End of Year Recap: Archeology News January 2009

From the fashionable clothing worn during ancient Mayan times and the war tactics of ancient Romans, researchers have uncovered a great deal of interesting archeological finds. In this article, you will also learn some of the ways evolutionary biologists and dino hunters have successfully educated the world about the mighty creatures that once roamed the earth.

Dinosaur Fossils

If you’ve ever wondered if the facts regarding the gigantic beasts of the past (better known as dinosaurs) were accurate, the results of a study released in January found that what scientists have uncovered about the evolution of dinos is pretty close to the real facts. You’d think that piecing together the habits and characteristics of creatures just by looking at bones and details left behind millions of years ago would be a difficult task to accomplish.

Thanks to the efforts of the University of Bath and London’s Natural History Museum, you can settle your mind. Evolutionary biologists have successfully mastered two different ways of studying the evolution of prehistoric plants and animals. First, they’ve harnessed radioactive dating techniques that help place fossils in chronological order according to the age of the rocks in which they are found discovered in. This process is called stratigraphy. The second method involves observing and classifying the characteristics of fossilized remains according to how they relate to one another , referred to as morphology.

Ancient Mayan Beauty

In this month, Archeology magazine revealed some of the ancient beauty secrets of the Mayans in an article titled, “Extreme Makeover.” They cited that the ancient Maya civilization embraced extreme methods of achieving beauty and transforming their appearances. Many of their beauty secrets required a great deal of wealth and in the majority of cases , enduring pain was a common feat , all in the name of being beautiful.

With the help of artwork and the study of physical remains, researchers learned that wearing a lot of embellishments made out of jade was popular during ancient Mayan times. Fashionable clothing was also sought after. The interest in fashion is clearly evident in paintings, stone carvings, and sculptures found in southern Mexico and other regions. People belonging to a high status class dressed in gauzy cotton dresses and underskirts. Brocaded dresses were in style, as well as blouses that draped over wrapped skirts.
Ancient Chemical Warfare?

In January, discussions took place on whether a researcher from the University of Leicester has uncovered the oldest archaeological evidence for chemical warfare. Originating from ancient Roman times, archaeologist Simon James used a CSI-style presentation to illustrate his findings regarding the deaths of nearly 20 Roman soldiers who were discovered in a siege-mine at the city of Dura-Europos, Syria. They did not die from the swipe of a sword or plunging spear, but lost their lives to asphyxiation.

By studying the archeological remains of the past, archeologists attempt to string together events and people , even without the help of written text. Recent excavations have continued the research of scientists who explored the region during the 1920s and 1930s. They learned that the Sasanians used a variety of ancient siege techniques to break into targeted cities. Roman defenders used ‘counter-mines’ to keep attackers at bay. The bodies left behind in the aftermath provide clues as to how they died and some of the methods used to carry out attacks.