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Amber beads suggest long-distance connections in the Early Bronze Age

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Archaeologists examining amber beads found under the great ziggurat of Aššur suggest that long-distance connections existed in the Early Bronze Age with the Baltic region or North Sea.

Aššur (now Qala’at Sherqat), was the capital of the Old Assyrian city-state (2025–1364 BC), the Middle Assyrian Empire (1363–912 BC), and for a time, of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–609 BC). The remains of the city lie on the western bank of the Tigris River in the al-Shirqat District, Iraq.

Starting from the 2nd millennium BC until 614 BC, a temple-tower known as a ziggurat stood in Aššur, dedicated to the god Aššur (also known as Enlil) who was the head of the Assyrian pantheon in Mesopotamian religion.

The sacred structure, referred to as Earattakišarra in Sumerian during the first millennium BC and as the “great ziggurat” in Middle Assyrian royal inscriptions, is believed to have been established by Šamšī-Adad I, an Old Assyrian ruler who reigned around 1808-1776 BC.

Excavations conducted in 1914 by the Royal Museums in Berlin and the German Orient Society found two beads under the ziggurat in a foundation deposit dating from around 1800-1750 BC. The team also discovered several thousand beads of shell, stone, glass and pottery lying directly on the bedrock beneath the first layer of mudbricks.

A recent study using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR) has revealed that the amber beads broadly match Baltic amber (succinite), suggesting that the amber likely originates from the Baltic or North Sea region.

According to the researchers: “The beads represent some of the earliest amber specimens in southwest Asia and also some of the most distant discoveries from the find areas in the Baltic region.”

The rarity of amber in the Mediterranean and the Middle East before 1550 BC can be explained by the restrictions placed on the exchange of this raw material by the Únětice culture and the Wessex culture.

After 1550 BC, the researchers suggest that connections developed, through which amber became available in larger quantities in the Mediterranean region and also in the Middle East from the Baltic regions.

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https://doi.org/10.1163/16000390-20210031

Header Image Credit : J. Lipták, Munich

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Archaeology

Revolutionary war barracks discovered at Colonial Williamsburg

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Archaeologists excavating at Colonial Williamsburg have discovered a barracks for soldiers of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence.

Colonial Williamsburg is a living-history museum that forms part of the historic district in the city of Williamsburg, Virginia.

Williamsburg was the capital of the Virginia colony from 1699 until 1779, founded by English settlers during the Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622–1632).

Tensions with England mounted over fundamental civil and economic rights for the colonists, resulting in the American Revolution and the American War of Independence.

Image Credit : Colonial Williamsburg

Archaeologists excavating next to the museum’s visitor’s centre uncovered foundations of a barracks that could accommodate up to 2,000 soldiers from the Continental Army and up to 100 horses.

“We have horseshoes,” said Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg executive director of archaeology. “We also have this object here which is a snaffle bit, so it’s part of a horse bit that goes in the mouth to control the horse. And this object here is part of a curry comb for brushing down the horse’s coat.”

Excavations have so far unearthed only a small part of the complex, but experts suggest that it covered roughly three to four acres.

The barracks were known from Eighteenth-century maps and other historical documents, but until now, the exact location of where it existed within the colony interior was unknown.

According to the historical sources, the barracks were built between 1776 and 1777, and were later destroyed by fire in 1781 by soldiers of the British Army under the command of General Cornwallis.

Excavations also uncovered mid-1700 chimney bases, ceramics, gun flint, coins, musket balls, military buckles, and items of decorative jewellery worn by high-ranking officers as cufflinks.

An interesting discovery are examples of lead shot with indications of tooth-marks, suggesting that the soldiers chewed on the lead shot because it tasted sweet.

Header Image Credit : Colonial Williamsburg

Sources : Colonial Williamsburg

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

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Archaeology

Pleistocene hunter-gatherers settled in Cyprus thousands of years earlier than previously thought

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Archaeologists have found that Pleistocene hunter-gatherers settled in Cyprus thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

An analysis of the oldest archaeological sites on the island suggests that the first human occupation occurred between 14,257 and 13,182 years ago.

This analysis, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used archaeological data, climate estimates, and demographic modelling.

The demographic modelling indicates that these early groups consisted of hundreds to thousands of people, who arrived in two to three main migration events over a period of only 100 years. Within just a few centuries, 11 generations – the population of Cypris had expanded to up 4,000 to 5000 inhabitants.

According to the study authors, these findings refute previous studies that suggested Mediterranean islands would have been unreachable and inhospitable for Pleistocene hunter-gatherer societies. “This settlement pattern implies organised planning and the use of advanced watercraft,” says Professor Bradshaw.

The climate estimates suggest that these early settlers arrived at a time during an increase in temperature and precipitation, also enabling an increase in environmental productivity that could sustain large hunter-gather populations.

Dr Moutsiou, said: “It has been argued that human dispersal to and settlement of Cyprus and other eastern Mediterranean islands is attributed to demographic pressures on the mainland after abrupt climatic change saw coastal areas inundated by post-glacial sea-level rise, forcing farming populations to move to new areas out of necessity rather than choice.”

Our research, based on more archaeological evidence and advanced modelling techniques, changes that”, adds Dr Moutsiou.

The research – “Demographic models predict end-Pleistocene arrival and rapid expansion of pre-agropastoralist humans in Cyprus” by Corey Bradshaw, Christian Reepmeyer, Frédérik Saltré, Athos Agapiou, Vasiliki Kassianidou, Stella Demesticha, Zomenia Zomeni, Miltiadis Polidorou and Theodora Moutsiou – has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Header Image Credit : Michalakis Christoforou

Sources : Demographic models predict end-Pleistocene arrival and rapid expansion of pre-agropastoralist humans in Cyprus. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2318293121

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

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