered Since You Were In School

    (#4) What Is Believed To Be Largest Underground City In The World Was Found In Turkey

    Researchers announced in April 2022 that they had found what they believe to be the largest underground city in the world, in southeast Turkey. The subterranean city, called Matiate, is in the Midyat district (pictured) in the province of Mardin. Archaeologists who started exploring a cave at the site found places of worship, silos, water wells, and corridors dating from the second and third centuries CE . 

    Gani Tarkan, director of the Mardin Museum and the excavation, told the Daily Sabah the city was used as a hiding place:

    As it is known, Christianity was not an official religion in the second century. Families and groups who accepted Christianity generally took shelter in underground cities to escape the persecution of Rome or formed an underground city. Possibly… Midyat was one of the living spaces built for this purpose. It is an area where we estimate that at least 60,000 to 70,000 people lived underground.

    Similar underground cities have been found elsewhere in Turkey, but Matiate is much larger than any of those previously discovered sites.

  • Remains In China Date The Human Ability To Understand Symbols And Abstractions on Random Groundbreaking Archaeological Finds That Have Been Discovered Since You Were In School

    (#25) Remains In China Date The Human Ability To Understand Symbols And Abstractions

    Discovered by archaeologists in China, two bones marked with ochre-filled etchings have led researchers to rethink the human developmental timeline - particularly, how ancient humans used art and symbols to convey meaning.

    The engraved bones were found in a layer of the Earth dating back to around 105,000 years ago. "This discovery indicates that the production of abstract motifs, possibly used for symbolic purposes, was an integral part of the cultures developed by human populations who lived in China contemporary to the emergence of our species, Homo sapiens, in Africa," Luc Doyon, co-author of a recent study on the discovery, told the Indian Express.

    This is one of the most significant indications that archaic hominins, the now-extinct species of proto-humans that came before Homo sapiens, were capable of mental cognition on a similar scale as Homo sapiens. "It is clear that members of our species, Homo sapiens, possess these abilities. However, opinions still differ amongst archaeologists between those who think archaic hominin cognition is comparable to that of Homo sapiens and those who don’t," Doyon said.

    He further explained that the intentional markings on these bones appears to indicate a form of recording information or symbols for the purpose of communication at a later date. However, it has thus far been impossible to determine or even infer their meaning.

  • The Oldest Fossilized Human Footprints In North America Were Found In New Mexico  on Random Groundbreaking Archaeological Finds That Have Been Discovered Since You Were In School

    (#2) The Oldest Fossilized Human Footprints In North America Were Found In New Mexico 

    In 2021, an international team of researchers announced they had discovered the oldest known fossilized human footprints in North America, at White Sands National Park in New Mexico. The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Science, said the footprints date back about 23,000 years, which was during the Ice Age. Previously, scientists thought humans had crossed into North America after glaciers had melted; this study suggests they arrived when ice was in their path. Previous studies also relied on the study of cultural items like tools and conventional fossils; footprints are much more convincing evidence of a human presence.

    Human tracks are usually extremely difficult to date. But the footprints at White Sands, originally found by archaeologist and study co-author Davis Bustos in 2019, could be carbon-dated because they were mixed with sediment and seeds from an ancient grass. 

    Ciprian Ardelean, an archaeologist at Autonomous University of Zacatecas in Mexico who was not part of the study, told The New York Times: "I think this is probably the biggest discovery about the peopling of America in a hundred years... [T]his is a dream find."

     

  • A 16th-Century Shipwreck Is Discovered Off The Coast Of Northern Italy on Random Groundbreaking Archaeological Finds That Have Been Discovered Since You Were In School

    (#10) A 16th-Century Shipwreck Is Discovered Off The Coast Of Northern Italy

    In February 2020, professional divers Gabriele Succi and Edoardo Sbaraini, who own Rasta Divers, discovered pieces of a 16th-century shipwreck about 50 meters deep off the coast of Northern Italy. Divers from the Superintendence and the Underwater Carabinieri for reconnaissance operations surveyed the site and confirmed the visible hull can be traced back to the early modern age. 

    In 1579, one of the largest Italian merchant vessels, the Santo Spirito and Santa Maria di Loreto, went down near where Succi and Sbaraini made their discovery, prompting the Archaeology Superintendency of Italy’s Ministry for Cultural Heritage & Tourism to speculate they might have stumbled upon the long lost ship. The Santo Spirito and Santa Maria di Loreto has been the subject of countless recovery missions since the early '70s.  

  • Meso-American Sculptures Possibly Reveal Native Americans Had An Earlier Understanding Of Magnetism Than Europeans on Random Groundbreaking Archaeological Finds That Have Been Discovered Since You Were In School

    (#17) Meso-American Sculptures Possibly Reveal Native Americans Had An Earlier Understanding Of Magnetism Than Europeans

    The early indigenous Monte Alto people, who lived on the Pacific coast of what is now Guatemala, possibly had an understanding of magnetic forces long before they were appreciated in Europe. This is based on the attributes of 11 large, basalt sculptures being studied by researchers.

    The Monte Alto sculptures, which depict potbellied people, were shaped from rocks that had been struck by lightning and rendered magnetic. When sculpting the figures, researchers believe the artisans crafted them in such a way that the magnetism would be strongest at protruding points on the figures, such as their navels. "[The people of Monte Alto] chose the boulders, and they shaped them in such a way that the magnetism would be measurable at certain points of the anatomy of the sculptures," archaeologist Oswaldo Chinchilla told Smithsonian.

    Merle Walker, professor emeritus of astronomy at the University of California’s Lick Observatory, explained that this discovery raises an important question: "The interesting thing is how they did this, and how they detected this magnetism." Being able to detect the magnetism suggests the Monte Alto people knew how it worked, to some degree, and how to locate the points of strongest pull.

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