Audio News for June 9th to June 15th, 2013

Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I'm Laura Pettigrew and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from June 9th to June 15th, 2013.


Aztec sacrifices contain more than 400 different animal species

Original Headline: Archaeologists Say 400 Animal Species Were Offered to Gods in Tenochtitlan


In our first story, a report from the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History says that Mexican archaeologists have identified more than 400 animal species in some 60 offerings made to the gods at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan (Teh - noch (o as in "boat") - teet – LAHN), now in the center of Mexico City, including mollusks, fish, birds, reptiles and mammals.

In the offerings, the scientists from the National Institute recovered fish from coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean and reptiles including crocodiles, snakes and turtles, as well as birds like toucans and quetzals, and large mammals from the tropics like the jaguar.

Sacrifices to the rain god Tlaloc (Tlá-loc) and to Huitzilopochtli (WEET-sea-loh-POACHED-lee), god of war, from the fourth to the seventh stagesof the Great Temple’s construction, dating between A.D. 1440 and 1520, contain such fauna. The animals are always exotic species, spectacularly beautiful, or with rough, spiny hides, sometimes dangerous or venomous.

Several of the animals were the object of a kind of ancient taxidermy: those who made the offerings left some of the bones inside to maintain the shape of the skin and keep it from ripping.

According to researchers, mollusks have the greatest presence in the Aztec offerings; they found at least one in just about all the sacrifices. They report some 300 species in the Great Temple from both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Next in abundance are 60 fish species, chiefly from coral reefs. As for the large mammals, researchers have identified and studied around six wolves, two jaguars, 13 pumas, and a single bone from the back leg of an unidentified wildcat.


Fabled lost city in Cambodia revealed by light-detection

Original Headline:  Lost city of Mahendraparvata discovered in Cambodian jungles


Archaeologists using airborne laser technology in Cambodia have discovered a lost city that thrived on a mist-shrouded mountain 1,200 years ago.

According to this story reported exclusively by the Sydney Morning Herald, researchers believe this is the lost city of Mahendraparvata, built 350 years before the famed Angkor Wat. They discovered more than two dozen temples that they believe date to around AD 802, the time of the founding of the Angkor Empire.

According to the expedition leader, Jeanm-Baptise Chevance, Director of the Archaeology and Development Foundation in London, archaeologist knew from ancient scriptures that a great warrior had a mountain capital, but they did not know how all the dots fitted, exactly how it all came together.

The expedition used an instrument called Lidar-light detection strapped to a helicopter, that crisscrossed a mountain north of Angkor Wat for seven days, providing data that would have required years of ground research by archaeologists.

It effectively peeled away the jungle canopy using billions of laser pulses, allowing archaeologists to see structures that were in perfect squares, completing a map of the city that archaeologists had been unable to achieve in years of painstaking ground research. Researchers do not know how large Mahendraparvata was because the search has so far only covered a limited area, with more funds needed to broaden it out.

The imagery shows that the landscape at one time was completely devoid of vegetation. One possible explanation for this is that the severe environmental impact of deforestation and the dependence on water management led to the demise of the civilization; perhaps it became too successful to the point of becoming unmanageable.

This discovery will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in the United States.


Two skeletons discovered in Kazakhstan; one may be a princess

Original Headline: Kazakhstan archaeologists discover Saka princess tomb/ Beheaded skeleton discovered next to Saka princess's tomb


In the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, archaeologists have found the burial site of a Saka princess.

According to a story from the Tengri News agency of Kazakhstan, road reconstruction in the region revealed the stone tomb of the high-ranking young woman. Archaeologists from the Semipalatinsk and Pavlodar pedagical institutes found a stone sarcophagus containing the remains at the depth of 1.7 meters under a burial mound. Preliminary information dates the tomb to the 4th or 3rd century BC. Researchers consider the discovery a Saka princess because of the Kazakh Saukele headgear, the traditional headgear of Kazakh women, discovered it in.

According to archaeologists, this pointed golden headwear is the most valuable item found in the excavation. This headwear with zoomorphic ornaments has a top that resembles arrows. A spiral made of golden wire and jewels also decorates it. A similar piece was part of the official costume of the Saka tribe chieftains, suggesting that the woman was a daughter of a king.

Excavators also discovered ceramic and wooden vessels, as well as bones of a sacrificial sheep along with pieces of blue and green cloth that remained on the woman’s remains. In addition, they recovered golden earrings and a stone altar next to the woman’s head.

Archaeologists also discovered another body next to the tomb of the Saka princess. It contained a beheaded human skeleton without a right hand. The archaeologists theorize this could be a sacrifice place, but stressed that it was only a guess. Whoever buried the second body did it quite carelessly, merely covering it with rocks.


Cancer found in Neanderthal rib

Original Headline: Bone Tumor Found in Neanderthal Rib


Finally, we go to Croatia, at a site near Krapina, where for the first time, researchers have detected a bone tumor in a Neanderthal rib bone, which dates to about 120,000 years ago. The tumor, a form of cancer called fibrous dysplasia, predates any previous evidence of such cancer by more than 100,000 years. Prior to this, the earliest known bone cancers occurred in samples approximately 1,000 to 4,000 years old. This news comes from a paper published in the June 5, 2013, issue of the online journal, PLOS ONE.

Fibrous dysplasia in modern-day humans occurs more frequently than other bone tumors, but study author David Frayer of the University of Kansas says that the evidence for cancer almost never shows up in the human fossil record. This may be partly because the fossil record accounts for a comparatively small sampling of human species or human ancestors.

This case shows that Neanderthals, living in an unpolluted environment, were susceptible to the same kind of cancer as living humans. 

In addition, scientists have suggested from previous research that Neanderthals had average life spans that were likely half those of modern humans in developed countries. The study concludes that cases of neoplastic disease are rare in prehistoric human populations. Against this background, the identification of a more than 120,000-year-old Neanderthal rib with a bone tumor is surprising, and provides insights into the nature and history of the association of humans to neoplastic disease.

That wraps up the news for this week!
For more stories and daily news updates, visit Archaeologica on the World Wide Web at, where all the news is history!
I'm Laura Pettigrew and I'll see you next week!