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Copper artefacts reveal new cultural connections

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In a recent study by the University of Missouri, researchers have conducted a chemical and isotopic analysis of copper artefacts from southern Africa, revealing new cultural connections between the region’s inhabitants from the 5th to the 20th century.

According to Jay Stephens, a post-doctoral fellow in the MU Research Reactor (MURR) Archaeometry Lab, people residing in South Africa and the Copperbelt region of central Africa were more connected than previously thought.

“Over the past 20 to 30 years, most archaeologists have framed the archaeological record of southern Africa in a global way with a major focus on its connection to imports coming from the Indian Ocean,” he said. “But it’s also important to recognize the interconnected relationships that existed among the many groups of people living in southern Africa. The data shows the interaction between these groups not only involved the movement of goods, but also flows of information and the sharing of technological practices that come with that exchange.”

The origin of rectangular, fishtail, and croisette copper ingots has been a topic of debate among scholars for years. Some argued that they were made only from copper ore extracted from the Copperbelt region, while others suggested they originated from Zimbabwe’s Magondi Belt. Jay Stephens has now revealed that both theories hold true.

“We now have tangible linkages to reconstruct connectivity at various points in time in the archaeological record,” he said. “There is a massive history of interconnectivity found throughout the region in areas now known as the countries of Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This also includes people from the contemporary Ingombe Ilede, Harare, and Musengezi traditions of northern Zimbabwe between at least the 14th and 18th centuries A.D.”

Researchers analysed small samples taken from 33 copper ingots to arrive at their findings. The samples were carefully selected by the researchers from archaeological collections at the Museum of Human Sciences in Harare, Zimbabwe and the Livingstone Museum in Livingstone, Zambia.

Less than one gram of each of the 33 samples was dissolved with specific acids, leaving behind a liquid mixture of chemical ions. They then conducted an analysis of the samples to determine lead isotopes and other chemical elements.

Stephens said the data they collect is one of the only remaining tangible links that exist today to those precolonial mines in Africa.

“Unfortunately, large open pit mines have destroyed a lot of the archaeological sites and broader cultural landscapes around these geological deposits,” he said. “This makes it a challenge to reconstruct the history related to these mines. It’s a concerning development, especially with the global push toward more electric vehicles which use minerals like copper and cobalt found in the Copperbelt.”

University of Missouri-Columbia

Header Image Credit : Jay Stephens

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Archaeology

Elite Petén style structures found near Kohunlich

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Construction works for a road in Section 7 of the Mayan Train have uncovered elite Petén style structures near Kohunlich in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Kohunlich is a large Maya polity that served as a regional centre along the trade routes through the southern Yucatán.

The site was first settled around 200 BC, with the majority of its monuments being built between AD 250 to AD 600 during the Early Classic Period.

The city features elevated platforms, plazas, pyramids, and citadels, all enclosed by palace platforms. The layout of Kohunlich was carefully arranged to direct drainage into a network of cisterns and a massive reservoir for rainwater collection.

Construction works for a road on the periphery of Kohunlich have resulted in the discovery of elite structures in the Petén style, a distinct type of Maya architecture and inscription style.

Archaeologists have identified seven structures in total, interpreted to be elite homesteads of a domestic nature that were used for agricultural activities.

Most of the structures have a rectangular plan and vaulted rooms adorned with decorative Petén style elements.

Given their archaeological importance, experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have registered the monuments for protection.

Consequently, the planned route of the road has been redirected to preserve the structures in situ, where they will be preserved and open to the public in the near future.

Excavations also unearthed various archaeological materials, including ceramics, shells, fragments of human bone, and objects intentionally buried as offerings likely during the construction of the homesteads for protection.

Header Image Credit : Maya Train

Sources : National Institute of Anthropology and History

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

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Archaeology

Gold foils discovered in Ancient Egyptian tombs

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Archaeologists from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities have discovered rare gold foils during excavations at Tel El-Dir.

Tel El-Dir is a burial complex in the area of Egypt’s Damietta Governorate. The site contains various burials and tombs from the 26th Dynasty (664 BC to 525 BC), the last native dynasty of ancient Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC.

Excavations of 63 mud brick tombs and pit burials have revealed a large collection of funerary offerings, including rare gold foils depicting Ancient Egyptian deities, and foils shaped like symbols associated with good fortune and protection.

The team also found foils in the shape of tongues, a tradition that enabled the deceased to speak before the court of Osiris in the afterlife.

Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The discovery follows on from a previous haul in 2022, where archaeologists excavating at Tel El-Dir found gold foils depicting Isis, Bastet and Horus (in the form of a winged falcon), as well as foils in various shapes.

According to a press statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, many of the tombs contained funeral pyres, imported and local ceramics, and Ushabti statues (figurines placed with the deceased to serve them in the afterlife).

The excavation has also yielded a large number of funerary offerings, such as protective amulets, figurines, coins, and a mirror.

Speaking on the finds, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities explained that the objects confirm that Damietta was a centre of trade during ancient times, and provides new insights into the burial practices during the 26th Dynasty.

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Sources : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

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

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