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Archaeologists shed new light on ritual stone monuments found in Saudi Arabia

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A paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, has shed new light on prehistoric monuments known as mustatils found in Saudi Arabia.

The study was conducted by archaeologists from the University of Western Australia, Perth, and colleagues, in conjunction with The Royal Commission for AlUla, in which the researchers have been excavating a mustatil near the city of AlUla.

A mustatil, meaning “rectangle”, typically have walls made from sandstone surrounding a long central courtyard. They range from 20 to over 600 metres in length, with walls that are 1.2 metres high. Over 1,600 mustatils have been identified primarily in northern Saudi Arabia, which were built around 7,000 years ago during the Holocene Humid Phase.

A study of a 140-metre long mustatil near AlUla, suggests that they were used for ritualistic purposes involving placement of animal offerings.

The researchers’ analysis included identification of 260 fragments of animal skulls and horns, primarily from domestic cattle, as well as from domestic goats, gazelle, and small ruminants.

Image Credit : Kennedy et al., 2023, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

Most of the remains were found clustered next to an upright stone interpreted to be a betyl. A radiocarbon analysis of the remains indicates that the betyl is one of the earliest identified in the Arabian Peninsula, and the bones provide some of the earliest evidence for domestication of cattle in the northern Arabia.

According to the researchers: “The ritual deposition of animal horns and upper cranial element within the mustatil suggests a profound intersection of belief and economic life-ways in the Late Neolithic of Northern Arabia. The incorporation of these two facets suggests a deeply rooted ideological entanglement, one which was shared over a vast geographic distance, indicating a far more interconnected landscape and culture than had previously been supposed for the Neolithic period in north-west Arabia.”

The team also found evidence of multiple phases of ritual offerings at the mustatil, including the burial of an adult male, suggesting that the site could have been a religious destination for repeated pilgrimages.

University of Western Australia

Header Image Credit : Kennedy et al., 2023, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

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Archaeology

Study indicates that Firth promontory could be an ancient crannog

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A study by students from the University of the Highlands and Islands has revealed that a promontory in the Loch of Wasdale in Firth, Orkney, could be the remains of an ancient crannog.

A crannog is a partially or entirely artificial island, typically built in lakes and estuarine waters of Scotland from the prehistoric period onward.

Crannogs were used as dwellings, taking advantage of the natural surroundings that may have served to provide a defensive purpose.

Despite significant variations in methodology, most crannogs on mainland Scotland were built by driving timber piles into the loch bed and filling the interior with peat, brush, stones, or timber to create a solid foundation.

In largely treeless regions like the Western Isles, these island dwellings utilised a diverse mix of natural, artificially enlarged, or entirely artificial islets.

The discovery was made by students from the UHI Archaeology Institute, who were conducting test-pitting on a promontory at the northern end of the Loch of Wasdale.

According to a press statement by UHI: “It appears as an islet on the 1882 Ordnance Survey map. Little is known about the site, but the fact the shoreside edges appear to show the remains of walling led to the suggestion it may be a crannog.”

In his Reminiscences of an Orkney Parish, John Firth (1838-1922) wrote that this islet was once home to a kirk: “During the Middle Ages several chapels existed in the district now known as the parish of Firth – one on the island in the Loch of Wasdale.”

The test-pitting revealed large quantities of cairn-like rubble, in addition to more structural remains or a stone surface, indicating that the entire promontory/islet is artificial.

Martin Carruthers, a lecturer at UHI, said: “A structure made up of some very large masonry seems to lurk at the heart of the cairn makeup. Constructing this ‘monument’ must have been a very substantial undertaking.”

“In terms of artefacts, apart from some later post-medieval glazed pottery, we recovered a single worked flint, probably a ‘thumbnail’ scraper, which is most likely later Neolithic in date,” added Carruthers.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : UHI

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeologists identify the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II

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Archaeologists from Sorbonne University have identified the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II, otherwise known as Ramesses the Great.

Ramesses II was the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty during the New Kingdom period.
His reign is often regarded as the most celebrated in Egypt’s history, marked by several major military campaigns and numerous monument construction projects.

Based on supporting historical accounts, most Egyptologists suggest that Ramesses II assumed the throne in 1279 BC and reigned until his death at the age of around 90 in 1212 or 1213 BC.

His remains were interred in a tomb complex (designated KV7) in the Valley of the Kings, located opposite the tomb of his sons (KV5), and near the tomb (KV8) of his son and successor, Merenptah.

During the reign of Ramesses III during the 20th Dynasty, the tomb of Ramesses II was looted by grave robbers. Ancient texts record that priests moved his remains to the tomb of Queen Ahmose Inhapy, and then to the tomb of the high priest Pinedjem II.

His final resting place was a tomb (designated TT320), located next to Deir el-Bahari, in the Theban Necropolis opposite Luxor. The tomb is a Royal Cache containing the mummified remains of more than 50 kings, queens, and other royal family members of the New Kingdom period.

The mummy of Ramesses II was discovered in TT320 during excavations in 1881. He was found placed in a simple wooden coffin, suggesting that this was meant as a temporary measure until a more permanent resting place could be determined.

A new study, published in the Revue d’Égyptologie, suggests that a fragment of a sarcophagus discovered in 2009 at Abydos was part of the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II.

The sarcophagus fragment was found in a Coptic monastery and has recently been re-examined by Egyptologist Frédéric Payraudeau from Sorbonne University.

According to the study author, the decoration and texts on the sarcophagus fragment indicate that it was first used by Ramesses II (evidenced by the cartouche of Ramesses II), and later reused by a high priest of the 21st Dynasty, Menkheperre (around 1000 BC) who likely had the sarcophagus transported to Abydos after KV7 was looted.

Header Image Credit : Sarcophagus fragment – Kevin Cahail

Sources : cnrs | Le sarcophage de Ramsès II remployé à Abydos – Published in the Revue d’Égyptologie.

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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