Release The Hounds: Archaeology Edition

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.

BRISBANE, Australia – Writing in the journal, Science Advances, a team of archeologists reported finding the oldest cave painting known. The painting was created at least 43,900 years ago based on Uranium-series dating, a technique used to measure the age of calcium carbonate, a common substance found in rocks such as limestone and in the remains of living organisms such as coral. The date is a firm minimum with calcite deposits being 45,500 years old, but it could be older.

The cave painting is of a life-sized Sulawesi warty pig. A second painting is also present as well as handprints.

via Science Advances 13 Jan 2021: DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd4648

The painting was discovered in 2017 by a doctoral student, Basran Burhan as part of authorized surveys on the island of Sulawesi within the remote Leang Tedongnge cave within a valley of sheer cliffs according to co-author Maxime Aubert of Australia’s Griffith University speaking with the AFP news agency. The area is accessible only during the dry season.

The panels were created by fully modern humans according to the authors. Aubert said “they were just like us, they had all of the capacity and the tools to do any painting that they liked.” Migrations to the region occurred earlier around 65,0000 years ago.

The painting suggests a hunting scene, and the animals have been hunted in the regions since humans arrived. The authors note in the journal, “The arrangement of the figures is suggestive, in our view, of a narrative composition or scene in the modern Western sense. We infer that this rock art panel may have been intended to portray an episode of social interaction between at least three, and possibly four, individual suids.” (The term “suid” refers to a animal that is member of the pig family.)

The authors are conducting subsequent analyses. They are hoping to recover DNA samples from the handprints because the artist- or artists- likely used saliva with the pigment.

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VERACRUZ, Mexico – Farmers in the Huastec region in Mexico’s Veracruz state along the gulf coast found a limestone statue in a citrus grove while plowing the fields on New Year’s Day 2021 according to a press release from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The piece is the first of its kind to be found in the Tuxpan river basin.

The statue is of the figure of a Mesoamerican woman with an intricate hairpiece and marks suggesting a high status. It may represent an elite ruler or leader and possibly blended imagery with a goddess.

The statue has a small face, open and hollow eyes that experts at INAH suggest may have been inlaid with obsidian. The necklace has around the center a prominent drop-shaped ornament known as an oyohualli. The torso is clad in a long-sleeved shirt and a long skirt that reaches down to the ankles revealing bare feet.

Statue found near Álamo Temapache, Veracruz. Photo Credit: Eugenia Maldonado Vite. [Courtesy: INAH]

The statue is made of limestone rock, about six-feet-tall and exceptionally well-preserved. A spike at its base suggests the statute stood upright.

The statue likely dates from between 1450 and 1521 CE. Its creators were likely the Huastec people who settled the region about 1500 BCE forming a distinct culture that was heavily influenced by the Maya.

Archeologist María Eugenia Maldonado Vite noted that the statue “could be a ruler, based on her posture and attire, more than a goddess.”

Vite said that the statue had similarities with other finds. “The style is similar to representations of Huastec goddesses of the earth and fertility, but with an influence, possibly Nahua, as can be seen in the inlaid hole of the eyes, a feature that does not belong to in classical Huastec style but rather the style of la Mexica.” She noted other differences from classical Huastec style, “the skirt of Huastec women is always smooth, but [on this statue] there is an adornment of knots and ribbons”.

The statue has attracted significant attention. The Secretary of Culture of the Government of Mexico, Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, said “this year in which we celebrate the history and greatness of Mexico, we began with good news such as this type of findings,” She added that these Pre-Hispanic representations “allow us to confirm the active participation of ruling women in the Huastec social and political structure.”

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RALEIGH, North Carolina – The I-540 project of the Triangle Expressway around Raleigh, North Carolina was temporarily halted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) while their archeology unit excavated artifacts that may be 10,000 years old.

WTVD-TV reported that the find was the result of surveys conducted prior to the removal of trees and soil. “As a result of the survey for this entire corridor, we identified, I believe, it’s over 155 sites,” said Matt Wilkerson head of NCDOT’s archeology unit told WTVD.

The artifacts appear to date from the early Archaic period from 8,000 BCE to 6,000 BCE. The artifacts include arrowheads and pottery. One particular artifact is a polished stone with holes drilled in that may have been used as jewelry.

The regional director of the Commonwealth Group, Susan Bamann, Ph.D. told WTVD that the artifact with holes is “probably a piece of personal adornment, jewelry, if you will.”

Dr. Bamann noted that “it’s a two-holed item that someone would have suspended as a piece of personal decoration or ornamentation. At least that’s what we believe these items are. So, finding something that’s a personal item from someone who lived here, and camped here is, I think, is just one of those things that makes all of this extra interesting because it’s a little bit of a glimpse into the past.”

The Commonwealth Group is a heritage management and consulting firm.

Bamann noted that the artifacts were carved from stone from the Uwharrie Mountains about 100 miles west.

After the site is excavated, the artifacts will part of the North Carolina Office of State Archeology that protects “the state’s legacy of Native American villages, colonial towns, farmsteads, and historic shipwrecks through application of state and federal archaeology laws and regulations, and by maintaining inventories of site data and artifact collections.”

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