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Imagine plowing your field and running over a 1,600 square foot ancient Roman mosaic.  Sounds impossible, but that's exactly what happened in southern Turkey.  In 2002, Nick Rauh, a classics professor from Purdue University was walking through a recently plowed field.  He noticed that the plow dug up a piece of mosaic tile.  He tried getting the local history museum to help excavate the site, but they did not have the funds.  So the site was left alone.

Mosaic

Amazing Roman mosaic discovered in Southern Turkey

Then in 2011, the museum received the needed funds and they decided to uncover the hidden gem.  They employed the biggest and baddest team of archeologists to rock out with their shovels out.  Michael Hoff, a Lincoln art historian from the University of Nebraska, was the director of the excavation....wait did we say "Lincoln art historian"?  We didn't even know that field existed, but that's cool :).

The mosaic turned out to be an enormous bath complex built by the Romans.  It featured a 25 ft long marble outdoor pool.  The Romans knew how to party!  This is the largest mosaic ever discovered in southern Turkey.  This particular area of southern Turkey is near the ancient city of Antiochia ad Cragum.  This mosaic proves that the Romans had a much larger influence in this area than was once believed.  The excavation will continue in 2013 and then will be open to the public!

 

Good Times,

Jon

- The Good World News

Published in Random Good News

Mayas may have used chocolate as spice

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Archaeologists say they have found traces of 2,500-year-old chocolate on a plate in the Yucatan peninsula, the first time they have found ancient chocolate residue on a plate rather than a cup, suggesting it may have been used as a condiment or sauce with solid food.

Experts have long thought cacao beans and pods were mainly used in pre-Hispanic cultures as a beverage, made either by crushing the beans and mixing them with liquids or fermenting the pulp that surrounds the beans in the pod. Such a drink was believed to have been reserved for the elite.

But the discovery announced this week by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History expands the envelope of how chocolate may have been used in ancient Mexico.

It would also suggest that there may be ancient roots for traditional dishes eaten in today's Mexico, such as mole, the chocolate-based sauce often served with meats.

"This is the first time it has been found on a plate used for serving food," archaeologist Tomas Gallareta said. "It is unlikely that it was ground there (on the plate), because for that they probably used metates (grinding stones)."

The traces of chemical substances considered "markers" for chocolate were found on fragments of plates uncovered at the Paso del Macho archaeological site in Yucatan in 2001.

The fragments were later subjected to tests with the help of experts at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, as part of a joint project. The tests revealed a "ratio of theobromine and caffeine compounds that provide a strong indicator of cacao usage," according to a statement by the university.

"These are certainly interesting results," John S. Henderson, a Cornell University professor of Anthropology and one of the foremost experts on ancient chocolate, said in an email Thursday.

Henderson, who was not involved in the Paso del Macho project, wrote that "the presence of cacao residues on plates is even more interesting ... the important thing is that it was on flat serving vessels and so presented or served in some other way than as a beverage."

"I think their inference that cacao was being used in a sauce is likely correct, though I can imagine other possibilities," he added, citing possibilities like "addition to a beverage (cacao-based or other) as a condiment or garnish."

The plate fragments date to about 500 B.C., and are not the oldest chocolate traces found in Mexico. Beverage vessels found in excavations of Gulf coast sites of the Olmec culture, to the west of the Yucatan, and other sites in Chiapas, to the south, have yielded traces around 1,000 years older.

But it does extend the roots of Mexican cuisine, and the importance of chocolate, further back into the past.

"This indicates that the pre-Hispanic Maya may have eaten foods with cacao sauce, similar to mole," the anthropology institute said in a statement.

Stevenson, Mark. "Experts: Mayas may have used chocolate as spice". AP. 2 August 2012. Web.  

View original good news story at Google.com:

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Published in Lifestyle

Anthropologists working in southern France have determined that a 1.5 metric ton block of engraved limestone constitutes the earliest evidence of wall art. Their research, reported in the most recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows the piece to be approximately 37,000 years old and offers rich evidence of the role art played in the daily lives of Early Aurignacian humans.

The research team, comprised of more than a dozen scientists from American and European universities and research institutions, has been excavating at the site of the discovery—Abri Castanet—for the past 15 years. Abri Castanet and its sister site Abri Blanchard have long been recognized as being among the oldest sites in Eurasia bearing artifacts of human symbolism. Hundreds of personal ornaments have been discovered, including pierced animal teeth, pierced shells, ivory and soapstone beads, engravings, and paintings on limestone slabs.

"Early Aurignacian humans functioned, more or less, like humans today," explained New York University anthropology professor Randall White, one of the study's co-authors. "They had relatively complex social identities communicated through personal ornamentation, and they practiced sculpture and graphic arts."

Aurignacian culture existed until approximately 28,000 years ago.

In 2007, the team discovered an engraved block of limestone in what had been a rock shelter occupied by a group of Aurignacian reindeer hunters. Subsequent geological analysis revealed the ceiling had been about two meters above the floor on which the Aurignacians lived—within arms' reach.

Using carbon dating, the researchers determined that both the engraved ceiling, which includes depictions of animals and geometric forms, and the other artifacts found on the living surface below were approximately 37,000 years old.

"This art appears to be slightly older than the famous paintings from the Grotte Chauvet in southeastern France," explained White, referring to the cave paintings discovered in 1994.

"But unlike the Chauvet paintings and engravings, which are deep underground and away from living areas, the engravings and paintings at Castanet are directly associated with everyday life, given their proximity to tools, fireplaces, bone and antler tool production, and ornament workshops."

He added that this discovery, combined with others of approximately the same time period in southern Germany, northern Italy, and southeastern France, raises new questions about the evolutionary and adaptive significance of art and other forms of graphic representation in the lives of modern human populations.

 

"37,000 years old: Earliest form of wall art discovered". Phys.org. 14 May 2012. Web. 

View original article at phys.org:

http://phys.org/news/2012-05-years-earliest-wall-art.html

Published in Science
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