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African pre colonial kingdom, pearl fishing, and lightning in Mesoamerica

31 July 2013

Current World Archaeology 5:12 (Aug/Sept, 2013) (see also www.world-archaeology.com) has a piece on iron use in Egypt. It is thought smelting reached Egypt in the 6th century BC (possibly a misnomer) but iron beads were found in Predynastic graves near Cairo dating back to the 4th millennnium BC. These had a high nickel content and electron spectroscopy has found they originate from iron meteorites.

There is an interesting article on pre-colonial South Africa and Zimbabwe and the existence of large communities with herds of cattle, stone walls, and extensive field systems growing millet and sorghum. In the 17th century skirmishes were common among the various chiefdoms as a result of competition for resources – put down to rising population numbers. This was of course the height of the Little Ice Age in Europe so did climate cool in that part of the southern hemisphere at the same time? The region had large villages which are described by European travellers but it all fell apart when the Zulu moved across the region, bringing war and destruction (and absorption into the new Zulu kingdom of Matabele Land). Some of the tribes migrated into Bechuanaland (now Botswana) where they can still be found.

In another article, pearl fishing in the Persian Gulf is explored – which appears to go back as far as at least 5000BC. It came to an end in mid 20th century, artificial pearls were one reason but the oil industry with well paid jobs was the main reason.

There is an article on an Iron Age hillfort in Portugal, Citaria de Briteirou. It stands on a hill, 985 feet high, overlooking the river Ave. There is also older rock art on the eastern slopes, with boats, anthropomorphs, and what looks like spiral patterns and rings (with similarities to Bronze Age rock art in Britain). 

In a book review, we have The Mystery of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (see earlier In the News post) by Stephanie Dalley, Oxford University Press:2013, (ISBN 978-0199662265) where the argument is made the Hanging Gardens were really built by the Assyrian king Sennacherib at Nineveh. At some point in the past it was wrongly attributed to Nebuchadnezzar at Babylon. This is interesting, if true, because it has been suggested by historians that it was not Nebuchadnezzar that suffered from some kind of plague and ceased being seen in public for a long period, even wearing sackcloth, but rather, the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.

Another book that might interest members is Lightning in the Andes and Mesoamerica, JE Staller and B Stross (ISBN 978-0199967759). Children born during a thunderstorm with lightning were candidates for ritual sacrifice.


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