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Geometric petroglyphs at Toro Muerto may represent ancient songs



A new study, published in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal, suggests that geometric petroglyphs found at Toro Muerto in Peru are representations of ancient songs.

Toro Muerto, meaning “Dead Bull”, is a collection of petroglyphs in Peru’s Castilla province. The site contains over 3000 volcanic rocks inscribed with petroglyphs from the Wari Culture, a Middle Horizon civilisation the flourished from between AD 500 to 1000.

One of the unique aspects of the petroglyph iconography at Toro Muerto are images of dancing anthropomorphic human-like figures known as danzantes, which are accompanied with geometric motifs of zigzag line variants and sometimes with accompanying dots or circles.

Previous interpretations have suggested that the zigzag lines might be symbolic of snakes or lightning, with a possibly association to fertility and water cults.

However, by drawing on parallels with the Tukano people of the Colombia rainforest, the study authors suggest that the petroglyphs at Toro Muerto are abstract representations of ancient singing and songs.

Tukano motifs in art is rooted in visionary experiences evoked by the ritual consumption of the psychoactive drink yajé/yage made from Banisteriopsis caapi jungle vine.

Image Credit : A. Rozwadowski

They created art forms with concentric circles, dots, wavy lines, zigzags and crenellation motifs, that referred to creation myths that were topics the Tukano implied in dances and songs sung to the accompaniment of musical instruments.

Furthermore, different examples of Mesoamerican iconography (Maya, Mixtec and Nahua codices) have such dots or lines (also spiral-shaped) that possibly depict songs in visual form as a representation of the sonic sphere of culture.

Therefore, considering how important the sonic sphere, including songs, is in the cultures of both Amazonia and the Andes, the study authors argue that the graphic depiction of songs in petroglyphs might not be a unique phenomenon and may have existed in various other cultures such as the Wari at Toro Muerto.

According to the study authors: “In our study we show that some geometric images could have been representations or embodiments of songs themselves, in their own right, independent of any depictions of mouths or bodies. We base this study on the case of the petroglyphs at Toro Muerto in Peru, while the source of our interpretative proposal is ethnographic knowledge, more precisely an ethnographic analogy from Amazonia, specifically the art of the Tukano people.”

An expansion of this hypothesis proposes that certain intricate compositions, featuring dancers and linear geometric patterns, symbolised a journey to the afterlife.

Header Image Credit : A. Rozwadowski

Sources : Cambridge Archaeological Journal – Rozwadowski A, Wołoszyn JZ. Dances with Zigzags in Toro Muerto, Peru: Geometric Petroglyphs as (Possible) Embodiments of Songs. Cambridge Archaeological Journal. Published online 2024:1-21. doi:10.1017/S0959774324000064

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Excavation uncovers traces of the first bishop’s palace at Merseburg Cathedral Hill




Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered traces of the first bishop’s palace at the southern end of the Merseburg Cathedral Hill in Merseburg, Germany.

Construction of the early Romanesque Merseburg Cathedral was begun by Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg in 1015.

It was consecrated in 1021 in the presence of Emperor Heinrich II (Henry II), however, following a series of collapses in the eastern part of the structure, the cathedral wouldn’t be formally consecrated and opened until 1042 by Bishop Hunold.

The Merseburg Cathedral of St. John and St. Lawrence is today considered one of the most important cathedral buildings in Germany.

The LDA team were excavating the basement of the so-called Martinikurie, a two-story residential building from the Baroque period. Excavations revealed the remains of the first bishop’s palace, dating from from the time of the second consecration of Merseburg Cathedral.

According to the LDA: “We found the almost completely preserved basement-like lower floor of a hall building, whose 1.75 metre thick foundation walls are still preserved up to a height of 3.40 metres. Steps in the masonry and a pillar from the time of construction inside the building prove that at least one hall-like upper floor once stood on top of this.”
The palace was constructed by Bishop Hunold, who headed the diocese of Merseburg between 1036 and 1050.

“This finding makes it possible to locate one of the most important buildings of the episcopal see in Merseburg – a building that, with its location and size, clearly expresses the self-confidence of the diocese, which was re-founded in 1004 by King Henry II of Germany” added the LDA.

Header Image Credit : LDA

Sources : State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA)

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeologists find ancient papyri with correspondence made by Roman centurions




Archaeologists from the University of Wrocław have uncovered ancient papyri that contains the correspondence of Roman centurions who were stationed in Egypt.

The papyri were discovered in Berenice Troglodytica, an ancient seaport of Egypt on the western shore of the Red Sea. The city was founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BC), who named it after his mother, Berenice I of Egypt.

During the Roman period, Berenice Troglodytica was one of the main waystations for the trade in war elephants and exotic goods, imported from India, Sri Lanka, Arabia, and Upper Egypt.

Excavations of an animal cemetery located on the western outskirts of the city have uncovered an accumulation of ceramics originating from the Mediterranean, Africa and India.

Image Credit : Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego

Among the accumulation, the team found Roman coins, a fibula, ostracons (fragments of texts on ceramics), and several papyri.

The papyri contains the correspondence of centurions, naming Haosus, Lucinius and Petronius. Centurions were soldiers who were promoted to command a centuria or “century”, a military unit consisting of between 80 to 100 men.

“In the correspondence, Petronius asks Lucinius (stationed in Berenice Troglodytica) about the prices of individual exclusive goods. There is also the statement: “I am giving you the money, I am sending it by dromedarius (a unit of legionnaires moving on dromedaries). Take care of them, provide them with veal and poles for their tents.”

Dr. Marta Osypińska from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław, said: “For Egyptologists and other scientists dealing with antiquity, this is an extremely rare and high-calibre discovery.”

“In this part of the world, there are very few sites from the Roman period. The Egyptians tend to leave little historical accounts from this time in history, because it is the moment when they were conquered.” added  Dr. Osypińska.

Header Image Credit : Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego

Sources : PAP

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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