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Study of faeces reveals the gut environment of ancient Japan

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Archaeologists have conducted a metagenomic analyses of coprolites excavated at the Torihama shell-mound site in Fukui Prefecture, Japan.

Excavations recovered over 400 individual coprolites, in which a sampling of 10 examples have dated the site to the Early Jōmon period. At the time, the Japanese archipelago was inhabited by the Jōmon culture, a hunter-gatherer population which reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity.

The results of the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE by researchers from the National Institute of Genetics, the University of Tokyo, and the Wakasa History Museum, has revealed new insights into the lives and health of the Jōmon people living in Japan 7,000 to 5,500-years-ago.

Coprolites have the ability to preserve various genetic materials from the digestive tracts of ancient populations, including DNA from microbes and viruses. A metagenomic analysis of the sampled coprolites showed homology with known gut microbe, viruses, and food genomes typically found in the faeces of modern humans.

According to the study authors: “We detected reads derived from several types of phages and their host bacteria simultaneously, suggesting the coexistence of viruses and their hosts.”

Despite the age-related degradation of DNA in the coprolites, the researchers successfully identified genetic fragments of viruses, specifically homologous to human betaherpesvirus 5 and human adenovirus F.

“The study enables scientists to explore the co-evolution of bacteria and the viruses that infect them throughout history. This research enhances our understanding of the microbial and viral composition within the digestive systems of people from ancient times,” said the study authors.

Furthermore, the team discovered the reads of possible foods through genomic information, providing biological evidence for the dietary characteristics of the Jomon people.

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

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Archaeology

Mysterious engraving might depict an Archaic temple on the Acropolis of Athens

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A 2,000-year-old engraving on a marble outcrop near Vari, Attica, might point to an Archaic temple on the Acropolis of Athens.

A study, published in the American Journal of Archaeology, suggest that the engraving was carved by sheep and goat herders in the area of Barako Hill during the 6th century BC.

The engraving was carved on an exposed marble bedrock and shows an elevated view of the facade of a temple building with at least five columns.

Snaking around the building is an inscription in the Old Attic alphabet that reads: “τὸ hεκατόµπεδον [–]Ε[–] Μίκōνος ⇄”, interpreted as “the Hekatompedon” and was produced by an individual named “Mikon”.

According to the study authors: “The term Ἑκατόµπεδον by which Mikon labelled the drawn temple is a neuter noun deriving from the adjective ἑκατόµπεδος (meaning “of a hundred feet,” occasionally rendered as ἑκατόνπεδος or ἑκατόµποδος). This adjective appears numerous times in the literary record, first seen in the Iliad. It can qualify various structures and spaces.”

In religious contexts, the term can refer to sacred structures with an average length of 100 feet. Several early temples with matching lengths are known from the Ancient Greek world, which archaeologists sometimes call “hekatompedos”.

The Acropolis of Athens is the most noteworthy context of ἑκατόµπεδος, where the word has been previously found on 5th and 4th century BC inscriptions that list objects stored on the Acropolis. ἑκατόµπεδος was in use long before the construction of the Periclean buildings (including the Parthenon) during the so-called Golden Age of Athens (460–430 BC).

“The inscriptions make it clear that in this space stood Pheidias’ colossal chryselephantine statue of Athena, whose base survives in the east chamber of the great Doric temple built at the instigation of Pericles, known in later sources as the Parthenon. The east chamber is 29.87 m (101.5 Attic feet) long, and thus provides a rare case where the term ἑκατόµπε-δος certainly described the actual length of a structure,” said the study authors.

Although the engraving lacks topographical clues, the study authors argue that the Acropolis is the most probable location. This is because the term ἑκατόµπεδος is strongly associated with a specific structure on the Acropolis in both the Classical and Archaic periods. No other Archaic structure in the Ancient Greek world is known by this name.

The authors have identified two Doric temples on the Acropolis that are worthy of the name Hekatompedon: the so-called Bluebeard Temple, stylistically dated to 570–560 BC, and the Gigantomachy Temple, stylistically dated to the final quarter of the 6th century BC.

“Beyond its archaeological significance, Mikon’s engraving shows that architecture featured among the escapist dreams of the shepherds who tended their flocks on Barako Hill. The Hekatompedon, which had perhaps recently emerged from Athena’s holy rock, was a natural source of Mikon’s awe. His drawing now stands as the earliest known testimony of admiration of the architecture of the Acropolis—and as the first of many to come.”

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : Mikon’s Hekatompedon: An Architectural Graffito from Attica. https://doi.org/10.1086/729771

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

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Giant catapult shots discovered from siege of Kenilworth Castle

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Archaeologists have uncovered eight 13th century catapult shots from the 1266 siege of Kenilworth Castle.

Kenilworth Castle, located in the town of Kenilworth in Warwickshire, England, is both a semi-royal palace and historic fortress.

Founded in the 1120s, the castle was the scene of the removal of Edward II from the English throne and the Earl of Leicester’s reception of Elizabeth I in 1575.

During the First Civil War (1642 to 1646), Kenilworth formed a useful counterbalance to the Parliamentary stronghold of Warwick. Following the defeat of royalist forces, Parliament ordered the slighting of Kenilworth 1649, leaving the castle a romantic ruin and popular tourist attraction over the centuries.

Recent works to improve a pathway on castle grounds has led to the discovery of eight giant catapult shots. According to the archaeologists, the shots date from the Siege of Kenilworth (1266), a six-month siege of the castle during the Second Barons’ War.

The conflict was between a number of barons led by Simon de Montfort (who had custody of Kenilworth Castle) against the royalist forces of King Henry III, and later his son, the future King Edward I.

Image Credit : English Heritage

According to historical accounts, the siege was the largest to occur in Medieval England and involved numerous “turres ligneas” (wooden towers), trebuchets, and catapults which fired the giant shots.

The shots are of varying sizes, with the largest weighing 105 kg and the smallest just 1 kg. “’These would have caused some serious damage when fired from war machines. Records show that one of Henry III’s wooden siege towers, containing around 200 crossbowmen, was destroyed by just one well-aimed missile,” said Will Wyeth, English Heritage’s Properties Historian.

Header Image Credit : English Heritage

Sources : English Heritage

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

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