The Sudan, Cyprus, and Tracks that aren't tracks ... or are they?

24 May 2010

At ... the New York Times May 22nd has a story on Meroe in present day Sudan. Its art and religion had historical parallels with Egypt but it also had a distinct indigenous element. It cursive script has now been decyphered - and it is an African language as expected, closely related to those spoken today in Dafur and Chad, as well as modern Sudan (and ancient Nubia). In the last few years archaeology has revealed Meroe traded extensively with the Greek and Roman worlds - and western Asia.

At ... the Vancouver Sun May 22nd reports on a newly discovered burial chamber at Palalimni on Cyprus - and appears to be intact.

At ... the timing and origin of the  earliest humans in the Americas is the subject of intense debate - with the old guard fervently defending a rear end defence that humans only recently, no more than 15,000 years ago, entered the New World. In 2003 archaeologist found tracks crossing the dried bed of a lake in Mexico that looked like the footprints of adults and children - as well as a variety of animals. The impressions were in what had been ash that had hardened and preserved them, and they looked all the world like footprints from people and various animals fleeing from a nearby volcano. Since 2003 the tracks have become a matter of controversy as they were initially dated by optical stimulated luminescence which gave a result of 40,000 years ago = uproar among those closely allied to the consensus theory. In 2005 geochronologist Paul Rennes reported in Nature the tracks dated as early as 1.3 million years ago - which meant they could not be human. He went on to deny a connection with people fleeing a volcano saying he believed they were formed by other means than people running away. This is the usual tactic used by consensus, humans arrived after the Ice Age, true believers - but why do they have this closed mind attitude? Basically, it all comes down to which dating system is the more reliable - and the consensus is that Argon dating, as used by Paul Rennes, is well established and there have been problems with luminescence techniques. As no evidence of Homo erectus has been found in the Americas and humans did not appear on the scene until a 100,000 years ago (or something like that) the cat is out of the bag and the discoverers of the tracks must be at fault - seeing footprints that were not there. In the latest issue of Journal of Human Evolution the team that discovered the tracks concede defeat - and accept the superiority of the Argon dating methodology - but with some reluctance. They now think they might be hominid footprints, arguing that absence of proof is not proof of absence (of hominids in the Americas). However, we might also note that Argon dating may not be as infallible as the proponents think and the original dates may be taken up again - but don't hold your breath.

At is a piece on the view that gullies, caves, rock shelters, and hard to reach places in Chiapas in Mexico were regarded for some unknown reason as sacred space. Humans apparently were able to connect with ancestors - or deities that appear to be ancestors. People seem to have climbed into difficult locations on cliff faces and cave walls in order to access space to create art. One example given is a balcony, or outcrop in a cave hight up on the face where stones were carefully arranged, and rock art found in canyons going back some 7,000 years or so.

At May 17th ... an avenue of coloured granite statues of deities - or forms that dieties took - are thought to line the route towards the funerary temple of Amenophis III at Luxor. One of them has been unearthed and others await the spade. The same story is reported in The Independent May 17th.

Computer modelling techniques are set to provide opportunities for archaeology to recreate discoveries and their environs (see ).