Unknown ancient god with astral symbols discovered on a stele at a cult site in Turkey

Unknown ancient god with astral symbols discovered on a stele at the cult site in Turkey

In an ancient sanctuary in Turkey, Münster archeologists excavated a unique Roman relief depicting an unknown god.

According to a first assessment, the one and a half meter (five feet) high basalt stele which was used as a buttress in the wall of a monastery shows a fertility or vegetation god, as classical scholar and excavation director Prof. Dr. Engelbert Winter and archaeologist Dr. Michael Blömer of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” said after their return from the sacred site of the god Jupiter Dolichenus close to the ancient city of Doliche in Southeast Turkey.

“The image is remarkably well preserved. It provides valuable insights into the beliefs of the Romans and into the continued existence of ancient Near Eastern traditions. However, extensive research is necessary before we will be able to accurately identify the deity.”

In the field season 2014, the 60-strong excavation team uncovered finds from all periods of the 2,000-year history of the cult site, such as the thick enclosing wall of the first Iron Age sanctuary or the foundations of the main Roman temple of the god Jupiter Dolichenus, who became one of the most important deities of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century A.D.

His sanctuary is situated close to the town of Gaziantep on the 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) high mountain of Dülük Baba Tepesi. The archaeologists found the stele in the remains of the Christian monastery, which was erected on the site of the ancient sanctuary in the Early Middle Ages.

Bearded deity with astral symbols

Archaeologist Blömer described the depiction: “The basalt stele shows a deity growing from a chalice of leaves. Its long stem rises from a cone that is ornamented with astral symbols. From the sides of the cone grow a longhorn and a tree, which the deity clasps with his right hand.

The pictorial elements suggest that a fertility god is depicted.” There are striking iconographic details such as the composition of the beard or the posture of the arms, which point to Iron Age depictions from the early 1st millennium B.C.

Stele featuring the unknown god.

The new find, thus, provides information about a key question of the Cluster of Excellence’s research project B2-20, the question of the continuity of local religious beliefs.

According to Prof. Winter, “The stele provides information on how ancient oriental traditions survived the epochs from the Iron Age to the age of the Romans.”

This year’s excavation activities concentrated on exploring the medieval monastery of Mar Solomon (St. Solomon). “The well-preserved ruins of the monastery complex permit numerous conclusions regarding life and the culture in this region between Late Antiquity and the time of the crusaders,” according to Prof. Winter.

Until 2010, when the international team discovered the remains of the monastery, experts had known of it from written sources only.

According to the archaeologist Blömer, “All finds from this year’s excavation season are important pieces of the puzzle, contributing to the knowledge concerning every phase of the long history of this holy place.”

The history stretches from the early Iron Age and the Roman sanctuary known throughout the empire to the long utilization as a Christian monastery, which still existed at the time of the crusaders.

Preparing the excavation site for tourists

Work on an archaeological park is in progress which is to make the outstanding temple complex and the monastery ruins accessible to the public at large.

The monastery ruins were preserved and encased with special fleece material. The complex protection measures were made possible by cooperation with the Turkish Zirve University in Gaziantep, which provided about 200,000 Euros for three years.

Ruins at the site of the Christian monastery of St. Solomon.

For the digital documentation of the area, the team uses a quadrocopter, a remotely piloted vehicle with a 3-D camera, developed by the Institute for Geoinformatics of the University of Münster. A visitors’ trail signposted in three languages, which was completed in 2013, leads to central areas of the excavation site. An initial large protective shelter was erected.

Supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft, DFG), the University of Münster’s Asia Minor Research Centre has been conducting excavation work at the main sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenus under the direction of Prof. Winter since 2001.

So far, the international group consisting of archaeologists, historians, architects, conservators, archaeozoologists, geoinformation scientists and excavation workers uncovered foundations of the archaic and the Roman sanctuary, as well as of the medieval monastery of Mar Solomon.

The Cluster of Excellence’s project B2-20, “Media Representation and Religious ‘Market’: Syriac Cults in the Western Imperium Romanum,” is interlinked with the excavations.

Worms Frozen for 42,000 Years in Siberian Permafrost Wriggle to Life

Worms Frozen for 42,000 Years in Siberian Permafrost Wriggle to Life

Sample of Permafrost sediment has been frozen for 42,000 years and has been recently thawed to expose live nematodes.  the roundworms began to move and eat, setting a record for the time an animal can survive cryogenic preservation.

In addition to revealing new limits of endurance, it just might prove useful when it comes to preserving our own tissues. Russian biologists dug up more than 300 samples of frozen soil of different ages and locations throughout the Arctic and took them back to their lab in Moscow for a closer look.

The samples collected from remote parts of northeastern Russia contained nematodes from two different genera, which the researchers placed into Petri dishes with a nutrient medium.

Tiny nematodes like this one were found to be unexpectedly hardy, reviving after thousands of years frozen in Arctic ice

The worms were left for several weeks at a relatively warm 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) as they gradually showed signs of life.

Some of the worms – belonging to the genus Panagrolaimus – were found 30 metres (100 feet) underground in what had once been a ground squirrel burrow which caved in and froze over around 32,000 years ago.

Others from the genus Plectus were found in a bore sample at a depth of around 3.5 metres (about 11.5 feet). Carbon dating was used to determine that sample to be about 42,000 years old.

Contamination can’t be ruled out, but the researchers maintain they adhered to strict sterility procedures.

They aren’t known for burrowing so deep into permafrost, seasonal thawing is limited to around 80 centimetres (under 3 feet), and there’s been no hint of thawing beyond 1.5 metres (5 feet) when the area was at its warmest around 9000 years ago.

So we can be fairly confident these worms really did awaken from one incredibly long nap.

Reviving ancient organisms is itself nothing new. In 2000, scientists pulled spores from Bacillus bacteria hidden inside 250 million-year-old salt crystals and managed to return them to life.

We might be impressed by their fortitude, but we can’t apply bacteria’s life-preserving tricks to our own complicated tissues. So finding animals that can remain dormant for tens of thousands of years is a discovery well worth paying attention to.

Roundworms are known to be hardy creatures. Nematodes have been revived in 39-year-old herbarium samples, but nothing has previously been seen on a scale quite like this.

Close relatives, the tardigrade, are also well known for having a talent for surviving extreme conditions, repairing broken DNA and producing a vitrifying material when they dry out.

Even those superpowered critters have never been seen to survive so long in states of preservation, with the current tardigrade record being only around 30 years. Learning more about the biochemical mechanisms nematodes use to limit the damage of ice and hold off the ravages of oxidation on DNA over the millennia might point the way to better cryopreservation technologies.

We’ve studied other organisms that can handle having their liquids turned to ice for inspiration, such as wood frogs, in the hope of finding better ways to store human tissues for transplants, or even – just maybe – whole bodies for revival.

 “It is obvious that this ability suggests that the Pleistocene nematodes have some adaptive mechanisms that may be of scientific and practical importance for the related fields of science, such as cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology,” the researchers write in their report.

But the find does have a slightly darker side. There are concerns that the melting of permafrost could release pathogens locked up in deep freeze for tens of thousands of years.

Nematodes are unlikely to pose much of a concern, but their survival is evidence that a diverse array of organisms – from bacteria to animals, plants to fungi – could potentially return after a long absence.

Exactly what this means for surrounding ecosystems is still anybody’s guess. We can only hope a few groggy worms are all we have to worry about in Siberia’s melting ice. This research was published in Doklady Biological Sciences.

12,000-Year-Old Elongated Skulls Discovered in Asia Stun Experts

12,000-Year-Old Elongated Skulls Discovered in Asia Stun Experts

A new study has found that elderly people in China had a human head shaping about 12,000 years ago — meaning they bound some children’s maturing skulls, encouraging the heads to grow into elongated ovals — making them the oldest group on record to purposefully squash their skulls, a new study finds.

The skull is known as M45, the earliest known case of head modification on record. It dates to about 12,000 years ago.

While excavating a Neolithic site (the last period of the Stone Age) at Houtaomuga, Jilin province, in northeast China, the archaeologists found 11 elongated skulls — belonging to both males and females and ranging from toddlers to adults — that showed signs of deliberate skull reshaping, also known as intentional cranial modification (ICM).

“This is the earliest discovery of signs of intentional head modification in Eurasia continent, perhaps in the world,” said study co-researcher Qian Wang, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Texas A&M University College of Dentistry.

“If this practice began in East Asia, it likely spread westward to the Middle East, Russia, and Europe through the steppes as well as eastward across the Bering land bridge to the Americas.” 

The Houtaomuga site is a treasure trove, holding burials and artifacts from 12,000 to 5,000 years ago.

During an excavation there between 2011 and 2015, archaeologists found the remains of 25 individuals, 19 of which were preserved enough to be studied for ICM.

After putting these skulls in a CT scanner, which produced 3D digital images of each specimen, the researchers confirmed that 11 had indisputable signs of skull shaping, such as flattening and elongation of the frontal bone, or forehead.

The oldest ICM skull belonged to an adult male, who lived between 12,027 and 11,747 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating.

The M72 skull is between 6,300 and 5,500 years old.

Archaeologists have found reshaped human skulls all around the world, from every inhabited continent. But this particular finding, if confirmed, “will [be] the earliest evidence of the intentional head modification, which lasted for 7,000 years at the same site after its first emergence,” Wang told Foxnews.

The 11 ICM individuals died between ages 3 and 40, indicating that skull shaping began at a young age when human skulls are still malleable, Wang said.

An excavation at the site during 2010.

It’s unclear why this particular culture practiced skull modification, but it’s possible that fertility, social status, and beauty could be factors, Wang said. The people with ICM buried at Houtaomuga were likely from a privileged class, as these individuals tended to have grave goods and funeral decorations.

“Apparently, these youth were treated with a decent funeral, which might suggest a high socioeconomic class,” Wang said.

Even though the Houtaomuga man is the oldest known case of ICM in history, it’s a mystery whether other known instances of ICM spread from this group, or whether they rose independently of one another, Wang said.

“It is still too early to claim intentional cranial modification first emerged in East Asia and spread elsewhere; it may have originated independently in different places,” Wang said. More ancient DNA research and skull examinations throughout the world may shed light on this practice’s spread, he said.

The Huaca Pucllana: A Massive Ancient Pyramid You Probably Never Knew Existed

The Huaca Pucllana: A Massive Ancient Pyramid You Probably Never Knew Existed

Lima, Peru is home to many wonders of the world including the Huaca Pucllana pyramid. Huaca Pucllana served as an administrative and ceremonial center in the pre-Inca Lima culture to elite clergymen. Today, Huaca Pucllana now offers its visitors a glimpse into the history of the ancient culture.

About Huaca Pucllana

The Huaca Pucllana is an adobe and clay pyramid located in the Miraflores district in centralized Lima, Peru. The pyramid has seven staggered levels.

The inhabitants of the area who built the pyramid lived 200 AD to 700 AD. Huaca Pucllana itself, however, was built around 500 AD. The process of uncovering Huaca Pucllana began in 1981 and in 1991 it became a historical and cultural park.

The pyramid once served as an important ceremonial and administrative center for the Lima Culture in the region. There is a plaza that surrounds the structure and a large wall dividing it into separate sections. A section of the plaza has benches and deep pits. Inside of this section is where they would perform ceremonies as well as make their sacrifices and offerings.

Another area of the plaza had an administrative section. Various small clay and adobe huts were once located inside the enclosure. You can find the intact remains of the “Señor de los Unkus” (The Lord of the Unkus). His remains were uncovered and are located in one of the tombs on the site.

The ancient civilization responsible for building the massive pyramid was notable for its architectural style, engineering skill as well as their mastery of irrigation which eventually led them to spread across a considerable amount of territory.

Surrounded by a vast desert, the ancient culture created intricate irrigation networks that allowed them to transport water from springs and rivers to their settlements.

The Pyramid, just as the Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, was built using adobe bricks. Millions of Adobe bricks.

In 1991, the Peruvian Cultural Institute and the Municipality of Miraflores signed an agreement in 1991 that allowed the Huaca Pucllana pyramid to become a historical and cultural park in the city.

It is believed that the site where the pyramid is located was home to a number of smaller pyramids and plazas. The smaller structures are thought to have grown over time, as each new generation added to them.

The administrative center of Huaca Pucllana was composed of several patios, platforms and storage facilities. Scholars argue that the pyramid was mostly used as an administrative site for the irrigation zone of the city.

The entire pyramid complex is divided by a large wall that was built running from north to south. The site was also home to spaces that were most likely used by the ancients as meeting spots, storage rooms, and other production-related activities.

The western part was the religious center and is home to the pyramid which rises a towering 22 meters into the air. The Pyramid which is more than 400 meters wide was built with adobe bricks stacked horizontally on top of each other.

The pyramid, much smaller in size compared to the Great Pyramid of Giza was nonetheless a tremendous engineering feat of ancient times. The pyramid was most likely visible from several miles away when it was complete, some 1,500 years ago.

Today, it stands as evidence of the ingenuity and architectural complexity of pre-Columbian civilizations and developed cultures inhabiting the American continent long before the Europeans set foot on the New Continent.

The entire site shows the rich history of the region, spanning back to a time long before the Inca rule of the region.

Looking back at its size, complexity, and history, one cannot help but stand awestruck by the Pyramid’s irradiating beauty which in many images looks almost as if it was built by Minecraft builders in the real world.

Amazingly preserved 46000-year-old frozen horned lark found in Siberia

Frozen bird discovered in Siberia is 46,000 years old, scientists discover

Researchers in Siberia discovered a frozen bird in the permafrost in 2018.

A frozen bird, pictured, was so well preserved that fossil hunters thought that it had ‘died yesterday’ has turned out to be 46,000 years old, from the middle of the last ice age

Examination of the remains of the bird found that it had lived there more than experts expected. The analysis revealed that the bird is about 46,000 years old and covered by permafrost in Siberia.

An analysis of the DNA found that the bird was a ancestor of two different lark subspecies — one in Mongolia and one in Siberia. It provides unique insight into the ecosystem this lark lived in during the last Ice Age.

The specimen — an ancestor of the modern horned lark, pictured — was found preserved in permafrost in a mine tunnel near the village of Belaya Gora in north-east Siberia
The specimen — an ancestor of the horned lark — was found preserved in permafrost in a mine tunnel near the village of Belaya Gora in north-east Siberia

Scientists from the University of Stockholm and the Swedish Museum of Natural history studied the frozen bird and determined it was a horned lark that roamed the sky of our planet between 44,000 and 49,000 years ago.

“Not only can we identify the bird as a horned lark. The genetic analysis also suggests that the bird belonged to a population that was a joint ancestor of two subspecies of horned lark living today, one in Siberia, and one in the steppe in Mongolia. This helps us understand how the diversity of subspecies evolves,” revealed Nicolas Dussex, a researcher at the Department of Zoology at Stockholm University.

The study of the frozen bird revealed its distinct charcoal-colored feathers, typical of the horned lark. Despite its age, the feathers are in excellent condition.

Such well-preserved animals “allow for studies of morphological traits, as well as the ecology and evolution of a range of extinct and extant animal species,” the researchers revealed.

Experts also explained that the fact that such a miniature and fragile specimen was found nearly intact suggests that mud and dirt were most likely deposited gradually, or that the ground where it once lived was relatively stable.

The discovery of the bird, as well as its age, comes as a big surprise to experts. They say that although frozen remains of large mammals have been discovered many times, the remains of a frozen bird dating back from the late Pleistocene permafrost deposits has never before been found.

The next step for experts is to map the ancient bird’s genome in order to better understand how the species compares to modern subspecies of horned larks.

Speaking to CNN, Love Dalén from the Swedish Museum of Natural History explained that “this finding implies that the climatic changes that took place at the end of the last Ice Age led to the formation of new subspecies.”

A study detailing the discovery has been published in the Journal Communications Biology.

Scientists working in Siberia have also found the preserved remains of other animals such as ancient wolves, woolly mammoths as well as wooly rhinos among other species.

Such discoveries are described by scientists as “priceless treasures,” that allow them to recover DNA and even RNA samples.

Scientists at the Centre for Palaeogenetics have access to abundant samples from similar discoveries from the same site in Siberia. Among the more fascinating is an 18 000-year-old puppy named “Dogor” which is currently being studied in order to determine if it is a wolf or a dog.

Other findings include a 50 000-year-old cave lion cub “Spartak.”