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LiDAR Lifts the Veil on the Oldest Known Maya Settlement in Guatemala

LiDAR Lifts the Veil on the Oldest Known Maya Settlement in Guatemala


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With the help of airborne laser mapping technology, a team of archaeologists, led by University of Arizona professor Takeshi Inomata, is exploring on a larger scale than ever before the history and spread of settlement at the ancient Maya site of Ceibal in Guatemala.

In a new paper published in the journal PLOS ONE , Inomata and his colleagues explain how they commissioned the use of LiDAR, or light detection and ranging, technology to map a significantly larger area of Ceibal than ever before recorded.

LiDAR provides highly accurate, detailed 3-D maps of ground surface topography. Over the course of just a few days at Ceibal, a small airplane, equipped with lasers powerful enough to peer through the dense jungle canopy, soared above the site, mapping -- with a less than 10-centimeter margin of error -- the shape, size and location of ancient Maya pyramids, platforms, ceremonial centers, roads, water reservoirs and other structures previously undocumented by archaeologists.

Ceibal temple Plaza South. ( CC BY 2.5 )

The resulting map covers 470 square kilometers that would have been extremely challenging for archaeologists to reach on foot, and includes the locations of more than 15,000 ancient Maya architectural remains. Previously, archaeologists had information on only about 8 square kilometers and fewer than 1,000 structures in the area.

"This kind of understanding was really unthinkable some years ago, and now suddenly we can have all these data," Inomata said. "The scale is completely different."

Inomata and his colleagues used the LiDAR data to reconstruct a timeline of growth and change at Ceibal, building upon what they already knew from previous excavations about when different styles of structures appeared between about 1,000 B.C. and A.D. 950.

They outline their methods in detail in the PLOS ONE paper.

"What we tried to do here was to set up a systematic method of analyzing this LiDAR data over a wide area, and then translate it into an interpretation of temporal sequences and social change," said Inomata, a professor and Agnese Nelms Haury Chair in Environment and Social Justice in the UA School of Anthropology.

On the left is an aerial image of an area of Ceibal. On the right is the same area, as mapped by LiDAR. Credit: Courtesy of Takeshi Inomata/University of Arizona

Combining LiDAR and excavation data then allowed the archaeologists to reconstruct settlement patterns over a long period of time.

"Looking at the LiDAR image, you can see the specific types of architecture -- pyramids, long structures -- and we know from our excavations what time period they're from. So just looking at the shape of the structures, we can see this network of communities and ceremonial centers from specific periods," Inomata said.

Lasers Let Humans Explore Challenging Terrain

Mapping an archaeological site in a densely vegetated area such as the Guatemalan jungle is a daunting task -- one traditionally done on foot. Because of the challenging terrain, only about 1.9 square kilometers of Ceibal had been completely mapped previously -- by Harvard archaeologists in the 1960s -- while about 6 more kilometers were surveyed with less detail.

It was in that small area that Inomata and his colleagues have been conducting archaeological excavations for the last 13 years.

Observatory, Ceibal. ( CC BY-SA 2.5 )

Since joining the growing number of researchers who have used the LiDAR surveying method to help with interpretation of archaeological sites, Inomata and his team have gained access to data that would have been nearly impossible to obtain through on-foot surveys. The LiDAR survey, which was conducted by the University of Houston's National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, even found a few things that the original on-the-ground mapping done in the 1960s missed.

"The maps that Harvard made were incredibly accurate, considering they were all ground survey, but with LiDAR we found a lot more buildings than were on the map previously, and their locations are very accurate," said paper co-author Melissa Burham, a UA graduate student in anthropology.

As a growing number of researchers turn to the LiDAR surveying method to aid in the interpretation of archaeological sites, Inomata and his team hope their colleagues in the field may follow a similar process to what they used at Ceibal, which they plan to apply again in their regional survey in the state of Tabasco in Mexico, where they will begin work in February.

"In archaeology, excavation is always important, but you can't excavate everything, so you look for patterns on a smaller scale that you can extrapolate over a larger region," said Burham, who co-authored the paper along with Inomata, UA anthropology professor Daniela Triadan and researchers from Guatemala and Japan. "That's really what this paper aims to do. This can help other people understand growth at other Maya centers and help with dating methods."


Laser Scans Reveal Maya Vast Interconnected “Megalopolis” Below Guatemalan Jungle that was Home to Millions of People

In what’s being hailed as a “major breakthrough” in Maya archaeology, researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles of northern Guatemala.


Laser scans revealed more than 60,000 previously unknown Maya structures that were part of a vast network of cities, fortifications, farms, and highways.

Using a revolutionary technology known as LiDAR (short for “Light Detection And Ranging”), scholars digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.

“The LiDAR images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated,” said Thomas Garrison, an Ithaca College archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer who specializes in using digital technology for archaeological research.

Garrison is part of a consortium of researchers who are participating in the project, which was spearheaded by the PACUNAM Foundation, a Guatemalan nonprofit that fosters scientific research, sustainable development, and cultural heritage preservation.

The project mapped more than 800 square miles (2,100 square kilometers) of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region of Guatemala, producing the largest LiDAR data set ever obtained for archaeological research.

The results suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilization that was, at its peak some 1,200 years ago, more comparable to sophisticated cultures such as ancient Greece or China than to the scattered and sparsely populated city states that ground-based research had long suggested.

In addition to hundreds of previously unknown structures, the LiDAR images show raised highways connecting urban centers and quarries. Complex irrigation and terracing systems supported intensive agriculture capable of feeding masses of workers who dramatically reshaped the landscape.

The ancient Maya never used the wheel or beasts of burden, yet “this was a civilization that was literally moving mountains,” said Marcello Canuto, a Tulane University archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer who participated in the project.

“We’ve had this western conceit that complex civilizations can’t flourish in the tropics, that the tropics are where civilizations go to die,” said Canuto, who conducts archaeological research at a Guatemalan site known as La Corona. “But with the new LiDAR-based evidence from Central America and [Cambodia’s] Angkor Wat, we now have to consider that complex societies may have formed in the tropics and made their way outward from there.”

“LiDAR is revolutionizing archaeology the way the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized astronomy,” said Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Tulane University archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer. “We’ll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we’re seeing.”

The unaided eye sees only jungle and an overgrown mound, but LiDAR and augmented reality software reveal an ancient Maya pyramid.

Already, though, the survey has yielded surprising insights into settlement patterns, inter-urban connectivity, and militarization in the Maya Lowlands. At its peak in the Maya classic period (approximately A.D. 250–900), the civilization covered an area about twice the size of medieval England, but it was far more densely populated.

“Most people had been comfortable with population estimates of around 5 million,” said Estrada-Belli, who directs a multi-disciplinary archaeological project at Holmul, Guatemala. “With this new data it’s no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there—including many living in low-lying, swampy areas that many of us had thought uninhabitable.”


Hidden deep in the jungle, the newly-discovered pyramid rises some seven stories high but is nearly invisible to the naked eye.

Virtually all the Mayan cities were connected by causeways wide enough to suggest that they were heavily trafficked and used for trade and other forms of regional interaction. These highways were elevated to allow easy passage even during rainy seasons. In a part of the world where there is usually too much or too little precipitation, the flow of water was meticulously planned and controlled via canals, dikes, and reservoirs.

Among the most surprising findings was the ubiquity of defensive walls, ramparts, terraces, and fortresses. “Warfare wasn’t only happening toward the end of the civilization,” said Garrison. “It was large-scale and systematic, and it endured over many years.”

The survey also revealed thousands of pits dug by modern-day looters. “Many of these new sites are only new to us they are not new to looters,” said Marianne Hernandez, president of the PACUNAM Foundation. (Read “Losing Maya Heritage to Looters.”)

Environmental degradation is another concern. Guatemala is losing more than 10 percent of its forests annually, and habitat loss has accelerated along its border with Mexico as trespassers burn and clear land for agriculture and human settlement.

“By identifying these sites and helping to understand who these ancient people were, we hope to raise awareness of the value of protecting these places,” Hernandez said.

The survey is the first phase of the PACUNAM LiDAR Initiative, a three-year project that will eventually map more than 5,000 square miles (14,000 square kilometers) of Guatemala’s lowlands, part of a pre-Columbian settlement system that extended north to the Gulf of Mexico.

“The ambition and the impact of this project is just incredible,” said Kathryn Reese-Taylor, a University of Calgary archaeologist and Maya specialist who was not associated with the PACUNAM survey. “After decades of combing through the forests, no archaeologists had stumbled across these sites. More importantly, we never had the big picture that this data set gives us. It really pulls back the veil and helps us see the civilization as the ancient Maya saw it.”

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.


Humans may have developed advanced social behaviours and trade 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.


Olorgesailie Basin: the dig site spans an area of 65 square kilometres

This is according to a series of papers published today in Science.

The results come from an archaeological site in Kenya’s rift valley. “Over one million years of time” is represented at the site, according to Rick Potts from the Smithsonian Institution, who was involved in the studies.

There are also signs of developments in toolmaking technologies.

Environmental change may have been a key influence in this evolution of early Homo sapiens in the region of the Olorgesailie dig site.


The world turned upside down

Early humans were in the area for about 700,000 years, making large hand axes from nearby stone, explained Dr Potts.

“[Technologically], things changed very slowly, if at all, over hundreds of thousands of years,” he said.

Then, roughly 500,000 years ago, something did change.

A period of tectonic upheaval and erratic climate conditions swept across the region, and there is a 180,000 year interruption in the geological record due to erosion.

It was not only the landscape that altered, but also the plant and animal life in the region – transforming the resources available to our early ancestors.

When the record resumes, the way of life of these early humans has completely changed.

“The speed of the transition is really remarkable,” Dr Potts said. “Sometime in that [gap] there was a switch, a very rapid period of evolution.”

The obsidian road

New tools appeared at this time – small, sharp blades and points made from obsidian, a dark volcanic glass.

This technology marks the transition to what is known as the Middle Stone Age, explained Dr Eleanor Scerri from the University of Oxford.

Rather than shaping a block of rock, into a hand axe, humans became interested in the sharp flakes that could be chipped off. These were mounted on spears and used as projectile weapons.

Where 98% of the rock previously used by people in the Olorgesailie area had come from within a 5km radius, there were no sources of obsidian nearby.

People were travelling from 25km to 95km across rugged terrain to obtain the material, and “interacting with other groups of early humans over that time period”, according to Dr Potts.

This makes the site the earliest known example of such long distance transport, and possibly of trade.


(l to r) Hand axes, obsidian sharps and colour pigments discovered at the site

There is additional evidence that the inhabitants, who would likely have lived in small groups of 20-25 people, also used pigments like ochre. It is unclear whether these were merely practical or had a ritual social application.

Dr Marta Mirazon Lahr from the University of Cambridge said that being able to “securely date” the continuous occupation of the site using argon techniques on volcanic deposits “makes Olorgesailie a key reference site for understanding human evolution in Africa during [this period]”.

Human origins

Dr Scerri, who was not involved in the studies, emphasised that they are valuable in implying that “Middle Stone Age technology emerged at the same time in both eastern and northwestern Africa.”

Prof Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum agrees.

“This makes me think that the Middle Stone Age probably already existed in various parts of Africa by 315,000 years ago, rather than originating in one place at that time and then spreading,” he said.

While the behaviours exhibited at the Kenya site are characteristic of Homo sapiens, there are as yet no fossils associated with this time period and location.

The oldest known Homo sapiens fossils were discovered in Morocco, and are dated to between 300,000 and 350,000 years old.


Lost Mayan cities in Guatemala discovered in laser probe of jungle

PYRAMIDS. Palaces. Temples. An incredible ancient Mayan capital — with suburbs of up to 60,000 houses — has been discovered after more than 1,000 years hidden away.

The lost Maya city.

A lost Mayan civilisation has been revealed beneath the forests of Guatemala through the use of laser scanners. Picture: National Geographic/The Lost Maya City Source:Supplied

IT’s been there some 1200 years. But it’s been hidden from sight by the dense green foliage of Guatemala’s tropical rainforests.

It’s an ancient Mayan civilisation capable of having housed more than 100,000 people.

But it took modern laser technology (known as LiDAR — Light Detection and Ranging) and a survey of more than 2100 square kilometres of northern Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve to expose its existence.

The lasers can peer through the overhanging foliage, sensing what lies beneath.

National Geographic reports the scan has revealed the remains of a long lost nation.

Maya structures are scattered across the jungle in this LiDAR image taken over northern Guatemala. Picture: National Geographic Source:Supplied

“The LiDAR images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated,” says Ithaca College archaeologist Thomas Garrison.

“These features are so extensive that it makes us start to wonder: is this the breadbasket of the Maya lowlands?”

But though the existence of the civilisation is new to archaeologists, evidence suggests it is not new to looters. The survey has revealed thousands of pits dug through the ruins in the search for valuable, portable relics.

A three-dimensional representation of the ‘echoes’ returned by Mayan ruins buried under the forests of Guatemala reveal a ceremonial centre, roads and defensive works. Picture: National Geographic/The Lost Maya City Source:Supplied

The vast network of wide highways linked up to four ceremonial cities to settlements, quarries, irrigated farms and other resources. It was all at its bustling peak about 800AD.

The find was announced on Friday by an alliance of US, European and Guatemalan archaeologists working with Guatemala’s Mayan Heritage and Nature Foundation.

The civilisation, which spanned roughly from 250AD through to 900AD, covered an area twice as large as medieval England. But it’s population was significantly denser.

The study estimates roughly 10 million people may have lived within the Maya Lowlands, meaning a massive network of food production infrastructure would have been needed.

“That is two to three times more inhabitants than people were saying there were,” said Marcello A. Canuto, a professor of Anthropology at Tulane University.

“With this new data it’s no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there — including many living in low-lying, swampy areas that many of us had thought uninhabitable,” archaeologist Estrada-Belli says.

Their descendants still live in the region.

No archaeologist has yet trod this city’s streets. But modern laser sensors have given them a detailed view of an entire landscape of the lost Central American Mayan civilisation. Picture: National Geographic/The Lost Maya City Source:Supplied

“LiDAR is revolutionising archaeology the way the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionised astronomy,” Tulane University archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli told National Geographic. “We’ll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we’re seeing.”

It’s a sense of incredulity echoed by University of Calgary Maya specialist Kathryn Reese-Taylor.

�ter decades of combing through the forests, no archaeologists had stumbled across these sites,” she told National Geographic. “More importantly, we never had the big picture that this data set gives us. It really pulls back the veil and helps us see the civilisation as the ancient Maya saw it.”

LiDAR view of central Tikal. The relationship between built and natural environments has never been clearer. Tremendous new work we hope to expand in the coming years. In history of Maya archaeology, it’s similar to advent of photography. pic.twitter.com/XIFSmZNbn7

— David Stuart (@ajtzib) February 3, 2018

Aircraft from the University of Houston’s National Center for Airborne Lasder Mapping flew over the terrain in 2016. It took much of last year to process the immense amount of data collected.

The resulting images revealed the Mayans had altered the landscape in a much broader way than previously thought in some areas, 95 per cent of available land was cultivated.

“This was a civilisation that was literally moving mountains,” Canuto says.

The extent of one of the Mayan ceremonial centres — complete with several step pyramids — is shown in this 3D LiDAR scan image. Picture: National Geographic/The Lost Maya City Source:Supplied

Among the finds were numerous defensive walls and forts.

“Warfare wasn’t only happening toward the end of the civilisation,” Garrison told National Geographic.

“It was large-scale and systematic, and it endured over many years.”

“Their agriculture is much more intensive and therefore sustainable than we thought and they were cultivating every inch of the land,” said Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Research Assistant Professor at Tulane University.

The ancient Mayas partly drained swampy areas that haven’t been considered worth farming since, Estrada-Belli noted. And the extensive defensive fences, ditch-and-rampart systems and irrigation canals suggest a highly organised workforce.

The mapping detected about 60,000 individual structures, including four major Mayan ceremonial centres with plazas and pyramids. It is just the first phase of a three-year project that is intended to map more than 15,000km of Guatemala in the search of further traces of the lost civilisation.

National Geographic will air its exclusive documentary on the discovery in the United States this week.

This digital 3D image provided by Guatemala's Mayan Heritage and Nature Foundation shows the Mayan archaeological site at Tikal in Guatemala created using LiDAR aerial mapping technology. Picture: Canuto & Auld-Thomas/PACUNAM via AP Source:AP


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Charles Higham: Drones and DNA

When I was a student of archaeology, I kept a small notebook of quotes from eminent scholars that might prove useful at exam time. One in particular sticks in the memory from those hot summer days when the countdown to the first set of questions accelerated. It came, I recall, from O G S Crawford in an early edition of Antiquity. He said something along the lines of: ‘to be a successful archaeologist, you have to be like a bird to fly over the landscape’. Those where the days when Dr St Joseph, known as ‘Holy Joe’, was filling the map of Roman Britain with forts, roads, and towns through his aerial photographs.

Now new developments in this field, which will soon be routine, are changing the way we archaeologists work.

A miniature LiDAR machine carried across the excavation square at Non Ban Jak produced a detailed contour map of the surface in minutes.

Time fliers

Much attention has recently been given to the stunning impact of the LiDAR surveys at Angkor (see our cover story, CWA 77). Virtually at a stroke, issues that have been contentious or opaque for decades have been resolved and, in the words of Roland Fletcher, ‘spawned generations of PhDs’. I have visited Angkor Wat many times, and wondered what lay in the extensive area that lies between the central temple and the surrounding moat. An hour or two and millions, probably billions, of measurements with the laser that penetrates the forest and bounces back the precise layout of the land below has now mapped a grid of streets, house mounds, and ponds that are evidence of a tightly planned urban complex. A mile or two to the north of Angkor Wat, lies the walled city of Angkor Thom. Apart from the central temples and palace, it is covered with a dense forest. Again, a morning’s overflight has generated the urban plan, with its streets, canals, houses, and ponds. Moreover, the grid pattern – as precise as that of New York City – extends beyond the moats into the surrounding area. Up on the Kulen Hills, the foundations of the first city of Angkor, known only through inscriptions, has emerged from forested oblivion.

Nor is LiDAR confined to Angkor. In Shanghai last December, I met Richard Hanson who gave me a sneak preview of the results of his own LiDAR survey at the massive early Maya centre of El Mirador. At Carakol, also in the Maya lowlands, the field systems, temples, and residences have been mapped in minutes in a forested landscape where ground surveys would take years, and probably be less accurate.

Even the availability of straightforward aerial photographs has been magnified with easy and free access to Google Earth. For his postgraduate dissertation at the Australian National University, Glen Scott has pored over the entirety of the Khorat Plateau in Northeast Thailand, produced a definitive distribution map of the Iron Age moated settlements, then computed their area and the number of moats, before interpreting their distribution relative to rainfall and elevation.

Charles Higham and graduate student Helen Heath examine the drone.

I have been exploring some of these moated sites for years, and have traced, again from Google Earth, intriguing straight lines emerging from the moats of some of them, that run for hundreds of metres across the flat landscape, and sometimes turn right angles to proceed further on. So I was particularly interested in the results of detailed remote-sensing of the Iron Age sites in the Angkor region by Scott Hawken. He has mapped a myriad of rice fields that stretch over at least four periods. The latest are the large, square field plots laid out under the dreaded Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s. These override the dense set of Angkorian fields that we now know were irrigated from the huge reservoirs that are such a prominent part of the modern landscape. Prior to these, there are the fields of the early Historic Chenla period (AD 550-800), but what I found crucial to any interpretation of the late prehistoric period was the possible presence of permanent fields round the Iron Age settlements there. This reflects a model that has been generated from our fieldwork in the Upper Mun Valley of the Khorat Plateau, only 250km to the north. Fixed fields, possibly irrigated from the broad moat/reservoirs, would date to the period when we find heavy iron ploughshares and sickles placed with the dead. Ploughing in irrigated fields is a key to identifying and tracing the rise of social inequality, a phenomenon recognised as a feature of all early states, and seen with particular clarity at Angkor.

The future of fieldwork?

With a buzzing engine, we have lift off! The drone is about to start mapping.

This brings me to my recently completed fifth season of excavations at the moated Iron Age settlement of Non Ban Jak. Two years ago, by a fortunate opportunity, I met M R Saksiri Kridakorn, the chief executive of MapPoint Asia in Bangkok. He expressed an interest in visiting our excavations and, with family and colleagues, he spent a day with us. I took them to several of our sites and
explained my interest in detailed mapping not just of the mounded sites themselves, but of the surrounding landscape. I met him again a year ago when I gave a lecture in Bangkok, and we firmed up plans for deploying all the techniques in his toolkit on site. So, in January this year, we met in Bangkok to formulate our plans. We pored over detailed aerial photos of our moated sites, and discussed the potential of drone overflights. Four weeks later, he and his team drove up to Non Ban Jak, and got to work.

I had, of course, heard of drones, but mainly from news bulletins describing them killing insurgents somewhere. So my first close-up examination of one revealed what a masterpiece of miniaturisation and technical sophistication they are. There are propellers powered by a battery, and the tiny camera angled to the ground sends instant signals down to the monitor screen below.
We mapped out the flight path to cover the site and its surrounds, and up the drone buzzed. It systematically criss-crossed the site according to its instructions, and we could follow what it was seeing. Simultaneously, it was recording countless measurements that would be processed and employed to produce our detailed maps.

This was but one of the survey techniques that came up from Bangkok. There was also a fixed-wing creation. Again programmed with a flight path to cover three other moated sites in our study area, I did not even need to see it. The team found a good flat area nearby for it to take off and land, and, once airborne, it was off and away to cover and map each of its targets. When we are actually digging, we open an area of 10m by 10m and measure each feature identified as we go down, mapping with pencil and graph paper and recording the depth below our datum for key referents, like the artefacts associated with a burial, or the depth of a pit. Saksiri had also brought a hand-held LiDAR unit, and asked us to clear the excavation square of people and tools. An operative then went down into the square and walked over it holding the unit. Within a matter of minutes, we were looking at a detailed plan of the surface on a computer screen. Is this the future for archaeological recording?

Harnessing DNA

I have seen enough of the raw results on site to know that when the detailed plans are finalised in Bangkok, I will be much better informed than ever before, and all thanks to techniques one could only have fantasised over a few years ago.

Returning to my student days, I remember the issue of migration in prehistory being a prominent issue of the day. To what extent, we pondered, was cultural change the result of internal stimulus or the impact of new people moving in? This remains an important issue, but now we have methods with the potential to replace debate by an assurance that migration did take place. One of these employs the isotopes in bones and teeth that are determined by where an individual was raised. Another, of course, is the analysis of ancient DNA. The latter has recently revealed the large-scale migrations that occurred in Central Asia and Europe during the Bronze Age.

How I envy those working where the cold means that aDNA can be extracted from human remains. I have tried since 1992 to cooperate with specialists to do the same in Southeast Asia. I would love to know more about the population history of the communities I have illuminated through my excavations. There have been some rare breakthroughs. Ancient DNA from the people of Man Bac, a Neolithic site in northern Vietnam, is matched by that from Weidun in the lower Yangtze, revealing strong evidence for the expansion southward of early rice farmers. The DNA from rice itself has confirmed this. But for my sites, virtually a total blank. Recent advances in the extraction of DNA from bone have now encouraged further attempts. Eske Willerslev of the Universities
of Copenhagen and Cambridge is keen to replicate in Southeast Asia his seminal results from Central Asia. Samples are en route to his laboratory as I write. This, like the drones, is a further instance of the rapid changes that are such an exciting part of modern archaeological enquiry.

This article appeared inCWA 78. Click here to subscribe.


Arkeology News

MUNICH, GERMANY—another front has opened in the obliteration of archeological legacy in the Middle East. Crosswise over northern Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State (IS) aggregate crushed relics amid its reign of fear beginning in 2014, pounding established statues, for example, those of Palmyra in Syria and bulldozing a 3000-year-old ziggurat at Iraq's Nimrud. The IS aggregate has now been steered by Iraqi and Syrian powers, controling the demolition however giving archeologists a firsthand take a gander at a result that is grimmer than numerous had anticipated. In the interim, the strike on relic has stretched out to Yemen, 2000 kilometers toward the south, another archeological fortune house riven by struggle.

"Our interminable history has been squandered by wars," regretted Mohanad Ahmad al-Sayani, seat of Yemen's General Organization of Antiquities and Museums in Sana'a.

In Yemen, the social misfortunes have gone to a great extent unnoticed by the more extensive world however are definitely felt by archeologists. Despite the fact that the nation has been far less concentrated than Mesopotamia, it assumed a basic part in the ascent of realms and economies in the locale beginning around 1000 B.C.E., analysts said at a gathering here a week ago of the International Congress on the Archeology of the Ancient Near East.

By 1200 B.C.E., the kingdom of Saba in what is currently focal Yemen controlled the fare of frankincense, got from a tree that became just along the nation's southern drift. The prized tar was scorched for a thousand years and a half in sanctuaries from Persia to Rome. The huge abundance of Saba—home to the scriptural Queen of Sheba—financed noteworthy sanctuaries, urban areas, and building wonders. Among them was the Marib Dam, based on Wadi Adhanah in the eighth century B.C.E. to help grow horticulture in this dry district some claim it is the world's most seasoned dam.

Today, Yemen is racked by common war and Islamic radicals who, in a battle against sin, have obliterated old mosques in the port city of Aden, and a multidomed place of worship in the Hadhramaut district.

Yemen's social legacy harmed in war

Bombs dropped by a Saudi-drove coalition have harmed the old Marib Dam, a gallery in Dhamar, and medieval strongholds in Aden and Sana'a.

Bombs dropped by the Saudi-drove coalition have wreaked the most harm, Al-Sayani said. The Marib Dam, in a uninhabited territory a long way from the capital, was struck in 2015, leaving a profound slice in the all around protected northern conduit entryway. The provincial historical center of Dhamar in the southwest, which contained a huge number of curios from the Himyarite Kingdom, was totally decimated. The Himyarites vanquished Saba in 280 C.E., assumed control over the frankincense restraining infrastructure, and ended up enter players in the growing Indian Ocean exchange between the Roman Empire and India until Ethiopian powers ousted them in 525 C.E.

Al-Sayani demonstrated pictures from twelve straightened or seriously harmed locales, including medieval châteaux such Aden's Sira Fortress, and the hundreds of years old al-Qassimi neighborhood in Sana'a. In excess of 60 locales have been wrecked or extremely harmed since the contention started in 2015, Al-Sayani stated, predominantly from Saudi bombings. Albeit some were key targets, he charged that the Saudi assaults were a cognizant battle to wreck Yemen's legacy and debilitate its natives. "Following 3 years of surveying the harm, I trust the bombarding is being finished with a reason, since a considerable lot of these locales are not appropriate or helpful for military utilize," he says.

The devastation appears to be ponder, concurs prehistorian Sarah Japp of Berlin's German Archeological Institute. "The Saudis were given data on essential social legacy destinations, including definite directions," by UNESCO, said Japp, who was situated in Sana'a before the war. UNESCO proposed to ensure the destinations, yet she fears that the information may rather have been utilized for focusing on. "There is no motivation to state these [bombings] are simply mischances." The Saudi international safe haven in Berlin and authorities in Riyadh did not react to rehashed demands for input.

In the mean time, 2000 kilometers toward the north in Syria and Iraq, the harm fashioned by years of IS bunch control is just now coming into center. "It is absolutely a disaster," said Michel al-Maqdissi, previous head of unearthings in Syria's relics office in Damascus, who now works at the Louver in Paris and keeps up contacts in Syria.

A portion of the most noticeably bad reports originate from Mari, a 60-hectare site on the banks of the Euphrates River that 4000 years prior was one of the world's biggest urban communities. Only north of Sumer and the Akkadian Empire, Mari filled in as a key exchanging community for Mesopotamian merchandise and Anatolian metals and stone, and once bragged the best saved early royal residence in the Middle East.

Be that as it may, never again. Excavator Pascal Butterlin of Pantheon-Sorbonne University in Paris, who worked at Mari for a considerable length of time and has accumulated data from Syrian sources, showed a picture of the royal residence starting from the earliest stage appears close aggregate obliteration of Mari's focal zone. The site's antiquated statues were expelled to historical centers long back, so the explanations for the annihilation stay dinky, in spite of the fact that the IS gathering's want to benefit from relics is notable. An adjacent vast hill called Tell Medkouk was bulldozed totally to uncover objects for plundering. From satellite information on the focal point of Mari, Butterlin gauges that marauders burrowed around 1500 pits, a large number of them in excess of 5 meters profound and 6 meters wide. The vehicle tracks "influence it to appear as though they had congested driving conditions there," he said. He associates that thousands with plundered cuneiform tablets, little puppets, and bronze items won't appear on the workmanship advertise for quite a long time, as dealers sit tight for global shock to cool.

The circumstance is surprisingly more dreadful at Dura-Europos, which up to this point was an amazingly all around safeguarded city upstream of Mari. From the main century B.C.E., this city lay on the outskirts of the Roman and Persian realms, which alternated controlling it, and once held both one of the world's most established Jewish synagogues and most established Christian places of worship. "The size of the catastrophe there is significant," said Chekmous Ali, a Syrian paleontologist now at the University of Strasbourg in France. "There are incalculable pits—exactly 9500—and the necropolis is no more."

Over the fringe in Iraq, the old city of Mosul once gloated a large group of Islamic and Christian landmarks, numerous decimated or harmed amid the IS gathering's 3 years of control. In any case, the most noticeably bad demolition came the previous summer, when in excess of 30,000 bombs and rockets hit notable structures amid the fight for the city, said Karel Nováček of Palacký University Olomouc in the Czech Republic. "The old city was destroyed," he said at the gathering. He charges that the demolition proceeds, as Iraqi development groups clear the destruction without attempting to protect what's left or count the harm.

"The legacy administration is nonexistent," he said. "We require watchful expulsion of the rubble, yet that isn't going on." His group is gathering what information they can from old reports and photos that could give some premise to remaking noteworthy destinations. He intends to lead an on-the-ground appraisal in June, with expectations of giving Iraqis an opportunity to repair what they container of their battered social legacy.


A Mosaic of Adaptation: The Archaeological Record for Mesoamerica’s Archaic Period

8000 cal. BC). The end of this period was uneven, with the earliest ceramic-using villagers documented at 1900 cal. BC, but not until the end of the second millennium BC in the Maya lowlands. Food production progressively increased in Mesoamerica between 8000 and 1000 cal. BC but did not significantly alter a mixed foraging–horticultural adaptation. During the third and fourth millennia BC, sedentism increased around permanent sources of water with dependable aquatic resources, such as the lakes in the Basin of Mexico and the estuaries of the Gulf coast and the Soconusco region on the Pacific coast. A mosaic of different adaptations was created, with more mobile peoples inhabiting the dry highland valleys of Mexico and Guatemala and much of the Maya lowlands. I argue that the ultimate cause of both the beginning and the end of the Archaic period was a return to wet, warm, and more stable environmental conditions after the Younger Dryas and the three-century-long 2200 cal. BC “event.” Ultimate climatic causes, however, provide only a limited understanding of the past, whereas proximate causes provide a more complete picture of where, when, and how food production, sedentism, and ceramic use developed. The archaeological record provides the complex and regionally varied evidence to reconstruct the proximate processes that saw Mesoamerican peoples transform from small groups of dispersed foragers to sedentary food producers who laid the foundation on which later Mesoamerican civilizations were built.

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