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UE archaeologists conduct study of Amazonian cave homes



Researchers from the University of Exeter have conducted a study of the shallow cave homes in the Amazon Basin.

The study focused on rock shelters in northwest Colombia, which were occupied by some of the earliest people to migrate to South America during the late Pleistocene era approx. 13,000-years-ago.

The study, part of the €2.5m European Research Council funded LASTJOURNEY project has provided new insights into the colonisation of the Amazon interior and the types domestic and ritual activity at cave shelter sites.

The cave inhabitants painted vibrant artworks on the cave galleries using ochre they prepared from a mixture of ferric oxide and varying amounts of clay and sand. They also fashioned stone tools, managed plant resources, and hunted a wide range of Amazonian animals.

“The ‘peopling’ of South America represents one of the great migrations of human history – but their arrival into the Amazon biome has been little understood,” says Mark Robinson, Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Exeter.

“For researchers working in the field, dense rainforest makes it challenging to identify potential fieldwork sites, and acidic, clay-based soils impair the preservation of organic remains. Our recent excavations, however, help to fill this gap, not only dating their arrival to much earlier than previously understood, but also providing novel insights into their lives and historical trajectories during the Holocene,” added Professor Robinson.

The study, published in the Quaternary Science Reviews, focused on two rock shelters in the Serranía La Lindosa region on the fringes of the Amazon and Orinoco basins.

The UE team excavated soil sediments from within the shelters and the area directly outside, which were subjected to a geochemical and stratigraphic analysis. The analysis revealed traces of stone fragments, charcoal, and organic matter, indicating food preparation, consumption and disposal, in addition to periods of abandonment over more than a millennia.

Moreover, the presence of ceramics dating back approximately 3,000 years, signs of soil cultivation from 2,500 years ago, and remnants of maize cultivation 500 years ago have all been unearthed.

“The results firmly establish that the human occupation of Serranía La Lindosa began in the late Pleistocene, about 12,600 years ago, and continued until the 17th century,” says José Iriarte, Professor of Archaeology at Exeter.

According to the researchers, the shelters offered protection and clear vantage points over the surrounding area for the early foragers. Ongoing research is also delving into various recovered artefacts such as animal bones, plant remnants, and ochre, shedding further light on the area’s ancient inhabitants.

“Activity patterns, artefact discard, and soil chemistry indicate that both rock shelters were used as domestic spaces through time, as well as sacred locations for the display of highly evocative art,” adds Dr Jo Osborn, Postdoctoral Research Associate.

“And it points to the existence of a broad-spectrum economy, with unifacial lithic tool technology. All of the rock shelters exhibit ochre paintings from the earliest occupations, indicating that those pioneers were also recording and making sense of this new world they encountered.”

Header Image Credit : University of Exeter

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeologists may have discovered the lost city of Tu’am




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 – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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New findings in North America’s first city




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 – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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