2,000-yr-old Item Found Buried with Woman Looks Like a Smartphone

2,000-yr-old Item Found Buried with Woman Looks Like a Smartphone

A tomb recently excavated in Siberia revealed what at first appeared to be an ancient iPhone on the 2,100-yr-old remains of a woman dubbed ‘Natasha’ by researchers. Found alongside her skeleton, to the amazement and excitement of all, was an item that looked suspiciously like an iPhone.

It’s not, of course — it’s a belt buckle — but the object bears a striking and astonishing similarity to a iPhone. It’s black, and shaped rather like a check book (remember those?) and has beautiful, precious stones laid into its surface. And it was no doubt just as important to the woman who wore it as our smartphones are to us .

It was a fashionable ancient belt buckle made of gemstone jet with inlaid decorations of turquoise, carnelian and mother-of-pearl.

The find was part of a larger excavation, dubbed the “Russian Atlantis.” Skeletons and objects like ‘Natasha’s’ belt buckle date back more than 2,000 years, archaeologists say.

The Siberian Times reported recently that the site was made accessible to archaeologists and other researchers when a massive reservoir was drained during the summer, so researchers could get a look at the relics resting there. The belt buckle is just one of many interesting — and ancient — items found at this “Russian Atlantis.”

The buckle’s precious stones include mother of pearl and turquoise, and even part of an ancient Chinese coin has been carved into it. According to Dr. Pavel Leus, one of the archaeologists on the dig, “Natasha’s burial with a Hunnu-era ‘iPhone’ remains one of the most interesting (items) at this site.”  He added, “Hers was the only belt decorated with Chinese Wizhu coins, which helped us to date it.”

Other ancient graves rest close to ‘Natasha,’ including one whom the archaeologists have dubbed ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ The items with which she was buried indicate that she was a designer who worked in leather.

A third set of remains belonged to a woman who was a weaver, researchers confirmed; she had a wooden spindle, inside a sewing kit placed with her.

It’s these kinds of objects, rather like ‘Natasha’s’ so called ‘iPhone,’ that give researchers the clues they need to date the remains accurately.

The site is usually under more than 55 feet of water, according to the Siberian Times. Scientists, historians and archaeologists know they must beat the clock because the reservoir will indeed fill with water again, sooner or later.

They are working feverishly to recover and excavate these rare and historic artifacts before that happens.Elsewhere at the ‘Atlantis’ site another excavation is taking place, called Terezin, containing 32 graves.

Dr. Marina Kilunovskaya, of the St. Petersburg Institute of Material Culture, acknowledged how rich the site is in an interview with the Siberian Times.

“We are incredibly lucky to have found these burials of rich Hun nomads that were not disturbed by (ancient) grave robbers.” The burial sites date as far back as the Bronze Age, during the reign of Genghis Khan.

Archaeologists discover mummies with solid-gold tongues in Egypt

Archaeologists discover mummies with solid-gold tongues in Egypt

Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered several ancient mummies with solid-gold tongues in their mouths.

The bizarre finding was made when preserved corpses were unearthed at the Quweisna necropolis in the central Nile Delta, about 40 miles north of Cairo, dating between 300 BCE and 640 BCE.

Experts investigating tombs at the site found several mummies with gold chips shaped like human tongues in their mouths, said Dr. Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council for Archeology, in a press release.

Experts believe the real tongues of the dead were cut out during the embalming process and replaced with a piece of gold resembling the organ so that the deceased could speak to Osiris, the ancient Egyptian “Lord of the Underworld.”

Gold chips shaped like human tongues were recovered at an ancient Egyptian cemetery at Quweisna near Cairo.
Experts believe the real tongues of the deceased were replaced with gold ones during the mummification process so the departed could speak to the ancient Egyptian god of the dead, Osiris.
A human skeletal is seen at the burial site that had been in use during three different historic periods.

According to Waziri, several mummies were discovered with gold on the bone directly beneath the linen wraps used during the mummification process.

The mummies were said to be in a poor state of preservation.

Also found at the ancient cemetery were golden chips fashioned into scarab beetles and lotus flowers, as well as funerary amulets, pottery, glues and tar used in the embalming process, the remains of wooden coffins in the human form and several copper nails.

The necropolis at Quweisna first was discovered in 1989, leading to several rounds of excavations over the past three decades.

Archaeologists also found gold chips shaped into scarab beetles and lotus flowers.
Funerary ornaments were recovered inside the tombs dating back between 300 BCE and 640 BCE.
Quweisna was first discovered in 1989, and experts recently unearthed an extension of the cemetery complex.

The golden-tongued mummies were found in a recently uncovered extension of the cemetery, which contained cadavers that were laid to rest during three different historic periods.

Each of the burial levels displayed evidence of different rituals and various ways of laying the mummies to rest, said Dr. Ayman Ashmawi, head of the Egyptian archeology sector at the Supreme Council of Archeology.

This is not the first time that mummies adorned with precious metals have been discovered in Egypt.

In 2022, a 2,00-year-old skull with a tongue of gold was discovered at the Taposiris Magna site near Alexandria.

In 2022, archeologists dug up a 2,000-year-old skull with a tongue-shaped gold chip in its gaping mouth at a site near the city of Alexandria known as Taposiris Magna, which means “great tomb of Osiris.”

Chinese Boy Obsessed with Science Discovers 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs While Playing

Chinese Boy Obsessed with Science Discovers 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs While Playing

A boy in southern China has become a local celebrity after stumbling upon a nest of fossilized dinosaur eggs while playing outdoors this week.

The young discoverer, Zhang Yangzhe, came across the fascinating find while looking for something to crack walnuts open with on the embankment of Dongjiang River in Heyuan, Guangdong province on 2022.

The 10-year-old, who reportedly loves science, first saw a “strange stone” in the soil but later speculated that it could be a dinosaur egg upon closer inspection.

Having seen one before, Zhang noticed that the “stone” had circles on its surface, prompting him to call his mother to take a look at it as well.

Shortly, experts confirmed that the “stone,” indeed, was a dinosaur egg, later excavating 10 more in the surrounding area.

The eggs, which measure about 3.5 inches (8.89 centimeters) in length, date back to the late Cretaceous period, approximately 66 million years ago.

Speaking to Beijing Youth Daily, Zhang’s mother, Li Xiaofang, shared that her son actually loves science, especially topics on dinosaurs.

And, as a matter of fact, the third-grader has already read many books on the subject.

“I have learned this knowledge from books and from the cultural corridor at school,” Zhang said, according to the Heyuan Radio and Television Station.

 “I have seen them [dinosaur eggs] in museums. Different dinosaur eggs have different shapes.”

Zhang’s discovery, however, may not come as a surprise for most locals, as Heyuan happens to be China’s “home of dinosaurs.”

Since 1996, over 17,000 dinosaur eggs have reportedly been dug out in the city, which erected its very own dinosaur museum to preserve them.


Burned 3,000-Year-Old Settlement Frozen in Time May Have Been Torched by Raiding Party

Archaeologists believe that an raiding party torched a village of the Bronze Age on stilts well preserved in the silt of the river, which fell into about 3000 years ago.

Many findings at the site just east of Peters-borough, England, including palisades made of new wood, indicate that a little while before they burned, people had lived there.

The site is at 120 km (74.5 miles) north of Must Farm in a quarry. An archeologist found out in 1999 when he saw wooden stakes or palisades sticking out of the mud and silt that protects them and many other artifacts. Scorching and charring wood also contributed to preserving some of the material.

A website on this site and excavations says: “At some point after the palisade, a fire was created in the area causing the platform to fall into the river underneath which immediately extinguished the flames.

As the material lay on the riverbed it was covered with layers of non-porous silt which helped to preserve everything from wooden utensils to clothing. It is this degree of preservation which makes the site fascinating and gives us hundreds of insights into life during the Bronze Age.”

The ancient people built the roundhouses over the water and encircled them with a possibly defensive palisade.

Along with its nine log boats, nine roundhouses and other main objects, the entire site is amazing, two of the most interesting finds were textiles and vitrified food. 

Also, beads, likely from the Balkans and the Middle East, showed there was long-distance trade in Britain, where the Bronze Age began about 4,000 to 4,500 years ago.

The purpose of the textiles has not been discovered because there are no telltale clues such as cuffs to say whether it was used for clothing or other purposes.

However, one of the team members, Susanna Harris of Glasgow University, said they have found fine linen with thread counts of 30 per centimeter, as fine as any cloth known from Europe of the time. “I counted them several times, thinking ‘This can’t be right,’” Harris told

Archaeologists working on Must Farm revealed some of their findings to the media this week. Now they intend to retreat into the laboratory to more closely examine and analyze the many artifacts they have discovered at this site.

It’s the best Bronze Age settlement ever found in the United Kingdom,” said Mark Knight, project manager with the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, a private company that is in charge of the excavations. “We may have to wait a hundred years before we find an equivalent.”

The archaeologists say the roundhouses were about 8 meters (26.25 feet) in diameter. They were built above the water as a defense and to facilitate trade on the river, which led to the North Sea and other farms in the area.

Each house had woodworking tools, including chisels, axes and gouges. They also had sickles to reap grain, spears for hunting and perhaps fighting, and sets of ceramics that contained tiny cups, fine bowls and storage jars.

In the northeast sector of each house were butchered lambs. Dumped into the river were parts of deer and wild pigs. The archaeologists speculate the inhabitants may have had a taboo against butchering wild game indoors.

A bowl with a woodchip.

Several food vessels contain charred, wheat, barley and residues of food that had already been cooked. One bowl of stew had a spoon in its burned crust. Experts hope to get Bronze Age recipes from the prehistoric smorgasbord.

Tree rings from wood used to construct the roundhouses and palisade were from about 1290 to 1250 BC and were all green and undisturbed by insects. That, plus wood chips found there, tell archaeologists it was a new settlement when it burned.

Archaeologist Karl Harrison of Cranfield University has been analyzing the fire damage and scorch marks to determine if the fire started in a house or outside.

If it started inside, it may have been from a cook fire. If the blaze started outside, it might have been a case of arson. “It was rapid, smoke-filled, and incredibly destructive,” he told

The people never returned to the site, which ensured it was well-preserved for modern archaeologists to discover and analyze.

Ancient Warrior unearthed marching to the Afterlife with dagger drawn

Ancient Warrior unearthed marching to the Afterlife with dagger drawn

Fighter from almost 3,000 year ago was ready to impale his enemies, expecting battles after death, with a ‘mirror’ on his eye.

Not all the treasures in his grave appeared ready for battle – the warrior also had some fetching white metal spiral earrings, made possibly from tin or silver.

The extraordinary find of this Bronze Age warrior – ready for combat on his journey to the next life between 2,700 and 2,900 years ago – is intriguing archeologists in Omsk city.

Unusual features are the dagger ready for use in one hand, a knife in the other, and a metallic eye patch, or badge, seen as either a mirror illuminating his route to another world, or those who gave him evil glances. 

Nearby he had an axe and also some arrow heads.

Not all the treasures in his grave appeared ready for battle – the warrior also had some fetching white metal spiral earrings, made possibly from tin or silver.

The remains were found during the restoration of an historical building under Muzeinaya Street in Omsk.

The well-preserved skeleton with his arms crossed lay in the trench of a heating pipe made in the Soviet era, according to the regional government’s website.

Albert Polovodov, a specialist from the regional culture ministry, said: ‘In the right hand he held a dagger, the blade pointing forwards or upwards, as if he was going to use it as a stabbing weapon.

‘In other hand was a knife, blade down, as he was going to cut, dissect, cut ligaments and so on. Clearly, it is imitation of combat use of these weapon.’

It was as if he ‘was very carefully prepared for the road to another world, assuming that obstacles may exist in his way’,

It indicated that perhaps during his life ‘he had to fight – perhaps in battles for territories’.

Maxim Grachev, director of Omsk Museum of Archeology and Ethnography, said five burials had been found, but the four others were destroyed. 

‘The ideal state of the grave was a pleasant surprise for us,’ he said. 

‘We found a large number of well-preserved items: weapons, jewellery, and other items made of bronze.’

The warrior hailed from the transition period from the Bronze to the Iron age.  

Other burial remains are likely to lie under the buildings on this site, but are not accessible, he said. 

2,400 Years Old: Greek Helmet Found Buried Next to ‘elite warrior’

2,400 Years Old: Greek Helmet Found Buried Next to ‘elite warrior’

Greek Helmet: An archaeological team working at the Illyrian Cave Sanctuary in Nakovana, under the leadership of the Project Coordinator, Dr. of the Archaeological Department of the University of Zagradeb, Southern Dalmatia in Croatia. Hervoege Potrebica reveals Greek- 4th century BCE. According to eu.greekreporter.com with pieces of Illyrian war helmets still inside.

It is one of about forty helmets present in the world and is extremely rare. The design of the helmet was open-faced and probably originated in the Peloponnese in ancient Greece around the 8th century BCE.

They were worn by the Etruscan and Scythian tribes of ancient Greece for centuries until the 5th century BCE and for Illyrians by the 4th century BCE, a lesser known tribe.

Along with the helmet were weapons such as spears and knives made of iron, a bronze bracelet, bronze tweezers, fifteen bronze and silver amulets with the remains of a woman called a fibula, a dozen needles, about thirty luxury-quality Greeks. vases and hundreds of glasses. And amber beads.

The tomb was built on the edge of a mountain inhabited by the Zakototec, located on the Peljesac peninsula, in southern Delmatia, southern Croatia.

Unfortunately, the man’s skeleton was presumably in poor condition as the tomb was torn down which may have led one to wonder that other beautiful treasures had been lost.

The tomb cut from solid rock, which was a rectangle about ten feet down, about six and a half feet.

It was found in 2022 when a reconnaissance team from the Center for Prehistoric Research was dispatched to find areas of potential archaeological interest in and around the sanctuary, which originally housed the research consultant of the Institute for Anthropological Research and Research Institute. Stasso was discovered by Förenbahr. Assistant Professor at Zagreb University in Croatia.

Dr. Förnbahr has discovered ritual areas that date from the 4th to 1st century BCE containing fine quality pottery. Using modern research techniques, the team is able to discover both flat and mound tombs hidden in rocky landscapes. It was the restoration of one of these burial mounds that revealed the warrior’s grave goods.

More tomb mounds were found around the village of Zakotorak where archaeologists hope to find more evidence of burials and perhaps an ancient religious shrine when Kovid-19 is relaxed.

In 2022, archaeologists at the University of Warsaw’s Southeastern Europe Research Center in Poland discovered the first known Illyrian castle complex in the small neighboring country of Montenegro while excavating the city of Ronzon.

A Greek-Ilerian helmet was discovered where a fragment of a vase of Greek origin was found in the tomb.

According to Scienceinpoland.pap.pl, the palaces were built in the 3rd century BC and may have been the residence of Queen Tuta the Inaccessible and later King Ballios.

The architecture was completely unique, one made up of a palace, built in 260BC, and the other after 250BC by two different kings who used palaces. Very little is known about Bailayos but enough coins stamped on his image show that he was a powerful ruler from 167BC to 135BC.

The discovery of his palace also helps researchers to put their line of succession in the correct order. The previous resident, Rani Tuta, ruled for her newborn child as queen from 231BC to 227BC.

The palace was then attacked and destroyed, another was built much larger, with a kitchen and banquet hall, a mosaic floor that was built using pebbles and molded door frames around wooden doors.

A formidable ruler, he also took the giants of Rome but was forced to surrender in 227BC. Montenegro still honors him with images on the current currency and sculptures in the city.

The oldest palace was a large room with a chimney surrounded by several marble columns, where archaeologists found thirty coins, possibly a religious offering. Storage rooms for amphora, large vessels used to transport wine and food items, were also found.

Ancient Necropolis Discovered in 17th-Century Croatian Palace’s Garden

Ancient Necropolis Discovered in 17th-Century Croatian Palace’s Garden

An individual buried in an amphora on the Croatian island of Hvar

Archaeologists on the Croatian island of Hvar have unearthed an ancient necropolis, or vast burial ground, dated to between the fourth and fifth centuries A.D.

As local news outlet Croatia Week reports, the team found the burial ground in the front garden of the Radošević Palace, a 17th-century Baroque building on the western end of the island.

Archaeological consulting company Kantharos spearheaded the dig and has spent the past two months examining the site ahead of construction of a new library and reading room.

According to a statement, the researchers discovered 20 graves containing the skeletal remains of 32 people in an area spanning some 700 square feet.

They also found a fragment of a stone wall dated to the second century A.D. and a city gate dated to the late fifth century. 

Other highlights included amphorae (jars used mainly for transporting wine and olive oil), ceramic jugs and lamps, glass bottles and containers, and coins.

These discoveries, says Kantharos in the statement, per Google Translate, have prompted researchers to call the palace “the most important and richest site” on Hvar.

Researchers have dubbed the Baroque Radošević Palace “the most important and richest site” on Hvar.
Broken amphoras found on the island of Hvar

As per Encyclopedia Britannica, Hvar has been inhabited continuously since the early Neolithic period. Greek settlers founded colonies on the island in 385 B.C., but by 219 B.C., the Romans had seized control of the area. Slavic groups fleeing the European mainland arrived on Hvar in the seventh century A.D.

Built between 1670 and 1688, the palace itself served as the local seat of the wealthy Radošević family, wrote scholar Ambroz Tudor, who was part of the Kantharos team, in a 2022 study.

Its accentuated balconies and “lavishly decorated façade openings” make the estate a stunning example of Baroque architecture, Tudor added.

nside the newly excavated necropolis, experts found burials ranging from simple structures to elaborate tombs outfitted with roof tiles, writes Jesse Holth for ARTnews. Per the statement, the remains were exceptionally well preserved, with some of the skeletons interred in large jars alongside grave goods.

This unusual funerary ritual appears regularly in the archaeological record, but scholars remain unsure of the practice’s purpose. Reporting on a similar find made on the Mediterranean island of Corsica earlier this year, Amanda Morrow of Radio France Internationale (RFI) noted that such burials were generally reserved for infants or children. (The ages of the individuals buried in amphorae on Hvar remain unclear.)

A vessel found at the excavation site
Vessel uncovered during excavations
Some of the amphorae held grave goods.

“You might go to the practical thing and say that the bodies were so fragile, [maybe] they felt the need to protect it from the environment, even though it is dead,” Yoav Arbel, an archaeologist who was part of a team that discovered a baby buried in a jar in the Israeli city of Jaffa, told  Laura Geggel last December.

“But there’s always the interpretation that the jar is almost like a womb, so basically the idea is to return [the] baby back into Mother Earth, or into the symbolic protection of his mother.”

As Croatian news outlet Dalmacija Danas notes, one of the last finds made during the dig was the second-century wall, which was hidden at the deepest layers of the site.

Though Kantharos plans to conduct additional research to learn more about local funerary customs, the statement notes that the preliminary findings offer new insights on ceramic production and trade networks.

Researchers have previously made similar finds in the region. In 2022, for instance, archaeologists unearthed a Roman necropolis containing at least 18 graves in the Croatian harbor town of Trogir.

And last year, a separate team discovered two well-preserved, 2,000-year-old shipwrecks containing amphorae and pottery off the coast of Hvar.

Scientists just found velociraptor’s feathered Chinese cousin

Scientists just found velociraptor’s feathered Chinese cousin

A new species of feathered dinosaur has been discovered in China that is the largest ever found with wings on its arms.

The Zhenyuanlong, as it has been dubbed, is covered in feathers and looks just like a bird of today, complete with three layers of quill features.

This new creature is one of the closest cousins of the well-known velociraptor and is thought to have lived around 125 million years ago.

The Liaoning Province of China, where the Zhenyuanlong was found, is famous for the thousands of feathered dinosaurs that have been found there, and this latest discovery adds even more diversity to the area’s fauna.

Just like other specimens, the fossil of the Zhenyuanlong is a perfectly preserved example of dinosaur life from the Early Cretaceous period.

The etymology of the Zhenyuanlong’s name comes from a combination of the word “long”, which means dragon in Chinese, and “Zhenyuan”, the surname of the man who secured the specimen for study.

Like other creatures discovered in the region the dinosaur “has broad wings on its arms comprised of multiple sets of pennaceous feathers and large pennaceous feathers on the tail”, according to a paper published today in the journal Scientific Reports.

Paleontologists note that unlike its close relatives, the raptor “appears to lack vaned feathers on the hindlimb”.

But it is not these factors that make this dinosaur especially unique. The researchers explain the Zhenyuanlong is “an aberrant and rare animal compared to the vast majority of other Liaoning dromaeosaurids, due to its large body size and proportionally tiny forearms”.

The dino’s relatives are, for the most part, the size of a domestic house cat. The Zhenyuanlong is bigger and has short forearms with large, complex wings.

Another interesting observation about the Zhenyuanlong is that despite the presence of these wings, they do not necessarily seem to be optimised for flight.

The researchers have their suspicions as to why a short-armed creature like the Zhenyuanlong might have evolved with wings, even if it did not fly.

“It may be that such large wings comprised of multiple layers of feathers were useful for display purposes, and possibly even evolved for this reason and not for flight, and this is one reason why they may have been retained in paravians that did not fly,” the researchers claimed.

Melting Ice Has Uncovered Hundreds of Ancient Viking Artifacts and a Previously Unknown Trade Route in Norway

Melting Ice Has Uncovered Hundreds of Ancient Viking Artifacts and a Previously Unknown Trade Route in Norway

A trove of Viking artifacts have come to light thanks to a warming climate, proving that a mountain pass served as an important trade network.

Members of the Secrets of the Ice team surveying the Lendbreen pass

A trove of about 800 Viking artifacts, some frozen in an icy mountain range in Norway for more than 1,000 years, have come to light as a result of global warming.

The revelations prove that the mountain pass served as an important part of a trade network with the rest of the Viking world and that it was likely used to transport goods such as cheese, butter, reindeer pelts, and antlers between farms.

“The Viking age is one of small-scale globalization: They’re sourcing raw materials from all over,” Søren Michael Sindbæk, an archaeologist at Aarhus University in Denmark, who was not involved in the study, told Science. “This is the first site where we have good chronology and the finds to illustrate that.”

In a melted ice patch on the mountain slopes of Norway’s Innlandet County, archaeologists found a leather shoe, a woolen mitten, and a tunic. There were also feathered arrowheads, horseshoes—and a horse snowshoe—walking sticks, a piece of a sled, kitchen utensils, and even droppings from Viking packhorses.

Along the path they found stone cairns that would have marked the way, with a stone shelter built near the top of the ice patch. Collectively, these artifacts suggest that travelers were commonplace in the mountains, despite their remoteness and the harsh weather conditions.

Horseshoe from the 11th to mid-13th century, found at Lendbreen in 2022.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but high mountains sometimes did serve as major communications routes, instead of major barriers,” study co-author James Barrett told Science. “It’s easy to travel at high elevations, once you get up there and there’s snow on the ground.”

The discoveries are part of the burgeoning field of glacial archaeology, made possible as climate change shrinks ice flows around the world. Norway’s Glacier Archaeology Program, led by Innlandet County Council and the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo, began research in the area in 2022, joining similar programs in other countries in researching the field.

The Norwegian “Secrets of the Ice” findings were published last week in the scientific journal Antiquity. The paper declared the Lendbreen ice patch on the Lomseggen ridge, which has been melting rapidly since 2022, to be the “first such ice site discovered in Northern Europe.” Previous finds of a similar nature had only been made in the Alps.

An archaeologist with one of the stone cairns marking the mountain pass at Lendbreen. The light-colored rocks in the background were covered with snow and ice until recently.

“Past travelers left behind lots of artifacts, frozen in time by the ice,” wrote the lead archaeologist, Lars Pilø, on the project website.

“These artifacts can tell us when people traveled, when travel was at its most intense, why people traveled across the mountains and even who the travelers were.”

“It was clearly a route of special significance,” the journal noted. The pass was in use between the years 300 and 1500 AD, and most active around the year 1000. Its use declined with the Little Ice Age, around 1300, and the Black Death, around 1400.

The Lendbreen tunic, which dates to the year 300, is the oldest piece of clothing ever found in Norway.

The first major evidence that humans ventured across inhospitable mountain passes was the discovery of Ötzi the Tyrolean Iceman in the Italian Alps in 1991. The snow and ice had preserved the man’s body for 5,300 years, allowing scientists to study the bacteria in his gut. What they found helped track the movements of pathogens, and by extension, human migration.

The find “really flipped a switch,” Stephanie Rogers, a geoscientist at Auburn University, told the New York Times. “What was that person doing up there?… if we found something in this place, we are going to find something in other places.”

7,500-year-old Spanish ‘Stonehenge’ discovered on future avocado farm

7,500-year-old Spanish ‘Stonehenge’ discovered on future avocado farm

It’s one of Europe’s largest Neolithic standing stone complexes.

One of the 526 standing stones unearthed at the site of La Torre-La Janera, near Huelva in southwestern Spain. (Image credit: Linares-Catela

Archaeologists have unearthed one of Europe’s largest Neolithic standing stone complexes near the city of Huelva in southwestern Spain, ahead of plans to grow avocados there.

The oldest upright stones — called “menhirs” in many parts of Europe, possibly from a Celtic word for “stone” — could be up to 7,500 years old, and the entire complex consists of thousands of individual stones spread out over 1,500 acres (600 hectares) of the sides and top of a small hill.

Some of the largest stones stand alone, but others were positioned to form tombs, mounds, stone circles, enclosures and linear rows. The diversity of the structures is part of the puzzle of the site.

“This pattern is not common in the Iberian Peninsula and is truly unique,” said José Antonio Linares, a geoarchaeologist at Huelva University and the lead author of a new study in the issue of Trabajos de Historial.

The site, known as La Torre-La Janera, was discovered in 2022, but archaeologists only recently learned about the full extent of the Neolithic, or New Stone Age complex, Antonio Linares Catela .

It now seems that the functions of the Neolithic monuments were as varied as their construction. “Territorial, ritual, astronomical, funerary… the whole constituting a mega-site of the recent prehistory of southern Iberia,” he said. This was a “megalithic sanctuary of tribute, worship, and memory to the ancestors of long ago.”

Megalithic monuments

The landowner, a farmer, had wanted to establish an avocado plantation at the site, near the border of Portugal about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Huelva, Linares said.

But there were local rumors that menhirs had once stood on the hill, so it wasn’t a complete surprise when an initial archaeological survey in 2018 confirmed there were several standing stones there. A full study in 2020 and 2022 revealed the site’s importance, and the universities of Huelva and Alcalá are now funding an archaeological investigation until at least 2026, he said.

Neolithic people constructed the complex on a prominent hill not far from the mouth of the Guadiana River and the Atlantic Ocean, with good visibility over the surrounding territory.

Archaeologists think the site was in use for more than 3,000 years during the Neolithic period. The structures include standing stones, tombs and stone circles.

So far, archaeologists have found more than 520 standing stones at the site, and some of the earliest may have been erected as long ago as the second half of the sixth millennium B.C., or about 7,500 years ago, while the latest Neolithic structures were built in the second millennium B.C., or between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago, he said.

Several of the standing stones created prominent roofed tombs known as “dolmens,” while others formed coffin-shaped structures known as “cists,” which the archaeologists expect were used to bury the remains of the dead.

But no human remains have yet been verified at the site. “We have not carried out extensive excavations of the tombs,” Linares said; and while such structures must have contained skeletal remains at some point, bones may not have been preserved in the acidic soil.

Neolithic peoples and megaliths

Standing stones and other Neolithic monuments — known as “megaliths,” from the ancient Greek words for “giant stone” — abound throughout Europe, from Sweden to the Mediterranean. Many megalithic sites have also been found in Spain, including in the region near La Torre-La Janera.

Some of the most famous, such as Stonehenge, are found in Britain, but even larger “megalithic” structures are found elsewhere — such as at Carnac in France’s Brittany region, where there are more than 10,000 menhirs aligned in rows.

Archaeologists think the earliest standing stones were erected in the second half of the sixth millennium

The precise dates of such megalithic structures can be hard to ascertain because rock itself cannot be reliably dated. But the indirect evidence of other materials buried at the same sites suggest that most of them date to the Neolithic period from about 6,500 years ago, according to Smithsonian magazine(opens in new tab) — which would make the oldest standing stones at La Torre-La Janera more ancient than most.

Archaeologists suspect that the practice of building megalithic monuments spread over Europe during the Neolithic with successive waves of settlers, perhaps from the Near East, who seem to have assimilated the indigenous hunter-gather peoples, according to a 2003 study in the journal Annual Review of Anthropology. 

Many megaliths seem to be aligned with certain astronomical events, such as the midwinter sunrise, and it seems many of those at the La Torre-La Janera complex may be, too.

The roofed tombs, or dolmens, “are generally oriented to the solstices and equinoxes, but there are also solar orientations in the alignments [rows of stones] and the cromlechs [circles of stones],” project leader Primitiva Bueno Ramírez, a professor of prehistory at Alcalá University near Madrid and a co-author of the new research.

She stressed that only the surface of the La Torre-La Janera site had been investigated so far, and archaeologists expect to find much more there.

One clue that more stones are yet to be found is  the “magnificent preservation” of the structures, which may help the scientists recover information about the “occupations, chronologies, uses, and symbolism of these monuments.”