Analyzing 12 ancient Egyptian papyri fragments with X-ray microscopy, University of Copenhagen researchers were surprised to find previously unknown lead compounds in both red and black inks and suggest they were used for their drying properties rather than as a pigment. A similar lead-based 'drying technique' has also been documented in 15th century European painting, and the discovery of it in Egyptian papyri calls for a reassessment of ancient lead-based pigments.
Scientists led by the ESRF, the European Synchrotron, Grenoble, France and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, have discovered the composition of red and black inks in ancient Egyptian papyri from circa 100-200 AD, leading to different hypotheses about writing practices. The analysis, based on synchrotron techniques, shows that lead was probably used as a dryer rather than as a pigment, similar to its usage in 15th century Europe during the development of oil paintings. They publish their results today in PNAS.
There is much debate surrounding the age of the Clovis -- a prehistoric culture named for stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico in the early 1930s -- who once occupied North America during the end of the last Ice Age. New testing of bones and artifacts show that Clovis tools were made only during a brief, 300-year period from 13,050 to 12,750 years ago.
Ancient Maya in the once-bustling city of Tikal built sophisticated water filters using natural materials they imported from miles away, according to the University of Cincinnati. A multidisciplinary team of UC anthropologists, geographers and biologists identified quartz and zeolite, a crystalline compound consisting of silicon and aluminum, that created a natural molecular sieve. Both minerals are used in modern water filtration.
Bronze Age pastoralists in what is now southern Russia apparently covered shorter distances than previously thought. It is believed that the Indo-European languages may have originated from this region, and these findings raise new questions about how technical and agricultural innovations spread to Europe. An international research team, with the participation of the University of Basel, has published a paper on this topic.
Assessment of a Papyrus in the Field Museum has led to a new analysis of the First Book of Breathing, an ancient Egyptian funerary text intended to enable deceased people to join the gods in the afterlife.
The first analysis of a sedimentary drill core representing 1 million years of environmental history in the East African Rift Valley shows that at the same time early humans were abandoning old tools in favor of more sophisticated technology and broadening their trade, their landscape was experiencing frequent fluctuations in vegetation and water supply that made resources less reliably available. The findings suggest that instability in their landscape was a key driver of human adaptability.
The legend of Solomon and the birds associated with the Dome of the Rock was developed over time. Stories about the two birds demonstrate that Sufi traditions and the figure of Solomon were still very influential in shaping the appearance and conception of the Dome of the Rock.
An unusual offering in an abandoned and unique-looking Maya sweat bath revealed new evidence of the role it played in the community
Using luminescence dating of ancient river sediments, a new study published in Quaternary Science Reviews presents evidence for river activity at Nal Quarry in the central Thar Desert starting from approx. 173 thousand years ago. These findings represent the oldest directly dated phase of river activity in the region and indicate Stone Age populations lived in a distinctly different Thar Desert landscape than we encounter today.