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Prehistoric societies in the Spanish Levantine mastered climbing and used equipment

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According to a study published in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Spanish Levantine rock art provides distinctive visual evidence that indicates how societies in Eastern Spain had developed expertise in climbing and the use of specialised equipment to minimize risks associated with the activity.

A recently uncovered depiction at the Barranco Gómez site in Teruel reveals the most intricate use of ropes discovered thus far in Spanish Levantine art. This study delves into the representations found within this scene, particularly focusing on the use of a rope ladder to access a beehive. By examining these depictions, the research aims to gain deeper understanding of the various uses and technological advancements related to rope-based activities.

Thorough examination of the existing depictions found in Albacete, Castelló, Huesca, Teruel, and Valencia does not provide clear insights into the specific techniques employed for rope production, such as whether twisted or braided fibres were used.

However, the length of the ropes depicted indicate that the societies of Spanish Levantine were technologically proficient in crafting high-quality ropes. Moreover, their refined technique suggests that their expertise in producing long ropes was specifically tailored for climbing activities.

Among the studied depictions, collecting honey emerges as the sole clearly identifiable activity. The production of a rope measuring approximately 25 meters in length would have demanded significant time and effort, encompassing the gathering of raw materials and the actual crafting process. The considerable risk involved in climbing to such heights using rudimentary rope ladders underscores the paramount importance of honey and wax collection to these societal groups.

Bee-related products held significant importance in prehistoric times, serving various economic, technological, and cultural purposes such as sustenance due to their high calorific value and tool production. The depicted scenes portray an array of climbing systems, which researchers have categorised into two groups based on their size, shape, and flexibility: rigid ladders or masts, and flexible systems, likely associated with the usage of different raw materials.

Although Spanish Levantine rock art is dispersed across a wide geographical area, the depictions of climbing systems (ropes and ladders) are concentrated in two distinct regions: the Maestrazgo in the northern regions of Castelló and Teruel, and the Caroig Massif in the southern region of Alicante. This observation leads the research team to infer that these depictions may signify specific behaviors, territorial codes, or possess symbolic significance.

While many of the scenes examined in this study are familiar, the comprehensive investigation of ropes and their associated technology had not been previously undertaken. The materials used for rope production and the techniques employed to create them are largely imperceptible in archaeological records, making it challenging to trace their origins over time.

By analysing descriptions from other researchers and conducting on-site research, the team has gathered valuable evidence regarding the structure, usage, and manufacturing of these ropes. This study also highlights the rock art’s capacity to depict fleeting practices and the utilisation of perishable materials.

Spanish Levantine rock art stands as a remarkable artistic phenomenon unique to the eastern region of the Iberian Peninsula, emerging after the Paleolithic era. With over a thousand recorded sites, it has been designated as a World Heritage Site since 1998. This art form offers an extraordinary depiction of human life during a pivotal stage of its development. Characterised by its naturalistic style and rich narrative elements, it portrays dynamic scenarios encompassing hunting, warfare, social activities, gatherings, and more, providing an invaluable glimpse into the past.

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Header Image Credit : Manuel Bea, Dídac Roman & Inés Domingo

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Archaeology

Geophysical study finds evidence of “labyrinth” buried beneath Mitla

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A geophysical study has found underground structures and tunnels beneath Mitla – The Zapotec “Place of the Dead”

Mitla is an archaeological site associated with the Zapotec culture, located in the Oaxaca Valley in the present-day state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.

The Zapotec civilisation emerged in the late 6th century BC, originating in the Central Valleys of the Etla. The culture was centred on the settlements of Oaxaca, San José Mogote, and Mitla, with the city of Monte Albán serving as the civic-ceremonial centre.

At its peak, the Zapotec had a population of more than 500,000 inhabitants, having developed sophisticated construction techniques, a writing system, two calendar systems, and complex agricultural cultivation.

In 2016, the Lyobaa Project, an institutional collaboration led by the National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) employed ground penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), and ambient seismic noise interferometry (AIRSA) to explore potential archaeological features beneath the San Pablo Apóstol church, built atop the Zapotec ruins in Mitla.

Image Credit : Lyobaa Project

According to local legend, the church was constructed on an entrance way to an underground labyrinth, serving as a passage between the realm of the living to the realm of the dead, referred to as Mictlán in Nahuatl, meaning the “place of the dead” or “underworld.”

In 1674, the Dominican chronicler, Francisco Burgoa, described Spanish missionaries entering the labyrinth: “Such was the corruption and bad smell, the dampness of the floor, and a cold wind which extinguished the lights, that at the little distance they had already penetrated, they resolved to come out, and ordered this infernal gate to be thoroughly closed with masonry.”

As part of phase two of the Lyobaa Project, the researchers have identified buried architectural complexes and a series of corridors during a study of the Calvario, Arroyo, and del Sur groups within the archaeological zone.

The Arroyo group, located in the central area of the site has three quadrangle features connected by tunnels that likely date from AD 1200 during the Late Postclassic period.

The project also conducted a survey of the quadrangular plaza where the San Pablo Apóstol church was constructed on the remains of a pre-Hispanic temple. Beneath the plaza the researchers found that there are four mounds with clay internal cores.

Archaeologist, Denisse Argote, said: “We were able to determine that, although the core of the stepped structure is solid, the foundation of the historic church requires short-term intervention to guarantee its conservation, so measures must be taken to ensure its structural stability.”

“There are cracks in the historic building, since it does not have a foundation and, underneath, in what corresponds to the remains of the pre-Hispanic building, it seems that there are areas with small cavities,” added Argote.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : INAH

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

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Archaeology

Discovery of a Romanesque religious structure rewrites history of Frauenchiemsee

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Archaeologists from the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation have announced the discovery of a Romanesque religious structure on the island of Frauenchiemsee, the second largest of the three islands in Chiemsee, Germany.

According to the researchers, the structure holds important religious significance, suggesting it might have been erected to venerate Blessed Irmgard (also known as Irmengard), the daughter of King Louis the German and the great-granddaughter of Charlemagne.

During the mid-9th century, Irmgard was appointed the first abbess of Frauenwörth Abbey, who restored the decaying premises and founded a Benedictine convent for nuns. Because of her royal ancestry, she had the right to wear a thin golden hoop resembling a crown, often depicted on paintings and frescoes with her image.

Following her death in 866, Irmgard was venerated and her head reliquary was translated to Seeon Abbey in 1004. She was officially beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI, and a celebratory ceremony in 2003 saw her relics reunified.

A recent geophysical study to locate the demolished remains of the Church of Saint Martin has revealed the imprint of a Romanesque structure completely absent from all historical text and contemporary maps.

Image Credit : Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation

The structure is buried at a depth of 1 metre and measures 19 metres in diameter. The GPR results reveal the floor plan of an octagonal central building with an ambulatory formed by eight supports and four arrange in a cross shape.

Mathias Pfeil of the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation notes that religious structures with pre-Romanesque or Romanesque architecture, particularly those with sacral significance, are exceedingly uncommon north of the Alps. Such edifices are often perceived as imitations of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

According to the researchers, the structure was likely built during the construction of the new monastery and Romanesque abbey church (of which the gatehouse and bell tower survive to this day) to venerate Irmgard as a destination for pilgrims

Header Image Credit : Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation

Sources : Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation

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

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