🧐 Ancient Beat #48: Medicine horns, legionary paychecks, and Oldowan-tool-wielding Paranthropuses
Hi folks, welcome to issue #48 of Ancient Beat! Ready to learn a thing or two about the human story? Here’s the latest ancient news. 👇
🗞 Ancient News: Top 5
We Found 2.9-Million-Year-Old Stone Tools Used to Butcher Ancient Hippos—but Likely Not by Our Ancestors — Over 300 Oldowan stone tools were discovered on the Homa Peninsula of Kenya. This was an extraordinary find for a number of reasons, so buckle up. The tools are 2.9 million years old, making them the oldest Oldowan tools ever found by about 300,000 years. They’re also some of the oldest-known stone tools that were used in the butchering of large animals (and the pounding of plants) — in this case, hippos. And that makes this the oldest known example of hominins eating meat (probably raw since it’s from before the oldest accepted evidence of fire), changing the way experts view carnivory among hominins. That’s all pretty impressive, but here’s the kicker: The only hominin remains found at the site were two molars from the genus, Paranthropus. These remains are the oldest remains of our early cousins ever found. And finding them in the same place as these tools suggests that they used them — until now, it was thought that only our direct ancestors (Homo) used Oldowan tools. In fact, this technology was once considered a marker for the beginning of human modernity. So yeah, not a bad haul by those archaeologists!
Rare Ancient Paycheck Of A Roman Legionary Soldier Found At Masada — A rare papyrus was discovered in Masada, Israel. It’s the paycheck of a Roman legionary soldier dated to 72 CE, during the period of the Great Revolt. It’s worth noting that this is a different Great Revolt from the one I covered in the last issue — this one was a revolt of the Jews against the Romans. Anywho, this is one of three paychecks ever discovered in the Roman Empire, and it includes some interesting info. It details the soldier’s salary over two pay periods (there would have been three periods per year), and includes deductions for boots, a linen tunic, and barley fodder for his horse. Basic equipment would have been covered by the Empire, but apparently, these items weren’t quite basic enough (who needs boots or a shirt, am I right?). The deductions almost exceeded the soldier’s salary, which begs the question, “Why enlist?” From a monetary perspective, apparently looting and various other side-hustles often made it worth their while.
Archaeologists in Northern Mexico Shed New Light on Ancient Huastec Burial and Construction Practices — A series of circular mounds has been discovered at the site of El Naranjo in Mexico. Two of the mounds have been excavated, revealing a dozen burials from between 600 and 900 CE. The burials were in keeping with the Huastec cultural tradition. One of the mounds is 20 meters in diameter, and was built with limestone and basalt masonry which must have been transported a long distance. It contains the remains of three adult individuals with obsidian blades, green quartz earrings, and shell ornaments in the shape of flowers. Also found in the mounds were hearths, ceramics, grinding stones, and projectile points, all of which indicate that the mounds were used not only for burials, but for daily activities as well. The discovery sheds light on Huastec burial and construction practices.
Book of Revelation Has Terminology Similar to Ancient Curse Tablets — A research project has been investigating the overlap between the tradition of curse tablets and the Bible’s Book of Revelation. They’ve found that the wording used in curse tablets is very similar to those of Revelation. According to Michael Hölscher, “It is possible that those who read or listened to the words of the Apocalypse of John could readily have seen whole passages, single phrases, or concepts in the light of curse spells.” Curse tablets have come up a lot in the past few months, with new examples being found. And then there’s this post. 😂
500-Year-Old Horn Container Discovered in South Africa Sheds Light on Pre-Colonial Khoisan Medicines — A couple of years ago, a 500-year-old cow horn with a leather lid was discovered in Misgund, South Africa, carefully wrapped in grass and leaves. Inside the horn was the residue of an unknown liquid. Well, according to recent chemical analysis, the horn was a medicine container — the earliest known object of its kind in southern Africa. The scientists identified several secondary plant metabolites, including mono-methyl inositol and lupeol, both of which are known to have medicinal properties, including control of blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and the treatment of fevers, inflammation, and infections. The area where it was found would have been occupied by both San hunter-gatherers and Khoi pastoralists. Interestingly, both believed in a mythical animal like a cow that had medicinal horns.
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