Why Do Humans Feed So Many Animals?

The group will largely restrict itself to the last 2,000 years, but Dr. Black said some detours are irresistible, like the Tomb of the Eagles, a 5,000-year-old stone-age site in the Orkney Islands known officially as the Ibister Chambered Cairn. The cairn, or tomb, held about 16,000 human bones, and the remains of about 30 white-tailed sea eagles, Dr. Black said. “They were deposited over quite a significant period of time,” he said, “so it was people coming back, putting eagle remains in there.”

He said: “The key question that nobody has really answered at the moment is whether people went out and killed and then deposited them as a sort of an offering. There is a suggestion that they may have been pets.” If that were the case, the eagles would have probably been eating a different diet than wild eagles that were foraging at sea.

Dr. Sykes sees much of the human habit of feeding animals in the light of domestication, which she says happened as much through the process of humans feeding animals as it did through catching and corralling them to eat. That seems clear enough with our close companions, dogs and cats.

It also seems that some animals that we now eat, like chickens and rabbits, may have first come into our lives not as food, but as eaters.

And, she said, “domestication is not this thing that happened way back when, in this kind of neolithic moment where everybody got together and goes, we’re going to domesticate animals. I just don’t buy it. I think it’s something that has not only continued throughout time, but it’s really accelerating.”

Bird feeding is just one example, and that sets off warning bells for her, because domestication and extinction often go together even if the cause and effect isn’t clear.

The aurochs gave way to cattle. There are plenty of domestic cats in Britain, but just a few Scottish wildcats. Wolves are still here but not the wolves that dogs descended from. They are extinct. And modern wolves are just hanging on, while dogs might number a billion. Their future, at least in terms of numbers, is bright. As long as there are people, there will be dogs. No one knows what they will look like, and whether we will have to brush their teeth day and night, and spend a fortune on their haircuts. But they will be here.

The same cannot be said of wolves. And as wild creatures go extinct, we all lose.

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Ukraine’s Burial Mounds Offer Meaning in a Heap of History

DNIPRO, Ukraine — Belching diesel exhaust, a bulldozer cut into a 4,000-year-old burial mound, peeling back the soil to reveal the mysteries hidden inside, including a skeleton.

For archaeologists, this excavation in the flatlands of eastern Ukraine holds the promise of discovery. For a developer, it clears the way for new country homes.

In recent years, government archaeologists, developers and farmers, who sometimes also level burial mounds in their fields to ease plowing, have seemingly been the only parties interested in the fate of Ukraine’s vast constellation of ancient graves. And few have paid much heed to preserving the dirt piles.

Hoping to correct this history of neglect, a Ukrainian nongovernmental group is agitating for the preservation of the burial mounds of Scythians and other ancient warrior cultures, partly on the grounds that they hold particular significance for a country at war today.

Guardians of the Mounds, two years ago. It has been gaining traction as a national movement since.

Russian invasion, as the Russian Army massed tanks and soldiers on Ukraine’s border, a succession of nomadic warrior cultures, including the most famous, the Scythians, built the mounds on the steppe.

displayed by the thousands at museums in Kyiv, the capital, are mere distractions from the message of the mounds, Mr. Klykavka said. And even finding the treasures in a mound does not justify dismantling it, he said.

smoking marijuana. “The Scythians enjoy it so much they howl with pleasure,” the Greek historian Herodotus wrote. They nonetheless rebuffed an invasion of their homeland by Persia, the most powerful empire of the time.

Criticism by the Guardian of the Mounds is misplaced, said Dmytro Teslenko, the chief archaeologist for the city of Dnipro, where he oversees an excavation done with a bulldozer but also shovels and brushes.

Union of Archaeologists of Ukraine. “It happens with the tacit consent or with the active participation of local bodies of cultural heritage protection,” which are eager to excavate for the possibility of finding funerary goods and less concerned about the actual dirt piles.

Members of Guardians of the Mounds, in contrast, have been rebuilding mounds. Mr. Klykavka has piled up soil on six leveled burial mound sites in a remote field north of Kyiv which holds 18 graves.

“I always feel good here,” he said, standing atop one of the mounds.

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Moscow.

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These Neanderthals Weren’t Cannibals, So Who Ate Them? Stone Age Hyenas.

ROME — When a Neanderthal skull was discovered in a cave on the property of a beachfront hotel south of Rome in 1939, it prompted a theory, since debunked, that Neanderthals had engaged in ritual cannibalism, extracting the brains of their victims to eat.

Now, a find at the same site, made public on Saturday, appears to have confirmed the true culprit: Stone Age hyenas.

New excavations at the site in the coastal town of San Felice Circeo have uncovered fossil remains of nine more Neanderthals of varying sex and age along with the bones of long-extinct hyenas, elephants, rhinoceroses and even the Urus, or Aurochs, the now-extinct ancestor of domestic cattle.

Experts say the findings, at the Guattari Cave, will offer fresh insight on the culinary peculiarities of the Neanderthal diet and much more.

Neanderthal skulls ever found. The skull had a large hole in the temple, and its fame may have been fueled by the thesis put forth by Alberto Carlo Blanc, the paleontologist who first studied it, that the Neanderthals had engaged in ritual cannibalism.

In the latest excavations, led by a multidisciplinary team that has been working since October 2019, researchers found hundreds of animal bones with signs they had been gnawed on by hyenas — the Stone Age ancestors to today’s carnivores — who used the cave as a sort of pantry, said Mario Rolfo, who teaches prehistoric archaeology at the University of Rome at Tor Vergata.

It appears that the hyenas also had a taste for Neanderthals, and one skull found at the site had a hole similar to the one found in the 1939 cranium. That find definitively put to rest Blanc’s theory of cannibalism and cult rituals.

“Reality is more banal,” Professor Rolfo said, adding that “hyenas like munching on bones” and probably opened a cavity in the skull to get to the brain.

It is unclear whether the Neanderthals were killed by the hyenas or the hyenas snacked on Neanderthals after they died from other causes.

“What it does mean is that there were many Neanderthals in the area,” Professor Rolfo said.

Neanderthals flourished in Europe for about 260,000 years, until roughly 40,000 years ago, though the dating is subject to much scholarly debate. Their bones have been found at sites across Europe and western Asia, from Spain to Siberia. But “finding so many in one site is very rare,” said Francesco Di Mario, the Culture Ministry archaeologist in charge of the excavation.

The recovery of new fossil remains, along with the 1939 findings, makes the cave “one of the most important Paleolithic sites in Europe and the world,” he said.

Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, called the finds an “extraordinary discovery” that enriches research on Neanderthals.

The site was particularly well preserved because a prehistoric landslide had closed the entrance to the cave. So when workers at the Guattari Hotel stumbled on it eight decades ago, “they found a situation that had been frozen in time, mummified to 50,000 years ago,” Professor Rolfo said.

The cave was studied until the early 1950s, but was not excavated again — and studied more comprehensively — until the last 20 months. That work has involved areas of the cave that were previously unexplored, including one cavity that regularly floods in the winter months.

The team of archaeologists, anthropologists, geologists and paleontologists also worked on the anterior area of the cave, unearthing burned bones, carved stones, and bones with cut marks, indicating that they had been hunted.

“We found rich traces of Neanderthal life there,” Professor Rolfo said.

Angelo Guattari, whose father owned the hotel in 1939 and was among the first to see the earlier Neanderthal skull, said that over time the cave had been mostly forgotten, unfortunately. Now, as the delegate for cultural heritage for the town of San Felice Circeo, he hopes the discoveries will lead the site to be opened to tourists.

The mayor, Giuseppe Schiboni, has applied for European Union funding to develop the town’s archaeological and anthropological pull. The hotel that the Guattari family once owned — since renamed “Neanderthal Hotel” — is up for sale. Mr. Schiboni said that he would love to buy it and install a European center on Neanderthal studies.

Once the site opens, possibly as soon as this year, visitors will be presented with a 10-minute virtual-reality video “and be catapulted into the cave” in its prehistoric guise, to help them better understand their surroundings, said Mr. Di Mario, who is coordinating the on-site research.

Neanderthals, said Mr. Rubini, the anthropologist, “were the uncontested lords of Eurasia for about 250,000 years.”

Whether humans will match that is an open question, he said.

“We don’t know if we will be — we’re still relatively young.”

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$18 Million Refit of Colosseum Will Give Visitors a Gladiator’s View

ROME — It is a view that gladiators would once have experienced as they prepared for mortal combat: staring into the banked crowds of the Colosseum, perhaps under the gaze of the mighty Roman emperor himself.

Nearly 2,000 years later, visitors to the Colosseum will again be able to stand in almost the same place and imagine the spectators’ roar, after the Italian Culture Ministry on Sunday announced the winning project in a competition to build a replacement floor for the landmark in Rome.

The chosen design features a lattice of specially treated wooden slats that can be rotated to allow air to circulate and to expose the beehive of subterranean corridors. It was created by a team led by Milan Ingegneria, an engineering consulting company, and is expected to cost about 15 million euros, or $18 million. The surface is expected to be in use by 2023.

At the moment, most of the underground chambers are exposed to view, with only a small section of floor at one end. That section — about 650 square meters, or 7,000 square feet — was installed in 2000 and was used for the first time that year for a staging of “Oedipus Rex,” by Sophocles.

underground pulleys to raise the beasts to the arena floor. Those and other areas were buried until the late 19th century, when the hypogeum, or underground area, began to be excavated.

Mr. Franceschini noted that the floor of the arena had been intact at that time and referred to one photograph, from about 1870, that showed the hypogeum totally covered.

The new surface will be installed at the level of the original flooring of the monument, which was inaugurated in about 80 A.D. Among the innovations of the chosen project, one of 11 designs considered, rainwater will be collected for the monument’s public bathrooms.

Referring to the winning design, Ms. Russo, the Colosseum director, said, “The structure is light and recalls both in form and function the original plan of the wooden arena at the time it was first in use.” She added that the project had taken into account requirements to protect the monument and to be ecologically sustainable.

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Discovery of Pregnant Egyptian Mummy Is a First, Researchers Say

An Egyptian mummy that for decades was thought to be a male priest was recently discovered to have been a pregnant woman, making it the first known case of its kind, scientists said.

Scientists in Poland made the discovery while conducting a comprehensive study, which started in 2015, of more than 40 mummies at the National Museum in Warsaw, said Wojciech Ejsmond, an archaeologist and a director of the Warsaw Mummy Project, which led the research.

The findings were published last month in The Journal of Archaeological Science. “It was absolutely unexpected,” Dr. Ejsmond said.

“Our anthropologist was double-checking the pelvis area of the mummy to establish the sex of the mummy and check everything, and she observed something weird in the pelvis area, some kind of anomaly,” he said.

Papyrus from around 1825 B.C., revealed that materials such as honey and crocodile dung were used as contraceptives.

Still, very little is known about prenatal care in ancient times, Dr. Ejsmond said.

Dr. Nagel said about 30 percent of infants died within their first year of life during ancient times. After learning of the discovery of the pregnant mummy, he said he was intrigued about what further study could reveal about Egyptian beliefs concerning the afterlife of unborn children.

Further research is needed to learn more about the health of the pregnant mummy. That could require taking microsamples of soft tissue, Dr. Ejsmond said.

“It’s a very small amount of soft tissue, so one will not see any difference on the mummy, but still we’re interrogating into the structure of the object,” he said.

Scientists hope that publishing their findings can attract attention from physicians and experts in other fields to help in the next stage of research.

“This is a good base to start a bigger project about this mummy,” Dr. Ejsmond said, “because this will require a lot of experts to make decent interdisciplinary research.”

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Fleeing a Modern War, Syrians Seek Refuge in Ancient Ruins

So many people have fled to Syria’s crowded northwest that families have settled in important archaeological sites. “We, too, have become ruins.”


AL-KFEIR, Syria — As the sun set, children in dirty clothes and battered shoes herded sheep past the towering stone walls of a Byzantine settlement abandoned more than 1,000 years ago, leading them into an ancient cave nearby where the animals would spend the night.

Laundry hung near the semi-cylindrical wall of a ruined, centuries-old church. Vegetables grew between the remnants of two rectangular doorways ornamented with carved leaf patterns. Scattered about were giant cut stones from what had once been an extensive town.

It was here, at the vast archaeological site of al-Kfeir, Syria, where Abu Ramadan and his family sought shelter more than a year ago after fleeing a Syrian government assault.

They’ve been here ever since.

Abu Ramadan, 38, said he cared little for the site’s history as a trading and agricultural center, but appreciated the sturdy walls that blunted the wind and the abundance of cut stones that a family who had lost everything could salvage to piece together a new life.

World Heritage sites in Syria, including, in 2011, the ruins in the northwest, called the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria.

Crac de Chevaliers, one of the world’s best preserved Crusader castles, was littered with rubble when the government seized it from rebels in 2014.

Palmyra, they held executions in its Roman theater.

The historical sites in Syria’s northwest, near the border with Turkey, received less attention before the war. They were so numerous, and so undeveloped as tourist sites, the area felt like an open-air museum.

Visitors could scamper about the remains of pagan temples and early Christian churches, descend into underground storerooms hewn from rocky hillsides, and admire intricate designs around windows and carved crosses over doorways.

The Syrian government branded them “the Forgotten Cities” to attract visitors.

Built between the first and seventh centuries, they provided “a remarkable testimony to rural life” during the transition from the pagan Roman Empire to the Christian Byzantines, UNESCO said.

damaged the Church of St. Simeon, shattering the remains of the pillars on top of which its hermit namesake is said to have lived for nearly 40 years before his death in 459.

Pressure on the sites increased further last year, when a government offensive pushed nearly a million people into the rebel-controlled northwest. About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people now living in the region have been displaced from elsewhere in Syria.

The rebel-held area is small and crowded, and people are confined, with a wall along the Turkish border to the north to keep them from fleeing and hostile government forces to the south. As the new arrivals scrambled to find shelter in destroyed buildings, olive groves and sprawling tent camps, some settled in the ancient sites.

Families with livestock liked the sites because they had more space than the crowded refugee camps. Many used the sturdy, precut stones to build animal pens or reinforce their tents.

Some sites have underground caves, where families store belongings and hide from airstrikes when they hear fighter jets overhead.

Ayman Nabo, an antiquities official with the local administration in Idlib Province, said shelling and airstrikes had damaged many historical sites while poverty and the chaos of war had encouraged illegal excavations by treasure hunters.

But the greatest threat to the sites’ survival, he said, was people making off with stones or breaking them apart to build new structures.

“If this continues, a whole archaeological site could disappear,” he said.

The local administration lacked the resources to protect the sites, but Mr. Nabo said he hoped they survived, both for future generations and for the people now trapped in what he called “a big prison,” with government forces controlling roads to the Mediterranean coast and the rest of Syria.

“We no longer have a sea,” he said. “We no longer have a river. We no longer have a forest for children to visit.” So people need the sites as “places to breathe.”

For now, they are homes of last resort for battered families.

“Whenever it rains, we get wet,” said Sihan Jassem, 26, whose family had moved three times since fleeing their home and ending up in an improvised tent of blankets and tarps amid the ruins of Deir Amman, a Byzantine village.

“The children play on the ruins and we worry that the rocks will fall on them,” she said.

Her sister, widowed by the war, lived in a nearby tent with five children.

The sun reflected off wet wildflowers, and sheep wandered among the scattered stones, grazing near an ancient wall where a modern romantic had written in spray paint, “Your love is like a medicine.”

But Ms. Jassem found no romance in her surroundings.

“We wish we had stayed in our homes,” she said, “and never seen these ruins.”

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Archaeologists in Egypt Find Ancient City More Than 3,000 Years Old

CAIRO — Archaeologists said on Thursday that they had uncovered a large ancient pharaonic city that had lain unseen for centuries near some of Egypt’s best-known monuments.

The city was built more than 3,400 years ago during the opulent reign of Amenhotep III, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs, according to the Egyptian archaeologist overseeing the excavations, Zahi Hawass.

The team began searching for a mortuary temple near Luxor in September, and within weeks found mud brick formations in every direction, Mr. Hawass said in a statement.

They unearthed the well-preserved city that had almost complete walls and rooms filled with tools of daily life along with rings, scarabs, colored pottery vessels and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep’s cartouche.

“The city’s streets are flanked by houses and some of their walls are up to three meters high,” Mr. Hawass said.

The excavations lie on the west bank of Luxor near the Colossi of Memnon, Medinet Habu and the Ramesseum, or mortuary temple of King Ramses II, not far from the Valley of the Kings.

“This is a very important discovery,” said Peter Lacovara, the director of the U.S.-based Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund.

The state of preservation and the volume of items from everyday life brought to mind another famous excavation, he added.

“It is a sort of ancient Egyptian Pompeii and shows the critical need to preserve this area as an archaeological park,” said Mr. Lacovara, who has worked at the Malqata palace area for more than 20 years but was not involved in the excavations.

The site contains a large number of ovens and kilns for making glass and faience, along with the debris of thousands of statues, said Betsy Bryan, a specialist of Amenhotep III’s reign.

“Just to locate the manufacturing centers opens up the detail of how the Egyptians under a great and wealthy ruler such as Amenhotep III did what they did,” she said. “This will furnish knowledge for many years to come.”

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Archaeologists Unearth ‘Ancient Egyptian Pompeii’

CAIRO — Archaeologists said on Thursday they had uncovered a large ancient pharaonic city that had lain unseen for centuries near some of Egypt’s best known monuments.

The city was built more than 3,400 years ago during the opulent reign of Amenhotep III, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs, according to the Egyptian archaeologist overseeing the excavations, Zahi Hawass.

The team began searching for a mortuary temple near Luxor in September, but within weeks found mud brick formations in every direction, Mr. Hawass said in a statement.

They unearthed the well-preserved city that had almost complete walls and rooms filled with tools of daily life along with rings, scarabs, colored pottery vessels and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep’s cartouche.

“The city’s streets are flanked by houses and some of their walls are up to three meters high,” Mr. Hawass said.

The excavations lie on the west bank of Luxor near the Colossi of Memnon, Medinet Habu and the Ramesseum, or mortuary temple of King Ramses II, not far from the Valley of the Kings.

“This is a very important discovery,” said Peter Lacovara, director of the U.S.-based Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund.

The state of preservation and the volume of items from everyday life brought to mind another famous excavation, he added.

“It is a sort of ancient Egyptian Pompeii and shows the critical need to preserve this area as an archaeological park,” said Mr. Lacovara, who has worked at the Malqata palace area for more than 20 years but was not involved in the excavations.

The site contains a large number of ovens and kilns for making glass and faience, along with the debris of thousands of statues, said Betsy Bryan, a specialist of Amenhotep III’s reign.

“Just to locate the manufacturing centers opens up the detail of how the Egyptians under a great and wealthy ruler such as Amenhotep III did what they did. This will furnish knowledge for many years to come,” she added.

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Glimpses of Sudan’s Forgotten Pyramids

The site was nearly deserted. A few locals were tidying up after recent restoration work, and young camel drivers were out looking for clients. In the midday heat, the bright glow of the desert helped focus my attention on the pyramids themselves.

Situated on the east bank of the Nile, some 150 miles by car northeast of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, the Meroe pyramids — around 200 in total, many of them in ruins — seemed to be in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape, as if the wind had smoothed their edges to accommodate them among the dunes.

30-year dictatorship of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who led Sudan through a long series of wars and famines, the pyramids of Meroe saw few international visitors and remained relatively unknown.

Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster in 2019 — along with the removal of Sudan in 2020 from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism — was the hope that the country’s archaeological sites might receive broader attention and protections, not simply from researchers and international visitors but also from Sudanese citizens themselves.

ended subsidies on fuel and wheat, leading to a surge in prices. The reaction of the people, exhausted by economic crises, was not long in coming.

A wave of demonstrations filled the streets of several towns, far beyond the capital Khartoum. These were Sudanese of all ethnicities, classes and generations — but above all students and young professionals.

Ancient Nubia, the name of the region that stretches between Egypt and northern Sudan, I discovered that the majority of Sudanese had never had the opportunity to visit these sites — including the doctors themselves.

UNESCO World Heritage site since 2011 — is a four-hour drive from Khartoum, northeast along the Nile River. The pyramids here, built between 2,700 and 2,300 years ago, stand as a testament to the grandeur of the Kingdom of Kush, a major power from the eighth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D.

Compared to the monumental pyramids in Giza, Egypt, the structures at Meroe are significantly smaller — from around 30 to 100 feet tall, against the 455-foot-tall Great Pyramid — and their slopes steeper. As in Egypt, though, the pyramids serve as royal burial sites.

rising floodwaters, as well as the continuing effects of wind and sand erosion.

Plans for new hydroelectric dams also threaten certain archaeological sites in Sudan — as they have in the past, when the construction of the Merowe Dam displaced tens of thousands of residents and led to a frenzied archaeological hunt for artifacts before they were submerged by the dam’s reservoir.

destroyed several of the pyramids in a ruthless search for ancient artifacts.

Alessio Mamo is an Italian photojournalist based in Catania, Sicily, who focuses on refugee displacement and humanitarian crises in the Middle East and the Balkans. You can follow his work on Instagram and Twitter.

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