Connect with us


Researchers extract ancient DNA from a 2,900-year-old clay brick



Researchers from the University of Oxford have extracted ancient DNA from a 2,900-year-old clay brick that originates from the ancient city of Kalhu.

Kalhu, also known as Nimrud, is an ancient Assyrian city located in Iraq’s Nineveh Governorate. The city covered an area of 890 acres and emerged as the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire during the reign of Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BC).

Ashurnasirpal II constructed a large palace and numerous temples following a period of decline during the Bronze Age Collapse of the mid-11th to mid-10th centuries BC.

Numerous inscriptions found in the city have given researchers insights into the re-emergence of Kalhu, with one such inscription describing Ashurnasirpal II’s palace: “The palace of cedar, cypress, juniper, boxwood, mulberry, pistachio wood, and tamarisk, for my royal dwelling and for my lordly pleasure for all time, I founded therein. Beasts of the mountains and of the seas, of white limestone and alabaster I fashioned and set them up on its gates.”

During this period around 2,900-years-ago, a brickmaker prepared a clay brick for the palace construction, from which researchers from the University of Oxford have been able to extract and sequence ancient DNA by using a novel aDNA analysis.

The scientists managed to distinguish 34 separate taxonomic plant groups. Among these groups, Brassicaceae (cabbage) and Ericaceae (heather) stood out as the plant families with the highest number of sequences. Additional families that were represented included Betulaceae (birch), Lauraceae (laurels), Selineae (umbellifiers), and Triticeae (cultivated grasses).

The interdisciplinary group, consisting of assyriologists, archaeologists, biologists, and geneticists, managed to juxtapose their discoveries with contemporary botanical data from Iraq and historical Assyrian depictions of plants.

The mud composition of the brick was likely sourced from the nearby Tigris river, combined with substances such as chaff, straw, or animal dung. After moulding the brick into shape, it was then engraved with cuneiform writing and placed under the sun for drying. As a result of opting not to fire the brick and allowing it to dry naturally, this has contributed to the preservation of the genetic material trapped within the clay.

Dr Troels Arbøll from the University of Oxford, said: “‘Because of the inscription on the brick, we can allocate the clay to a relatively specific period of time in a particular region, which means the brick serves as a biodiversity time-capsule of information regarding a single site and its surroundings. In this case, it provides researchers with a unique access to the ancient Assyrians.”

University of Oxford

Header Image Credit : Arnold Mikkelsen and Jens Lauridsen

Continue Reading


Maya tomb with funerary offerings found during hotel construction




A tomb with funerary offerings has been uncovered during the construction of the Tren Maya Hotel, in Palenque, Mexico.

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) conducted rescue excavations following the discovery, revealing skeletal remains associated with the Maya city of Palenque.

Palenque, also known as Lakamha in the Itza Language (meaning “Flat-Place-River”), is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

The city dates from 226 BC to AD 799, with most of the major construction works representing a rebuilding effort in response to attacks by the city of Calakmul and its client states in AD 599 and AD 611.

The population declined during the 8th century AD, instead becoming an agricultural population that led to the abandonment of the city zone. By 1520 following the Spanish conquest, contemporary Spanish accounts record the entire region being sparsely populated.

Excavations uncovered a stone lined funerary space sealed with limestone slabs, in which the researchers found the remains of a high-status individual who likely lived in the periphery of Palenque in a small settlement.

The burial is located at a depth of four metres, and also contained ceramic vessels and beads deposited as funerary offerings.

“The individual was placed face up with his legs extended and his head facing north,” said Diego Prieto Hernández from INAH.

The discovery was announced in a press conference reporting on the progress of the Program for the Improvement of Archaeological Zones (Promeza) in Palenque, Moral-Reforma and El Tigre, the three heritage sites that are served within Section 1 of the Mayan Train Project.


Header Image Credit : INAH

Continue Reading


Archaeologists unearth possible birthplace of King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle




Archaeologists from the Dyfed Archaeological Trust may have discovered the possible birthplace of King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Pembroke Castle was founded during the 11th century by Roger de Montgomerie, the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury.

In 1452, Jasper Tudor was presented both the castle and the earldom by his half-brother, King Henry VI. In 1457, Henry VII was born at the castle, the only child of Lady Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond.

Following Edward IV’s ascension to the throne in 1471, Henry VII endured 14 years of exile in Brittany. He eventually claimed the throne after his forces, with backing from France, Scotland, and Wales, emerged victorious over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, marking the climax of the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VII’s reign is credited with many administrative, economic, and tax reforms, having ruled for nearly 24 years until his death in 1509 at the age of 52. Henry VII was succeed by his second son, Henry, Duke of York, who ascended to the crown as Henry VIII.

Historians have long assumed that a 13th century tower on the outer ward (known today as Henry VII Tower) was the birth place of Henry VII. However, a recent study by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust has uncovered evidence of a late-medieval winged hall-house, broadly dating to the 15th century.

The walls of the structure extend to around 25 metres, with comparisons being drawn to medieval buildings found in England and East Wales, such as Penallt Mansion in Kidwelly. Historically, Pembroke Castle was situated in the English-speaking portion of Pembrokeshire, often referred to as “Little England beyond Wales.”

Speaking to the Western Telegraph, Neil Ludlow, a consultant to Pembroke Castle, said: “All our indications are pointing to a late-medieval building which was clearly of high status within Pembrokeshire, and it looks as if it was at least two-storeys, which possibly makes it a better candidate for the birthplace of a king rather that the tower that currently bears his name.”

Continue Reading


Generated by Feedzy