From clay to feast: Ceramic collection and ceramology at El Castillo de Huarmey

El Castillo de Huarmey, situated approximately 850 kilometers from the Wari heartland on Peru’s Pacific northern coast, emerged as the largest and most important provincial center in the region between AD 800 and 1000. The presence of the Wari culture at El Castillo is undeniable, as it is expressed not only in architecture, but also in funerary practices and by high-quality artifacts. Venerating deceased ancestors was of utmost importance to the Wari. El Castillo de Huarmey itself is a testament to this pivotal element of their past culture. This enormous sepulchral archaeological site covers an area of 45 hectares. A maze of chambers and mausoleums, erected across almost the entire summit of a large rocky spur that extends outward towards the valley, acted not only as an elite necropolis but also as a center of reverence for ancestors. The enormous quantity of ceramics discovered within offering rooms and graves reflects the considerable effort devoted to crafting ceramic vessels for food and beverage consumption, thus fostering a sense of community through feasts that involved both the ancestors and the living.

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‘Poles on the Nile: Polish archaeology in Egypt and Sudan

The ‘Poles on the Nile’ is an event with quite a long tradition. The first conference meeting was held in 2007 and since then, scholars conducting archaeological research in Egypt and Sudan have been meeting annually, always in June, at the University of Warsaw. The conference is attended by archaeologists, as well as specialists in other fields, who work with archaeologists, from the major national universities and research institutes based in Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, Wroclaw and Gdansk, and abroad.

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EuroWeb: A new look at textile production in Europe

EuroWeb is a four-year research action integrating multidisciplinary research on European textiles from antiquity to the present day. Led by Professor Agata Ulanowska of the University of Warsaw, EuroWeb has united nearly 250 researchers, creators and designers.  The action changes the view of Europe’s past by considering the role of textile and textile production as a factor in the formation of European culture and identity. One of the results of the team’s activities is the Digital Atlas of European Textile Heritage, which provides data on 7,000 years of European textile heritage.

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Reed in Prehistoric European archery? Remarkable findings by Polish scientists

Research on the potential use of common reed in the production of arrows in European prehistory has attracted considerable interest following the discovery of a particular  type of object dating back to the late Neolithic period (approximately 4500 years ago), found in the northeastern regions of Poland. Such objects, commonly interpreted as reed arrowshaft straighteners, have encouraged researchers to conduct in-depth analysis investigating the potential use of this raw material in prehistoric archery. To verify the properties of reed stems for arrow production and to understand the motives behind the manufacture and use of the reed arrows, a series of mechanical and experimental analyses were conducted. The results of the research undertaken by scholars from the University of Warsaw, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, and the Polish Academy of Sciences Museum of the Earth have recently been published in the „Archaeometry” journal.

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How can we know an ancient prison when we see one?

How can we know an ancient prison when we see one? The question is a bit tricky, because prisons have proven challenging to identify in the archaeological record. One might ask, after all, aren’t they just rooms like any other rooms: four walls, single entry and exit, and a door with a locking device? What makes them different from other spaces? 

While there are certain outliers, the traditional understanding has been that prisons are generic rooms and hard, if not impossible, to distinguish. In fact, an archaeologist of the stature of Luke Lavan has recently claimed: 

“Of prisons we know little. We have no securely identified architectural evidence.” 

(Lavan 2007: 121) 

While this comment is incorrect, it does reflect the state-of-the-field in archaeology when it comes to identifying prisons. At a different level, while a few (and growing) number of prisons have been identified by excavators during the course of the 20th century, many experts would admit that they have no idea what a Roman prison looks like, which reflects the lack of anything like a typology of ancient Roman prisons. 

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Workshop on Bioarchaeology in Mesopotamia

From February 29 to March 2, 2024 an online, free workshop on “Bioarchaeology in Mesopotamia” will showcase state-of-the-art bioarchaeological research in Mesopotamia.

“Bioarchaeology” is a broad umbrella term for research on biological remains recovered from archaeological contexts. Bioarchaeologists provide information on human health, diet, workload, mobility, and more. They reconstruct past ecologies and reveal ancient changes in climate. They illuminate economies and social structures, revealing how foods were produced, homes were furnished, and cities were cleaned (or not). They contribute information vital to understanding why people in the past settled where they did, and why they abandoned settlements.

Workshop on Bioarchaeology in Mesopotamia/ورشة العمل حول البيوأثرولوجيا في بلاد ما بين النهرين

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Toro Muerto – researching pre-Columbian petroglyphs

The archaeological site of Toro Muerto, one of the largest assemblages of rock art in the world, lies in a small desert valley to the west of the Andean foothills. Much of it is decorated with petroglyphs (rock engravings) created by representatives of several local cultures who, over many centuries (probably from the beginning of our era until Inca times), came to this unique site to take part in ceremonies.

Watch the video describing the research at the site

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Seventy-three intact burials with carved masks discovered at Pachacámac

Seventy-three intact burials in burial bundles, some with carved masks, have just been discovered at Pachacámac. The site of the find is an extensive complex of cemeteries from different periods at the foot of the Painted Temple. Nearby, wooden staff with images of dignitaries of the Wari Empire were also discovered.

The burials date from the second half of the Middle Horizon, that is, the time of the Wari Empire. The burial bundles were initially deposited individually and later also in groups. The state of preservation for most of them is spectacular.

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Stinky problem – where did the Maya go to the toilet?

Imagine an ancient Maya city in its heyday. You will probably see its ceremonial core, with lofty pyramids, elevated palaces, extensive plazas, and everything is either painted bright red, or blinding white. You notice courtiers strolling along private patios, and servants rushing in all directions with their daily tasks. Perhaps there you can catch a glimpse of the ruler, sitting on his cushioned throne somewhere in the guts of a complicated maze of corridors in his palace. There is a sound of a gentle breeze blowing through the roofcombs, and a murmur of indistinguishable conversations. Faint smells of food mix with those of flowers… Then you step outside of the core, and everything changes. Perishable architecture intertwines with small houselot gardens, there are people everywhere, and they all seem to be shouting. Dogs are barking, some turkeys block your way, kids play in a muddy puddle, and you feel nauseous because of the ever-present smell of human waste mixed with odors of organic decay…

Hang on, hang on! Is that really a plausible picture?

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Invisible traces of human presence. Stories from Polish caves

Caves have been an object of human fascination since the dawn of time. These mysterious, closed spaces served various functions in the past – from temporary shelters or flint workshops to places of burial or worship. Human history is recorded here in long stratigraphic sequences, with each layer being a part of a long-forgotten story. We try to read these stories and reconstruct the lives of ancient people. Usually, we use for this purpose artefacts: objects left or lost by the former inhabitants of the caves or by people visiting them. Sometimes our reconstruction is not clear – there are too few objects or they are too well hidden. However, every human activity leaves behind something more than artefacts. It leaves behind chemical traces. We just need to learn to read them properly.

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