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Monday, October 8

Fifty human skulls have been unearthed in Mexico City at the Templo Mayor. Five of the skulls had been pierced, indicating that they had been hung on a rack before they had been buried beneath a sacrificial stone. The rest of the skulls were on found on top of the stone. Raul Barrera of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History thinks that the skulls, which belonged to both men and women, could have been exhumed from other sites and reburied at the Aztec temple. “It provides rather novel information on the use and reuse of skulls for ritual events at the Templo Mayor,” commented Susan Gillespie of the University of Florida.

Jose Huchim of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History says that watchtowers at the ceremonial ball court at Chichen Itza were used to observe equinoxes and solstices. The towers have been reconstructed based upon their foundations, which remain. Each structure had a small slit running through it, and the reconstructions show that the sun shone through the openings at the winter solstice and formed light patterns at the equinox. The watchtowers may have been used to time the ball games or agricultural seasons.

Madain Saleh is the first Saudi archaeological site to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Its necropolis was carved from the desert sandstone by the Nabataeans in the second century B.C. They accumulated their wealth by dominating the incense and spice routes until their civilization collapsed under the Romans in 106 A.D. A team of Saudi and French archaeologists are investigating the 111 tombs carved from the rock, the wells and hydraulic systems, and cave drawings. Only 40,000 visitors toured the site last year, most of them Saudis and foreign residents, but the Saudi government is beginning to relax the restrictions for permission to visit the pre-Islamic site.

Thousands of artifacts dating as far back as 6,000 years ago have been discovered in British Columbia. In addition to arrowheads, spear points, and hammer stones, archaeologists have uncovered what may have been a fishing net make of flat, notched rocks that once held a net. “Being able to do a project at this level of detail gives us a lot of data we can start to cross-reference and correlate with other information and maybe start to answer more in-depth questions about what people were doing here 4,000 or 5,000 years ago,” said archaeologist Clinton Coates.

The Ness of Brodgar in Scotland’s Orkney Islands holds a huge Neolithic temple complex “that is without parallel in western Europe,” according to Nick Card of the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology. Its dozen temples were connected by walkways and protected by giant, finely crafted walls. “The place seems to have been in use for a thousand years, with building going on all the time,” he said. Excavations have also uncovered painted walls, hearths, and broken stone mace heads. Card adds that early farmers made the first grooved pottery at the Ness of Brodgar, along with the first stone henges. The temple complex seems to have been abandoned in 2300 B.C. after a large feast, when more than 600 cattle were slaughtered.

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