2015 was another great year for archaeological and historical research. Amazing discoveries were made all over the world and provided more windows into the lives of our ancestors. Studies that intertwined myths and legends with science created spectacular results, and showed us how the past and present continue to be connected. This year, the Top Ten list of Historical and Archaeological Discoveries is based on the articles that Ancient Origins’ readers chose to view time and again.
Mesoamericans could create liquid mercury by heating mercury ore, known as cinnabar. They used it to decorate jade objects and color the bodies of their royalty. Traces of mercury have been found at three other sites, two Maya and one Olmec, around Central America, but none in such large quantities as that discovered beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.
A shocking discovery was made in February, when researchers studied a Chinese Buddha statue – the mummified remains of a Buddhist monk. The monk is believed to be Chinese master, Liuquan of the Chinese Meditation School, who died around 1100 AD. The finding may reflect an example of self-mummification where monks undertook years of grueling rituals to mummify themselves to death. The practice was also widespread in Japan, starting over 1,000 years ago and continuing until it was banned in the 19th century.
The Basque people have been an enigma to anthropologists for years. With a unique language, traditions, and customs, Basque origins have long been a mystery. Researchers now believe they have finally pinpointed the beginnings of this special group of people – from the results of a study of eight ancient skeletons found in a cave in northern Spain.
The results of DNA analysis suggest that prehistoric Iberian farmers are the closest match to the modern Basques. This new information contradicts the previously held belief that the Basque ancestors we earlier groups of pre-agricultural hunter gatherers. Furthermore, the scientists claim that the ancient ancestors to the Basques arrived in the region, mixed with some other farmers and hunter gatherers…and then were isolated.
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