An epidemic at Amarna? ... Magdalenenburg, Easter Island and the Lion Gate at Tell Tayinat

29 Dec 2011

Occurring in an offhand manner in the middle of an article, without any kind of follow-up or inquisitive turn of mind. In the Australian magazine, Archaeological Diggings Sept 2011, volume 18:4 page 29, it tells us that a large cemetary has been found at Amarna during recent excavation and exploration of the ancient city of Akhnaton, apparently a burial place of the poor as we are told the graves were simple ... but adding the fact that a large number of people there were buried at an early age, possibly as a result of an epidemic. Really. This is interesting as Velikovsky thought that plague was a feature of the late Amarna period, breaking out presumably in the reign of Tutankhamon, and following not long after the death of Smenkare and Akhnaton. Evidence of this has never been found and does not appear in history books on ancient Egypt - but it would explain the demise of the cult of the Aten, an epidemic being seen as having an origin in the gods. The same kind of thing may apply to the demise of Hatshepsut, cast into oblivion not by an epidemic, as such, but by the Thera volcano (which blew at roughly the same time). The interesting thing about the Amarna epidemic is that it had a parallel elsewhere in the empire, in Syria-Palestine (as testified in the Plague Prayers of Mursilis, referring back to the reign of Suppiluliumas, when plague claimed the life not only of the king but the crown prince as well, a situation with a parallel in Egypt it would seem ... and in Babylonia (but chronologically placed some 20 years out of kilter).

In Current World Archaeology 50 (December 2011) we have a further follow-up to a review of 'The Statues That Walked' in issue 48, and a riposte in issue 49 by the authors of a book in the mold of Jared Diamond, namely that Easter Island suffered 'ecocide' as a result of using up all their resources, cutting down all their trees, and indulging in rampant violence (Bahn and Flenley). In their interpretation society on Easter Island collapsed before European ships visited the island, but in issue 50 the authors of 'The Statues That Walked', Hunt and Lipo, answer all the criticisms in issue 49 - but you can read the debate yourself by going to

In the same issue of Current World Archaeology, 50 ... the royal tombs at Magdalenenburg in Germany's Black Forest are apparently the largest Hallstatt tumulus graves - and attributed to the Celts, being some 320 feet across and around 26 feet in height. Using NASA software researchers have discovered the central tomb and the burials that radiate around it appear to match the pattern of constellations visible in the sky above in the 7th century BC, when the tomb is thought to have been erected, with timber alignments that mark the positions of the Moon - most notably Lunar Standstill (and reflecting the Celtic calendar, which was lunar).

Ditto ... in the same issue, page 47. there is a report on the first people to inhabit Patagonia - as early as 11,800 years ago (the end of the Younger Dryas event). Their presence has been found in caves and rock shelters at the bottom of deep ravines, hidden from prying eyes. Not just human remains but rock paintings, red flints and silicified wood, and depictions of extinct jaguars and small horses (reintroduced by the Spanish).

Finally, in Current World Archaeology, 49 (Oct 2011) ... reports on the discovery at Tell Tayinat in SE Turkey of a Lion Gate resembling the famous example found in 1911 at Neo Hittite Carchemish. Tell Tayinat is thought to be ancient Kunulua, capital city of the kingdom of the Neo Hittite city of Patina, dating from 950-725BC. It is being investigated by the University of Toronto and a second piece of sculpture nearby, and probably part of the ancient gate, consists of a human like figure flanked by lions. This is apparently a common motif in the region and represents the imposition of order over the chaotic forces of the natural world, an interesting choice if indeed the Hittite kingdom had been shattered by earthquakes and fire leading to a migration south into north Syria in the first millennium BC. Of course, various revisionists might reject such an interpretation - it runs foul of a major upheaval in chronology, but worth bearing in mind as in the same issue, on page 12, it claims the demise of the Neanderthals seems to coincide with the advent of Heinrich Event 4 (an earlier manifestation of the Younger Dryas event and dated around 40,000 years ago).