The ‘Screaming Mummy’ Was a Murderer Who Killed Himself

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The ‘Screaming Mummy’ Was a Murderer Who Killed Himself

The ‘Screaming Mummy’ Was a Murderer Who Killed Himself

The “screaming mummy,” likely that of Prince Pentawere, a man who tried (likely successfully) to kill his own father pharaoh Ramesses III, is now on public display at the Egyptian Museum.

Credit: Egyptian Antiquities Ministry 

He’s back. Prince Pentawere, a man who tried (probably successfully) to murder his own father, Pharaoh Ramesses III, and later took his own life after he was put on trial, is now on public display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Pentawere’s mummy, popularly known as the “screaming mummy,” was not properly mummified. No embalming fluid was used, and his body was allowed to naturally mummify, with his mouth agape and his facial muscles strained in order to make it appear as if the mummy were screaming. Whether he died screaming or whether he was made to look like that after death is unclear. Those burying him then wrapped his body in sheepskin, a material the ancient Egyptians considered to be ritually impure. Eventually, someone placed Pentawere’s mummy in a cache of other mummies in a tomb at Deir el-Bahari.

The prince can take solace in the fact that his assassination attempt appears to have been successful. In 2012, a team of scientists studying the mummy of Ramesses III (reign 1184-1155 B.C.) found that Ramesses III died after his throat was slashed, likely in the assassination attempt that Pentawere helped to orchestrate. The scientists also performed genetic analysis, which confirmed that the “screaming mummy” was a son of Ramesses III. And, based on the mummy’s unusual burial treatment, the researchers confirmed that it is likely Pentawere’s mummy. [In Photos: The Mummy of King Ramesses III]

The Judicial Papyrus of Turin, as modern-day scholars call it, is a manuscript that documents the trials that occurred after Pentawere’s apparently successful attempt at killing his father in 1155 B.C.

A group of butlers who remained loyal to Ramesses III — and his successor, Ramesses IV — oversaw the trial of a vast number of people who had allegedly aided Pentawere, condemning them to death or mutilation. These conspirators included military and civil officials, women in the royal harem (where the murder of Ramesses III may have happened), and a number of men who were in charge of the royal harem.

Prince Pentawere was allegedly assisted by his mother, a woman named Tiye (no relation to King Tutankhamun), who was one of Ramesses III’s wives. The judicial papyrus says that Prince Pentawere “was brought in because he had been in collusion with Tiye, his mother, when she had plotted the matters with the women of the harem” (translation by A. de Buck). Pentawere “was placed before the butlers in order to be examined; they found him guilty; they left him where he was; he took his own life,” the papyrus says.

How exactly Pentawere killed himself is a matter of debate among scholars, with poisoning and hanging (or a combination of the two) generally regarded as being the most likely methods.

While the dead Pharaoh Ramesses III was initially buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, his mummy was moved after the robbery of his tomb. Interestingly, his mummy was dumped in the same mummy cache at Deir el-Bahari as Pentawere’s. The mummies of the murdered father and his killer son rested together until the family of a man named Abd el-Rassul found the cache in the 19th century.

The screaming mummy is only being displayed temporarily. The display of the mummy has received widespread media attention and it is not clear how long it will be displayed for.

Originally published on Live Science.


This Ancient Society Buried Disabled Children Like Kings

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This Ancient Society Buried Disabled Children Like Kings

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This Ancient Society Buried Disabled Children Like Kings

About 34,000 years ago, people buried these two young boys head to head.

Credit: Illustration by K. Gavrilov; Antiquity 2018

About 34,000 years ago, a group of hunters and gatherers buried their dead — including two boys with physical conditions — using the utmost care. However, these dead were buried in fairly different ways, a new study finds.

The roughly 10- and 12-year-old boys were buried head to head in a long, slender grave filled with riches, including more than 10,000 mammoth ivory beads, more than 20 armbands, about 300 pierced fox teeth, 16 ivory mammoth spears, carved artwork, deer antlers and two human fibulas (calf bones) laid across the boys’ chests, the researchers said.

In contrast, the remains of a roughly 40-year-old man, an individual who would have had more time and physical ability to contribute to the group, had far fewer treasures: about 3,000 mammoth ivory beads, 12 pierced fox canines, 25 mammoth ivory arm bands and a stone pendant. [See Images of the Ancient Man and Boys’ Burials]

“From the point of view of the mortuary behavior, the burial of the adult is, in fact, very different from the burial of the children,” study co-lead researcher Erik Trinkaus, a professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, told Live Science.

The bodies at Sunghir, including this one of a roughly 40-year-old man, were covered with red ochre.
The bodies at Sunghir, including this one of a roughly 40-year-old man, were covered with red ochre.

Credit: Illustration by K. Favrilov; Antiquity 2018

Researchers have known about the Sunghir burials for about half a century. The burials, which date to the Mid Upper Paleolithic, are located on the northeast outskirts of Vladimir, Russia, and were excavated from 1957 to 1977.

When these hunters and gatherers lived, about 34,000 years ago, the region was going through aslightly warmer period than the ice ages before and after it, the researchers noted. The warmer weather explains, in part, how these ancient people were able to dig graves in what would have otherwise been frozen ground, the researchers added.

In total, there are 10 men and women buried at Sunghir, but the two boys have, by far, the most spectacular riches of the lot, the researchers said. The boys also have physical conditions that likely limited the individuals during their short lives.

Both boys experienced repeated periods of extreme stress, according to an analysis of their dental enamel, the study said. What’s more, the 10-year-old boy’s thighbones are “exceptionally bowed and short,” Trinkaus and co-lead researcher Alexandra Buzhilova, an anthropologist at Lomonosov Moscow State University, in Russia, wrote in the study. But otherwise, the young boy was physically active, an analysis of his skeleton showed.

Meanwhile, the 12-year-old boy’s teeth had almost no wear, “which, to us, doesn’t sound like much, but people from this time wore their teeth down quickly,” Trinkaus said. Analyses of his skeleton indicate that the boy was bedridden, Trinkaus added.

It’s possible the group was feeding the 12-year-old boy soft foods, such as porridge, but “it is really bizarre to have an individual who looks like he was bedridden in a group of hunters and gatherers who were extremely mobile,” Trinkaus said.

These two boys aren’t the only people with disabilities known to have received burials during this time period. “Indeed, in the Mid Upper Paleolithic, individuals with marked developmental or degenerative abnormalities are relatively common in the burial record, accounting for a third of the sufficiently well-preserved individuals,” the researchers wrote in the study.

However, it was slightly less common for youngsters to receive such a burial during this period, the researchers said. [10 Things That Make Humans Special]

What really caught the researchers’ attention was the diversity of the burial artifacts. Some people had only a few fox canines and mammoth ivory beads, while other individuals didn’t have anything. This indicates social complexity, because it shows that people were treated differently in death, and probably in life, too, Trinkaus said.

The finding shows that you didn’t have to be a “big, adult male hunter” to get an extravagant burial during the Mid Upper Paleolithic, said Lawrence Straus, a distinguished professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of New Mexico, who wasn’t involved with the study.

“In this case, adolescents — people with disabilities or pathologies that would have limited their full functioning — are getting some amazing treatment,” Straus told Live Science.

The study was published online today (Feb. 13) in the journal Antiquity.

Original article on Live Science.

Oldest Fossil of ‘Missing Link’ Dinosaur Discovered in Germany

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Oldest Fossil of ‘Missing Link’ Dinosaur Discovered in Germany

Oldest Fossil of 'Missing Link' Dinosaur Discovered in Germany

This may be the oldest known specimen of Archaeopteryx.

Credit: Oliver Rauhut et al., PeerJ,

Germany’s Bavaria region is known today for its green hills and valleys, studded with whimsical castles and breweries. During the Jurassic period, most of this landscape was under a shallow sea, located much closer to the equator, with coral reefs and a chain of subtropical islands populated by dinosaurs.

Scientists in Bavaria have identified a new fossil from this long-gone era: what may be the oldest known specimen of Archaeopteryxonce thought to be the feathery link between dinosaurs and modern birds.

The discovery of the 150-million-year-old fossil highlights the diversity of known Archaeopteryx specimens, which may have belonged to several species, like “a Jurassic analog of Darwin’s finches,” said study leader and paleontologist Oliver Rauhut, of the Bavarian State Collections for Paleontology and Geology in Munich. [Images: Dinosaurs That Learned to Fly]

The sites in southern Germany where Archaeopteryx fossils have been found were once islands in a chain known as the Jurassic Solnhofen archipelago.

The digits of the right foot of the Bavaria <i>Archaeopteryx</i> specimen can be seen here.
The digits of the right foot of the Bavaria Archaeopteryx specimen can be seen here.

Credit: Oliver Rauhut et al., PeerJ,

When the first Archaeopteryx fossils were discovered in the 19th century, paleontologists recognized the finds’ mix of avian and reptilian features — such as feathers and a full set of teeth — and declared these raven-size creatures the earliest known birds. That title was undermined after fossils discovered more recently in Asia suggested that Archaeopteryx was just one of many bird-like dinosaurs to roam the planet.

In 2010, a private collector found an Archaeopteryx specimen at Gerstner Quarry, where tourists can dig for fossils, just outside of the Bavarian village of Schamhaupten, north of Munich. The collector alerted Rauhut, who then analyzed the fossil.

Scientists sometimes use fossils of extinct mollusks called ammonites as guides to gauge which geologic period a nearby specimen comes from. Based on the ammonites found near the Schamhaupten Archaeopteryx,the researchers think this specimen dates to the boundary between the Kimmeridgian age and the Tithonian age, around 152 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, the scientists said. That might make it the oldest of the 12 fossils that have been classified as Archaeopteryx.

Based on fossils of extinct mollusks called ammonites (shown here) found in the same slab that held the <i>Archaeopteryx</i> fossil, scientists dated the dinosaur to about 152 million years ago.

Based on fossils of extinct mollusks called ammonites (shown here) found in the same slab that held the Archaeopteryx fossil, scientists dated the dinosaur to about 152 million years ago.

Credit: Oliver Rauhut et al., PeerJ,

“Specimens of Archaeopteryx are now known from three distinct rock units, which together cover a period of approximately 1 million years,” Rauhut, who is also a professor at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, said in a statement. Rauhut added that the specimens also show a great deal of diversity in their physical characteristics, which suggests that the fossils could represent more than one species.

“The high degree of variation in the teeth is particularly striking,” Rauhut said in the statement, and the arrangement of teeth is different in every specimen, “which could reflect differences in diet.” He said the situation was “very reminiscent” of the finches Charles Darwin studied on the Galapagos Islands, which showed diversity in their beak shapes and famously helped inspire his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Rauhut added that Archaeopteryx could have diversified into several species on the islands of the Solnhofener archipelago.

The findings were described online Jan. 26 in the journal PeerJ.

Original article on Live Science.

Tableware from the Toilet: Colonial Pottery from Philly Privy on Display

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Tableware from the Toilet: Colonial Pottery from Philly Privy on Display

 Tableware from the Toilet: Colonial Pottery from Philly Privy on Display

The colonial dishes are decorated with striking abstract patterns made using what is called “slip trailing.”

Credit: Robert Hunter

Archaeologists may be among the few people who would be happy to find themselves at the bottom of an old toilet.

So imagine the excitement of the researchers who got to dig at the site of the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia before the museum’s construction got underway: Those archaeologists found the brick-lined pits of 12 privies, essentially outhouses where people also threw their trash before the era of municipal garbage collection began.

Rare pieces of pottery from the 18th century that were recovered in one of those toilets went on public display for the first time this week (Jan. 18) at the New York Ceramics and Glass Fair. [Toilet Treasures: See Amazing Artifacts Preserved in Philadelphia Privies]

The dishes are decorated with striking abstract patterns made using a technique known as “slip trailing,” in which liquid clay is poured onto the surface of a pot.

A restored 18th-century plate found in an old outhouse.

A restored 18th-century plate found in an old outhouse.

Credit: Robert Hunter

“We’ve seen hints of this type of slipware before but nothing that has this degree of intactness and comprehensiveness as far as the patterns exhibited here,” Robert Hunter, an archaeologist and editor of the journal Ceramics in America, said in a statement. “Nothing else has been this complete. By virtue of that intactness, we have been able to make great bounds in what we can learn from them, about who made them and how they were used.”

Hunter and the researchers who organized the display — called “Buried Treasure: New Discoveries in Philadelphia Slipware from the Collection of the Museum of the American Revolution” — said these dishes were likely made by one of the French or German potters operating in Philadelphia. The pottery was primarily used for decoration, though it may have occasionally been used for serving, the archaeologists said.

The privy shaft where these pots were found had been used by at least one of the old taverns that was located on the site at the corner of South Third and Chestnut Streets, just down the block from Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written and adopted.

Here, another example of the gorgeous pottery found in 18th-century privies in Philadelphia.
Here, another example of the gorgeous pottery found in 18th-century privies in Philadelphia.

Credit: Robert Hunter

Human excrement was apparently a good preservative for artifacts. The dishes were among nearly 85,000 artifacts that archaeologists from Commonwealth Heritage Group dug up at the site of the museum, from 2014 to 2016.

“The materials recovered on these sites require years of research to fully appreciate, and so these treasures from the museum site will continue to provide new insight into Revolutionary America,” R. Scott Stephenson, the museum’s vice president of collections, exhibitions and programming, said in the statement.

The exhibit runs through Sunday, Jan. 21. After its display in New York, the pottery will return to the collection of the Museum of the American Revolution.

Original article on Live Science.

Little ‘Rainbow’ Dinosaur Discovered by Farmer in China

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Little ‘Rainbow’ Dinosaur Discovered by Farmer in China

 Little 'Rainbow' Dinosaur Discovered by Farmer in China
C. juji prepares to snatch its prey.

Credit: Zhao Chuang

Despite its fearsome, Velociraptor-like skull, a 161-million-year-old dinosaur the size of a duck would have been a shining, shimmering and splendid sight to behold — mostly because it sported gleaming, iridescent feathers that were rainbow-colored, a new study finds.

Iridescent feathers glistened on the dinosaur’s head, wings and tail, according to an analysis of the shape and structure of the creature’s melanosomes, the parts of cells that contain pigment.

“The preservation of this dinosaur is incredible — we were really excited when we realized the level of detail we were able to see on the feathers,” study co-researcher Chad Eliason, a postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum in Chicago, said in a statement. [See images and illustrations of the iridescent dinosaur]

A farmer in northeastern China’s Hebei Province discovered the fossil, and the Paleontological Museum of Liaoning in China acquired the find in 2014. After discovering its iridescence and noting the unique bony crest on top of the dinosaur’s head, researchers gave it a colorful name — Caihong juji— which is Mandarin for “rainbow with the big crest.”

The scientists discovered the dinosaur’s iridescence and colorful nature by examining its feathers using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Incredibly, the SEM analysis showed imprints of melanosomes in the fossil. The organic pigment once contained in the melanosomes is long gone, but the structure of the cell parts revealed the feathers’ original colors, the researchers said. That’s because differently shaped melanosomes reflect light in different ways.

Photos and drawings of the incredibly detailed <em>C. juji</em> fossil.

Photos and drawings of the incredibly detailed C. juji fossil.

Credit: Yu et al., 2018

Hummingbirds have bright, iridescent feathers, but if you took a hummingbird feather and smashed it into tiny pieces, you’d only see black dust,” Eliason said. “The pigment in the feathers is black, but the shapes of the melanosomes that produce that pigment are what make the colors in hummingbird feathers that we see.”

The pancake-shaped melanosomes in C. juji matched those in hummingbirds, indicating that the Jurassic-age dinosaur had iridescent feathers, the researchers said.

C. juji isn’t the first dinosaur on record to have iridescent feathers;Microraptor, a four-winged dinosaur also sported gleaming feathers, Live Science previously reported. But that dinosaur lived about 40 million years after C. juji, so the newly identified dinosaur is by far the oldest dinosaur on record to flaunt iridescent plumage, the researchers said.

C. juji is also the oldest animal on record to have asymmetrical feathers, which help modern birds steer while flying. However, unlike modern birds, whose asymmetrical feathers are on their wing tips, C. juji sported these lopsided feathers on its tail. That, combined with the fact that C. juji likely couldn’t fly, led the researchers to conclude the dinosaur likely used its feathers to attract mates and keep warm.

This “bizarre” feature has never been seen before in either dinosaurs or birds, which evolved from dinosaurs, said study co-researcher Xing Xu, a researcher at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This suggests that tail feathers may have played a role in early, controlled flight, Xu said.

But not all of C. juji’s features are out of the blue. Some of its traits, such as its bony head crest, resemble those on other dinosaurs, researchers said.

“This combination of traits is rather unusual,” study co-researcher Julia Clarke, a professor of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Texas at Austin, said in the statement. “It has a Velociraptor-type skull on the body of this very avian, fully feathered, fluffy kind of form.” [Tiny Dino: Reconstructing Microraptor’s Black Feathers]

This mixture of old and new traits is an example of mosaic evolution, when some parts of an animal evolve, but others stay the same, the researchers said.

The study was published online today (Jan. 15) in the journal Nature Communications.

Original article on Live Science.

Photos: Book Fragments from Blackbeard’s Ship

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Photos: Book Fragments from Blackbeard’s Ship

Blackbeard cannon chamber

Credit: Courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

5 Major Archaeology Discoveries to Look for in 2018

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5 Major Archaeology Discoveries to Look for in 2018

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5 Major Archaeology Discoveries to Look for in 2018

The Dead Sea Scrolls on display at Qumran in 2010.

Credit: Shutterstock

The burial of a warrior who lived and (literally) died by the sword, a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings and a cave that may have held Dead Sea Scrolls — these are just some of the big archaeology and history stories that we think we may hear about in 2018. Look back at the predictions for2017 and 2016 to see our track record.

The tomb of a warrior who was killed by the slice of a sword has already been discovered in Greece. At least four other people were buried with the warrior. The five people were buried with gold and silver rings, ivory-handled swords, a gold-decorated dagger and many other artifacts.

Yet the public never heard a word about this fantastic discovery because the area where the tomb is located has been hit hard by looters. Archaeologists do not want to disclose information about the tomb until excavations are finished and the site can be better secured.

In 2018, the security situation may improve enough for this discovery to be discussed in more detail. Until then, no pictures have been released, and Live Science decided not to publish the site’s location or more information. [The 25 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]

In 2017, a new Dead Sea Scrolls cave was found near the site of Qumran. The cave had been plundered in the 1950s or 1960s, but archaeologists found a blank scroll when they excavated it recently. This is the 12th cave found near Qumran that once held Dead Sea Scrolls. The other 11 caves were discovered in the 1940s and 1950s. [In Photos: New Dead Sea Scrolls Revealed]

The discovery of the 12th cave made headlines around the world, but that find is unlikely to be the end of the story. The team that found the 12th cave is surveying several other caves that could potentially hold additional Dead Sea Scrolls, Live Science has learned. This survey is being carried out as part of a larger project by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The IAA is racing to identify and excavate any caves in the Judaean Desert that may contain archaeological remains, because several looters operating in the Judaean Desert have been caught by authorities over the past few years. Some of the looters were found carrying the remains of possible scrolls.

Given that the survey is ongoing and that several potential Dead Sea Scrolls caves have already been identified, it wouldn’t be surprising to see in 2018 that a 13th Dead Sea Scroll has been discovered near Qumran.

2017 brought news of some fantastic prehistoric-site discoveries in Saudi Arabia. In August, Live Science reported that 46 prehistoric sites, some possibly more than 1 million years old, had been discovered in Saudi Arabia. The findings were made by researchers with the Palaeodeserts Project, which aims to better understand Saudi Arabia’s human and environmental past.

In October, another archaeological team reported that they had found 400 mysterious rectangular structures that archaeologists call “gates” (named for their resemblance to field gates) in Saudi Arabia, and within a few days, the team was invited to take low-flying aerial photographs and conduct on-the-ground research. Nearly 6,000 aerial photographs and a large amount of data are currently being analyzed. [Photos: Aerial Views of Ancient Stone Structures in Saudi Arabia]

In November 2017, the country held the “1st Saudi Archaeology Convention,” in which research from across the kingdom was presented. In 2018, we can expect to hear of new prehistoric-site discoveries, as well as finds from more recent time periods, in Saudi Arabia.

Four I-type gates, as archaeologists call them, can be seen in this photo.
Four I-type gates, as archaeologists call them, can be seen in this photo.

Credit: 1- APAAME, APAAME_20171027_DLK-0298


Much research has been going on in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings in recent years, and 2018 may see new discoveries in the valley.

In July, Live Science reported that archaeologists had identified an area near the tomb of the pharaoh Ay (1327-1323 B.C.) that has four foundation deposits and a radar reading that could indicate the presence of a tomb. Another group of archaeologists has carried out surveys of the western part of the Valley of the Kings in recent years. A third team, this one from the University of Basel, in Switzerland, is currently analyzing and publishing the finds from KV 40, a tomb in the Valley of the Kings where dozens of mummies were discovered in 2014.

Additionally, Live Science has received unconfirmed reports of fieldwork going on right now in the Valley of the Kings that may lead to the discovery of a new tomb. Given all of this activity, it’s quite possible that 2018 will bring stunning new discoveries, possibly including that of a new tomb, in the Valley of the Kings.

In 2018, scientists will be working on many technologies and solutions to address the worldwide problem of looting. They include robots that can go into dangerous looter tunnels and assess damage that looters have done, dogs that sniff out artifacts that are being smuggled into the U.S., and software that can identify stolen artwork that thieves are trying to sell.

Countries that are dealing with wars and economic and political strife are hit the hardest by looting. Looters have gunned down antiquities guards, and children have been killed while working (typically for little money) in narrow tunnels.

Originally published on Live Science.