ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE of AMERICA

September 15, 2018   Dr. Michael Callaghan and Dr. Brigitte Kovacevich
“The Naked and the Dead: Ritual and Warfare at the Dawn of Maya Civilization in Holtun, Guatemala”

SCOTLAND: The Roman builders of the Antonine Wall used vibrantly painted sculptures as a propaganda tool to convey Rome’s superiority over native Scottish tribes. When the wall was built in the mid- 2nd century a.d., sculpted blocks depicting Rome’s military exploits were periodically embedded into it at strategic locations. X-ray and laser technology has now shown for the first time that they were originally finished with red and yellow paint, which would have enhanced their visual impact.

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Ancient Athens’ Other Cemetery
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BRIEFS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

RUSSIA: Advanced dating techniques have shown that the famous Shigir Idol is an astounding 11,600 years old, even older than previously thought. It is now considered the oldest known monumental wooden sculpture, having been carved near the end of the last Ice Age. The human-shaped larch wood figure was originally pulled from a peat bog in the Ural Mountains in the late 19th century, stands over 17 feet high, and is engraved with zigzag patterns and human faces.

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The material record of coastal living along the northern Gulf Coast of Florida continues to be overcome by the water of rising sea. Encoded in this record are clues to the ways that people and ecosystems responded to sea-level rise over millennia. Since 2009, the Lower Suwannee Archaeological Survey of the University of Florida has been working to salvage vulnerable sites while developing information relevant to future challenges with environmental and social change. 

Among the results is remarkable evidence for an enduring ritual strategy to sync human movements to celestial cycles in order to lessen the negative impacts of earthly change. This strategy was materialized in terraformed landscapes of mounds, ridges, and rings, as well as cemeteries and ritual objects that were emplaced at locations of ritual gathering. The social networks created and maintained by annual cycles of gathering enabled coastal communities to relocate landward to places of lesser vulnerability when synchronization among earth, water, and sky was disrupted by events, like shoreline retreat, beyond the social memory of generational or century scale experience. Lessons for our own future with rising sea await our attention in the archaeological record of ancient coastal dwelling.

COUNTY MEATH, IRELAND—The Aberdeen Evening Express reports that a Neolithic passage tomb has been discovered in Ireland’s Boyne Valley by researchers from University College Dublin and a private agricultural technology company. A large stone cairn measuring about 130 feet in diameter had been placed over the tomb’s main passage and two burial chambers within the western part of the structure. Six of the stones that had been placed in a ring around the perimeter have also been found. One of them had been decorated with numerous carvings. In addition, two possible satellite tombs have been found nearby.


“The spate of archaeological discoveries in Bru na Boinne—Boyne Valley Tombs—in recent weeks highlights what a globally significant place this is,” said Steve Davis of University College Dublin. To read about earlier discoveries in the Boyne Valley, go to “Samhain Revival.”

FURTHER READING ON THE SUBJECT:
Lost City Revealed Under Centuries of Jungle Growth (National Geographic)
A hundred ancient Maya buildings detected under Guatemala rain forest. 

HOLTUN PROJECT FACEBOOK PAGE

The following lecture will take place at theBeaches Museum and History Park in Jacksonville Beach [381 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250]

 October 20, 2018  Dr. Kenneth E. Sassaman University of Florida
"Sea-Level Rise Among the Ancients: Results of the First Decade of the Lower Suwannee Archaeological Survey"

UPCOMING LECTURES

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In this talk, Dr. Michael Callaghan and Dr. Brigitte Kovacevich, discuss the latest insights into the dawn of Preclassic Maya civilization from the perspective of the site of Holtun, Guatemala.  Recent excavations reveal the importance of ritual and potential conflict in the establishment of Holtun as a Preclassic-period urban center.  Highlighting entombed temples with painted walls, monumental stucco masks, writing, graffiti, and early burials Callaghan and Kovacevich present a model for Holtun’s founding emphasizing early community worship that quickly transforms into ruler-focused ritual.

5,500-Year-Old Passage Tomb Unearthed in Ireland
Monday, July 16, 2018

ARCHAEOLOGY MAGAZINE NEWS

Artifacts, hieroglyphs, architecture, and art have allowed archaeologists to reconstruct the lifeways and worldview of the Classic period Maya who inhabited the tropical lowlands of Mesoamerica from AD 250-900.  However, the story of Classic Maya civilization begins almost one thousand years earlier in a shadowy and poorly understood past.  The Preclassic period began around 1000 BC and witnessed the advent of Classic Maya architecture, material culture, writing, and worldview. 

Dr. Brigitte Kovacevich in a looters' tunnel inside a pyramid at the Head of Stone site.

Photograph: Michael G. Callaghan, National Geographic