Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Ancient Egypt Revealed - Thousands of Lost Tombs and Seventeen Pyramids

Modern technology has now very firmly got a grip on the world of Egyptology with some very exciting results. Researchers have been using infrared satellite imaging, known as space archaeology, to survey parts of Egypt and so far they have located seventeen lost pyramids, one thousand lost tombs and scores of buried ancient settlements.

Egyptologists have already confirmed that they already know of the existence of two of those lost pyramids and they are highly impressed with the accuracy of the information that has been produced so far. The researchers also think that there are still many more major sites to be discovered that have been deeply covered silt along the banks of the River Nile.

One excavation site that is proving to be particularly exciting is the ancient city of Tanis in the Nile Delta, where a 3,000 year old house is being dug by the Egyptologists. As they have gradually uncovered this ancient dwelling, it has proved to match almost exactly the outline shown on the satellite images from space.

So hopefully we can all look forward many exciting future finds, which will greatly add to our understanding of the magnificent culture that is Ancient Egypt!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Did the Neanderthals Survive Longer Than We Thought?

Neanderthals were an ancient species of human that flourished in Europe for around 200,000 years until modern humans put in an appearance around 40,000 years again. The disappearance of the Neanderthals has caused fierce debate among the experts, with many different theories being put forward and many being shot down again. It has been thought that the last bands of Neanderthals to survive in Europe were living at the extremes of the Iberian Peninsula, in Gibraltar, Spain and Portugal.

However, new archaeological evidence shows that Neanderthals may have survived for much longer than  was previously thought on the icy tundra of sub-Arctic Russia.  A typically Neanderthal tool kit has been excavated at a site called Byzovaya in the Ural Mountains, that comprises of hundreds of stone tools. These ancient stone tools have shown that the site was last occupied around 33,000 years ago and were dated by using both radiocarbon and luminescence dating. Why they are thought to be Neanderthal tools is because they are the classic scrapers and flakes that are associated with this prehistoric species of humans, and are known as Mousterian Technology.

This late date is believed to be after the last Neanderthals had supposedly died out, but although the tool kits are typically Neanderthal, as no human fossil remains have yet been discovered it can not be taken as definitive evidence that the Neanderthals had survived this long. The location of Byzovaya is also surprising as it is 620 miles outside the previously accepted range of the Neanderthal people, and to survive there these hardy early humans would have had to learn to cope with very harsh and cold weather conditions.

So did the Neanderthals really make their last stand in the icy wastes of the sub-Arctic and did they really survive for thousands of years later than was previously thought?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Coronary Heart Disease Found in Ancient Egyptian Princess

Most of us think that heart disease is a modern phenomenon and that people in antiquity lived lives blessedly free of these debilitating conditions. Well it seems that coronary heart disease is truly an ancient condition and the oldest ever case has just been diagnosed in the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian Princess.

Princess Ahmose Meryet Amun was a daughter of the Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao II of Ancient Egypt's 17th dynasty and died around 3,500 years ago sometime in her 40's. This might seem to be a young age to die for us folks of the 21st century, but this was a fairly average age to die for Ancient Egyptians. Her mummy is housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and it was during the recent scans of the royal mummies that the royal princess's heart disease was detected.

During the scan it was found that Princess Ahmose Meryet Amun suffered from coronary atherosclerosis during her life, which is a potentially fatal condition that is caused by plaque building up in the arteries, causing blockages that can lead to strokes or heart attacks. It was discovered that the Egyptian princess had blockages in five of her major arteries, including those that supply the heart and the brain, which would have required her to have a double bypass operation today.

One of the causes of coronary heart disease is thought to be lifestyle, with modern diets rich in trans fats and sugar, lack of exercise and smoking being among the main culprits. But although the average Ancient Egyptian diet and lifestyle was probably low in risk factors for coronary heart disease, Ahmose Meryet Amun was a member of the royal family and a such probably ate a much richer diet and did far less physical exercise than other members of the population at that time.

There is also the suggestion that her atherosclerosis could have a genetic element, as several other of her female relative's mummies also showed signs of this disease. The cause of her disease could also be inflammation brought on by her immune system responding to the infections that were prevalent in Egypt during that period.

So it seems that the royalty of Ancient Egypt also suffered from a disease that is a scourge of the modern world.