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“Arcade” of ancient mancala game boards found in Kenya

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Veronica Waweru, an archaeologist from Yale University, has discovered an “arcade” of rock cut mancala game boards in Kenya’s highlands.

Mancala, meaning “to move”, is a turn-based strategy game where the objective is to capture more gaming pieces than the opponent.

Early variations of the game have been found in Aksumite settlements throughout parts of Eastern Africa from the 8th century AD, in addition to sites from Ancient Egypt and the Roman Period.

According to the Savannah African Art Museum, the earliest example of a mancala board dates to between 5870 ± 240 BC, which was found at the Neolithic site of ʿAin Ghazal in Jordan.

The recent discovery was made following a tip-off about tourists removing prehistoric hand axes from a site within a private wildlife conservancy. Upon investigating further, Waweru discovered an “arcade” of ancient mancala game boards carved directly into a rock ledge.

Determining the age of the game boards proves challenging since they are carved into rocks that are 400 million years old and lack any organic material suitable for dating.
Waweru said: “It’s a valley full of these game boards like an ancient arcade. Given the erosion of some of the boards, I believe that people were playing games there a very long time ago.”

Waweru also notes that the site contains 19 burial cairns built by herding communities that inhabited the region 5,000 years ago. Moreover, there are indications of knife sharpening on the rock surface around the game boards, implying that these individuals likely engaged in feasting and butchery activities onsite.

Waweru and her research team have applied for funding to further study the site, which is located along the equator in Kenya’s central highlands.

Header Image Credit : Veronica Waweru

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

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Archaeology

Archaeologists may have discovered the lost city of Tu’am

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Excavations in the Umm Al Quwain area of the UAE have revealed 6th century ruins that could be the lost city of Tu’am.

The ruins are situated on Al Sinniyah Island, part of a collection of small islands on the western part of the Khor Al Bidiyah peninsula.

Previous studies on the island have revealed a pearling village and monastery, which has been the focus of the latest season of excavations.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of a larger settlement, with the earliest signs of occupation dating back to the 4th century AD and peaking in the 5th or 6th century.

The team uncovered traces of large semi-urbanised tenement buildings measuring 30 square metres, which are tightly packed around narrow walkways. According to the researchers, the settlement could be the lost city of Tu’am as described in Ancient Arab texts.

Tu’am was a regional capital on the Gulf coast that was famed for its pearl fishing industry and trade in precious gems.

The population went into decline following a plague and regional tensions, and subsequently was abandoned. Mass graves in the vicinity support the historical account of plague, as the skeletal remains show no evidence of trauma or a violent death.

“Our archaeological work has discovered the largest settlement by far ever found on the Gulf coast of the Emirates,” said Prof Tim Power of UAE University.

“And it’s exactly the right period for the city described in the early Islamic geographical sources. It’s clearly a really important place. No one has ever found it.”

Professor Power explained that while they have not found irrefutable evidence (such as an inscription bearing the town’s name), no other major settlements from this period have been discovered on the coast, strengthening the argument that the settlement is Tu’am. “It’s a process of elimination,” he explained.

Header Image Credit : Umm Al Quwain Department of Tourism and Archaeology

Sources : NUAE

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

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Archaeology

New findings in North America’s first city

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Cahokia was the largest urban settlement of the Mississippian culture, a mound-building pre-Columbian civilisation that emerged in the Midwestern, Eastern, and South-eastern United States.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the city was founded around AD 1050 along the banks of the Mississippi River, located near present-day St. Louis, Missouri.

The city covered an area between six to nine square miles (notably larger than many contemporary European cities such as London) and was home to up to 20,000 inhabitants at its peak.

Following the tradition of the Mississippian culture, the people of Cahokia constructed large earthen mounds – ranging from raised platforms, conical, and ridge-top designs – involving the movement of 55 million cubic feet of earth over a period that lasted several decades.

The largest mound is known as “Monks Mound,” named after a group of Trappist monks, which rises to a height of 290 metres and was once the tallest building construction in North America.

Image Credit : MattGush – iStock

Archaeologists and students from Saint Louis University (SLU) have recently conducted a series of excavations on the western periphery of the Cahokia Mounds.

The team unearthed 900-year-old ceramics, microdrills, structures, and wall trenches dating from around AD 1100 to 1200, during the Sterling Phase of the Mississippian Period. According to the archaeologists, the finds offer new insights into a crucial period in the chiefdom’s development, coinciding with Cahokia’s rapid population growth.

The excavations follow an aerial survey by SLU and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to conduct Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) to determine whether further mounds or archaeological features lie within the acres of thick forests and swampy land near the site’s main complex.

Header Image Credit : Alamy

Sources : KSDK

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

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