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Around the World

March/April 2024

  • MA24 ATW ColoradoCOLORADO: Archaeologists have recorded rock art high above Castle Rock Pueblo on the Mesa Verde Plateau. The petroglyphs were found in a cliffside location 2,400 feet above houses built into a canyon wall. The oldest petroglyphs date to the 3rd century A.D., while most were created in the 12th and 13th centuries. The panels include geometric figures that the Pueblo people may have used to record astronomical observations or to denote specific days of the year.

  • MA24 ATW PeruPERU: Settlement in the high-altitude Lake Titicaca Basin may have been greatly aided by the development of bow-and-arrow technology. Researchers recently analyzed more than 1,000 projectile points manufactured over a period of 10,000 years beginning in 9000 B.C. They determined that around 5,000 years ago, points became decidedly lighter and smaller, likely coinciding with the transition from thrown spears to bow-fired arrows. This allowed people to hunt smaller, faster prey. It is the oldest evidence of archery in the Americas.

  • MA24 ATW EnglandENGLAND: The Cerne Abbas Giant has towered over the Dorset countryside for centuries, yet experts continue to debate when and why the 180-foot-tall figure was carved into the chalky hillside. New evidence indicates the giant was created between A.D. 700 and 1100. Scholars also now suggest it depicts the semidivine hero Hercules with a club in his right hand and that his characteristic lion skin was once shown draped over his left arm. The widely visible site was probably used as a muster station for Saxon armies assembled to fend off invading Vikings.

  • MA24 ATW Spain REVISEDSPAIN: Before Julius Caesar seized control of Rome, he won a particularly contentious civil war against another renowned general, Pompey the Great. Their final battle occurred in 45 B.C. in the province of Hispania. A 1.7-inch-long lead shot recently found in the town of Montilla is a relic of the contest. The sling projectile is inscribed with Caesar’s name (“CAES”) on one side and the place name “IPSCA” on the other. The shot likely belonged to a soldier from the Iberian town of Ipsca who had joined Caesar’s cause.

  • MA24 ATW FinlandFINLAND: A cave in the Koli Mountains known as Devil’s Church has long been associated with the supernatural. It’s said that local shamans, most famously an 18th- or 19th-century sage named Kinolainen, communicated with the spirit world, performed magic rituals, and healed the sick in the cave. A new archaeoacoustic study revealed that the 110-foot-long crevice has a unique shape that makes sounds—particularly those created by clapping, stomping, and chanting—louder and longer lasting at certain frequencies.

  • MA24 ATW UkraineUKRAINE: Nomadic Scythians who rode across the Eurasian steppe in the first millennium B.C. were renowned for their horsemanship—and their savagery. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Scythian warriors drank their enemies’ blood and, occasionally, used their skin to cover quivers. Analysis of leather preserved at 14 sites near the Black Sea indicates that the Scythians did indeed make leather for quivers from human skin in at least 2 cases, confirming Herodotus’ grisly tale.

  • MA24 ATW TibetTIBET: Without yaks, which provided an essential source of meat, milk, and transportation, humans would have struggled mightily to sustain themselves in the harsh conditions of Himalayan mountain valleys. However, until recently it was not known when yaks were first domesticated. Sequencing of DNA from animal bones found at the site of Bangga, one of the earliest agropastoral settlements on the southern Tibetan Plateau, has revealed that yak domestication occurred at least 2,500 years ago.

  • MA24 ATW ChinaCHINA: Some 4,300 years ago, Houchengzui, located in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, was the Fort Knox of its day. The 341-acre site was surrounded by 3 sets of massive stone walls replete with gates and guard towers, making it one of the most heavily defended cities of the Longshan era (ca. 3000–1900 B.C.). New discoveries show that this defensive network was supplemented by a warren of tunnels radiating from the city center that facilitated stealthy communication and transport throughout Houchengzui.

  • MA24 ATW CambodiaCAMBODIA: A restoration team working in Angkor Archaeological Park recovered 6 sandstone statues beneath the southern gate of Ta Prohm Temple, a monastery and center of learning that once housed 12,500 people. The statues depict Buddha being sheltered by Naga, a protective serpent, and Avalokiteshvara, a bodhisattva. The artworks date to the 12th or 13th century, during the reign of Jayavarman VII (reigned 1181–1218), the first Khmer king to adopt Buddhism. During his rule, the king embarked upon a massive building campaign that included Ta Prohm.

  • MA24 ATW SyriaSYRIA: Although its dominion over Europe is likely better known, the Roman Empire also held sway over much of the Near East. The emperors Septimius Severus (reigned A.D. 193–211) and Diocletian (reigned A.D. 284–305) invested heavily in infrastructure along the empire’s eastern borders. Satellite photographs revealed 396 previously unknown Roman forts across western Syria and northern Iraq. Scholars believe these remote outposts weren’t defensive but instead were used by travelers and traders as stops to acquire food, water, and shelter.



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