73 intact Wari mummy bundles found in Peru

Archaeologists excavating the ancient Wari site of Pachacámac near Lima, Peru, have unearthed 73 intact mummy bundles, some of them with “false heads,” masks made of wood or ceramic. They date to the second half of the Middle Horizon period, between 800 and 1100 A.D., a period when the Wari Empire was expanding in territory and political power.

The burials were found in a complex of cemeteries from different periods at the foot of the Inca-era Painted Temple. The cemetery complex was first discovered in the late 19th century by German archaeologist Max Uhle. They had been widely damaged in the “extirpation of the idolatries” during the colonial period and would be repeatedly looted after Uhle’s excavation. The discovery of 73 undamaged burials is therefore of great archaeological significance.

The team focused on excavating an area where a high wall of adobe bricks built in the Inca and colonial periods had collapsed. They deduced that any burials at the foot of the wall might have been protected by the heavy piles of bricks deterring looters. They were right.

The burials include people of both sexes. The earliest ones were buried individually. Later ones were buried in groups. The bundles are in excellent condition, with organic materials including finely-woven multi-colored patterned textiles, carved wooden masks, elaborately knotted ropes and human remains in an exceptional state of preservation. Two wooden staffs depicting Wari deities were found next to the cemetery covered with a layer of Spondydus princeps shells imported from Ecuador.

The style of these staff is comparable to the famous cult image known as the ‘idol of Pachacámac’. This wooden carving depicts two deities standing on a high pedestal. Each of them looks towards the other like the Roman Janus, but the two figures are clearly joined back to back and each has a different character, i.e. a celestial aspect versus a telluric aspect, and are possibly also of different sexes. Stylistically, the idol is closer to the iconography known from the Castillo de Huarmey, among other places, than from the Wari religious centres at Ayacucho.

The team’s findings contradict the previous understanding of Pachacámac history. It was not, as historians have posited, a sacred city from the construction of the Old Temple during by the Lima culture ca. 200 A.D. through the arrival of the Spanish. During the Wari Empire, it was not the monumental sacred site that was one of the most important in the central Andes. That only happened after it was absorbed in the Inca Empire.

The results of the research to date indicate that during the Wari Empire period, specifically between 800 and 1100 AD, Pachacámac had the character of a settlement, with a ceremonial platform. This platform is currently hidden under the rubble and terraces of the Painted Temple from the Inca period. The cemetery uncovered by Professor Makowski’s excavations does not have the character of an elite necropolis as suggested by Uhle. It is instead comparable to the Ancón site, which was the burial place of fishermen, from the part of the coast between the Chancay and Chillón valleys both during the Wari Empire and in later periods.

Due to the state of preservation and the precision of the documentation of the context of the finds at the time of excavation, as well as the laboratory analyses, the burial assemblages uncovered are a veritable goldmine of information on the social position of men, women and children according to kinship ties, the care of invalids, indicators of war and domestic violence. Nineteen of the bundles, with their lower part preserved and an intact structure, could be transferred to the laboratory in their entirety in order to document them three-dimensionally using CT scanning without having to be opened.

2,250-year-old saw found in Hattusa

The German Archaeological Institute’s excavation of the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusa has unearthed a rare iron saw dating to the 3rd century B.C. It is the first saw from this period discovered in Anatolia.

Professor Andreas Schachner, who leads the excavations, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the iron of the saw was thicker than contemporary saws, but otherwise, it is very similar to the ones used today.

“This shows us that humans do not simply modify working tools,” he said.

Approximately eight inches long, the rectangular saw blade has teeth on one long edge that show extensive evidence of wear and tear. It was found on the northwestern slope of the large castle area in a building from the Galatian period. The building was in use around 2,250 years ago when central Anatolia was occupied by the descendants of the Celts who had invaded Greece in 278 B.C. There are few known examples of saws from this era; later Roman saws are more common.

Only the iron blade of the saw has survived. Mounting holes on both sides indicate it had a semicircular handle, likely made of a wood, that the carpenter would have gripped when moving the blade back and forth.

Archaic stone anchors found off Syracuse

Two stone anchors from the Greek Archaic Period (800-480 B.C.) have been discovered on the seabed off the coast of Syracuse, Sicily. They were spotted by a private individual who reported it to the Superintendence of the Sea of the Sicilian Region. The Superintendence followed up with a survey of the reported find site. They documented a three-hole triangular anchor about 27 inches long, and a second one with a single hole and ovoid shape.

The intervention was carried out on a marine area of about 250 square meters, which was surveyed and documented in order to verify the presence of additional archaeological finds. A protection operation that saw the two underwater units engaged, with the support of the vedetta V.7007 of the Naval Operations Section of the Guardia di Finanza of Syracuse, which ensured safety at sea during the dives.

“This type of intervention,” says Regional Councillor for Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity, Francesco Paolo Scarpinato, “confirms the importance of collaboration between public agencies and law enforcement agencies in safeguarding cultural heritage. Also of great value is the collaboration of private individuals that, over the years, has casually led to the identification of numerous artifacts, with the only common goal of recovering and enhancing our cultural heritage.”

The two anchors will be recovered and conserved for display in a local museum.

Obsidian from Neolithic shipwreck recovered off Capri

Maritime archaeologists have recovered a block of worked obsidian from a Neolithic shipwreck off the coast of Capri, Italy. Archaeologists from the Superintendency for the Metropolitan Area of ​​Naples recovered the first of a group of worked obsidian cores in a dive on Monday, November 20th. The presence of obsidian blocks in the area had been reported by divers in 2012, but not the specific location. They were located in October near the famous White Grotto of Capri by an underwater unit of the Naples police, and a month later the site was explored by maritime archaeologists.

The block they recovered measures approximately 11 by 8 by 6 inches and weighs almost 18 pounds. It bears traces of chiseling and processing, which is how archaeologists know it was trade material, not a random chunk of obsidian that made its way to the seabed on its own.

No remains of a ship were found, but the dispersal area of the obsidian was much larger than reported and at a depth of between 100 and 130 feet. That indicates the blocks were the cargo of a lost ship. The
Superintendency is planning an extensive instrumental survey of the seabed to look for the possible hull and any other cargo material around the find site.

The obsidian block was transferred to a warehouse of the Superintendency and awaits cleaning and conservation. Conservators will remove the concretions on its surface to analyze the block in detail.

It was in the Neolithic that obsidian began to be used to create sharp weapons and cutting tools. It chips as easily as flint, but creates a sharper edge. In the late 19th century, a major cache of obsidian blocks and more than 800 finished obsidian objects was discovered on a private estate in Capri. They were the remains of a 7,000-year-old obsidian cutting workshop. Recent analyses of those obsidian materials determined they originated in Lipari, a volcanic island in the Aeolian Archipelago north of Sicily whose rich obsidian flows were extensively quarried by Neolithic communities. The presence of Lipari obsidian in Capri is evidence there was an active trade over land and sea.

Ancient municipal archive building found in Doliche

Archaeologists have discovered the municipal archives of the ancient city of Doliche near modern-day Dülük in southern Turkey. A team of University of Münster archaeologists unearthed more than 2,000 clay bullae, seal impressions affixed to official documents and private contracts, in this summer’s excavation. Many seals and impressions have been found at Doliche before, but at different locations in the city. Now for the first time the remains of the municipal archive building have been unearthed, one of very few ancient archive buildings from the Roman Empire ever discovered.

Doliche was famed in antiquity as the home of the shrine of Jupiter Dolichenus. Jupiter Dolichenus was a composite of the Greco-Roman god of lightning and the Hittite storm god Tesub. Rome conquered Doliche in 64 B.C., and over the next few centuries, the cult of Jupiter Dolichenus spread widely throughout the Empire, reaching its peak of popularity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. A shrine dedicated to Jupiter Dolichenus was found as far away as the fort of Vindolanda in northern Britain.

The city’s patron deity was frequently represented on seals going back as far as the 7th century B.C. More than 600 stamp and cylinder seals left as votive offerings at the deity’s shrine in Doliche between the 7th and 4th centuries B.C. were discovered by the University of Münster team in 2013. Another thousand were unearthed in the 2017 excavation, these dating to the apex of the cult’s popularity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Unlike the earlier cache, many of these seals and stamps were administrative in nature, used as official signatures on government and private documents. They were found in the city center, not in the temple precinct, but the actual archive building was not discovered until this year.

Only the lower layers of the foundations remain of the archive building, which are made of solid limestone blocks, adds [University of Münster archaeologist] Engelbert Winter. “However, they reveal a sequence of rooms that come together to form an elongated building complex,” he describes. However, the exact size cannot yet be measured. So far, the building has been proven to be eight meters wide and 25 meters long. The width of the walls also shows that it was multi-story. The international research team uncovered the building parts over a period of eight weeks last summer.

The archive documents themselves were destroyed in a major fire. In 253 AD, the Persian king Šāpūr I destroyed numerous cities in the Roman province of Syria, including Doliche, as a result of a war between the Roman and Persian Empires. The city center, which also included a bathing complex and a monumental temple, was not rebuilt after the fire. “This is a stroke of luck for archeology, as the condition from the time up to 253 AD has been preserved,” emphasize the researchers.