GEORGIA: At least 7 cremation burials and a copper band from St. Catherine’s Island show that Native Americans living there 3,500 years ago exchanged goods and cultural ideas through surprisingly long-distance trade networks. Analysis of the copper artifact’s chemical signature determined that it originated almost 1,000 miles away in the Great Lakes region. This new evidence is a clear indication that the use of copper and the practice of cremation were introduced to coastal Georgia 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.
CHILE: A unique 500-year-old burial of 2 ritually sacrificed Inca females was found at Cerro Esmeralda in the 1970s. The pair were dressed in fine clothing and buried with lavish grave goods. New chemical analysis of the red pigment from their clothes detected cinnabar, a mineral not native to northern Chile. While the cinnabar itself was a prestige item, imported from hundreds of miles away, it can also be highly toxic when inhaled, and may have been used to deter would-be grave robbers.
By DANIEL WEISS
Some 5,000 years ago, nomadic herders in East Africa constructed a monumental cemetery. The site, called Lothagam North, is close to Lake Turkana in northwest Kenya and has been excavated by a team led by Elisabeth Hildebrand of Stony Brook University and Katherine Grillo of the University of Florida. It features a platform around 100 feet in diameter marked by megalithic pillars. In a large cavity at the platform’s center, the team found the remains of at least 580 people, almost all buried with ornaments, with no distinction based on gender or age. This counters assumptions that such monumental building projects were only embarked upon by settled, socially stratified farmers.
Burials at the site continued for hundreds of years, coinciding with a period when rainfall in the area decreased dramatically and Lake Turkana is believed to have shrunk to half its former size. The researchers think construction of the site may have been a reaction to this unstable climate. “At a time when the lake shore was shifting from year to year, establishing a landmark that would serve as a constant reference point may have been very important, socially and even psychologically,” says Hildebrand. While the herders abruptly stopped using the cemetery for unknown reasons, they expended a great deal of effort to cover the site with stones before moving on.
First human remains found in El Salvador's 'Mayan Pompeii'
SAN SALVADOR (AFP).- Human remains have been discovered for the first time in El Salvador's Joya de Ceren, a city buried by a volcanic eruption more than 1,400 years ago and sometimes dubbed the "Mayan Pompeii," the ministry of culture said Thursday.
A skeleton, which was in poor condition, was discovered at the beginning of November, buried with an obsidian knife at the UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site located about 20 miles (35 kilometers) north of the capital San Salvador.
The person "probably lived in the city but was not killed by the eruption" of the Loma Caldera volcano, archaeologist Michelle Toledo said.
Toledo added that researchers believed the remains date to the Late Classic period of Mesoamerica because of the presence of fine white tephra, known as "Tierra Blanca Joven" (young white earth) resulting from the volcanic eruption around 535 AD.
The cataclysmic eruption of the Loma Caldera volcano destroyed numerous Mayan sites and was responsible for the formation of Lake Ilopango, with an area of ??27.8 square miles (72 square kilometers).
The remains are the first to be discovered in more than 40 years of excavations.
Like Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy, the remains of Joya de Ceren were discovered in exceptional condition, providing a rare insight into the Mayan way of life including rituals, agriculture, trade, governance and eating habits.
© Agence France-Presse