The Bones of an Early Jamestown Settler May Soon Be Identified

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The 400-year-old skeleton of one of Jamestown’s earliest settlers was unearthed during an archaeological dig at the former colony site, and scientists think they know who it is, The Washington Post reports. The bones may belong to Sir George Yeardley, an early governor of colonial Virginia.

The remains were found at the site of the Jamestown 1617 church, which archaeologist Mary Anna Richardson described as “one of the most complicated sites that we have ever worked on here at Jamestown,” according to footage from the Smithsonian Channel, which will air a documentary on the results of the dig in 2019. The archaeological site features three churches compressed into one small area.

Researchers from Preservation Virginia, a nonprofit preservation group, have been exploring the historic clues left behind at Jamestown since 1994. In recent years, the group partnered with the Smithsonian Institution to turn its attention to the tiny churches that once dotted America's first permanent European settlement. Many high-profile figures from that time period were interred in the cemeteries attached to these places of worship.

The newly discovered remains belong to a man about 40 years old, according to a preliminary forensic analysis, which is consistent with biographical information about Yeardley. As the head of the first representative legislative assembly in colonial North America, Yeardley played an important role in the formation of early colonial government. Virginia’s assembly was the model for democracy in the U.S., according to American Evolution, a partner of Jamestown Rediscovery. 

Beyond the church find, the Jamestown exploration has yielded some interesting finds over the years. In 2016, archaeologists who studied the bones of a 15-year-old boy at Jamestown determined that he had been struck and killed by an arrowhead in 1607, just a couple of weeks after the settlers arrived. By examining a root canal, scientists were also able to tell that he probably ate a bland diet of mostly grains like oats, wheat, and barley. The New World was no picnic.

[h/t The Washington Post]

People Have Been Dining on Caviar Since the Stone Age

iStock.com/Lisovskaya
iStock.com/Lisovskaya

Millennia before caviar became a staple hors d'oeuvre at posh parties, it was eaten from clay pots by Stone Age humans. That's the takeaway of a new study published in the journal PLOS One. As Smithsonian reports, traces of cooked fish roe recovered from an archeological site in Germany show just how far back the history of the dish goes.

For the study, researchers from Germany conducted a protein analysis of charred food remains caked to the shards of an Stone Age clay cooking vessel. After isolating roughly 300 proteins and comparing them to that of boiled fresh fish roe and tissue, they were able to the identify the food scraps as carp roe, or eggs. The scientists write that the 4000 BCE-era hunter-gatherers likely cooked the fish roe in a pot of water or fish broth heated by embers, and covered the pot with leaves to contain the heat or add additional flavor.

The clay shards were recovered from Friesack 4 in Brandenburg, Germany, a Stone Age archaeological site that has revealed about 150,000 artifacts, including items crafted from antlers, wood, and bone, since it was discovered in the 1930s. In the same study, the researchers report that they also found remnants of bone-in pork on a vessel recovered from the same site.

Other archaeological digs have shown that some of the foods we think of as modern delicacies have been around for thousands of years, including cheese, salad dressing, and bone broth. The same goes for beverages: Recently a 13,000-year-old brewery was uncovered in the Middle East.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Dozens of Cat Mummies, Plus 100 Cat Statues, Discovered in 4500-Year-Old Egyptian Tomb

iStock.com/Murat İnan
iStock.com/Murat İnan

The mummification of cats was a common practice in ancient Egypt, but it’s always a pleasant surprise when the felines are found thousands of years later. As NPR reports, dozens of mummified cats and 100 wooden cat statues were recently discovered in a 4500-year-old tomb near Cairo.

These items were uncovered by Egyptian archaeologists while excavating a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, whose necropolis served the ancient city of Memphis. Another nearby tomb remains sealed, and it’s possible that it may have evaded looters and remained untouched for millennia.

In addition to the wooden statues, one bronze cat statue was found. It was dedicated to Bastet, goddess of cats, who was said to be the daughter of Re, god of the Sun. While cats were revered by ancient Egyptians, they weren’t directly worshipped. Rather, gods like Bastet were often depicted with the physical characteristics of an animal that was considered divine.

Even rarer than the mummified cats were a couple collections of mummified scarab beetles that were found in the tomb—the first of their kind to be unearthed in this particular necropolis, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced in a Facebook post. The scarabs were still in “very good condition” because they had been wrapped in linen and placed inside two limestone sarcophagi, whose lids had black scarabs painted on top.

"The (mummified) scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare," Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Reuters and other media. "A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs. I never heard about them before."

The beetles were an important religious symbol in ancient Egypt, representing renewal and rebirth. The Ministry of Antiquities said archaeologists also found wooden statues of a lion, a cow, and a falcon, as well as painted wooden sarcophagi of cobras (with mummies inside) and wooden sarcophagi of crocodiles.

[h/t NPR]

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