🧐 Ancient Beat #49: The domestic lives of monument builders, traveling bows and arrows, and um... suggestive Roman artifacts
Hi folks! Welcome to issue #49 of Ancient Beat. This issue is an important one because Ancient Beat is turning one year old!
Yep, a little over a year ago, I decided it was time for me to start writing about this topic that I love so much. So I created a newsletter and, on February 26, 2022, I sent out my first issue. The content has changed a lot since then, as has the name. I called it “Rhythm of the Ancients”, but that felt like a bit much, so I cut it back to “Ancient Beat” before long — “beat” being a nod to a reporter’s beat, as well as my love for drumming in both the ancient and modern worlds. One year and 48 issues later, we’ve grown into a community of nearly 1,800 enthusiasts!
I’m really proud of Ancient Beat. I love the community we’re building. And I’ve learned so, so much in the process of writing it. I’m really grateful to you all for being a part of it. Thank you!
Now that we’ve had a nice little trip down memory lane, let’s go a little further back in time. Here’s the latest ancient news. 👇
🗞 Ancient News: Top 5
Archaeologists Uncover 2,000-Year-Old Stringed Instrument in Vietnam — A stringed instrument made from a deer antler was discovered in southern Vietnam. It is dated to 2,000 years ago during the time of the pre-Óc Eo culture, making it one of the oldest chordophones ever discovered in Southeast Asia. According to Fredeliza Campos, “It fills the gap between the region’s earliest known musical instruments – lithophones or stone percussion plates – and more modern instruments.” The instrument would have been 14 inches long. It has a hole at the top, which is what got the researchers’ attention since it was probably for a tuning peg. It also has a notched bridge to support the string(s). The antler was one of 600 bone artifacts that were found, and three bronze bells were unearthed as well. Here’s Campos again, “The striking similarities between the artifacts we studied and some stringed instruments that are still being played suggest that traditional Vietnamese music has its origins in the prehistoric past.” The researchers believe it would have been played similarly to today’s K’ný. If you’re not familiar with the K’ný, check this out — it really is worth a listen. The musician’s mouth controls the sound and acts as the resonator.
It’s Not a Darning Tool, It’s a Very Naughty Toy: Roman Dildo Found — What might be the first-ever Roman dildo was misclassified as a darning tool when it was discovered in the Roman fort of Vindolanda in England back in 1992. Hm, where to begin… To say that the artifact was re-analyzed is, perhaps, a bit grandiose. A glance at it will tell you that this is no darning tool. Rob Collins can back me up here, “I have to confess, part of me thinks it’s kind of self-evident that it is a penis. I don’t know who entered it into the catalog. Maybe it was somebody uncomfortable with it or didn’t think the Romans would do such silly things.” But we know that they did, based on artwork depicting it. Despite the headlines you’ll see on the topic, it should be noted that the researchers are not sure that it was, in fact, a sex toy. One possibility that the researchers note is that it could have been used as a pestle. And this lines up with the fact that the 6+ inch phallus has ends (plural) that are worn smooth. Another possibility is that it was slotted into a statue where passersby could touch it for good luck, which was actually quite common at the time. So the “dildo” idea is in question and, personally, as much as I love “first-ever” finds, I’d lean toward the penis-pestle idea. I made my wife a (non-penis) wooden pestle and mortar once, and it really is quite similar. Plus, someone’s gotta say it… Is wood really the material you would choose for a sex toy? 😬
Discovery of 4,500-Year-Old Palace in Iraq May Hold Key to Ancient Civilization — A 4,500-year-old palace and temple have been discovered in Tello, Iraq, where the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu once stood. Girsu was a major administrative center. The site, which was originally discovered in the 19th century, was thought to consist of two large mounds, but a 2021 study used remote sensing to find a large complex that has now been excavated. The palace is known as the Lord Palace of the Kings. The temple is called Eninnu, or the White Thunderbird, and it is dedicated to the Sumerian god, Ninĝirsu. It would have been one of the most important temples in Mesopotamia at one time, and while lost until recently, it was known from inscriptions found around the ancient city. Also found during excavations were 200+ cuneiform tablets.
Archaeologists Find Homes of Europe’s First Monument Builders, and They’re Fortified — It’s difficult to say exactly how people lived during the transition to the Neolithic revolution, but a new discovery sheds some light on that. A 6,300-year-old settlement with two palisades and a ditch was discovered at the site of Le Peu near Charmé, France. The archaeologists responsible for the discovery believe they’ve found rare traces of homes that would have belonged to the people responsible for the earliest monumental stone structures in Europe. In total, there were four wooden buildings inside the palisades and two outside. The structures were large, with areas of roughly 100 square meters, indicating that they could have housed extended family, or perhaps they were meeting places. Based on debris in the postholes, it seems that the walls were wattle-and-daub, and the roofs were thatch or bark. The researchers also found traces of a raised platform in one of the buildings, which might have been used as a kitchen or sleeping area. According to the researchers, the dating of the find debunks the idea that Europe’s stone monuments emerged separately from the construction of large enclosures. Interestingly, according to Vincent Ard, “The use of stones is reserved for the world of the dead. We have no evidence of buildings made of stone here other than the Tusson necropolis.”
Homo Sapiens May Have Brought Archery to Europe About 54,000 Years Ago — A new study suggests that Homo sapiens introduced bows and arrows to Europe on their way out of Africa 54,000 years ago. Researchers analyzed small, triangular stone points that were found at the Grotte Mandrin rock shelter in southern France. By comparing them to modern examples and testing their own points, the researchers found that the smallest points (less than a centimeter in width) could not have pierced animals’ hides without being shot from bows. They also found signs of high-impact damage and wear that indicated they were attached to shafts at the bottom of the stones. The researchers suggest that Homo sapiens at that time hunted with bows and arrows as well as spears, the latter being indicated by bigger stones that were also found. For whatever reason, Neanderthals do not seem to have picked up on the use of bows and arrows. This could be because spears worked better in cold environments where strings snapped easily, or it could be because Neanderthals lacked the requisite visual and spatial abilities. Given what we now know of Neanderthals, I tend to believe it’s the former. It’s worth noting that it is thought that bows and arrows originated in Africa between 80,000 and 60,000 years ago.
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