Ten unusual archaeological discoveries
One of the best things about archaeology is uncovering the unexpected. Some of the findings listed below certainly fit into this category – from elongated skulls to vampire graves, green slime, and the DNA of Bigfoot. Here, we feature ten unusual discoveries that took place in 2013.
French archaeologists made a surprising discovery during an excavation in Alsace, France, when they uncovered a substantially elongated skull dating back 1,500 years. The finding prompted the archaeologists to extend their search over 7.5 acres, which resulted in the discovery of an abundance of artefacts, human and animal remains from Neolithic, Gallic, Gallo-Roman, and Merovingian societies. The skull appears to have been intentionally elongated through the practice known as cranial deformation, which is usually associated with ancient Mesoamerican cultures and was practiced extensively in Europe, Africa, Asia, and as noted, South America. The skull was discovered during excavation of a necropolis containing 18 burials, in a tomb belonging to a woman who clearly held a high status position in society as she was buried with a rich assortment of treasures including gold pins, a silver mirror, beads of glass and amber, a comb made from deer antler and a number of other goods. Cranial deformation was frequently associated with the elites of society and affirmed their high status. The important question of course is why?
A leading expert on animal mummies has released the results of a new analysis on a discovery made in 2009 in Egypt where archaeologists found a highly unusual canine burial in a large mud-brick structure in Abydos, one of Egypt’s oldest standing royal monuments. Two well preserved dogs were found curled up inside large ceramic pots, dating back around 3,000 years. A large number of mummified dogs and dog cemeteries have been found throughout Egypt, but it is the first time that dogs have been found in burial jars. Nicknamed Houdini and Chewie, the dogs still had their fur largely intact. Houdini was found in a large two-handled pot, and buried without any wrappings. His fur was a brown-auburn colour and appears to have been coated by an oil or resin, perhaps for preservation. Due to the size of the dog, the researchers could not work out how he was placed inside the jar so they named him after the magician, Houdini.
A team of researchers from London’s Royal College of Art (RCA) discovered that the stones used to construct Stonehenge hold musical properties and when struck, sound like bells, drums and gongs. It is suggested that these properties could be the reason why the builders were willing to travel so far to source the stones from Wales and bring them to the site in Salisbury Plain, England. Experts conducted acoustic tests at the site by tapping the bluestones with small quartz hammerstones to test for sounds. They found that the stones made metallic and wooden sounds in many different notes. Such sonic or musical rocks are referred to as 'ringing rocks' or 'lithophones'. The investigators believe that this ‘acoustic energy’ could have been the prime reason why these stones were transported nearly 200 miles from Preseli to Salisbury Plain, as archaeologists have not yet been able to explain why they were brought so far when there were plentiful local rocks from which Stonehenge could have been built.
The Natural History Museum in London made an announcement about a specialised department which has been likened to the well-known X-Files programme. The unit’s Identification and Advisory Service will be responsible for investigating a wide-range of unexplained phenomena, and so far they have been contending with so-called ‘space slime’, and a host of bizarre items discovered by the British public including bones resembling a dragon skull, round objects believed to be meteorite fragments, and a skull with long tusks believed to have belonged to the ice-age sabre tooth tiger. The research team takes a scientific approach to all the submissions and so-far they have been able to solve many of the mysteries. However, one of the unexplained phenomena still has the team baffled – the mysterious slime discovered in a nature reserve in Somerset. The slime appeared at the same time as a meteor crashed to earth in Chelyabinsk, Russia, which has led many to believe that the strange substance has come from space. An amateur photographer claimed he had captured a mysterious object whizzing through the sky above the park on camera. The object appeared to be a meteor, although this was not confirmed by astronomers. The London museum's Angela Marmont Centre (AMC) for UK Biodiversity, which houses the Identification and Advisory Service, was tasked with investigating the mysterious slime, with the aim of establishing whether it had fallen from space, or if its origins were rather more terrestrial. Laboratory tests have so far failed to find just what it could be - and where it had come from.