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Nebra Sky Disk

THE NEBRA SKY DISC

The Nebra disc is currently the oldest known representation of the celestial sky.  This was a phenomenal archaeological discovery that took place on Mount Mittelberg, near Nebra (Saxony-Anhalt, Germany) during 1999.  It has been shrouded in mystery and controversy since its discovery and it has even been suggested that its design is of extra-terrestrial origin.

THE DISCOVERY

A team of looters who were looking for old ammunition and military weapons, discovered, with the help of illegal metal detectors, the remains of a prehistoric settlement that would later be dated to around 1600 years BC.  The disc has been associated with the Bronze Age Unetice culture.

Location where the Nebra Sky Disk was first found.

Location where the Nebra Sky Disk was Found on the slopes of Mount Mitteleberg.

THE DISC

Their findings were as follows: The disc stuck vertically on the ground, 2 swords, 2 axes, some bracelets and a chisel.  All of these items were surrounded by large stones that protected the area where they’d been deposited.  In Germany, these types of private finds are illegal and must be handed over to a museum. This failed to appeal to the looters who, despite its incalculable historic value, sold all the treasures on the black market during 2000 for the sum of £13,000.

That buyer, in turn, tried to sell the artefacts to the prehistoric museums of Berlin and Munich. It was then that the director of the Berlin museum, Wilfried Menghin, received some photos in which he saw the rather dirty Nebra Celestial Sky Disc and some other relics.   The asking price for these looted items had now jumped to £200,000.

Menghin responded that the legitimate owner of the prehistoric treasure was Germany as a nation and that the items legally and morally belonged to the Museum of Prehistory in Munich.  The illegal seller was clearly disturbed by the conversation and the artefacts vanished again.

Nebra Sky Disk as it was Discovered

Nebra Sky Disk as it was Discovered

Nebra Sky Disk Excavation Site

Two years later Menghin was approached with a similar proposition but this time the director of the museum did not want to lose track of the Nebra Sky disc again and went to the Ministry of Culture for Saxony-Anhalt and the matter was turned over to the police. The ensuing investigation initially turned up the Sky Disc and sometime later the remainder of the artefacts were also discovered and the looters arrested. Possibly in exchange for a lenient sentence, the looters confessed the location of the find to be the forest of Ziegelroda on the slopes of Mittelberg at a height of 250 metres.  Chemical analyses of the soil found on the disk and the soil from the forest clearly confirmed that this was the original location of the discovery.

The federal office of Saxony-Anhalt the excavation of the site and obtained very good results. It was discovered that these had not been grave goods but a cache where the pieces had been randomly placed inside a metal container with a lid that was typically used to store precious objects.   This type of deposit was quite frequent among people of the Bronze Age and archaeologists believe that they were probably offerings to the gods – although this is by no means certain.

ARE THE ITEMS FAKE?

Around the time of the discovery some doubts were raised that such a sophisticated object as the Nebra Sky Disc could have been produced by the people from so long ago.  Test were carried out and the specialists agreed that the green bubble shapes found on the surface of the copper carbonate disk could only have been created by a process requiring significant time.  The Sky Disc was agreed to be authentic.

Nebra Sky Disk Swords

The swords found together with the Nebra Sky Disk

THE NEBRA SKY DISC

It has a size of 31 by 32 cm and a thickness that increases from the outside to the interior, from 1.5 mm to 4.5 mm. It is arched and slightly concave and weighs just over two kilograms.  Its original colour is unknown as after 3,600 years of being buried it has acquired a greenish coloration due to a patina of copper carbonate. It was found in the ground in an upright position with its obverse facing north. The gold ornamentation, impervious to corrosion, has not been degraded like the bronze.

SOME FINDINGS

Research down on the Nebra Sky disc indicate that it was modified on at least three separate occasions. The time scale between modifications is unknown.

The disk originally had thirty-two small round gold circles as well as a large crescent-shaped plate attached to the side.

The section believed to represent the moon is depicted as an eclipse.

A ‘sun boat’ depicted as an arc was added at a later date.

At the time the Disc was concealed it had been modified again and had some thirty-nine or forty three millimeter (3mm) cut out around its perimeter.  Their purpose is unknown.

Display of the Ancient Artifacts

Display of the Ancient Artifacts

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Ancient

Malapa skeletons are the same hominin species

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Brett Eloff

Australopithecus lived two million years ago.

Anthropologists have published the results of a new study in to two fossil skeletons found in South Africa.

The skeletons, which were unearthed in 2008 at the fossil site of Malapa within the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg, belong to an early hominin known as Australopithecus sediba.

More complete than the famous ‘Lucy’ specimen from Ethiopia, the skeletons were of a young male and adult female – both believed to be somewhere around two million years old.

For a time, it wasn’t even clear that the two belonged to the same species, but now, following a decade of research in to the finds, researchers have concluded that they are indeed the same.

The study has also revealed more about what these early hominins may have been like.

“Our interpretations in the papers suggest that A. sediba was adapted to terrestrial bipedalism, but also spent significant time climbing in trees, perhaps for foraging and protection from predators,” wrote New York University anthropologist Scott Williams.

“This larger picture sheds light on the lifeways of A. sediba and also on a major transition in hominin evolution, that of the largely ape-like species included broadly in the genus Australopithecus to the earliest members of our own genus, Homo.”

Source: Heritage Daily

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Ancient Roman Cemetery is Full of Mysterious Headless Skeletons

(Archaeological Solutions)

In England, excavations for developments of the housing kind often lead to developments of the archeological kind. While digging holes for foundations in the tiny old town of Great Whelnetham, Suffolk, in eastern England, construction workers found a Roman-era cemetery with a macabre mystery … many of the skeletons were headless, with the skull placed either between the knees, between the feet or even under a knee. Criminals? Vampires? Anti-development zombies? Something worse?

“The incisions through the neck were post-mortem and were neatly placed just behind the jaw. An execution would cut lower through the neck and with violent force, and this is not present anywhere.”

Archeologist Andrew Peachey of Archaeological Solutions, an independent archaeological contractor providing archaeological monitoring and research for urban excavations, was called in by developer Havebury Housing Partnership to investigate the cemetery, which contained 52 skeletons of which 17 had their heads removed and placed elsewhere. Seventeen more were “deviant” burials where the skeleton was face down or in a fetal position. There were also 4 skulls with no bodies. (Photos of the remains can be seen here.) The rest of the bodies were placed with heads intact in the usual face-up burial position. Peachey’s initial analysis determined that the cemetery was from the 4th century CE and that the headless bodies were not the result of executions.

“This appears to be a careful funeral rite that may be associated with a particular group within the local population, possibly associated with a belief system (cult) or a practice that came with a group moved into the area.”

But what kind of cult? Peachey tells the East Anglian Daily Times that headless burials such as these are extremely rare in Britain. He also pointed out a second mystery – the deceased appeared to be healthy when they died. Most were middle-aged or older (with a few children under 10) and in good shape.

“They were well nourished, and several had very robust upper arms/bodies consistent with a working agricultural population.”

Peachey proposes that they could have been slaves or a labor force brought in to work the fields, but the care used in the removal of the heads and their placement suggests these were members of the community and buried with respect. He has no explanation for why they died so healthy – although many had dental problems, most had healed, and evidence of tuberculosis was common in 4th century agrarian communities, so they weren’t killed by the disease nor beheaded postmortem to prevent them from rising and spreading the disease again.

The people of the Pacific island of Kiribati exhume their dead and remove their skulls to be displayed as sign of reverence in hopes the spirit will protect them. Could a similar culture or cult in 4th century England had a similar practice?

Not surprisingly, the remains have been removed to a local museum and the development is expected to be completed in July. While the skeletons and detached skulls are being analyzed for more information on the who’s and why’s of the strange burial practice, people will soon be living where they laid undisturbed for centuries. Would you want to move right in or wait for the explanation?

SOURCE:

Mysterious Universe

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Ancient

Mexico Unearths Ancient Flayed God Temple Where Priests Wore Skins Of Dead

Mexican experts have found the first temple of the Flayed god, a pre-Hispanic fertility deity depicted as a skinned human corpse.

What is Flayed god?

The great god Xipe Totec, otherwise known as Our Lord the Flayed One/ Flayed God, was one of the oldest Aztec deities. Also known as Red Tezcatlipoca, guardian of the east, Xipe Totec was often depicted as a man wearing the flayed skin of another.

Xipe Totec’s name was derived from the myth by which the god flayed—peeled and cut off—his own skin to feed humans. For the Aztecs, Xipe Totec’s removing his layer of skin symbolized the events that must happen to produce renewed growth that covers the earth each spring. More specifically, flaying is associated with the cycle of American corn (maize) as it sheds its external seed covering when it is ready to germinate.

Discovery of the temple

Mexico‘s National Institute of Anthropology and History said the find was made during recent excavations of Popoloca Indian ruins in the central state of Puebla.

The institute said experts found two skull-like stone carvings and a stone trunk depicting the god, Xipe Totec. It had an extra hand dangling off one arm, suggesting the god was wearing the skin of a sacrificial victim. The Popolocas built the temple at a complex known as Ndachjian-Tehuacan between A.D. 1000 and 1260 and were later conquered by the Aztecs.

Sacrifice and the Flaying of Skin

Priests worshipped Xipe Totec by skinning human victims and then donning their skins. The ritual was seen as a way to ensure fertility and regeneration.  The victims of this sacrifice would be killed and then flayed—their skins removed in large pieces. Those skins were painted and then worn by others during a ceremony and in this manner, they would be transformed into the living image (“teotl ixiptla”) of Xipe Totec.

Mexico Unearths Ancient Flayed God Temple Where Priests Wore Skins Of Deaddetail from Ritual Impersonator of the Deity Xipe Totec, Aztec, possibly central Veracruz, Mexico, 1450-1500 – Art Institute of Chicago (Image Source)

Rituals performed during the early spring month of Tlacaxipeualiztli included the “Feast of the Flaying of Men,” for which the month was named. The entire city and rulers or nobles of enemy tribes would witness this ceremony. In this ritual, slaves or captive warriors from surrounding tribes were dressed in as the “living image” of Xipe Totec. Transformed into the god, the victims were led through a series of rituals performing as Xipe Totec, then they were sacrificed and their body parts distributed among the community.

Ancient accounts of the rituals suggested victims were killed in gladiator-style combat or by arrows on one platform, then skinned on another platform. The layout of the temple at Tehuacan seems to match that description.

Other depictions of the Flayed god

Depictions of the god had been found before in other cultures, including the Aztecs, but not a whole temple.

University of Florida archaeologist Susan Gillespie, who was not involved in the project, wrote that “finding the torso fragment of a human wearing the flayed skin of a sacrificial victim in situ is perhaps the most compelling evidence of the association of this practice and related deity to a particular temple, more so to me than the two sculpted skeletal crania.”

“If the Aztec sources could be relied upon, a singular temple to this deity (whatever his name in Popoloca) does not necessarily indicate that this was the place of sacrifice,” Gillespie wrote. “The Aztec practice was to perform the sacrificial death in one or more places, but to ritually store the skins in another, after they had been worn by living humans for some days. So it could be that this is the temple where they were kept, making it all the more sacred.”

Featured image: Omar Eduardo

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