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Two Recent Archaeological Notest

March 9, 2013

There are two interesting archaeological notes in the news. While neither are from the ancient Near East, both are fascinating pieces nonetheless.

1) The AP reports that researchers at Stonehendge now think that the site originally began as a burial ground:

New studies of cremated human remains excavated from the site suggest that about 500 years before the Stonehenge we know today was built, a larger stone circle was erected at the same site as a community graveyard, researchers said Saturday.

2) The BBC reports that a recently excavated may include a mythical “Viking Sunstone”:

An oblong crystal the size of a cigarette packet was next to a pair of dividers – suggesting it was part of the navigational equipment.

It has now been shown that it is of Iceland spar – a form of calcite known for its property of diffracting light into two separate rays.

Testing a similar crystal, the scientists proved that by rotation it was possible to find the point where the two beams converge – indicating the direction of the Sun.

They say it works on cloudy days, and when the Sun has set.

As an extra bonus, I’d like to point out that Icelandic spar plays a prominent role in Thomas Pynchon’s novel Against the Day.

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