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Top 10

Skull Cult at Göbekli Tepe

Sanliurfa, Turkey


Monday, December 11, 2017

Top Ten Turkey Gobekli Tepe


Göbekli Tepe is one of the world’s most significant, yet mysterious, archaeological sites. Between the tenth and eighth millennia B.C., people there erected a series of massive stone circles where groups gathered for religious or social purposes. This year, researchers revealed that microscopic analysis of bone fragments found at the site suggests that human skulls may once have hung there on prominent display. The fragments belong to three partially preserved skulls that were carved and altered after death. This is the first indication of how Göbekli Tepe’s inhabitants may have treated their dead, and archaeologists believe it may provide evidence of an Early Neolithic “skull cult” that exhibited the decapitated heads of either venerated ancestors or dispatched enemies at designated spots.


Top Ten Turkey Skull FragmentThe discovery further underscores the complex ritual behavior exhibited at Göbekli Tepe. Marks on the three partial skulls indicate that they were de-fleshed, modified, and even painted. Deep incisions were repeatedly carved into the skulls with stone tools to create grooves that ran up the forehead and toward the back of the head. According to researcher Julia Gresky of the German Archaeological Institute, the skulls may have been suspended by a cord that wrapped around the head and passed through a small drill hole at the top. The incised grooves would have prevented the cord from slipping along the smooth surface of the bone as it dangled. “The three modified skulls attest to the special treatment of certain individuals and represent an entirely new category of find,” she says, “one which testifies to the interaction of the living with the dead at this important Early Neolithic ritual center.”

Finding Indianapolis

North Pacific Ocean


Monday, December 11, 2017

Top Ten USS Indianapolis Photo


The sinking of USS Indianapolis is ranked as one of the greatest disasters in U.S. naval history. The much-decorated Portland-class heavy cruiser left San Francisco on July 16, 1945, with 1,196 crewmen aboard. Her final mission, as she raced to the naval base on the North Pacific island of Tinian, was to deliver components of “Little Boy,” the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Mission completed, the ship set out along a prescribed course only to be hit by torpedoes fired from a Japanese submarine on July 30. Indianapolis began to sink within a mere 12 to 15 minutes. Three and a half days passed before aircraft spotted survivors. The wreck of Indianapolis was lost for 72 years. Now, it has been found, some 18,000 feet under the North Pacific.


Top Ten USS Indianapolis Parts BoxBecause no distress call was received and her deck logs did not survive, the official Navy record of the ship’s location when she sank relied primarily on the testimony of her surviving captain, who confirmed that he had followed his assigned route from Tinian to the Philippines. By comparing this route with the position of LST-779, a tank-landing ship newly identified as having been the last known vessel to have had visual contact with the cruiser, 11 hours before she sank, naval historian Richard Hulver and archaeologist Robert Neyland suggested a new position for the wreckage of Indianapolis. Though there have been efforts to locate her before, “No one thought they would ever see Indianapolis again,” says Hulver. “But I was hopeful.” Using an autonomous undersea vehicle able to scan the remotest depths of the seafloor, a research team located the ship. Until now, Indianapolis’ 316 survivors, 18 of whom are still living, had provided the only evidence of her triumphs and tragedies.

Aztec Warrior Wolf

Mexico City, Mexico


Monday, December 11, 2017

Top Ten Mexico Wolf Burial


Archaeologists excavating at the foot of the Aztecs’ Great Temple, in downtown Mexico City, discovered a dazzling collection of gold artifacts and the skeleton of a juvenile wolf. Occupying a stone box the size of a dishwasher, the gold artifacts are the finest yet excavated at the 40-year-old dig, says lead archaeologist Leonardo López Luján. They include ear and nose ornaments and a piece of body armor known as a pectoral—glittering, stylized versions of attire that were used to decorate the sacrificed wolf, as if the canine were symbolizing a human warrior. The wolf’s head faced west, signaling that it was “the companion of the sun, after the sunset, during its journey to the underworld,” says López Luján. The offering was buried during the reign of Ahuitzotl (1486–1502), a time of war and great imperial expansion for the Aztecs.

Super Fruitcake

Cape Adare, Antarctica


Monday, December 11, 2017

Top Ten Antarctica Cape Adare Fruitcake


The discovery of a 106-year-old fruitcake on Antarctica’s Cape Adare may help redeem the delicacy’s much-maligned reputation. The centenarian cake was found by a team from the Antarctic Heritage Trust in the continent’s oldest building, a hut erected in 1899, and is thought to have been left there in 1911 by members of the Northern Party, part of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova expedition. The tin holding the Huntley & Palmers fruitcake was somewhat rusty, but the cake itself was in fine shape—likely due to the cold, dry conditions. “It felt and looked like a new fruitcake,” says Lizzie Meek, the trust’s program manager. “It was only if you got quite close to it that you could smell that slightly off smell of butter that’s gone wrong.”

Dawn of Egyptian Writing

El-Khawy, Egypt


Monday, December 11, 2017

Top Ten Egypt Early Hieroglyphics


Archaeologists have discovered an oversized inscription that offers a new glimpse into the early development of the Egyptian writing system. A team led by Yale University Egyptologist John Darnell found the hieroglyphs on a cliff face within view of a desert road north of the ancient city of Elkab. Dating to around 3250 B.C., they were carved during Dynasty 0, a period when the Nile Valley was divided into competing kingdoms and scribes were just beginning to master writing. Previously discovered Dynasty 0 inscriptions are less than an inch in height and are largely confined to arcane administrative matters, but the newly discovered inscription is 27 inches tall, and is the earliest known set of large-scale, highly visible hieroglyphs by some 300 years.


The inscription’s symbols—a bull’s head on a pole, followed by two storks and an ibis—are similar to those used in later Egyptian writing to equate a pharaoh’s authority with control over the cosmos. That led Darnell to conclude that the inscription was a royal boundary marker that asserted a king’s dominion over the area. “It was like a signpost,” says Darnell. “Travelers along that road would have known they were entering an area under official authority.” In addition, he believes the discovery suggests that Egyptian writing developed at a quicker pace than previously thought, and was being used to publicly project royal power at a very early date.