Category Archives: NORTH AMERICA

Ancient Alutiiq Weavings: Uncovering 3,000-Year-Old Artifacts in Alaska

Ancient Alutiiq Weavings: Uncovering 3,000-Year-Old Artifacts in Alaska

During excavations of an ancestral sod house on the shore of Karluk Lake, Kodiak Island, Alaska, archaeologists uncovered rare fragments of woven grass artifacts estimated to be 3,000 years old.

The fragments, which appear to be pieces of mats, are the oldest well-documented examples of Kodiak Alutiiq/Sugpiaq weaving.

“We were excavating a sod house beside Karluk Lake as part of a broader study to understand how Alutiiq people used Kodiak’sinterior,” said Saltonstall. “When we reached the floor, we discovered that the house had burned and collapsed.

The walls of the structure, which were lined with wood, fell into the building and covered a portion of the floor. This sealed the floor quickly and limited burning. As we removed the remains of the walls, we were surprised and excited to find fragments of charred weaving.

Weaving is a long-practiced Alutiiq art

It looks like the house had grass mats on the floor. The pieces covered about a two-meter area at the back of the house, perhaps in an area for sleeping,” Alutiiq Museum Curator of Archaeology Patrick Saltonstall explained in a press release.

Weaving is a long-practiced Alutiiq art, but one that is difficult to document archaeologically as fiber artifacts are fragile and rarely preserved.

The Alutiiq Museum’s extensive archaeological collections contain grass and spruce root baskets that are as much as 600 years old but nothing older.

The house that produced the weavings was radiocarbon-dated to about 3,000 years old. The style of the structure and artifacts found in association support this determination.

Detail of ca. 3,000-year-old grass matting from ancestral Alutiiq house by Karluk Lake

“Our ancestors likely worked with plant fibers for millennia, from the time they arrived on Kodiak 7500 years ago,” said April Laktonen Counceller, the museum’s executive director.

“It makes sense. Plants are abundant and easily harvested, and they are excellent materials for making containers, mats, and other useful items. It’s just very hard to document this practice. This wonderful find extends our knowledge of Alutiiq weaving back an additional 2400 years.”

Close inspection of the woven fragments shows that their makers laid down long parallel strands of grass (the warp) and then secured them with perpendicular rows of twining (the weft)spaced about an inch apart.

This technique created an open weave, also found in historic examples of Alutiiq grass matting. Small fragments of more complicated braiding may represent the finished edge of a mat.

The field crew carefully lifted the fragile woven fragments off the floor of the sod house and placed them in a specially made box for transport back to Kodiak and the Alutiiq Museum’slaboratory.

Here, they will be preserved, documented, and made available for study as a loan from Koniag—the regional Alaska Native Corporation for Kodiak Alutiiq people and the sponsor of the research. The corporation owns the land on which the excavation took and has been generously supporting archaeological studies in the region.

“Discoveries like these highlight our Alutiiq people’s innovation and resilience,” said Koniag President Shauna Hegna.“Koniag is humbled to partner with the Alutiiq Museum on critical projects like this.”

30 Million-Year-Old Praying Mantis Perfectly Preserved In A Piece Of Amber

30 Million-Year-Old Praying Mantis Perfectly Preserved In A Piece Of Amber

In a remarkable natural process, insects and even mammals can be preserved in time for all eternity by becoming encased in tree sap that eventually turns into amber.

In the hit movie Jurassic Park, a scientific character was able to draw dinosaur blood from mosquitoes imprisoned in amber, drawing attention to and popularizing this true phenomena.

A little praying mantis that was found in a piece of amber in 2016 was sold by Heritage Auctions for $6,000 in pristine condition. Somewhere in the Dominican Republic, the amazing object was found.

According to Heritage Auctions, this object is thought to be from the Oligocene epoch, making it somewhere between 23 million and 33.9 million years old. The auction description from a related sale reads as follows:

“The Praying Mantis, one of the rarest and most prized inclusions of all, is present in this specimen. Due to their terrified fight to escape the relentless ooze, these aggressive insects are typically deformed or without limbs when discovered.

The color patterns on this specimen’s short legs, tiny arm spikes, delicate antennae, and enormous, complex eyes are all perfectly maintained, though.

The bug, which is around 12 inches long and is enclosed in a gorgeous polished golden nugget that measures 134 by 114 by 1 inch, is a remarkable example of ancient life. The item is particularly impressive since it also includes three sizable, well-preserved click beetles, making it a museum-quality specimen.

Similar methods can be used in Amber to preserve animals. Researchers discovered a newborn snake’s preserved bones last year that they estimated to be 99 million years old.

One of the scientists who examined the snake specimen is Michael Caldwell, a professor in the biological sciences division at the University of Alberta in Canada. The specimen was given the name Xiaophis myanmarensis by Caldwell and his team.

“Despite being a young snake, it has highly distinctive characteristics on the top of the vertebrae that have never been observed in any fossil snakes of its species.

According to Caldwell, Xiaophis belongs to a group of snakes that appear to be extremely old near the base of the snake family tree.

“Amber gathers whatever it comes in contact with, acting almost like super glue, and keeps it for a hundred million years. It is obvious the snake was living in a forest because, when it captured the young snake, it also caught the forest floor with the bugs, plants, and insect dung, the man stated.

California Gold Mine Reveals 40 Million-Year-Old Tools Were Found

California Gold Mine Reveals 40 Million-Year-Old Tools Were Found

At Table Mountain and other locations in the gold mining region around the middle of the nineteenth century, miners discovered hundreds of stone artifacts and human bones buried deep inside their tunnels. Experts claim that these bones and artifacts were found embedded in layers from the Eocene epoch (38-55 million years).

The Auriferous Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California, written by Dr. J. D. Whitney, the leading government geologist in California, was published in 1880 by Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Comparative Zoology.

However, because the information went against accepted Darwinist theories on human origins, it was excluded from scholarly discussions. In 1849, gold was found in the gravels of old riverbeds on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, drawing large numbers of rowdy adventurers to settlements including Brandy City, Last Chance, Lost Camp, You Bet, and Poker Flat.

Initially, solitary miners searched for flakes and nuggets among the gravel that had made their way into the present-day streambeds. Auriferous (gold-bearing) gravels were quickly washed from hillsides by high-pressure water jets while other gold-mining businesses bored holes into mountainside deposits and followed the gravel deposits wherever they led.

The miners found hundreds of stone items as well as human fossils. The scientific community received the most crucial information from Dr. J. D. Whitney.

Artifacts from hydraulic mining and surface deposits were of questionable age, while deep mine shaft and tunnel artifacts could be more accurately dated. According to J. D. Whitney, the geological evidence revealed that the auriferous gravels were at least Pliocene in age.

However, according to modern geologists, some of the gravel layers are Eocene in origin. In Tuolumne County’s Table Mountain, several holes were dug, traveling through thick strata of latite, a basaltic volcanic substance, before arriving at the gravels containing gold.

In other instances, the tunnels stretched hundreds of feet horizontally beneath the latite top. The age of findings from the gravels directly above the bedrock might be between 33.2 and 55 million years old, and those from other gravels could be between 9 and 55 million years old.

According to William B. Holmes, a physical anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, “If Professor Whitney had fully appreciated the story of human evolution as it is understood today, he would have hesitated to announce the conclusions formulated, notwithstanding the imposing array of testimony with which he was confronted.” Or, to put it another way, the theory had to be rejected if the evidence did not support it, which is exactly what happened.

The Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, still has some of the items Whitney mentioned on the exhibit. Darwinism and other isms affected how archaeological evidence was handled in Hueyatlaco, Mexico.

Archaeologists working under the direction of Cynthia Irwin-Williams found stone tools there in the 1970s that were associated with bones from butchered animals.

A group of geologists, including Virginia Steen-McIntyre, dated the location. The age of the site was established using four different techniques: stratigraphic analysis, zircon fission track dating on volcanic layers above the artifact layers, tephra hydration dating of volcanic crystals found in volcanic layers above the artifact layers, and uranium-series dates on butchered animal bones.

The reason the archaeologists were hesitant to put an age on the site was because they thought that (1) no humans were around 250,000 years ago anyplace on the earth, and (2) no humans visited North America until at most 15,000 or 20,000 years ago.

At Table Mountain and other locations in the gold mining region around the middle of the nineteenth century, miners discovered hundreds of stone artifacts and human bones buried deep inside their tunnels.

This Ancient Underground City Was Big Enough to House 20,000 People

This Ancient Underground City Was Big Enough to House 20,000 People

Chicago, like a lot of other modern cities, has a hidden secret: It’s home to miles of passageways deep underground that allow commuters to get from one place to another without risking nasty weather.

Los Angeles, Boston, New York, and Dallas all have their own networks of underground tunnels, as well. But there’s a place in Eastern Europe that puts those forgotten passages to shame. Welcome to Derinkuyu — the underground city.

The Cappadocia landscape with its tuff towers.

A Subterranean Suburb

Picture this. It’s 1963, and you’re on a construction crew renovating a home. You bring your sledgehammer down on a soft stone wall, and it all crumbles away, revealing a large, snaking passageway so long that you can’t see where it ends.

This is the true story of how the undercity at Derinkuyu was (re-)discovered. While those workers knew they’d found something special, they couldn’t know just how massive their discovery had been.

Circular stones were used to seal access to passageways.

Stretching 250 feet (76 meters) underground with at least 18 distinct levels, Derinkuyu was a truly massive place to live. Yes, live. There was room for 20,000 people to stay here, complete with all of the necessities (and a few luxuries) — freshwater, stables, places of worship, and even wineries and oil presses.

It isn’t the only underground city in the area known as Cappadocia, but it’s the deepest one we know of, and for many years, it was believed to be the largest as well. (Another recently discovered location may have been home to even more people.)

Derinkuyu and the other 40-ish underground cities nearby are made possible thanks to the prevalence of tuff in the area, a kind of volcanic rock that solidifies into something soft and crumbly. That makes it relatively easy to carve enormous subterranean passages — but why would you want to? The answer lies in the cities’ origins.

Defense Against the Sword Arts

Derinkuyu isn’t exactly inhospitable on the surface level (after all, that’s where the people who found it were living). So why did ancient people decide to build their living quarters below the surface? Because they weren’t hiding from the broiling sun or annual meteor showers.

They were clearly hiding from invading forces, with massive, rolling stone doors to block off each floor should any armies breach the fortress. But who were the people of the caves, and who were they defending themselves against? The answer to the second question depends on the answer to the first.

The earliest known people to live in the area were the Hittites, who ruled the Turkish Peninsula from about the 17th to 13th centuries B.C.E. — well over three millennia ago.

A 55-meter (180-ft) shaft used a primary well at Derinkuyu.

Some scholars point to artifacts with Hittite cultural elements, such as a small statue of a lion, found in the underground caves. That suggests these ancient people would have been taking refuge from invading Thracians.

If they were, it didn’t work forever: A tribe of Thracians, the Phrygians, conquered the area next. It’s possible that the Hittites never lived underground, however; an alternate theory says that it was the Phrygians, not the Hittites, who spawned the subterranean city.

Since the construction of many of the large underground complexes is dated to some time between the 10th and 7th centuries B.C.E., and the Phrygians lived there until the 6th century B.C.E., they’re generally regarded to have created the first caves. In that case, they may have been hiding from the Persian host under Cyrus the Great who eventually did take over the region.

Lost and Found

The Persians would have used those caves as well, as would all of the people to came after. Eventually, according to some sources, early Christians around the 2nd century C.E. took root in the caves as they fled Roman persecution.

This pattern continued throughout the centuries and millennia to come — in fact, Greek Christians were still using the caves as late as 1923. It’s pretty incredible, then, that the caves would have been forgotten in the 40-odd years between their last residents and their “re-discovery.”

Rare Tardigrade Fossil Found in 16-million-year-old Dominican Amber

Rare Tardigrade Fossil Found in 16-million-year-old Dominican Amber

The discovery of an incredibly rare fossil is helping scientists learn more about one of Earth’s ancient and most resilient inhabitants: the microscopic tardigrade.

Modern tardigrades are eight-legged micro-animals, also known as water bears or moss piglets. They’re almost completely missing from the fossil record despite their long evolutionary history and ability to survive extreme conditions, including space.

Now, scientists say they’ve discovered a new species of tardigrade suspended in 16 million-year-old amber — only the third clear tardigrade fossil ever found.

An artistic reconstruction of Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus in moss.

What they found

The researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology and Harvard University who discovered the fossil published their findings in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Wednesday.

The tardigrade is trapped in fossilized amber mined from La Cumbre, a region of the Dominican Republic known for its amber deposits. The amber also trapped a flower and insects, including three ants.

The fossil is the first of a tardigrade found from the Cenozoic era, the Earth’s current geological era beginning 66 million years ago.

Phil Barden, the senior author of the study, called the discovery a “once-in-a-generation” event in a statement on the research.

“What is so remarkable is that tardigrades are a ubiquitous ancient lineage that has seen it all on Earth, from the fall of the dinosaurs to the rise of terrestrial colonization of plants,” Barden said. “Yet, they are like a ghost lineage for paleontologists with almost no fossil record.”

This Dominican amber contains Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus gen. et. sp. nov.(image amplified in a box), three ants, a beetle and a flower. A dime image was digitally added for size comparison.

Why it matters

The fossil is unique for its clarity, its age and how helpful it could be to evolutionary scientists’ future studies.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology said in a release that the discovery is the best-imaged fossil tardigrade ever. Scientists are able to observe micron-level details like the invertebrate’s mouthparts and its “needle-like claws 20-30 times finer than a human hair.”

The new fossil enabled scientists to identify this never-before-seen species of tardigrade, which they call Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus. Its name incorporates the Greek word for time, “Chrono,” and “caribbeus” in reference to the region where it was found.

The fossil will spend the next part of its life at the American Museum of Natural History.

800-year-old spiral rock carvings marked the solstices for Native Americans

800-year-old spiral rock carvings marked the solstices for Native Americans

The Pueblo people created rock carvings in the Mesa Verde region of the Southwest United States about 800 years ago to mark the position of the sun on the longest and shortest days of the year, archaeologists now say.

The spiral patterns that appear prominently in the rock carvings are thought to be a symbol among ancestral Pueblo peoples for the sky or the sun.

Panels of ancient rock art, called petroglyphs, on canyon walls in the region show complex interactions of sunlight and shadows.These interactions can be seen in the days around the winter and summer solstices, when the sun reaches its southernmost and northernmost points, respectively, and, to a lesser extent, around the equinoxes — the “equal nights”— in spring and fall, the researchers said.

The carvings show scenes depicting the traditions of contemporary Hopi people — descendants of the ancestral Puebloans who lived in parts of the Southwest until the 13th century. The traditions describe important rituals at seasonal points in the yearly solar calendar tied to farming activities, such as planting and harvesting.

The rock carvings “probably marked the specific seasons,” archaeologist Radek Palonkaof Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. “It was not only to observe the phenomena.”

Since 2011, Palonka has led researchers from his university in investigations of ancient sites around Castle Rock Pueblo that date from the early 13th century. Their research is one of only a few European archaeological projects in the region. 

Castle Rock Pueblo is now part of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, near Colorado’s border with Utah and about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Mesa Verde National Park.

Archaeological investigations

Ethnographic studies in the 19th century suggested that rock carvings in the area may have been used as solar calendars, but Palonka’s team is the first to verify and document the phenomena. 

“We used a lot of new technologies, like laser scanning and photogrammetry,” a method that uses detailed photographs to create a map or 3D model of a place or object, he said. “So we were able to see more stuff on the rocks than it is possible to see only with the naked eye.” 

At one of the sites studied so far, the petroglyphs are carved on a flat, south-racing rock wall that’s shaded by an overhanging rock. They consist of three carved spirals and smaller elements, including rectangles, grooves and hollows. 

At the time of sunset on days near the midwinter solstice, which happens around Dec. 22 each year, patterns of sunlight and shadow can be seen to move through the spirals, grooves and other parts of the petroglyphs, Palonka said.

The phenomenon is also visible around the spring and fall equinoxes, around March 20 and Sept. 22 each year, but it does not occur at other times of the year.

Similar petroglyphs at another ancestral Puebloan site, at nearby Sand Canyon, are lit by sunlight only in the late mornings and early afternoons around the summer solstice, he said.

The observations were made by archaeologists and students from Poland, mostly during the warmer months, and throughout the year by volunteers for the administration of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The team has also discovered several panels of Pueblo rock art previously unknown to scientists, Palonka said. 

Pueblo peoples

The name Pueblo — which means “village” in Spanish — was given by Spanish colonists to several Native American peoples who lived in the American Southwest.

Unlike many nomadic Native Americans, the Pueblo peoples lived in large complexes of buildings they constructed from adobe and stone.

In the Mesa Verde region and elsewhere, the ancient villages of ancestral Puebloans are represented by sophisticated “cliff dwellings” in the sides of canyons and under rock overhangs. But the buildings are also found on valley floors, such as at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

Many ancient monuments throughout the world show signs of having been used, at least in part, to mark annual events of the solar calendar, such as the midwinter and midsummer solstices.

The importance of solar solstices is also found in several Native American traditions. “This collaboration with native people, in this case Hopi people from Arizona, is really important.” Palonka said.

Among other details, Palonka has learned that the spiral symbol, seen in many of the rock carvings related to the solstices and equinoxes, was often an emblem of the sun or sky — but not always. 

The symbol can also have other meanings — including water, physical migration or spiritual migration — such as moving between the physical world and a mythical or spiritual world, he said.

Fossilized Leg of Dinosaur Ripped Off by Catastrophic Asteroid Impact Found

Fossilized Leg of Dinosaur Ripped Off by Catastrophic Asteroid Impact Found

Scientists now know that a massive Yucatan asteroid struck the earth 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period, ultimately causing most species of dinosaur to go extinct.

It was the sudden change in climate that accompanied this disastrous astronomical collision that made the earth unlivable for these cold-blooded reptiles, leading to the complete disappearance of creatures that had roamed the earth for more than 100 million years.

But there were some dinosaurs who didn’t meet their demise as a result of catastrophic post-asteroid climate change. These dinosaurs lived in what are now known as the Americas, within the range of the impact zone of the Chicxulub strike, which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico just off the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

These hapless creatures would have been destroyed immediately or soon after the earth-shattering Yucatan asteroid impact, unable to withstand the unimaginably destructive forces unleased in the wake of this planet-killing calamity.

Now, for the first time, paleontologists have uncovered fossilized remains from one of these dinosaurs, an animal killed by the direct physical effects of the Yucatan asteroid, the single most destructive event in the earth’s history.

The Chicxulub Yucatan asteroid hit the Caribbean Sea and somehow cleanly severed the dinosaur’s leg on the same day 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) away.

Skin-covered Dino Leg Severed by Yucatan Asteroid Blast!

While excavating at the Tanis fossil site in the state of North Dakota, in what is known as the Hell Creek Formation, a team of explorers working under the direction of University of Manchester paleontologist Robert DePalma uncovered the fossilized leg of a Thescelosaurus, a small lizard-like herbivore from the late Cretaceous Period .

Amazingly, the leg was intact and still covered by fossilized skin, suggesting that whatever force had removed the leg had been incredibly powerful and concentrated.

“This looks like an animal whose leg has simply been ripped off really quickly,” Professor Paul Barrett of the Natural History Museum in London, told the Daily Mail . “There’s no evidence on the leg of disease, there are no obvious pathologies, there’s no trace of the leg being scavenged, such as bite marks or bits of it that are missing.”  

The Hell Creek Formation , and the Tanis fossil site it contains, were created in the aftermath of the Chicxulub asteroid strike , 66 million years ago. The Yucatan asteroid created an impact creator that was 93 miles (150 kilometers) wide, and its collision with the earth sent out echoes of mass destruction radiating in every direction from ground zero.

North America was hit by seismic waves equivalent to those generated in a magnitude 11 earthquake, and soon after by inland waves that were as powerful as those created by the most destructive tsunami. 

The Thescelosaurus was apparently killed in a sudden and exceedingly violent fashion, even though the asteroid’s point of impact was approximately 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) away. Putting all the pieces together, it seems clear that the Thescelosaurus was an early and immediate victim of the Yucatan asteroid impact event, which ultimately killed off not only the dinosaurs but up to 75 percent of the animal species living on the planet at that time.

The discovery of the severed dinosaur leg is groundbreaking, paleontologists say, because no other dinosaur fossil has ever been linked directly to the most catastrophic event in earth’s history.

“This is the most incredible thing that we could possibly imagine here, the best case scenario, the one thing that we always wanted to find in this site and here we’ve got it,” Robert DePalma told the BBC . “Here we’ve got a creature that was buried on the day of impact—we didn’t know at that point yet if it had died during the impact but now it looks like it probably did.”

The paleontologists have been able to reconstruct what happened at Hells Creek Formation after the Yucatan asteroid hit. Following the asteroid strike, rising sea levels and tsunamis would have created an inland sea to the north.

The process that created this sea also would have spawned at least two massive, towering waves that moved so far inland that they actually reached what are now the lands of North Dakota. These enormous waves washed over the Tanis site, and eventually covered the animals that died there with up to six feet (1.8 meters) of sediment.

Between the first and second of these waves, glass beads called tektites would have been raining down from the sky like tiny ballistic missiles, reaching speeds in excess of 200 miles (320 kilometers) per hour. It is possible one of these tiny but deadly glass pieces struck the ill-fated Thescelosaurus with enough force to slice off its leg and kill it, although this is just one possible explanation for the creature’s death.

Tellingly, the sediment layer at the Tanis site eventually turned into a type of clay rich in iridium. This substance is rare on earth, but asteroids and meteors have it in abundance.

University of Manchester paleontologist Robert DePalma working at the Hell Creek site, where the Yucatan asteroid impact cleanly severed the dinosaur’s leg.

The Dinosaurs’ Final Day, Revealed in Terrifying Detail

The amazing story of the Tanis site will be introduced to the British public on April 15, when BBC One will broadcast a new documentary entitled “Dinosaurs: The Final Day with David Attenborough.” The documentary was filmed over the course of three years, and as its narrative unfolds Sir David Attenborough will introduce viewers to many of the fossil finds that have been unearthed at Hell Creek Formation since the site was discovered in 2008.

“We’ve got so many details with this site that tell us what happened moment by moment, it’s almost like watching it play out in the movies,” DePalma explained. “You look at the rock column, you look at the fossils there, and it brings you back to that day .”

DePalma and the other paleontologists involved in the research at the Tanis site have yet to submit their latest findings for peer review and publishing. Nevertheless, they chose to reveal what they’d discovered now, to help generate more interest in the upcoming documentary.

Untouched Mayan “Jaguar God” Ritual Cave Found Full of Precious Relics

Untouched Mayan “Jaguar God” Ritual Cave Found Full of Precious Relics

A sealed and untouched Mayan “ritual” cave has been discovered in a truly momentous find. Sometimes you start out looking for something and, in the process, you find something else. 

That’s what happened to a group of archaeologists who were looking for a sacred well underneath the Mayan city of Chichen Itza, according to National Geographic.

While they were searching for the well, they found a collection of over 150 ritual objects that were hidden away for a millennium.  The objects were hidden in a system of caves known as Balamku, ‘the Jaguar God.’  The discovery of the cave system was announced in Mexico City last March, by the National Institute of Archaeology and History.

Interestingly, it’s not the first time that anyone has found the cave system.  It was first rediscovered in 1966 by local farmers.  At the time, and archaeologist named Victor Segovia Pinto went in and took a look around, even going as far as writing a report that noted that there were a large number of artifacts the caves, but rather than being an excavation, Pinto had the farmers seal the entrance again, and any records related to the discovery disappeared.

It remained unknown and undisturbed until 2018, when it was rediscovered again.  This time the Balamku was found by an explorer from National Geographic, along with his team. 

They were part of the Great Maya Aquifer Project, and were trying to find the water table beneath the Mayan city.

Untouched for 1,000 years, over 150 ritual artifacts were found in the cave at Balamku.

While he was creeping his way through a series of small tunnels, the explorer, Guillermo De Anda, suddenly came upon a sizable cache of vases, incense burners, and many other objects that had been left as offerings by the ancient people of Chichen Itza.  Even more of a surprise, the collection was in a remarkable state of preservation, despite being surrounded by stalagmites.

Since De Anda found that first cache, seven chambers holding ritual offerings have been discovered in the caves. The chambers are deep under the city, and can presently only be accessed by traveling through a long series of tunnels, many of which are so narrow and low that researchers have to go through on their stomachs.

Despite the difficulty of getting to the chambers, the first archaeologist to visit the caves back in the ‘60s also clearly made the trip.  His original report was finally found not very long ago by an archaeologist from University of California.

  That report noted that there were more than 150 objects in the cave, many of them bearing images of the Toltec rain god and other sacred symbols.

Interior of Balamku cave.

A similar cave was found not far away, back in 1959.  It also held sacred objects, but less than half as many as at this site.  That find was also more accessible.  De Anda thinks that’s important. 

He remarked that while quantity isn’t more important than information, he found it telling that such a huge repository of artifacts was located in a place that was so hard to get to.

Interior of the Balamku Cave.

De Anda’s rediscovery of the find means that Modern archaeologists who specialize in Mayan culture may be able to learn some new things about the level of contact and interaction between different Mesoamerican cultures of the time, and other information about the history of the Mayan people prior to the city’s fall.

None of that answers the question, however, of why Pinto decided to reseal the caves back in the ‘60s, rather than study them.

Historians do know that among the Mayan people, a ritual cave was considered entrances to the underworld, and were thus considered extremely sacred, even to the extent that they played a role in social organization and site planning, according to Mayan archaeology expert Holley Moyes.

The technology available to scientists has improved dramatically since the middle of the last century, which means that they may be able to get a lot more useful information by using methods like 3-D mapping. 

That information could help answer questions about not only the sorts of rituals that went on in the caves, but also about the city above them.

According to De Anda, it’s not currently known why Chichen Itza declined and fell, but Balamku should be able to help answer that question with its collection of artifacts and organic matter.  It’s been speculated that the area was devastated by severe droughts.  Some researchers further believe that the extreme weather cycles in the area were exacerbated by deforestation further south.

1,800-Year-Old Offering to the Gods Discovered Beneath Pyramid of Teotihuacan

1,800-Year-Old Offering to the Gods Discovered Beneath Pyramid of Teotihuacan

Several bouquets of offering flowers have been discovered 59 feet below the temple of the god Quetzalcóatl – a pyramid that still stands in the Mexican ruined city of Teotihuacan. 

Quetzalcóatl, or ‘Plumed Serpent’ was an important god during ancient Mesoamerica, a historical region that included central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica.

This deity was said to have given maize to humanity and was responsible for the creation of mankind, which may be why offering flowers were uncovered under the god’s temple.

Sergio Gómez, an archaeologist at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, said the stems are in good condition and still tied with the original cotton-made cords.

The stems are in good condition and still tied with the original cotton-made cords

‘In total there are four bouquets of flowers in very good condition, they are still tied with ropes, probably cotton,’ Gómez told Mexican news outlet La Jornada.

‘This is a very important find because it speaks of the rituals that were carried out in this place.’

Gómez says it is too early to determine what kind they are – but he hopes to solve that mystery soon.

‘Although we do not know the exact date of when they were deposited, because we just took them out this week, they must be very old and correspond to the first phases of Teotihuacan, between 1,800 and 2,000 years ago,’ Gómez explained.

‘We have found complete objects that were placed in this shot; the ceramics are also from the Zacuali and Miccaotli phases, from the beginning of our era, between years zero and 200 after Christ.’

Gómez has been working in the ruined city for nearly 12 years, sifting through ancient soil, rocks and pyramids looking for clues about those who once called the area home.

Some 30 miles (50km) north of Mexico City, Teotihuacan, with its huge pyramids of the sun and moon, is made up of a labyrinth of palaces, temples, homes, workshops, markets and avenues.

In 2011, archaeologists uncovered other offerings at the base of the pyramid, including animal remains, three human figurines and a haunting, green mask that was used in rituals 2,000 years ago

The city is thought to have been built in 100 BC and existed until the 8th century. Archaeologists consider it one of the most influential in pre-Hispanic North America, with a population of 200,000 at its peak.

However, only 5 percent of Teotihuacan has been excavated despite more than 100 years of exploration. During excavations, Gómez recovered more than 100,000 artifacts within the ancient city and specifically under the three pyramids that are still standing.

However, the offering flowers are the first intact botanical materials ever to be found at the site.

‘It is very relevant because it will give us indications of the flora that was used for ritual purposes,’ Gómez said.

The mask was carved from a single jade stone and is the only one of its kind to be discovered in the ancient city

‘In this same context, while sifting the earth, several kilos of charcoal were found as a result of a ritual ceremony that included the burning of seeds and fruits.’

In 2011, archaeologists uncovered other offerings at the base of the pyramid, including animal remains three human figurines and a haunting, green mask that was used in rituals 2,000 years ago.

Perez Cortez, an investigator with the Zacatecas INAH Center, said in a statement when the mask was discovered: ‘We know [the offerings were] deposited as part of a dedication ceremony.’

The mask was carved from a single jade stone and is the only one of its kind to be discovered in the ancient city. 

This 1,000-Year-Old Stone Tablet May’ve Been a Maya Sports ‘Scoreboard’

This 1,000-Year-Old Stone Tablet May’ve Been a Maya Sports ‘Scoreboard’

An ancient stone “scoreboard” likely used in a soccer-like ball game was discovered at an archeological site in Mexico earlier this week, archaeologists said.

Found at the Maya Chichen Itza site, researchers and archeologists said the circular stone’s diameter was just over 32 centimeters (or just over 12 inches), and it weighed 40 kilograms (about 88 pounds), according to a statement from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History on Twitter.

The stone, which is believed to be a kind of scoreboard, dates from between 800 CE and 900 CE.

“In this Maya site, it is rare to find hieroglyphic writing, let alone a complete text,” said Francisco Perez, one of the archaeologists coordinating the investigation, according to Reuters.

The stone appears to show two figures in the center, with hieroglyphics surrounding the outer edge.

One is wearing a feather headdress, and the other – presumed to be his opponent – is adorned with a “snake turban,” reserved for high-ranking individuals in Maya society.

Experts are now in the process of analyzing and interpreting the stone and taking steps to prepare it for conservation.

Iconography experts identified the two figures on the stone as playing the ball game “pelota” – a team game played with a heavy rubber ball, according to the BBC.

Mesoamerican people played the ball game as a form of traditional practice, and it is thought to have had ritual connotations, per Reuters.

The Chichen Itza in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico is a historical center of the Maya civilization, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.