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      Lost Alaskan Indigenous fort rediscovered after 200 years

      Kiona N. Smith · news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 5 February, 2021 - 11:45 · 1 minute

    Color illustration of a log fort with buildings inside its walls

    Enlarge / This interpretive sign at the presumed "fort clearing" includes a reconstruction of what the fort probably looked like in 1804. (credit: National Park Service )

    In 1804, Tlingit warriors sheltered behind the walls of a wooden fort on a peninsula in southeastern Alaska, preparing to repel a Russian amphibious assault. An archaeological survey near the modern community of Sitka recently revealed the hidden outline of the now-legendary fort, whose exact location had been lost to history since shortly after the battle.

    The coolest battle you never heard of

    The Tlingit had already sent Russia packing once, in 1802, after three years of mounting tensions over the Russian-American Trading Company (a venture akin to the better-known British East India Company), which had a presence on what’s now called Baranof Island. Because the Tlingit elders—especially a shaman named Stoonook—suspected that the Russian troops would soon be back in greater numbers, they organized construction of a fort at the mouth of the Kaasdaheen River to help defend the area against assault from the sea.

    By 1804, the Tlingit had procured firearms, shot, gunpowder, and even cannons from American and British traders. They had also built a trapezoid-shaped palisade, 75 meters long and 30 meters wide, out of young spruce logs, which sheltered more than a dozen log buildings. The Tlingit dubbed it Shis’gi Noow—the Sapling Fort.

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      Mexico City’s “tower of skulls” could tell us about pre-Columbian life

      Kiona N. Smith · news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 11 January, 2021 - 16:25 · 1 minute

    Mexico City’s “tower of skulls” could tell us about pre-Columbian life

    Last month, archaeologists in Mexico City unearthed the eastern façade of a tower of skulls near the 700-year-old site of the Templo Mayor, the main temple in the former Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan. It’s a morbidly sensational find, but it’s also a potential treasure trove of information about the people who died at Tenochtitlan in the city’s final centuries. Here’s what the skulls in the tower could tell us if we ask them—and why we'd have to ask very carefully.

    Archaeologists found 119 skulls built into the structure, a morbid addition to the 484 skulls found on the northeast side of the tower, which archaeologists rediscovered in 2015. Since 2015, excavations have reached 3.5 meters below modern street level, into the layers of ground once trod by Aztec priests, onlookers, and sacrificial victims. From those excavations, we now know that the 4.7 meter (15.4ft) tall tower was built in at least three phases, starting in the 15 th century.

    The nearby Templo Mayor once housed important shrines to the war god Huitzilopochtli and the rain and farming god Tlaloc. Many of the victims sacrificed to the two gods probably ended up as building blocks for the tower, properly known as the Huei Tzompantli, nearby. A tzompantli is a wooden scaffold for displaying skulls (exactly as the name suggests if you happen to speak Nahuatl; the word means something along the lines of “skull rack” or “wall of skulls”). The temple district of Tenochtitlan once boasted at least seven of them.

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