Editor's Picks: Archaeological Wonders of 2018

Does bread predate agriculture? Why did Gauls embalm the heads of their enemies? Did Uri Geller really use ESP to find an ancient factory? Read all about it in Haaretz's top archaeology stories of 2018

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A skull and bones (probably of a woman), held together by flowstone concretions, found in the late Chalcolithic burial cave of Peki'in in the Galilee
A skull and bones (probably of a woman), held together by flowstone concretions, found in the late Chalcolithic burial cave of Peki'inCredit: Ariel David
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

Our beginnings are a mystery and archaeology is part science, part sweat and part art. What came first, the domesticated chicken or the baked egg? Could it be that baking bread predated the very concept of agriculture? (Yes.) Did ancient Romans have a sense of humor, or just supremely literal minds? (Depends who you ask.) Why exactly would ancient Egyptians mummify not only their pharaohs but beetles? Just when was "Baby's got blue eyes" written? And just what were Taurus the Bull doing on the Aegean seafloor and Uri Geller in the Old City of Jaffa? Find out from the editor's choice picks from 2018 in the Haaretz archaeology section.

14,400-year-old hearth at Shubayqa, Jordan in which fragments of the earliest-known bread were madeCredit: Lisa Yeomans
Secondary burial vessels with human features, over a meter in height and dating to about 6,500 years ago, found in Peki'in CaveCredit: yoav dothan

14,400-year-old Pita found in Black Desert of Jordan

Making bread from opportunistically collected wild grains had to have been really difficult. But maybe the smell of fresh bread was that good. In fact, maybe it was so good that it (not beer...) was the impetus behind the development of subsistence agriculture around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, in this very area.

Mysterious 6,500-year-old Culture in Israel Was Brought by Migrants

With their light skin and blue eyes, these exotic proto-Iranians were embraced by the local pre-Canaanites, based on the sudden advent of extraordinary pottery (and blue eyes all over the place). Certainly, a unique form of ceramic styling would suddenly appear, featuring among other things ossuaries for secondary burial featuring animals, from cats to owls, it seems like, as well as human forms.

Burial vessels found at Peki'in, dating back about 6,500 yearsCredit: Tamar Hayardeni

Deer Skull Masks Made 11,000 Years Ago Found in Yorkshire

Artist's impression of Star Carr 11,000 years ago: The climate was warming and people were making masks, or head dresses, out of red deer skulls. Credit: Josh Murfitt / MAA
X-ray of what seems to be a missing piece from the Antikythera mechanism, showing Taurus the bullCredit: EUA

So much for ancestor cults and making masks that looked like Grandpa and the shaman next door. Why exactly were Mesolithic hunter-gatherers expending the precious sharp edges of their stone tools to carve eyeholes into the crania of deceased deer?

Missing Piece of Antikythera Mechanism Seems to Have Been Found

It's the right size and shape, and although it could be something completely different, the world's ancient computer is known to be missing bits and this looks very much like the bit that had been used by the ancient Greeks, around than 2,200 years ago, to track the constellation of Taurus the Bull.

Archaeologists Find Ancient 'Comics' Decorating Roman Tomb in Jordan

Bam! Pow! Take that, Homo Vespertilio: 'Alas! I am dead'

A mural of stonecutters at work is accompanied by rudimentary speech bubbles written in Aramaic using Greek letters, decorating a tomb in Capitolias Credit: CNRS News

Uri Geller Bends Dirt Pile, Finds Ottoman-era Factory in Israel

Uri Geller holding up a pottery oil or water jug from the 19th-century Ottoman soap factory he found in the building he bought to house his museum in JaffaCredit: Dlila Bar-Ratson

When bending spoons just isn't enough.

Religion, Science Clash as Archaeologists Restore Ancient Jewish Catacomb

Jewish tradition says human remains should be reburied immediately with due ritual. Archaeologists say they should be studied in the lab. And yes, a clash ensued

Mummified scarabs on display in a glass case found in a newly discovered tomb, at an ancient necropolis near Egypt's famed pyramids in Saqqara, Giza, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. Credit: Nariman El-Mofty,AP

Archaeologists find ancient beetle mummies in Egypt

The pharaoh. Check. His wives. Check. Kill and bury servants with him. Check (sometimes). His beetles. Check check check check check check check check check check check check

Gauls Perfected Art of Decapitation by Embalming Enemy Heads for Posterity

The maxilla found at Misliya Cave, Israel, identified as Homo sapiens and dated to 200,000 years agoCredit: Gerhard Weber/University of Vien

The thing about decapitating the enemy and hanging his head from the city gates is it is all so tragically fleeting. Now, if the head is preserved first…

Human evolution: Little did we know ourselves. Homo sapiens seems to be a lot older than we thought -

Humans Began to Evolve Half a Million Years Ago All Over Africa, Says New Theory

and baby australopithecines had cute little feet that kept their cute little selves safe in trees while mama went walkabout -

‘Lucy’ Walked Upright but Baby Australopithecines Lurked in Trees

which doesn't mean that we were otherwise that discriminate -

Evolution's Holy Grail: 90,000-year-old Hybrid Teenager Stuns Science World

It has become clear that Homo sapiens did not cavil at sex with strangers. Based on the discovery of a half-Neanderthal half-Denisovan hybrid, in that Siberian cave, archaeologists are starting to suspect that we were about as discriminating as bonobos.

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