Release The Hounds: Archaeology Edition

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There are lots of articles and essays about new archaeology finds that are of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, more than our team can write about in depth in any given week. Therefore, the Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. Here are our favorite picks this month.

BURLEY, England – The village of Burley has a long, and interesting history. Part of that rich history is a connection to Witches and Witchcraft. Sybil Leek lived there in the 1950s before she packed up and moved the the States. The shop that she named, A Coven of Witches, is still open and sells Witchcraft supplies.

The village is surrounded by at least 23 Bronze Age burial mounds. Near the edge of town is an Iron Age hillfort on Castle Hill. Burley was also popular with smugglers, as was evidenced when the Queen’s Head pub was renovated and a secret cellar was discovered under the Stable Bar containing coins, pistols, and other contraband.

So it seems a natural fit for the Burley Local History Society and the Burley Parish Council, with support from the New Forest National Park Authority, to have hosted Dig Burley earlier this month. It was part of the promotion Discover National Parks Week in the UK, a program designed to encourage citizens to visit and enjoy the national parks.

Residents of the village opened up their gardens to visitors who wanted to view an archaeological dig in-progress. Some villagers who participated hoped their test pits will turn up coins, shards of pottery or even bones. The test pits are one metre square (three feet) areas, and each layer of dirt is removed carefully, and systematically, with any finds being recorded.

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LUXOR, Egypt – The Opet temple was opened to the public for viewing last Friday as part of World Heritage Day celebrations. The newly restored temple walls had been covered by soot that, once removed, revealed unique and colorful inscriptions. It is also considered to be one of the few temples that offers clear images of Egyptian royalty, and a glimpse of what their lifestyles may have been like.

The temple was dedicated to the Goddess Opet, a hippopotamus-figured Goddess, somewhat similar in appearance to Tauret, the Egyptian Goddess of fertility and childbirth. Opet was a deity associated with protection in ancient Egypt and was also characterized as the torchbearer Goddess that lit up the afterlife darkness. The original construction of the temple was begun sometime during the reign of the 18th Dynasty which spanned from 1550-1292 BC and not completed until late in the Ptolemaic period, possibly 300-200 BC.

On Thursday, another discovery was announced – a 3500-year-old tomb in a necropolis with 18 gates on the west riverbank of Luxor. The very large tomb is of the “saff” or rock-cut type and believed to belong to Shedsu-Djehuty who was a prince, and possibly served King Thutmose I. Shedsu-Djehuty was also a mayor and a royal seal holder.

Later that evening, a 12-metre, 60 ton statue of Ramses II was unveiled by the Ministry of of Antiquities. The statue had been in roughly 50 pieces, and required 250 separate missions over the course of eight months to be restored by archaeologists.

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CAIRO, Egypt – The discovery of 4300-year-old tomb believed to belong to a Fifth Dynasty (2500-2350 BC) high-ranking official or nobleman named Khmy. The tomb is within a expansive ancient burial site known as, Saqqara, that was the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis. The site is approximately 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) south of Cairo.

The archaeological team excavating the tomb were struck by the vibrancy of the colors in some of the paintings that are over 4,000-years-old, as well as the use of some colors that are associated with royalty. The use of such colors has some archaeologists speculating on what the possible relationship between Khmy and the Pharaoh of that period, Djedkare Isesi, might have been, and whether they were perhaps related. Others believe it is more likely a result of Djedkare Isesi’s reforms of funerary practices.

The tomb itself is L-shaped and contains a small corridor leading to an antechamber which then opens to a much larger chamber where the paintings featuring Khmy seated at a table for offerings. The tomb also has a tunnel entrance, which is usually a feature found only in pyramids. Khmy’s mummified remains and canopic jars were not intact, and found in pieces.

A little less than 250 miles (400 kilometers) further south near the town of Sohag, yet another tomb has revealed some interesting finds. The tomb dating to the early Ptolemaic period (300 BC), is believed to belong to a senior official named Tutu and his wife. It is one of seven new tombs discovered by the Ministry of Antiquity last October when officials caught smugglers digging for artifacts.

In addition to the walls being painted with detailed images of funerary processions and family genealogy in hieroglyphics, it contains the mummies of a woman and a child, as well as a menagerie of more than 50 mummified animals that included mice, cats, and falcons.

Earlier in April, within the Monufia governorate which lies to the north of Cairo, archaeologists working in Quesna cemetery discovered a limestone sarcophagus, and a coffin cover, and two mummies that appeared to have been placed together, one on top of the other, and in rather poor condition.

Quesna cemetery dates from around 3100 BC to the end of the Ptolemaic period, 30 BC, which makes some of the items found close to 5,000-years-old. Within the same area, archaeologists also found several heads of the God Horus, some ceramic pieces, and lanterns, plus a bronze coin dating to the Ptolemaic period.

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LONDON – The results of a new research paper co-authored by 27 researchers and published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution identifies the origin of the builders of Stonehenge and other similar stone monuments by using DNA extracted from neolithic human remains collected from all over Britain and comparing it with the DNA from others who would have lived during that same time period in Europe.

The research indicates that the neolithic inhabitants were descendants of those who migrated from modern Turkey (Anatolia) and then into modern Spain and Portugal (Iberia) before continuing north and eventually arriving in Britain around 4000 BC. The migration of people from Anatolia also poured into Europe and is responsible for the introduction of farming to that region of the world.

The migration split into a several groups – one following the Danube river north into central Europe, and another group traveling west across the Mediterranean, eventually ending up in Britain. Studying the DNA of early British farmers indicated that they were the closest in resemblance to those of the neolithic farmers from Iberia that had taken the Mediterranean route. While some British groups studied retained a small amount of DNA ancestry that can be connected to the migration group that followed the Danube route, the majority were of the other group.

The people who already inhabited Britain in 4,000 BC when the Iberian farmers began to arrive were hunter-gatherers. The DNA analysis shows that the two groups may not have mixed very much, and as result, there are few traces of the hunter-gatherer ancestry found, except in western Scotland where they found one group. The researchers offer an explanation for the lack of the hunter-gatherer ancestry detected by suggesting the migrating farmers simply having much greater numbers.

While the Neolithic migrating farmers basically replaced the hunter-gatherers already in Britain, they themselves would eventually be replaced around 2450 BC by those migrating from Europe, known as the Bell Beakers. So what researchers have determined is that Britain saw two large migrations that brought a major shift in genetics in the course of just a couple thousand years. However, it was the first group of migrating Neolithic farmers who also brought the building of stone monuments with them to Britain.