Ancient Burials? Whatever These Are, They’re Amazing #archeology #Laos #travel

The world is a much bigger place than I know. How can I have missed these fascinating remains of an ancient society in Laos? Probably because the sites are so remote, not to mention still peppered with unexploded Vietnam War bombs, that you’re not likely to find a trip arranged for tourists.

Ancient giant stone jars in Laos

Not all the jars are this big, but I can’t resist sharing this image

Carved stone jars around 2,500 years old… [perhaps] used by an Iron Age civilization to expose their dead relatives to the elements for a period of time before the bones were cleaned and buried.

Remains of elaborate human burials have been found at some of the jar sites… archaeologists aren’t sure if the jars were made for the purpose of the burials or if the burials were performed later.

Some of these stone jars are truly enormous, and since no written records have been found, local people speculate. Perhaps a race of giants used them to brew rice alcohol, or maybe they were used to store water. Some studies connect the giant jars’ locations with ancient trade routes.

Perhaps ancient burial practices are reflected in modern traditions.

In contemporary funerary practices followed by Thai, Cambodian and Laotian royalty, the corpse of the deceased is placed into an urn during the early stages of the funeral rites, at which time the soul of deceased is believed to be undergoing gradual transformation from the earthly to the spiritual world. The ritual decomposition is later followed by cremation and secondary burial. wikipedia

Archaeologists from Laos and Australia continue to discover and study more of these jar-sites.

Fascinating Glimpse of Ancestors’ Lives Exposed in Ancient Writing #poem #poetry #history #archeology #ancient

Cuneiform tablet

Early writing tablet recording the allocation of beer in southern Iraq, 3100–3000 BC

What do you share with ancients,
With people lost in time?
Messages in cuneiform
Reveal that
our worries rhyme.

Advice to sooth a baby,
Betray a brother’s fear,
your meal’s delivery,
Including all your beer.

Maps to aid your travels,
Proof your taxes
have been paid,
Seals that are signatures
That eons couldn’t fade.

Will future anthropologists
Revere your grocery list?
Concern themselves with UPS
From kin they can’t dismiss?

The world was once so different
At civilization’s s dawn,
But we are human,
as they were,
And our heirs
will carry on.

Kate Rauner

Thousands of cuneiform writings remain to be translated so we can understand the Mesopotamians who gave us the wheel, astronomy, the 60-minute hour, maps, economics and politics, and the story of the flood and  ark.

The records give us a picture of day-to-day life in ancient Mesopotamia, of power structures and trading networks, but also of other aspects of its social history, such as the role of female workers.

Thanks to advanced imaging techniques, anyone with an internet connection can now access treasures.

New imaging techniques are making the job of working with such ancient, often damaged texts easier… machines will eventually be able to translate more complex Sumerian tablets, and other languages like Akkadian.

Archeology Takes Courage, Obsession Helps, in this fascinating tale of an ancient lost city #archeology #science #adventure #discovery #history

Lost City of the Monkey God book coverI usually post short science news pieces, but it’s a shame to miss the story behind science. The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story offers a fascinating tale of discovery.

Since the first Europeans set foot in the Americas, they chased rumors of “lost” cities of gold. The first third of his book, Douglas Preston recounts the adventures of an amazing group of, generally, con-artists claiming to have found the Monkey God City in an inaccessible jungle – and would rich donors just give them more money to prove it. These characters make for fun reading.

But there are real ruins in Honduras, and the Monkey God City legend is a conglomeration of real places. Space age technology and changing politics in Honduras enabled a scientific team to take up the search. Deadly snakes, deadly insects, drug cartels, dense jungle, and sucking mud all provide a thrilling backdrop to the expedition.

Scientists must be brave sometimes, and it helps to hire ex-military survival experts.

Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.

Read about the history of the Americas. Read about their discovery – as exciting as any tale spun by one of those early con-artists.

By the middle of the book I thought the story was done, but there’s more coming. Preston recounts what is known today of the first contacts between Americans and Europeans. I have read before that European diseases spread ahead of the Spanish, but had no grasp of the magnitude of the disaster. Current studies indicate that about 90% of the Native Americans were killed, most before they ever saw a European.

Those deaths tie into the aftermath of Preston’s Honduran trip. An horrid disease spread by sand flies infected many of his group.

This disease is worthy of a scifi horror movie – it can eat your face away, right into the bones. They required care by federal government infectious disease experts, and even the latest treatments can only put the disease into remission. There’s irony in comparing the modern and historical experiences.

Danger has not stopped the research in Honduras. The team has returned and expanded. Watch the news for more about this ancient Honduran civilization. And in the meantime, read this book.

What others are saying
With 4.4 stars and over 1400 reviews on Amazon, the book deserves its place as #1 in its Archeology category. Some reviewers didn’t want to read about the history, or modern Honduran politics, or other topics that surround the Lost City itself. Others thought the technologies used to discover the city were covered in too much detail.

If all you want is the archeology, the book may be too long for you. But if you enjoy the gem of a Lost City placed in a magnificent setting, this is for you.

Mortal’s Tale Told in Bones and DNA #poem #poetry #archeology #history

I just read at a poetry slam, having reworked a previous poem quite a bit. Hope I didn’t read too fast! I’m always a bit nervous. Anyway, here it is:

Trojan HeroesTroy, the fabled city
where gods and kings made war,
contains a buried story
less epic
than its famous lore.

Damage to the joints and spine
from working in the fields,
malnutrition and disease,
less noble but more real.

They suffered from a different strain
than found
in modern distribution.
Eight hundred years is
a long time
in microbe evolution.

One sad story’s told in bones,
a memoir in DNA.
Infection struck an unborn child,
stole mom and babe away.

What poems are writ to infants lost?
Who sings of nameless death?
In Trojan ground, a mortal’s tale
of pain and loss
was left.

Kate Rauner

Inspired by archeology.

New Study Revives an Old Mystery #archeology #anthropology #polynesia #easterisland #environment

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Moai of Easter Island

Easter Island is one of the most far-flung Pacific islands to be settled by Polynesians. I’ve thought of the place as a textbook case of overpopulation, a group overrunning this small, sealed habitat and destroying their environment before Europeans arrived.

Those Europeans, who first landed on the island in 1722, estimated that no more than 3,000 people lived on Easter Island, and wondered how such a small population could have erected the 900 moais, or giant sculpted heads, that make the place famous.

Using soil samples and estimates of sweet potato crops (a primary food), a new study suggests over 17,000 people once inhabited the island. The 80% decline seems to reinforce the view that islanders exhausted their soil, destroyed their own forests until they could no longer build fishing boats, and so were doomed.

But other research examined modern and historical samples to discover that islanders harvested fish at about the same rate throughout their history, and that farming practices included enriching the soil.

Prehistoric Easter Islanders had extensive knowledge of how to overcome poor soil fertility, improve environmental conditions, and create a sustainable food supply. These activities demonstrate considerable adaptation and resilience to environmental challenges — a finding that is inconsistent with an ‘ecocide’ narrative.

So what caused the population crash? Perhaps more research will discover the truth.

It was fun to come across these two stories on on the same day: here and here.

Ancient Graveyard Tells an Authentic Human Tale #poem #poetry #archeology #history

Troy, the fabled citybyzantine_agriculture
where gods and kings made war,
contains a buried story,
more recent than
its epic lore.

Malnutrition and disease,
less noble but more real,
damage to the joints and spines
from labor in the fields.

One sad story written down
in bones and DNA –
infection struck an unborn boy,
took mom and child away.

A slightly different strain
than modern distribution.
Eight hundred years
is a long time
in microbe evolution.

What poems are writ to infants lost?
Who sings of nameless death?
Laid in a grave, our human tale
Of pain and love and breath.

By Kate Rauner

Thanks to for this study, from a Byzantine graveyard, in the journal eLife (Jan. 10, 2017). A calcified nodule on a woman’s skeleton contained not only her DNA and that of the microbes that killed her, but the only trace of her male fetus’s existence.

rr-3-coversAll my books, including collections of my science-inspired poetry, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Read one today.

Witness Most Intimate #FourthofJuly #HappyFourthofJuly #American #history #science #archeology #USA

Dancing in a tavern of the 1800s

Dancing in a tavern of the 1800s

It saw the Colonies
Become United States,
Saw hostilities
Building as storm clouds,
Heard the Independence
Declaration read out loud

Captured Chinese porcelain,
Some German tankards, too,
Fragments of a window pane,
And bottles that held brew.

Heard revolution planned
By drunken
Wondered if the wine and beer
Gave the outcome
That they got.

Held punch bowls and glasses,
Smoking pipes and dishes,
And bottles, bottles, bottles
For every drinker’s wishes.

Served men and fallen ladies,
It was the privy pit
Of an illegal tavern,
A Revolution’s toilet.

By Kate Rauner and first posted – you guessed it – on July 4th. I’m posting early because we’re headed to our small-town parade which starts at 10 am. July is the start of the monsoon rains in New Mexico and the afternoon will either be too hot (rains not here yet) or too stormy (but people who live in a desert never complain about rain) for parades.

Thanks to and archaeologists digging on the future site of Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution.