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Weekly Top Stories: A Quick Catch Up On What You May Have Missed

Weekly Top Stories: A Quick Catch Up On What You May Have Missed

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In last week’s top stories, we had a shock revelation that the Hopewell culture collapsed after a comet strike, prehistoric cave dwellers were unbelievably clever about where they placed their fires, a vertebra supported a Two-Waves-Out-of-Africa theory, ancient secret cacao groves have been exposed in Yucatan, two very old helmets and a Greek Temple caused a stir, and a misplaced college was located in Oxford. And a story which deserves a little limelight concerns ancient Peruvians reassembling their dead after the conquistadors had smashed them up.

Legendary Hopewell Culture Destroyed By Exploding Comet, Study Says

Hopewell culture serpent effigy, Turner Group, Mound 4, Little Miami Valley, Ohio. (Daderot / Public Domain)

Hopewell culture serpent effigy, Turner Group, Mound 4, Little Miami Valley, Ohio. (Daderot /  Public Domain )

After enjoying centuries of stability, the prosperous Native American Hopewell culture suddenly went into rapid and irreversible decline around the year 500 AD. The reasons why this happened have long been a topic for speculation, and a team of researchers from the Departments of Anthropology and Geology at the University of Cincinnati (Ohio) have now joined the debate to offer a brand-new theory.

Analyzing rock samples collected from 11 archaeological sites in the Ohio River Valley, these researchers have found physical evidence that suggests an exploding comet may have played a significant role in the Hopewell peoples’ demise. The samples included the stony remnants of this disintegrating space object, which was destroyed in an airburst that distributed its debris far and wide in all directions.

These stony remnants, which are known as micrometeorites, possessed qualities that revealed their true origin.

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Ancient Cave Dwellers Managed Fire to Reduce Smoke Exposure

Reconstruction of ancient human cave dweller in the Lazaret Cave, France, showing the hearth at the side of the cave.  Source: De Lumley, M. A. / Public Domain

Reconstruction of ancient human cave dweller in the Lazaret Cave, France, showing the hearth at the side of the cave.  Source: De Lumley, M. A. /  Public Domain

An enlightening new study conducted by prehistoric archaeologists from Tel Aviv University in Israel has revealed how early humans cave dwellers who lived 150,000 to 170,000 years ago managed the fires they set inside caves.

For the purposes of their study, which was just published in the journal  Scientific Reports  , researchers Yafit Kedar, Gil Kedar, and Ran Barkai used archaeological data collected from Lazaret Cave in France, a well-explored site that was first occupied by early humans during the  Lower Paleolithic period  .

Excavations at the cave proved that these  cave dwellers  had chosen to place their community hearths in the same general location over and over again across the centuries. This suggested they were choosing that location for logical reasons, rather than just building their  fires randomly.

Through their work, the Tel Aviv University researchers were able to verify this theory. Early human cave dwellers chose hearth sites that reflected a knowledge of fire’s characteristics and properties. They built their fires in a particular spot in order to maintain a comfortable and livable indoor environment, where they could reside safely and securely in all types of weather conditions.

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1.5-Million-Year-Old Human Remains Point to Two Waves Out of Africa

A top (a), rear (b), bottom (c) and front (d) view of the vertebra discovered at 'Ubeidiya.  Source: Dr. Alon Barash, Bar-Ilan University

A top (a), rear (b), bottom (c) and front (d) view of the vertebra discovered at 'Ubeidiya.  Source: Dr. Alon Barash, Bar-Ilan University

Human bones uncovered in Israel have been dated to 1.5 million years with repercussions for the Out of Africa theory. What they tell researchers is that our ancient relatives left Africa in two waves separated by hundreds of thousands of years.

The fossilised 1.5 million years old human vertebra was found in the  Jordan Valley  in Israel and came from a boy aged between six and 12 years old at the time of death. A new study says the remains suggest two waves of  hominin populations spread from Africa to Eurasia, hundreds of thousands of years apart.

Furthermore, when these bones were compared with other  human remains dating to 1.8 million years ago  , discovered in  Georgia, the differences show how much impact the environment had on human development in different parts of the world.

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Chocolate Trail: Sacred Maya Cacao Groves Found In Mexico’s Yucatan

A replica figurine of the Maya Goddess of Cacao named Ixcacao. Sculpted by Patricia Martin at Muna, Yucatan. (Brigham Young University)

A replica figurine of the Maya Goddess of Cacao named Ixcacao. Sculpted by Patricia Martin at Muna, Yucatan. ( Brigham Young University )

As divine gift, money and a source of power, cacao, the plant that feeds the present-day chocolate obsession, was even more precious to the ancient Maya of the northern Yucatan. While historians have known that cacao cultivation under the Maya took place only in sacred groves that were jealously guarded by their leaders, the location of these sacred Maya cacao groves has remained a mystery. Now, a new study published in  Journal of Archaeological Science Reports  has discovered where in the Yucatan Peninsula these Maya cacao trees were grown.

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Two Warrior Helmets Unearthed At Greek Temple In Velia, Italy

Left; Chalcidian helmet likely taken as a trophy of war. Right; Helmet still in the ground at the Velia temple site. (Parco Archeologico Paestum)

Left; Chalcidian helmet likely taken as a trophy of war. Right; Helmet still in the ground at the Velia temple site. ( Parco Archeologico Paestum )

A pair of sixth-century BC warrior’s helmets have been discovered along with a ruined temple at Velia in southern Italy. It is believed that these rare artifacts are relics from the legendary Battle of Alalia, buried at the holy site by fleeing Greek colonists.

Italian heritage chiefs have announced that the two well preserved helmets, and other metallic fragments, were found by archaeologists in the  acropolis at Velia. This former Greek colony dates to the sixth-century BC, around the time of the Battle of Alalia, when a powerful Greek navy sailing Phocaean war ships smashed the  Etruscan navy and their  Carthaginian allies in a sea battle off the coast of the island of  Corsica.

The archaeologists say at least one of the two helmets was torn from an enemy’s head as a trophy of war.

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“Lost College” of Oxford University Found In Reconstruction Project

Oxford Archaeology and Beard construction workers standing in front of the limestone foundations of Oxford’s lost college, which King Henry VIII’s dissolution policies bankrupted. (Simon Gannon / Oxford Mail)

Oxford Archaeology and Beard construction workers standing in front of the limestone foundations of Oxford’s lost college, which King Henry VIII’s dissolution policies bankrupted. (Simon Gannon /  Oxford Mail )

Oxford University’s “lost Augustinian college,” i.e., medieval St. Mary’s College, which existed for 106 years in the days of the Tudors (1485-1603). The ancient outlines of the lost college of Oxford, were discovered during a reconstruction project right in front of Frewin Hall, the only building from St. Mary College’s early days still standing. The lost buildings of the college had limestone foundations, reports the  Oxford Mail  . The former college, found in 1435, had several delays hamper construction, until Cardinal Wosley (Henry VIII’s chief adviser) intervened in the 1520s. However, 20 years later it had fallen into disuse and was forgotten.

Along with the foundation wall, butchered animal bones, decorated floor tiles, a 17th-century stone flagon, a drinks container, a bone comb, and a medieval long cross silver penny, were also found by the team from  Oxford Archaeology  .

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Ancient Peruvians Reassembled Spines on Sticks to Honor the Dead

Example of a spine on a stick found in the Chinca Valley, Peru. (Jacob L. Bongers / Antiquity Publications Ltd )

Example of a spine on a stick found in the Chinca Valley, Peru. (Jacob L. Bongers /  Antiquity Publications Ltd  )

The European invasion of the Americas (both North and South) is one of the most destructive colonizing efforts in human history, particularly because of the unimaginable horrors suffered by the native populations of these lands. Apart from pillaging whatever resources they could lay their hands on, the Europeans did not even spare the graves of the deceased. A fascinating new study published in  Antiquity reports that the Chincha of Peru tied the spines of the dead onto sticks, using thread, as a means of restoring or dignifying the dead, in a practice previously undocumented in this region!

Lead author Dr. Jacob Bongers, from the University of East Anglia, noted that:

“The idea is that when [the Europeans were looting], they have to go through textile bundles that have these bodies, and so they’re ripping textile bundles, and taking out the gold and silver, and bodies are coming apart. Then local peoples, Chincha peoples, are coming back, seeing this, and trying to put their dead back together.”

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By Ancient Origins

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