Learning about ancient civilizations used to mean hand-drawn maps and clunky tomes; now anyone can do it, using Google Earth and some idea of where to look and what to look for.

And Google Earth has helped create a map of an ancient Syrian trade route that shows how one city's political sway extended farther than believed. It still takes old-fashioned digging by others to have found the artifacts in the first place, but for visualization and understanding, the future is here.

Zaballa (Iruña de Oca) was a medieval settlement abandoned in the 15th century due to urban flight. Prior to that it had a manor monastery and later became something of a specialized factory location before its demise. 

Zaballa is one of the more than 300 deserted settlements known in Alava-Araba - rural spaces abandoned in historical times but now being studied by the UPV/EHU's Cultural Heritage and Landscapes Research Group.  

Cranial surgery is tricky business today. Patients will need an aseptic environment, specialized surgical instruments and copious amounts of pain medication both during and afterward.

In ancient Peru, trepanation  - removing a section of the cranial vault using a hand drill or a scraping tool - was a lot more dangerous, and yet more common. They used it to treat a variety of ailments, from head injuries to heartsickness. 

Excavating burial caves in the south-central Andean province of Andahuaylas in Peru, U.C. Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin and colleagues unearthed the remains of 32 individuals that date back to the Late Intermediate Period (ca. AD 1000-1250). Among them, 45 separate trepanation procedures were in evidence. 

Over five-thousand years, cats began living alongside farmers in the ancient Chinese village of Quanhucun, according to a new paper. Probably because of rodents attracted to food. 

Cat remains rarely are found in ancient archaeological sites, and little is known about how they were domesticated. Cats were thought to have first been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where they were kept some 4,000 years ago, but more recent research suggests close relations with humans may have occurred much earlier, including the discovery of a wild cat buried with a human nearly 10,000 years ago in Cyprus.

Archaeologists working in Nepal have uncovered evidence of a structure at the birthplace of the Buddha dating to the sixth century B.C., the first archaeological material linking the life of the Buddha and the movement he founded to a specific century.

The Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini, Nepal, has long been considered the birthplace of the Buddha and now excavations have uncovered the remains of a previously unknown sixth-century B.C. timber structure under a series of brick temples. Laid out on the same design as those above it, the timber structure contains an open space in the center that links to the nativity story of the Buddha himself. 

Would you drink wine flavored with mint, honey and a dash of psychotropic resins? Ancient Canaanites did more than 3,000 years ago.

Archaeologists have unearthed what may be the oldest, and largest,ancient wine cellar in the Near East, containing forty jars, each of which held up to fifty liters of strong, sweet wine flavored with mint, honey and a dash of psychotropic resins.  The cellar was discovered in the ruined palace of a sprawling Canaanite city in northern Israel, called Tel Kabri, far from many of Israel's modern-day wineries, and dates to about 1,700 B.C. 

An unusually large find, more 600 stamp seals and cylinder seals, have been found so far in an ancient sanctuary
of the storm and weather god Jupiter Dolichenus
in Turkey.

The stamp seals and cylinder seals as well as scarabs, made of glass, stone and quartz ceramics, were mostly crafted in a high-quality manner. Following the restoration work, the finds were handed over to the relevant museum in Gaziantep in Turkey. 

An archaeological dig on Jerusalem's Mount Zion has revealed the well-preserved lower levels of what the archaeological team believes is an Early Roman period mansion from the first century AD, possibly belonging to a member of the Jewish priestly caste, which may yield significant domestic details about the rulers of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus.

Particularly important in the discoveries were a buried vaulted chamber that has proven to be an unusual finished bathroom (with bathtub) adjacent to a large below-ground ritual cleansing pool (mikveh) -- only the fourth bathroom to be found in Israel from the Second Temple period, with two of the others found in palaces of Herod the Great at Jericho and Masada.

The circular stone enclosures known as the temple at Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey remain the oldest of its kind, dating back to around the 10th millennium B.C. 

But Göbekli Tepe may also be the world's oldest science building.

Giulio Magli of the Polytechnic University of Milan hypothesizes it may have been built due to the “birth” of a “new” star; the brightest star and fourth brightest object of the sky, what we call Sirius (Greek for "glowing"). 

A mass grave in an artificial cave in the historical Maya city of Uxu has uncovered the skeletons of 24 people in an approximately 32 square meter artificial cave that had formerly been used as a water reservoir.

"Aside from the large number of interred individuals, it already became apparent during the excavation that the skeletons were no longer in their original anatomical articulation," says archaeologist Nicolaus Seefeld from the University of Bonn.

Translation:They were decapitated and dismembered around 1,400 years ago.