As some Pagans and Heathens attempt to revive ancient or indigenous religions they often rely on the work of historians, primary texts and archaeologists. For this reason, when something new pops up that challenges long held academic ideas on cultural or religious practice, we pay attention. Here are some of the new(er) finds making waves in archaeological circles.
The Land Bridge Theory Collapses
Humans first came to the Americas by crossing from Russia into Alaska using the Bering land bridge. Or did they?
In May, archaeologists uncovered a set of stone tools and butchered mastodon bones at the bottom of a river in southern Florida. The tools and bones are dated to 14,550-years ago, more than 1000 years earlier than archaeologists first thought.So why couldn’t those mastodon munching humans have crossed using the Bering land bridge?
Researches took ice core samples out of areas where the Bering land bridge used to exist. They found out that animals and plants weren’t established until about 12,600 years ago. Simply put, humans couldn’t have used the corridor until 12,600 years ago because they couldn’t have walked along a thousand kilometer stretch of land without any food.
New Images in Mayan Codex Revealed
Archaeologists have discovered hidden pictographs on a Mayan codex previously thought to be blank. The Seldon Codex is a 20 page long document created by the Mayans in the 16th century and pre-dates the Spanish invasion. While scientists have long suspected that the specially prepared deer hide may have images under the layer of white chalk and plaster, it wasn’t until they were able to use a new imaging process called hyperspectral imaging that they were able to see what those images are.
The pictographs are brightly colored images of figures and glyphs. Some of the images appear to be of two figures thought to represent siblings, since they are connected with a red umbilical cord. Other figures depict people walking with sticks or spears, and some of the female figures have appear to have red hair. The name of one individual preserved in Codex Selden resembles that of an important ancestral figure recorded in other codices, but archaeologists say more research is needed before they can confirm that interpretation.
This new Codex information is one of only 20 left in existence and helps piece together the religion, customs, and political systems of the Mayans.
Hawaii Has Pictures, Too
Shifting sands revealed 17 petroglyphs on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The images are 400 years old and were etched into sandstone. One of the glyphs measures between four and five feet, and depicts a detailed human.
In an interview with the Star Advertiser, Glen Kila, a lineal descendant of the aboriginal families who first settled on the Waianae Coast, said petroglyphs record genealogy and religion. “It’s very important to know about the lineal descendants of the area and their understanding of these petroglyphs,” Kila said. “The interpretation of these petroglyphs can only be interpreted by the lineal descendants who are familiar with its history and culture.”
The land the glyphs are on is currently managed by the US Army.
Magic Shoe Wards off Evil
Looking to keep evil spirits at bay? It has been discovered that the Master of Cambridge University’s St. John’s College protected his personal quarters by burying a shoe, possibly his own, in the portion of the wall between the fireplace and window. The found shoe dates back about 300 years and was discovered during maintenance work on the structure. The college plans to replace the shoe inside the wall together with a time capsule once work in the room is complete.
While Gold Tablets Can Curse
Curse tablets were a common practice among the Greeks and Romans, and a Roman example of such a tablet may have been found in Serbia.
Curse tablets were usually tiny pieces of thin lead that persons would engrave detailed and very explicit things they wished to befall an enemy. Normally these were stuck into the wall of the enemy’s home, neatly breaking through any protections that the intended target may have placed on their home. In dire cases, the tablets were buried with a trusted dead relative or friend for personal delivery to the Gods.
The tablets found in Serbia date to the 4th century and are engraved pieces of gold and silver, encased in lead amulets and placed inside of a grave. The tablets haven’t been deciphered yet, but could contain curses or they could contain an important message or request. While the alphabet used is Greek, the language appear to be Aramaic. What linguists have discovered is that the names of powerful spirits were carved onto the tiny scrolls.
Uni May Finally Be Known
Not much is known about the chief female Etruscan deity named Uni, and almost nothing is known about her worship. The Etruscans flourished in Northern Italy from around 700 BCE until the Romans gradually absorbed them starting in 500 BCE. Most surviving written accounts are from later Roman period and conflate Uni with the Roman Goddess Juno.
But that has now changed. Archaeologists have discovered a 2,500 year old stella at an Etruscan sanctuary. The stella, which measures four feet by two feet, is the longest example of Etruscan writing found to date. One name, Uni, has already been deciphered and lends credence to the theory that the sanctuary was once dedicated to the Goddess. The stella appears to focus on the Goddess Uni and may include information on the laws of the sanctuary or the ceremonies that took place there.
Are the Rumors About Zeus True?
It’s long been whispered that human sacrifice took place at the remote sanctuary of Zeus on the summit of Mount Lykaion. Only animal bones have been found there. Until now.
Starting in the sixteenth century BCE, thousands of animals were sacrificed to Zeus at the site. But around the eleventh century BCE a young teen also met an end atop the mountain. Archaeologists found this human body mixed in with ashes of animals. It was laid out between two lines of stones on an east-west axis.
But was this teen sacrificed? As of yet, archaeologists don’t know.