Thursday, April 29, 2004

Western archaeologists rediscovering Iran

Openness in former Persian empire drawing scholars

After an absence of a quarter-century, Western archaeologists are trickling back into Iran, encouraged by local officials seeking wider scientific contacts with foreigners.

In the last three years, a few American and European archaeologists have quietly resumed excavations primarily at ruins of the ancient Persian empire, which flourished 2,500 years ago. Their numbers are expected to swell in coming months as a result of a new openness toward foreign scholars, proclaimed by Iranian cultural leaders.

"We were told that Western researchers are welcome to Iran," Dr. Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, said in a telephone interview. "Part of Iran at least is very interested in improving relations with the West, and believes that scholarship and research play an integral role in that."

For those with subscriptions, a more complete summary of a recent conference on Iranian archaeology can be found here or in the print version: Science 7 November 2003; 302: 970-973 [DOI: 10.1126/science.302.5647.970] (in News Focus).

Fire in the hole! Charred remains may be earliest human fires

Archaeologists in Israel may have unearthed the oldest evidence of fire use by our ancestors.

The site, on the banks of the Jordan River, dates to about 790,000 years ago. There are older sites in Africa, but the evidence from these is much more hotly contested.

The moment that our ancestors discovered how to control fire has long occupied an iconic place in the popular imagination. Chimpanzees, our closest living ancestors, have demonstrated impressive feats of language and tool use, but fire use "is the most human skill that we have", says Nira Alperson an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Finding direct evidence for ancient fire use is extremely difficult and the new study is applauded by Derek Roe an archaeologist at Oxford University, UK: "Any small fact you can find is a great triumph."

Cool web site alert Francesco Raffaele of the IUO Napoli, has a nice web site on Late Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt. It is an excellent resource for learning about the current state of the debate and knowledge on the early Egyptian state.
Troy McClure? "You may remember me from such movies as The Erotic Adventures of Hercules and David vs. Super-Goliath. . ."Brian Rose: Raider of the Lost Art(ifacts)

Brad Pitt? Orlando who? When it comes to “Troy,” these Hollywood stars may be pretty, but they’re pretty much rookies compared to University of Cincinnati archaeologist Brian Rose. He was at Troy for 15 years, leading digs that unearthed ancient gold jewelry, statuary and even an elaborately stylized coffin. Last fall, Rose’s phone started ringing. National Geographic, the BBC, USA Today, the History Channel and others were calling, wanting to hear the truth about Troy.

Yes, it’s been gritty labor done in isolation amidst dry dust and heat as high as 120 degrees while excavating at Troy (in Turkey). But now it’s grit to glamour for Rose as a new movie on Troy – starring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom – is set for release on May 14.

His phone began ringing last autumn, he says. First, came the broadcasters – National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel and the History Channel, along with the BBC. Now, magazines and newspapers are calling and e-mailing too.

This line will be familiar to many archys:"Yes, it’s been gritty labor done in isolation amidst dry dust and heat as high as 120 degrees while excavating at . . .[insert site here]".

More on the Trojan war at Archaeology Magazine.

Archaeologist will investigate bones found beneath street

An archaeologist will today study bones unearthed under a central Queenstown street during earthworks on Monday.

Queenstown Lakes District Council parks and open space director Paul Wilson said a digger looking for a water connection on Brecon St uncovered what appeared to be a metal sheet and bones, possibly skeletal, adjacent to the Queenstown Cemetery.

The contractor stopped work immediately, secured the site and notified the council. The bones were not removed and site has since been left undisturbed.

Update: Bones found to be animal remains.

Oh well.

It took a long time for Canada to recognize Boyd Wettlaufer, "the Father of Saskatchewan Archaeology"

During his storied archaeology career, Boyd Wettlaufer found many interesting artifacts - but he never chanced across debris from an alien spacecraft.

Wettlaufer, now nearly 90 and living in Langford, collected countless arrowheads, identified a Plains culture 5,500 years old, and found ancient Peigan clothing remnants atop a "burial" rock. He even picked up an 11-inch meteorite. Yet never did he find a trace of little green men.

Shedding light on Romans in Sussex

Artefacts dating back to 900BC could be dug up when archaeologists start exploring farmland in East Sussex.

Up to 15 people will excavate a small plot of land in Eastbourne in September looking for evidence of Roman or medieval occupation.

Permission has been given by the farmer landowner to hand-dig the two-trench site off King's Drive, near Eastbourne District General Hospital.

The excavation, expected to last three weeks, could uncover more evidence of Eastbourne's history.

Reconstruction in Cambodia Spirit Reset in Stone

At the magical temple of Ta Prohm, 200-year-old trees grow from the ruins, their roots embracing the ancient stone walls like giant snakes. Archeologists from India are trying to preserve the trees — and the temple's romantic spirit — for as long as possible.

Down the road, at the magnificent, sprawling temple of Angkor Wat, a Japanese-led crew grafts newly quarried sandstone onto broken 12th century blocks in a state-of-the-art effort to save the building known as the northern library.

Nearby, 300,000 stone blocks of the dismantled Bapuon temple are spread across 25 acres of grassy fields. The building plans were destroyed by war, but a French-led archeological team is reconstructing the ancient pyramid, stone by stone.

Angkor Wat is where Tomb Raider was filmed. Go see/rent it if you haven't already.

Yuk yuk Archaeologists have a field day with sites linked to Grant

Items such as hairbrushes, marbles and remnants of furniture would add to knowledge of the Grants' personal life.

For four days this month, an archaeologist with the National Park Service found traces of foundations, cisterns and perhaps a privy at two sites connected with President Ulysses S. Grant in south St. Louis County.

Those remnants eventually may prove to be the original sites of two homes associated with Grant.

National Park Service employees say the finds in South County probably warrant a full-scale dig.

"They were good days at the sites," said Steven L. DeVore, National Park Service archaeologist on the study. "We are never quite sure what is going to show up. Everything we did at the sites is based on changes in the various physical properties of the earth. In some cases, these changes are extremely subtle."

Arrow Shaft Not Captain Cook Bone

DNA testing has shot down theories that an arrow held by an Australian museum was made out of a bone from British explorer Captain James Cook’s leg, finding that the remains probably are not even human.

The Sydney-based Australian Museum announced the findings of DNA tests on the arrow’s shaft today, the 234th anniversary of the day Cook stepped ashore in what is now southern Sydney.

It is now believed the bone-like material, which is about six inches long and is attached to a metal arrow head, could be antler or possibly bone from a sea mammal.

Computer helps map ancient Rome

Progress has been made in piecing together the Forma Urbis Romae, a map of Rome carved into stone slabs about AD 210 but later broken into fragments.

Measuring 18m by 14m, it was originally hung in the Templum Pacis, one of the ancient city's major public landmarks.

The map was remarkably accurate but researchers looking for new sites to excavate in Rome had only managed to fit back together a few of the pieces.

A Stanford University computer program is now being used to aid restoration.

Not Brillo Ancient Persian scratch pads going back to Iran from U. of C.

Common workers received rations of a quart and a half of barley per day, plus half a quart of beer or wine. New mothers got more, while members of the royal family got much more than they could possibly devour on their own.

These small details on the daily goings-on in the Persian empire 2,500 years ago are carved on clay tablets that have been at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute since 1937, on loan from Iran.

Though many of the tablets have been studied intensely, the U. of C. hasn't been able to return to Iran to give back the tablets since the Iranian revolution in 1979 essentially shut that nation's borders to Americans.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Noah's Ark Found? Turkey Expedition Planned for Summer

Satellite pictures taken last summer of Mount Ararat in Turkey may reveal the final resting place of Noah's ark, according to Daniel McGivern, the businessman and Christian activist behind a planned summer 2004 expedition to investigate the site.

"We're telling people we're 98 percent sure," said McGivern, a member of the Hawaii Christian Coalition. "In one image we saw the beams, saw the wood. I'm convinced that the excavation of the object and the results of tests run on any collected samples will prove that it is Noah's ark. "

So. Since National Geographic regularly runs stories on creatures, for example, dinosaurs, that lived way before 4004 B.C., I'm wondering how this story squares with that.

Please, write to these people and ask them what the hell they think they're doing.

We wonder if there were Neanderthals on the Ark. . .Neandertals Were Fully Developed by Age 15, Experts Say

Neandertals may have matured much earlier than modern humans—perhaps by as young as 15 years old, as opposed to 18 to 20 for modern humans, a team of scientists reports.

Researchers Fernando V. Ramirez Rozzi and José Maria Bermudez de Castro compared fossil teeth of Neandertals, anatomically modern humans, and two earlier species in the Homo genus (Homo antecessor and Homo heidelbergensis).

The researchers' results indicate that Neandertal growth patterns differed significantly from that of modern humans.

Who cares, Go Brewers! (PRE)HISTORIC BATTLE

Any woolly mammoths in The Bronx better beware. The Red Sox are coming to town for a three-game series with the Yankees, and they're bringing their caveman center fielder - the very hairy Johnny Damon.

. . .

"It's an insult to the people who lived in those cavernous alcoves long ago. And no self-respecting caveman would wear a Red Sox uniform," said Ken Mowbray, a physical anthropologist with the American Museum of Natural History.

You heard it here first: the confluence of baseball and archaeology.

Archaeological evidence shows ancient coastal life

SAN LUIS OBISPO - Rubbish dug a generation ago from an oceanside archaeological site first occupied around 8,000 B.C. is being re-examined for clues that could bolster the theory some of the first Americans to stream into the New World hugged the Pacific coast, reaping the bounty of the land and the sea.

This month, anthropologist Terry Jones and his colleagues began poring over the estimated 10,000 to 15,000 broken bones and shells, salvaged in excavations hastily carried out 36 years ago to make way for construction of a nuclear power plant on the Central California coast.

Now, more exhaustive analysis could support the controversial idea that some pioneering Paleo-Indians moved into North America along the West Coast, skipping inland routes that traditionally have been considered the most likely avenues into the continent from Asia.

This is an excellent article for two reasons: 1) It reinforces the idea expressed below that valuable research can be carried out on existing collections without digging up anything new; and 2) It furthers the idea that Clovis big game hunters were not necessarily the only early people in the Americas. This has implications for all sorts of New World questions, including the extinction of megafauna, the composition of Amerindian populations (i.e., their phylogenetic affiliations), etc.

Side note: A truly excellent paper that utilizes old excavated material is RC Dunnell's Aspects of the spatial structure of the Mayo Site (15-JO-14) Johnson County, Kentucky. He used materials collected in the 1930s to develop a functional model of a Mississippian (I believe) village. Full reference: in Lulu Linear Punctated: Essays in honor of George Irving Quimby, edited by Dunnell, R.C., Grayson, D.K., Anthropological papers, Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan #72, Ann Arbor, 1983, pp. 109-165.

Additional side note: Rumor hath it that "Lulu Linear Punctated" (a ceramic type) was actually named after an Athapascan prostitute. I leave it at that.

Rocking the cradle

In Iran, an archaeologist is racing to uncover a literate Bronze Age society he believes predates ancient Mesopotamia. Critics say he may be overreaching, but they concede his dig will likely change our view of the dawn of civilization

Discoveries made during a dig in southeastern Iran have convinced archaeologist Yousef Madjidzadeh that a desolate valley here was once home to a thriving—and literate—community. He calls it nothing less than "the earliest Oriental civilization." It's a dramatic assertion, but if he's right, it would mean the site, near Iran's Halil River, is older than Mesopotamia, a thousand miles to the west in what is today Iraq and long acknowledged as one of the earliest civilizations. Confirmation would overturn our understanding of the critical period when humans first began to live a literate urban life. It would also give sudden prominence to this forgotten corner of Iran.

It took an unlikely combination of events—a flood in this region, combined with a political thaw in distant Tehran, the Iranian capital—to bring Madjidzadeh here in the first place. Starting in 2001, local villagers began plundering ancient graves that had been exposed earlier that year by a flash flood. Iranian police confiscated hundreds of finely worked stone vessels carved with images of animals and architecture and decorated with semiprecious stones. Madjidzadeh strongly believes most were made in this valley more than 4,000 years ago.

There's a link to the complete article (PDF) which may or may not require a subscription. Haven't read the whole thing yet, but will post more when I do. Iran is definitely the future place to be.

Professor blows new life into ancient flute

Few Chinese people have heard of the yue, an ancient wind instrument that belonged to the flute family.

However, this flute, the name of which is pronounced the same as the word for "music" in Chinese, used to be an important instrument in many ancient ceremonial rituals.

In The Book of Songs (Shi Jing), the most ancient collection of Chinese poetry, which was compiled in the 6th century BC, yue is the most frequently mentioned wind instrument.

After the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) about 1,700 years ago, the yue seemed to have disappeared. Two ancient instruments, the dizi, or bamboo flute, which was played transversely and the xiao, another form of bamboo flute, but played vertically, seemed to have become the dominant wind instruments.

Human bones found near Wupatki

Human bones were uncovered Thursday near Wupatki National Monument, and preliminary findings indicate that the bones might be those of a prehistoric ancestor of the Hopi Tribe.

Ken Frederick, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, said that a National Park Service ranger found the bones on an area of Forest Service land near the southern edge of Wupatki.

Slavery in NYC The African foundations of New York

The remains of 20,000 Africans are said to be buried under New York

The remains of 20,000 African men, women and children have lain beneath the busy streets of New York for 300 years, waiting to tell their stories on the extent of slavery in the city.

In March 1992, leading African-America archaeologist Michael Blakey arrived at the burial ground in downtown Manhattan.

"I had read about these people documented as chattel, " he said. "Now I was going to learn about these Africans in New York as human beings."

A haunting sight greeted him. Being winter, work was taking place under a translucent plastic tent.

There are numerous articles on the Web regarding NYC's A-A cemeteries (here, for example) and they make for truly fascinating reading. One comment regarding the age distribution of the individuals: a preponderance of juveniles and few over the age of 40 doesn't seem too out of the ordinary; we don't have the numbers handy (readers?), but this does not seem unusual for this period given infant mortality and life expectancy for people generally.

New Findings on Diet of Inhabitants of Ancient Jiroft

TEHRAN (CHN) -- Studies carried out on animals’ bones discovered in the historical area of Jiroft have shown that five thousand years ago, its inhabitants used farm animals as their source of protein.

Architectural remains and indications of a great civilization contemporary to that of the Mesopotamia are so far discovered in the historical site of Jiroft, which is called the Lost Paradise by archeologists.

According to professor Marjan Mashkor of Sorbone University, France, who specializes in studying bones, during excavations in the archeological site of Jiroft, remains of bones from animals such as cows, sheep, zebra, rabbit, gazelle, boar and some birds have been discovered.

The abundance of the bones of cows, sheep and goat in the area shows that the citizens of Jiroft used their meat as the main source of protein.

Historians uncover Roman tileworks

HISTORIANS in Reigate have been entrenched in a major dig in the town after uncovering a Roman tileworks.

The discovery has been made in Doods Way and is thought to date from the second or third centuries.

Exhibit watch Ancient, Buried Roman Villas Resurrected

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It was an idyllic life for the Roman rich and famous, who basked in the sun in villas overlooking the sea until a volcanic eruption in A.D. 79 buried their homes in ash. Four of those grand villas are recalled, and partly resurrected, at a new Smithsonian exhibit.

"In Stabiano" opens Tuesday at the National Museum of Natural History, inviting visitors to peer into the daily life of the Roman wealthy.

Not as well known as nearby Pompeii, Stabiae was destroyed by the same mighty eruption of Vesuvius.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


According to state archaeologist Nick Fielder, human remains discovered in Sevier County on what is known as the "Jake Thomas property" may be part of a native American burial site.

Thursday's find has put a temporary halt to the multi-million dollar "Riverwalk" project, planned to include restaurants, hotels, retail, condominiums, and a Pigeon Forge Civic Center. The development is located along Teaster Lane, next to the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.

Artifacts and human remains were uncovered in one area of the 185 acre development area by an archaeologist working for Riverwalk's developer. The archaeological testing was a required part of the federal permitting process in order for Riverwalk to divert a stream.
News from the Dead Poet's Society Mystery over dead poet's head

Italian scientists have disappointed generations of love poets - and uncovered what could be a crime mystery dating back hundreds of years.

Tests have shown that the head of one of Italy's most-highly revered writers - the renaissance poet Francesco Petrarch - isn't his.

The finding has put a damper on plans to mark the 700th anniversary of his birth this year.

Petrarch is the man who fine-tuned the poetic form known as the sonnet - for centuries since the poem of choice for love-sick poets everywhere.

Quarrying of sand on beach damages ancient burial site

AN ANCIENT burial site has been damaged after an estimated 1,000 tonnes of sand was removed from a beach in the north of Scotland without permission.

It is being claimed the action exposed human remains from the Pictish cemetery at Ackergill on the Hempriggs Estate in Caithness.

Highland Council said the sand was removed without planning permission and police have been notified along with Historic Scotland. A council spokesman said the material was taken to a contractor's yard near Watten and left a "gaping hole" in the sand, damaged a Second World War look-out post, and disturbed the Picto-Norse cemetery.

He added: "No planning permission had been sought for the removal of the sand, contrary to planning rules."

Not archaeology, but kind of cool Da Vinci Invented Car Forerunner

April 25, 2004 — A spring-propelled car conceived by Leonardo da Vinci five centuries ago could have paved the way for the Mars rovers, an eight-month study of a drawing by the Renaissance genius has revealed.

Drawn on sheet number 812r of the Atlantic Codex in 1478, when Leonardo was 24 years old, the sketch has been translated into a one-third scale model at the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence.

Amazingly, the wooden 5-foot by 5-foot, 6-inch model, on display at the museum until June 5, has proved what has been doubted for centuries: the machine actually moves.

Kinda stretching it, in our opinion. A relatively smart horse attached to a buggy seems a more autonomous bit of automotive engineering than a couple of wooden blocks and a rope. But we digress. . . .

I'll do the initial survey! Scientists launching effort to preserve human marks in space

When the Mir space station broke apart and plummeted into the Pacific Ocean in March 2001, 140 tons of Russian hardware vanished.

So did an archaeological treasure. Mir contained the technological know-how of an entire generation of Soviet engineers, said Robert Barclay of the Canadian Conservation Institute. When mission controllers maneuvered the station out of orbit, he said, "an irreplaceable part of the world's cultural heritage was lost."

To traditional archaeologists, studying spacecraft may sound a little out of this world. But recently a small band of scientists began working to preserve space artifacts.

Last month, the researchers met for the first time under the official title of the Space Heritage Task Force of the World Archaeological Congress.

Once again, Space news at ArchaeoBlog. We have always wondered what happened to that famous first footprint. Did Aldrin and Armstrong carefully step around it the whole time they were on the moon? Did one of them accidentally wipe it out? The moon is already full of humankind's junk, and Mars (not to mention Venus, Jupiter, and various other solar system bodies) already have artifacts on them (though admittedly, the Galileo remains are Jupiter are now probably just dust particles floating around in the atmosphere). Also note that the Apollo 11 site has not been designated in the National Register of Historic Places since the Register doesn't apply to other celestial bodies. So, really, anyone could go up there now and start taking stuff away (or sweeping away footprints just to be spiteful) with no real recourse.

Rock art hints at whaling origins

Stone Age people may have started hunting whales as early as 6,000 BC, new evidence from South Korea suggests.

Analysis of rock carvings at Bangu-Dae archaeological site in Ulsan in the southeast of the country revealed more than 46 depictions of large whales.

They also show evidence that humans used harpoons, floats and lines to catch their prey, which included sperm whales, right whales and humpbacks.

Details of the research are published in the journal L'Anthropologie.

Water, water everywhere Turkmen diggers find ancient temple

Ashgabat, , Apr. 20 (UPI) -- Archaeologists have made a sensational discovery in Turkmenistan -- a temple of water dating back to the third millennium B.C.

The Margianskaya expedition has been digging on the site of an ancient settlement called Gonur in the delta of the Murgab River in the eastern Mary region, some 200 miles east of the country's capital, Ashgabat, reported Tuesday.

Victor Sarianidi, a prominent Russian archaeologist, leads the expedition, which discovered a rounded hollow about 55 yards in diameter and between eight and nine feet deep. The hollow is a short distance away from the royal palace dug out earlier.

Asgari Pottery Workshop Added to National Cultural Heritage List

TEHRAN (MNA) -- The Asgari Pottery Workshop in Lalejin near the western Iranian city of Hamedan was added to the national cultural heritage list, Farhad Farzaneh director of the Hamedan Cultural Heritage Department announced on Wednesday.

“The construction history is uncertain, but the workshop has existed since the 13th century because Iranian historian Hamdollah Mostowfi, who lived in the 14th century, referred to it in his travelogue,” Farzaneh said.

And more from Iran Ancient Persian earthenware sparks debate in Iran

Artefact 90920 is wending its way from the British Museum to Tehran, where it has fired debate between those who see it as a national icon and others who say it represents all that is worst about Iran's pre-Islamic past.

The controversial relic is an unassuming 23-centimetre-long (9-inch) cylinder of baked clay covered in densely packed lines of Babylonian cuneiform script.

It is generally agreed to be the world's first human rights charter – but Islamic conservatives say it is redolent of paganism and a monarchy ousted in the 1979 revolution.

The British Museum's keeper of Near Eastern antiquities John Curtis said the museum planned to loan the cylinder after it was shown in Paris and Berlin but a date was not yet set. Iranian archaeologists hoped it would arrive in 2006.

You know things are in a state of flux when a 2500 year old cylinder seal is making political waves.

Arrrrrr. . .matey . . . Divers locate pirate Morgan's lost ship

AN international dive team shivered in excitement when they spied the timbers of a wreck belonging to one of the most famous buccaneers of all time.

They discovered the remains of Welshman Captain Henry Morgan's lost frigate, HMS Oxford, off the coast of Haiti.

Oxford sank in 1669 as the result of an explosion believed to have been ignited by a celebratory pig roast.

The 34-gun ship had been sent to Morgan by King Charles II following his appointment as Admiral in Chief of the Confederacy of Buccaneers.

Happy birthday! Juggling Research and Diplomacy

As the German Archaeological Institute turns 175 on Wednesday, the spotlight will be on its archaeological work as well as on its cultural diplomacy in the Arab world and the Mid East.

From Prussian times to present-day democratic Germany, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) has weathered a variety of political and ideological systems in its pursuit of scientific research.

Founded on April 21, 1829 in Rome with the aim of researching and publicizing the archaeological discoveries of the antique Greek era, the institute has seen an expansion of its focuses and activities over time.

Today the DAI represents a mammoth global archaeological network with eight departments, three commissions, a 100 scientists, 250 employees and worldwide excavations that have its archaeologists crisscrossing most continents.

Fabled Etruscan Kingdom Emerging?

April 21, 2004 — The fabled kingdom of the Etruscan king Lars Porsena is coming to light in the Tuscan hills near Florence, according to an Italian University professor.

Known as Chamars, where the lucumo (king) Porsena reigned in the 6th century B.C., this was the leading city-state of the Etruscan civilization that dominated much of Italy before the emergence of Rome.

It was from there that Porsena is said to have launched his most successful attack upon Rome in order to restore the exiled Tarquinius Superbus to the throne. Porsena laid siege to the city, but accepted a peace settlement and withdrew.

The Etruscans are truly enigmatic. Their language was apparently non-Indo-European which automatically makes them of intense interest.

More battlefield archaeology Culloden's tragedy retold

A MULTI-million-pound revamp of the Culloden battlefield visitor centre aims to offer a fresh perspective on the famous conflict, showing not only the events, but how they influenced later Scottish and world history.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) plans to upgrade the visitor centre near Inverness for the first time since 1984, at an estimated cost of £5-7 million.

The trust intends to use the redevelopment to update the interpretation of the 1746 battle with the help of more modern archaeological finds, as well as telling the story of how the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites shaped history in the Highlands and beyond.

Alex Lindsay, NTS regional manager for the Highlands and Islands, said that while the 1970s visitor centre attracts 85,000 people a year - with more visiting the battlefield - it was felt the time was right for an upgrade, to allow it to compete with other attractions in Scotland and make it more of a national and international facility.

'Forgotten' head-dresses shed light on Mesopotamian death rites

Gold and silver jewellery dating from 2,500BC has been discovered in a storeroom at the British Museum among relics first excavated in the 1920s.

The adornments were part of the elaborate head-dresses worn by female attendants who had been buried alive in a royal tomb at the ancient Sumerian city of Ur in what is now southern Iraq.

Some of the material excavated from the site more than 70 years ago had been hurriedly preserved in blocks of paraffin wax before being shipped back to London.

Note to graduate (and soon-to-be graduate) students: Large museums all over the world have extensive collections that have never been studied. Possible dissertation material.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Kennewick Man update Scientists Win New Battle Over Skeleton

PORTLAND, Ore. - Anthropologists seeking to study the ancient Kennewick Man skeleton scored another victory when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request by four Northwest tribes for a rehearing in the lengthy dispute.

Tribal lawyers sought to have the case reheard by the full court after a three-judge panel ruled in February that the tribes had no right to the 9,300-year-old remains under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

A brief order issued Monday by the court denied the request from the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama and Colville tribes, who want to bury the remains without a scientific study.

World Premiere of 'Beyond the Movie: Conquering Troy' Explores the
Line between History and Myth

WASHINGTON, April 26 /PRNewswire/ -- It is said to be the greatest love
story ever told and the grandest war epic in history. But how much of the
Trojan War saga is true? Did a Greek queen really fall in love with a Trojan
warrior and run away with him? Did King Agamemnon launch 1,000 ships across
the Aegean Sea in an effort to win her back? Did Paris, Helen, Achilles --
and even the city of Troy itself -- really exist? The upcoming blockbuster
"Troy" starring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom is the latest dramatization of
these centuries-old mysteries immortalized by the poet Homer in "The Iliad"
and "The Odyssey."
On Friday, May 7, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT, just one week before the feature
film opens, join the National Geographic Channel (NGC) for the world premiere
of "Beyond the Movie: Conquering Troy," a one-hour special that combines
ancient storytelling and modern archaeology to explore the truth behind the
legend. The special compares fact and fiction, revealing a complex mystery
even more fantastic than Homer could have imagined.

More mummies from Egypt Shafts outside Cairo contain ‘mummies everywhere’

SAQQARA, Egypt - Archaeologists have found more than 50 mummies buried in deep shafts south of Cairo and dating from the first millennium B.C., a French-Egyptian team reported Monday.

Some of the mummies, wrapped in linen and sealed inside stone or wooden sarcophagi, are in an excellent state of preservation for the period, said Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Supreme Antiquities Council.

Hawass said Egyptians had used the network of shafts and corridors over several centuries, starting from the 26th dynasty (664-525 B.C.) and continuing into the Ptolemaic period, which ended with the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC.

What future for a sleeping giant?

The Roman town of Venta Icenorum lies slumbering beneath the Norfolk countryside. Now the county faces a conundrum – should it awaken this "Crown jewel" of our heritage and turn it into a modern visitor attraction or let the past sleep in peace? ANGI KENNEDY investigates.

Once it was the most important Roman town in our part of East Anglia. Today it is hidden beneath the grass of the Tas Valley.

But as to tomorrow? The future of Venta Icenorum, the Roman town at Caistor St Edmund is still to be decided upon.

Should it be developed as a major attraction to allow potentially tens of thousands of visitors every year to discover more of what life was life in Roman Britain?

Should it be left as it is, protected from possible damage and part of a beautiful rural setting?

A fresh look at Rome's ancient frescoes

ROME -- Buried for 12 centuries by a landslide and closed to the public for 24 years, the oldest Christian church in the Roman Forum is being opened for a limited time, offering glimpses of Byzantine frescoes that changed scholars' views of medieval art.

Guided tours of the Santa Maria Antiqua, nestled under the imperial palaces of Rome's Palatine Hill, began earlier this month and continue through May while restoration efforts continue.

Werner Schmid, a restoration expert working on the project, said the tours will give visitors a chance to see frescoes from the mid-6th century to the mid-8th century.

Priest's crusade to return African treasures

WHEN a Scottish priest returned a 400-year-old carved wooden object he found in the back of a vestry cupboard to Ethiopia, he thought it might have some religious significance to the people of the African nation.

But he didn’t realise quite how important it would be.

It turned out to be a tabot - a consecrated altar slab and symbol of the Ark of the Covenant stolen by British troops - and when he returned it two years ago, a million jubilant Ethiopians lined the streets of Addis Ababa to welcome it home.

Now the Rev John McLuckie, formerly of St John’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, has launched a fresh crusade - to return hundreds of similarly looted items now scattered throughout Britain’s museums and art collections to their rightful place in the African continent.

Archaeological news from Uzbekistan Uzbekistan's best kept secret

Kampyr-Tepe, in southern Uzbekistan, was built at the time of Alexander the Great's empire and occupied for about 500 years until it fell into decline.

The fortified city controlled a key route from central to south Asia

Since it was discovered, a generation ago, it has been closed to the public because it stands in a sensitive and tightly guarded military zone, right on the Afghan border.

The city perched on a high shelf of land - cut into clay walls that dropped sheer into the plains below.

Caught in the light of a winter afternoon, an entire city spread as far as we could see, the dun-coloured dust touched with gold.

UW student considers mound a key archaic site

In the middle of a swampy island inhabited by some of the most dangerous cocaine runners in the Americas, there lies an ancient Garden of Eden.

Discovered and uncovered by John Hodgson, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this archaeological site may prove to be a crucial piece of the puzzle known as the late archaic period of Mesoamerica - a time period about 5,000 years ago in a region that includes Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

And it may shed light on the factors that prompted a transition from a purely hunting and gathering society to one more complex.

Dig at housing site sheds light on prehistoric settlers

ARCHAEOLOGISTS will have a greater understanding of the lives of the people who built great ritual monuments such as Stonehenge following excavations at one of Scotland's largest rural settlements.

A dig at a new housing development in Dreghorn, Ayrshire, has revealed major medieval remains and Neolithic features including the site of a ceremonial pole, houses and a pottery kiln.

The site suggests a 5000-year-old village similar in scale to the group of stone houses at Skara Brae, Orkney, and is helping historians "rewrite pre-history"

For the incredibly nerdy among us A series of email correspondence regarding revisions to the Geologic Time Scale. Fascinating insight into the seemingly trivial aspects of a discipline that so occupy our time.

Colleagues -

The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), under the auspices of
IUGS and ICSU, is revising the Geological Time Scale. A proposed revision
of great consequence to the Quaternary community is an extension of the
Neogene System to the present. The Pleistocene and Holocene would be
retained as Series, but the Quaternary would be eliminated as a System. An
argument made by ICS is that the "Quaternary" and "Tertiary" are archaic
terms. Elimination of Quaternary as a System is clearly a highly charged
issue, but ICS seems determined to make the change, whether or not
Quaternarists agree.

INQUA does not accept the elimination of the word "Quaternary" from the
Geological Time Scale. Accordingly, its Commission on Stratigraphy and
Geochronology has suggested a compromise to the INQUA Executive Committee
that may or may not be acceptable to both the larger Quaternary community
and ICS (see following letter and proposal from Brad Pillans). The gist of
the proposal is to define a Quaternary Subsystem that encompasses the
present Pleistocene and Holocene Series, as well as the Gelasian Stage
(2.6-1.8 Ma). Under this proposal, the boundaries of the Pleistocene and
Holocene would remain unchanged.

The INQUA Executive Committee ask for your feedback on this important
issue. Please send your comments to John Clague ( and Brad
Pillans (

INQUA Executive Committee:
John J. Clague
Nicholas Shackleton
Peter Coxon
Margaret Avery
Allan Chivas
Jan Piotrowski
Denis-Didier Rousseau
An Zhiseng


Dear Colleagues,

The Geological Time Scale (GTS) is one of the great achievements in Earth
Sciences. Recent revisions, and proposed revisions, are part of the ongoing
mandate of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) - see

One of the proposed revisions of the GTS is to extend the Neogene System
(Period*) up to the present, thereby subsuming what is currently the
Quaternary System (Period). While some may see this as a threat to the
Quaternary, I see it as a wonderful opportunity to redefine the Quaternary
in the way that we have wanted for some time, namely to extend the base
downwards from 1.81 Ma (Plio/Pleistocene boundary) to 2.6 Ma (base of
Pliocene Gelasian Stage).

Let me speak plainly when I say that we (INQUA) have little hope of
retaining the Quaternary System, above the Neogene System, as it is at
present. The weight of support is too great, from within ICS, for extending
the Neogene up to the present. Furthermore we have no hope of changing the
Plio/Pleistocene boundary; we tried that in 1997-98, resulting in a most
acrimonious debate between INQUA and ICS.

I believe that our best, and only reasonable course of action, is to grasp
the opportunity presented to us, and redefine the Quaternary as a Subsystem
within the extended Neogene System, with base at 2.6 Ma. Indeed, I have
been asked to submit such a proposal to ICS. The proposal below is a draft
for comment/discussion and, perhaps, for endorsement by INQUA. As
recommended by ICS, I have tried to keep the document short and

A strength of the proposal, I think, is that it decouples the base of the
Quaternary from the "blood sweat and tears" of the Plio/Pleistocene

The views expressed are my own, but I sense that they will be widely
supported by Quaternary scientists. After all, this is a chance to extend
our time domain by 800,000 years!

To reiterate, this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - we are
unlikely to get another opportunity to define the Quaternary the way we
want it.

Brad Pillans, President INQUA Stratigraphy & Chronology Commission

* "Period" is the geochronologic unit equivalent of the chronostratigraphic
unit "System".


In the revised geological time scale (GTS2004) Lourens et al. propose to
extend the Neogene System (Period) up to the present, thereby making the
Quaternary System (= Pleistocene + Holocene Series) redundant. See Figure 1.

Here I propose that the Quaternary be redefined as a Subsystem (Subperiod)
of the Neogene, and that its base be defined at the base of the Pliocene
Gelasian Stage at 2.6 Ma (GSSP ratified - Rio et al. 1998. Episodes 21,
82.). After recent discussions by the ICS executive, in consultation with
the IUGS executive, they have requested that the various formal
stratigraphic groups of ICS and INQUA be asked to consider the proposal.

In support of the proposal for a Quaternary Subsystem (Subperiod), I note
the following:
* There is overwhelming support from INQUA members, who I have talked
with, to retain the Quaternary as a formal chronostratigraphic unit.
* There is precedence for naming Subsystems in the GTS, specifically
the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian Subsystems of the Carboniferous.
* Redefinition of the Quaternary will make use of an existing GSSP
(Gelasian Stage).
* Decoupling the base of the Quaternary from the Plio-Pleistocene
boundary (1.8 Ma) would, I believe, bring an end to the long-running
arguments over the position of the Plio/Pleistocene boundary.
* A majority of INQUA members appear to favour a "long" Quaternary (2.6
Ma) over a "short" Quaternary (1.8 Ma). In essence, the preference for a
"long" Quaternary reflects perceived continuity of character over that
time. For example, around 2.6 Ma, Chinese loess deposition becomes
widespread and is substantially different in character to the underlying
Red Clay (e.g. Ding et al. 1997. Quaternary International 40, 53).
* Around 2.6 Ma, deep sea oxygen isotope records show the culmination
of a series of cycles of increasing glacial intensity, also associated with
the first major inputs of ice rafted debris to the North Atlantic. For many
this marks the beginning of the "Quaternary ice ages". It also marks a
change from precession-dominated to obliquity-dominated climate forcing.
In summary, the extension of the Neogene System (Period) upwards provides
an ideal opportunity to redefine the Quaternary, as a Subsystem (Subperiod)
of the Neogene. The proposal for a Quaternary Subsystem is consistent with
popular usage, does not require a new GSSP, and will end the arguments
about the Plio/Pleistocene boundary.

Sacred Mayan stone uncovered

US archaeologists working in Guatemala have discovered a sacred stone covered with inscriptions dating to the end of the classic Mayan civilisation.

Researchers from Tennessee's Vanderbilt University and the National Geographic Society in Washington discovered the stone while excavating one of the largest Mayan royal palaces, located in Cancuen, central Guatemala.

It was built between 765 and 790 AD by Mayan ruler Taj Chan Ahk.

The archaeologists hope to use the discovery to glean important information about the events of the final 30 years of the Mayan era.

More detail At National Geographic's site.

Obvious statement alert: Do You Judge People By Their Cars? Professor Says Everybody Does It

MADISON, Wis. -- Everyone makes judgments about others based upon their hair, body shape and even their car, according to lesson in a University of Wisconsin archaeology class.

Archaeologist Sissel Schroeder gave students in her Anthropology 112 course the assignment of surveying a small number of cars in designated campus parking lots and using what they observed -- make, model, age, condition -- to draw conclusions about the gender and social standing of the owners.

"In archaeology, when you are dealing with the prehistoric world, there is no reality to check it against, so our inferences are always subject to reinterpretation," Schroeder said.

Archaeologists find emperor's marble head in Petra

AMMAN: French archaeologists have unearthed a perfectly preserved head of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the ancient Nabatean city of Petra south of Jordan, the head of the mission said Thursday.

"A monumental white marble head, in excellent condition, belonging to a statue the Emperor Marcus Aurelius was found in Petra by French archaeologists," Christian Auge said.

The head of the 2nd century Roman leader, who was also known as the "good emperor" or the "philosopher-king," was found in the Qasr al-Bint area of Petra, a Nabatean city famous for its rose-red temples dug into rock.

Courtyard archaeology

I awoke to a cool, late spring morning with the resolve to reclaim some lost property.

Over the next few days, my efforts uncovered about 100 square feet of courtyard that had been taken over by matted vines, roots and composted leaves. The project yielded six wheelbarrow loads of dirt, which I used to make a raised bed for herbs and ornamentals.

There are people who pore over land records in courthouses looking for unclaimed property. Instead of a computer, I laid claim with a grain shovel, hoe and hatchet. The work was immensely satisfying.

Okay, not exactly archaeology in the strictest sense. But a nice article nonetheless. Call it lifetime-scale archaeology.

Dam archaeologists! Experts to examine dams' histories

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- Archaeologists will examine the history of the Embrey Dam and a wooden dam upstream from it before contractors begin dismantling the structures in July.

The $12,000 project will gather existing documents about the dams, including studies the Army Corps of Engineers and Fredericksburg City Council have commissioned over time.

"These are structures, so they are in the realm of archaeological historians," said Kim Zawacki, an archaeologist and principal investigator with Cultural Resources Inc. of Fredericksburg.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Online Book Alert! Systematics in Prehistory by Robert C. Dunnell.

For those who are not professional Americanist archaeologists, Dunnell is probably unknown to you and my linking to this book should probably have no discernible impact on that state. After all, there are no pictures of artifacts, no plan drawings of temples, tombs or hieroglyphs, just several figures and tables relating to the text. This is pure
archaeological method and theory, the kind of text that archaeologists (and poor suffering grad students) slog through on a regular basis. If you're thinking about getting into archaeology, this is what you're in for.

Many of us here at ArchaeoBlog studied under Dunnell (now retired from the University of Washington) and this was our first "textbook" upon entering the program. The book is basically a primer for Dunnell's later work attempting to utilize Darwinian evolutionary theory for archaeological explanation. Dunnell recognized that the tedious practice of "systematics" or unit classification is key to developing scientific theory. That is, one cannot simply borrow any old theory from another discipline and plug it in to your existing data sets because the units of analysis won't necessarily work. Theory building works by a collaborative process of creating theory, coming up with hypotheses to test the theory (requiring appropriate units with which to measure the objects of inquiry), refining the theory, etc. This book began the long process (still ongoing) of constructing appropriate archaeological measurement units.

It's tough reading. At first glance, Dunnell's writing seems horribly obtuse and difficult to follow. But it is, in fact, very concise and straightforward, so be patient and give it time.

Interview with Ashraf Okasha of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt.

Also, Restoration plans for the Ramesseum temple (Egypt).

The Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA) is working out a plan to restore the Ramesseum temple on the west bank in Luxor.

The temple, however, has been subject since 1959 to a registration process.

The SCA Secretary General Dr. Zahi Hawass said that a team from the Louvre Museum has been co-operating with SCA experts in registering all elements of the temple, even the inscriptions on the walls.

Registration includes photography, architectural surveying and sketching.

It's a tough life Archaeology study underway at Coco Palms Resort grounds

Cultural-survey experts from O‘ahu and Kaua‘i have been scouring the Coco Palms Resort property in Wailua over the last month, looking for ancient-Hawaiian burial sites, trails and anecdotal information to include in a cultural impact statement (CIS). But so far, the archeologists have come up empty in the search for artifacts.

"We haven't found any burials," said David Shideler, supervising archeologist with O‘ahu-based Cultural Surveys Hawaii, Inc. "It's really kind of disappointing."

"But we did find numerous errrmmmm. . .bodies (mostly female) in a variety of recumbent positions with various decorative clothing options. These are in desperate need of further study, preferably over a margarita or two."

Archaeologist Confirms Ancient Indo-Roman Site in Kerala

Southampton, April 21: A historical mystery surrounding Indo-Roman trade routes may have been solved, says a report by Southampton University archaeology research fellow Roberta Tomber.

Armed with an Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) grant to investigate Indo-Roman trade, and with the guidance of David Peacock who heads Archaeology at the University of Southampton, Tomber worked with local archaeologists in Kerala where she identified the first fragments of Roman wine amphorae found on the south-west coast of India.

The striking archaeological evidence suggests that the legendary seaport of Muziris, which was a bustling Indo-Roman trading center during the early historic period between the first century BC and the fifth century AD, could have been located at Pattanam, near Paravur on the south of the Periyar river delta.

Stockbroker Belt's 'A Bronze Age Settlement'

A unassuming hilltop paddock in the heart of the Home Counties’ “stockbroker belt” was once an ancient fortified settlement, archaeologists believe.

A dig on the site of a new £30 million water main near Taplow in Buckinghamshire has uncovered a string of artefacts dating from the Bronze and Iron ages as well as Roman and mediaeval times as well as evidence of ancient oneupmanship.

The archaeologists, called in by Thames Water, found pieces of pottery, flint, and burnt bone thought to date back to the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age. The finds indicate that the site would have been a fortified hilltop settlement on a key route from the Thames Valley to the centre of the country between 700BC and 400BC a period of significant transition.

Underwater archaeology. . . .in Idaho Experts study ancient boat found on lake bottom

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) -- Archeologists and divers are studying what may be an ancient dugout canoe found submerged under 40 feet of water in Lake Pend Oreille.

Matthew Russell, an underwater archaeologist with the National Park Service headquartered in Santa Fe, N.M., said it may take several weeks to determine the canoe's age and origin.

"This could be the only known find of its kind in Idaho," said Mary Anne Davis, assistant archaeologist with the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office in Boise. "It's pretty exciting -- we really don't know what we have."

Heh. "It looks like Barney Rubble's car with no wheels," Obviously prehistoric then.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Nicole Kidman in Siberia? Ice Maiden triggers mother of all disputes in Siberia

High in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia, where Shamans still practise their ancient rites and most people are descended from Asiatic nomads, there is a whiff of revolt in the air.

Local officials, urged on by the increasingly militant electorate, are collecting signatures, writing petitions and demanding audiences with regional political leaders.

Their demands are simple and have nothing to do with the inept rule, poverty, corruption and ecological disasters dogging the region.

They want a 2,500-year-old mummy, found by Russian archaeologists 11 years ago and being studied in the Siberian capital of Novosibirsk, to be reinterred without delay.

The excavation was broadcast, on NOVA (PBS) in the States I believe, several years ago. One wonders if it would be possible to go ahead and rebury her yet somehow recreate the conditions by which she was preserved in the first place. The locale is in permafrost, so it should theoretically be possible to put her back. I agree with the quote about being the laughingstock of the scientific community, were they to give in to fears of natural disasters due to the removal of the body. OTOH, as one person mentioned, the reburial would largely be to "allay the fears" of the people, not to put a stop to the disasters. So in that sense, it might make for a good public relations maneuver.

More here on a similarly mummified male from the same area.

More from Iran First Archeological Park Museum of Iran Under Construction

TEHRAN (CHN) -- The first archeological park museum of Iran, which once completed could be used by students and researchers, will showcase parts of the lives of ancient people at the time of Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids.

According to sculptor and designer of the project, Esfandiar Iman Zadeh, the project started 3 years ago and although more than 400 statues, inscriptions and figures have been replicated, only ten percent of the project is so far completed.

The park museum is being constructed in Shahriar, southwest of Tehran, in a 25,000 square meter piece of land, which Iman Zadeh believes is not sufficient for the plans made. Funding the project by his own money, he says that it will take at least 12 years for the project to be completed with personal assets; however, government loans will help to wrap it up in just 4.

Ancient Egyptian love poetry Ancient Egyptian Love Poems Reveal a Lust for Life

Pyramids, mummies, tombs, and other icons of aristocracy and the afterlife dominate our images of ancient Egypt. But love poems composed thousands of years ago may provide a more intimate glimpse of the lives of everyday ancient Egyptians.

"Poetry is perhaps the greatest forgotten treasure of ancient Egypt," said Richard Parkinson, an expert on ancient Egyptian poetry at London's British Museum, home to the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo.

It sometimes loses something in translation though:

I'll go down to the water with you,
and come out to you carrying a red fish,
which is just right in my fingers.

Trading Spaces Artifacts TV shows spark 'gardening' crime

Garden makeover programmes are being blamed for an increase in the theft of ancient artefacts from Dartmoor.

Electronic tags are being used to help protect valuable stone crosses and troughs in the area.

Officials from the Dartmoor National Park Authority say the popularity of TV garden series could be triggering more thefts.

New security measures follow a recent attempt to remove a granite cross.

And in related (old) news Farmer builds own burial chamber

A Devon farmer has realised his dream by building a Bronze Age burial chamber on his land.

Gavin Dollard transported four huge pieces of granite from Dartmoor to his estate near Ivybridge to carry out the construction.

It is thought to be the first time in 2,000 years that a cromlech - defined as a prehistoric monument made of stones and thought to be a burial tomb - has been built in the UK.

News from Egypt Reopening, restoring Kalabsha Island temples

The temples of Kalabsha Island in Aswan will be opened next month for visitors following a comprehensive restoration that covered the archaeological site.

The temples and chapels on the island bad not been restored since their transfer under the UNESCO campaign to rescue monuments from drowning in Lake Nasser.

The Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni said that the island is considered an open museum for monuments of different ages.

Teens discover monk's remains

A GROUP of teenagers have unearthed the remains of an ancient monk after spending their Easter holidays working on an archaeological dig.

Seven youngsters, aged 13 to 19, from the CYDS project have been hard at work on the dig at Leiston Abbey for the past fortnight.

And this week their efforts have been rewarded with the discovery of a skeleton thought to date back as far as the 13th century.

Warrior's grave points to Druid site

THE discovery of the body of a warrior - thought to have died in battle more than 2,000 years ago - could help archaeologists to pinpoint the site of an ancient Druid holy site, experts said yesterday.

The young warrior, aged about 30, with his spear, a sword, his belt and scabbard, stunned archaeologists who found his stone coffin.

The discovery on Marshill, Alloa, last year was hailed as one of the most significant Iron Age finds for decades in Scotland.

Titanic news Discoverer of Titanic to return for study

Nineteen years after discovering the Titanic, underwater explorer Robert Ballard announced yesterday that he's returning to the luxury liner to document its deterioration and to push for international backing to preserve it and other shipwrecks as permanent memorials.

The goal of the $1 million expedition, set to begin May 30, is to confirm reports that the Titanic is deteriorating more rapidly than previously thought from natural causes and from damage done by scores of dives to the ship.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration visited the Titanic in June and reported that the ship was quickly degrading at its grave 2 1/2 miles beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

Shell beads from South African cave show modern human behavior 75,000 years ago

Perforated shells found at South Africa's Blombos Cave appear to have been strung as beads about 75,000 years ago-making them 30,000 years older than any previously identified personal ornaments. Archaeologists excavating the site on the on the coast of the Indian Ocean discovered 41 shells, all with holes and wear marks in similar positions, in a layer of sediment deposited during the Middle Stone Age (MSA).

"The Blombos Cave beads present absolute evidence for perhaps the earliest storage of information outside the human brain," says Christopher Henshilwood, program director of the Blombos Cave Project and professor at the Centre for Development Studies of the University of Bergen in Norway.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Archaeologists hurry to excavate remains of Henry Flagler hotel in Miami

A team of archaeologists has opened a window to an era when well-heeled industrialists Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller traveled to a young Miami, lured by a new hotel that was the gem of its age.

A handful of archaeologists have spent the last year gently digging under a downtown parking lot in the middle of high-rise hotels and the Interstate 95 on-ramps. They've uncovered parts of Miami founder and railroad magnate Henry Flagler's once magnificent Royal Palm Hotel -- from the ash pits where the boilers were fired up and the pathways that led to the workers' quarters, to patina-covered skeleton keys that once opened those rooms. They've also discovered evidence of the area's first settlers, the Tequesta Indians.

And look, you can buy some of it, too $100 buys you a brick of hotel built by Flagler

Take home a piece of the Royal Palm Hotel, a chunk of 19th century South Florida grandeur. The cost -- about $100.

Archaeologists working in the skyscraper shadows of downtown Miami are discovering, dusting and displaying ever-larger foundational sections of the once-magnificent hotel, opened by railroad magnate Henry Flagler in 1897 and razed in 1930.

Now, they plan to sell -- one by one -- 1,500 yellow and red bricks gently pried from the hotel's lower walls, newly unearthed from below the asphalt of a parking lot north of the Dupont Plaza hotel.

Archaeologists puzzle over skull mystery

Nobody knows how he got there or how he died.

But the human skull of an elderly man unearthed under a block of flats has given archaeologists a tantalising mystery to puzzle over.

The skull, which is more than 500 years old, was revealed during demolition work on the Canon's Walk flats in Thetford on Monday morning.

Mini gate tower of Han Dynasty unearthed in Chongqing

CHONGQING, April 21 (Xinhuanet) -- A mini gate tower of the imperial Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 220), the smallest ever spotted, has been unearthed in the Three Gorges area, according to archaeologists.

Discovered in the Dengjiatuo ruins, located in Zhongxian county of southwest China's Chongqing municipality, the stone gate tower was 3.2 meters tall and was thin in shape. The delicately-built tower was engraved with rare birds and animals of ancient folkloreon its body and head, said archaeologists.

We don't go a single day without archaeological news out of China, for some reason.

Ancient pets Update Ancient bones may be those of royal pet

Corgis, the little dogs with the short legs, may have a long royal history. Archaeologists from Cardiff University said Wednesday that ninth century bones unearthed in Wales may be those of the first Welsh corgi to be kept as a royal pet.

They have been analyzing bones found at a ancient royal dwelling in a bog in the Brecon Beacons, a hilly area of southern Wales.

"We have the foreleg of a corgi-sized dog, which, dare we suggest, might be a much-favored ancestral royal companion," said Alan Mulville, of the university's School of History and Archaeology, who is leading the study.

New Rosetta Stone Archaeologists find 'bilingual stone'

POTSDAM, Germany - German archaeologists working in Egypt have uncovered a stone with writing in two languages and dating from pre-Christian times, the first find of its kind in more than 100 years.

The 99-centimetre (39-inch) high "bilingual stone", which dates to 238 BC, was found in Tell Basta in the Nile Delta region, said a representative for the team from Potsdam University in eastern Germany.

Now we just need one with Linear B.

Missing Link Clue to 2000-Year-Old 'Boudica' Necklace

Amateur archaeologists believe they have found the missing link to a 2,000 year-old necklace unearthed by a farm labourer in 1965.

The gold torc had one of its two terminals – or end rings – missing when found in a field at Sedgeford, Norfolk, 29 years ago.

Now local historians have found an Iron Age terminal in a nearby field, which they think fits the torc.

Way to rune a good story Documents may prove ancient runestone fake

Scholars who believe the Kensington Runestone is a 19th-century prank -- and not concrete evidence that Norsemen beat Columbus to America by 100-plus years -- say they have found the smoking gun to prove it.

The latest in the century-old controversy centered in Minnesota came in documents written in 1885 by an 18-year-old Swedish tailor named Edward Larsson. He sometimes wrote in runes -- an ancient Scandinavian language that differs from the English alphabet. But Larsson's runes were not the usual runes used over the centuries.

The scholars contend that parts of his documents seem to be written in a secret runic alphabet used by tradesmen in Sweden in the late 1800s, rather like codes that tramps have used over time to leave secret messages for one another.

Looting update Grave Robbers Destroy Ancient Peru Mural

LIMA, Peru - Grave robbers destroyed a 1,000-year-old mural at an ancient Peruvian ceremonial site, a museum archaeologist said Monday.

The thieves entered the Huaca Bandera site, 425 miles northeast of Lima, sometime over the past few days, Marco Fernandez, from the Bruning Museum in Peru's Lambayeque region, told The Associated Press.

He said they probably used picks or wooden poles in a futile effort to steal the mural — a black, yellow and white dragon in sculpted relief on a painted red background — but only succeeded in destroying it.

Iraq update Archaeologists review loss of valuable artifacts one year after looting

A year after the looting of the Iraqi National Museum, Oriental Institute archaeologists continue to track missing artifacts. And their work is playing a pivotal role in helping recover items stolen from the museum in Baghdad between April 9 and 11, 2003.

“This event provoked great outrage around the world and attracted new attention by both media and the public on the Mesopotamian civilization, Iraq’s cultural heritage,” said Oriental Institute Research Associate Clemens Reichel. Reichel initiated a Web-accessible database to document the destruction and theft of artifacts last April, following the museum’s looting.

Not to minimize the importance of looting, but. . .mass graves have been found with an estimated 300,000 victims of the previous regime, and the world was outraged about this?? Someone once commented that, while the Taliban was murdering hundreds in Afghanistan and brutalizing women simply for reading books, the only thing that produced international outrage was their blowing up of a couple of statues. We need some perspective.

Those crazy Magdelenians. . .Dancing girls and the merry Magdalenian

The people who created the first surviving art in Britain were committed Europeans, belonging to a common culture spanning France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, according to the man who discovered the cave art in Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire.

And the essential preoccupations of this single market in ice-age art, it seems, were hunting and naked dancing girls.

The discovery of 13,000-year-old rock paintings in Nottinghamshire last year rewrote ice-age history in Britain. Today, archaeologists from all over Europe are in Creswell to discuss how the finds form part of a continent-wide culture known as the Magdalenian.

Paul Pettitt, of Sheffield University's archaeology department, said: "The Magdalenian era was the last time that Europe was unified in a real sense and on a grand scale."
. . .

"You see a naked women in profile, with jutting out buttocks and raised arms. It appears to be a picture of women doing a dance in which they thrust out their derrières.

They knew how to party.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

At the moment, we are experiencing difficulties with that abomination of software design (we use the term loosely) known as Windows XP. We regret the possible lapses in news reporting this may incur, but will continue to try to resolve the problem.

What lies beneath

ARCHAEOLOGISTS will begin exploring the fire-hit Cowgate site next week in a bid to uncover the early beginnings of the historic area.

The owners of the Old Town site have hired a team of archaeologists to carry out an extensive excavation underneath the foundations of the present ruins.

Experts hope to unearth the remains of 15th century buildings - or even earlier - across the entire site, which was devastated by a massive blaze in 2002.

The major dig, which marks the first step towards the re-development of the site, will give a clearer picture of life in the Cowgate centuries ago when it was one of the city’s most fashionable quarters.

Not really jewels Archaeology gems on display

A MASSIVE haul of treasure discovered by a metal detector expert has gone on show.

Bronze Age and Roman "treasures" found by archaeologist James Balme will be on display at Warrington Museum throughout April.

James discovered the ancient settlement of Warburton near Lymm after six years of investigations and many of the artefacts were recovered thanks to his metal detecting skills at the site, which also includes a previously unknown small Roman fort.

Colchester natives fight for EU status

Fishermen in Essex are fighting for the right to protect the geographical description "Colchester native oyster" - status achieved by Parma ham curers and the brewers of Newcastle Brown.

Okay. . . . .

They want the name to be enshrined in EU law so that it applies only to oysters produced in the beds around Mersea island and the Colne and Blackwater estuaries.

Okay. . . . .

Archaeologists have shown that Colchester oysters were traded across Europe before the Romans invaded Britain.

Kylie Minogue, Sir Roger Moore and the chef Jamie Oliver are among those who are said to swear by them.

There's the archaeological link.

Kylie Minogue is, of course, entirely pertinent to archaeology.

Uncovering of 218-year-old ship set to begin

SOUTHAMPTON, Ont. (CP) — It's been three years since a resident of this Lake Huron town noticed several wooden timbers pushing up through the sand on the local beach.

Ken Cassavoy is now preparing to lead a team of archeologists who will excavate the area to uncover what is thought to be the merchant schooner the Weazell — believed to be the oldest shipwreck ever discovered on the Great Lakes.

The wreck is to be fully excavated starting May 17 — the beginning of an estimated eight-week venture to open up the entire interior of the vessel as well as the full exterior on the starboard side, says Cassavoy, a research associate at Trent University in Peterborough who has been leading test excavations on the site.

"It's believed to be the earliest shipwreck ever found (on the Great Lakes), and we'll be able to learn a lot about the ship's constructions from its remains," Cassavoy, a marine archeologist, said Tuesday in an interview from his home in Southampton just southwest of Owen Sound.

Old Mound May Lead To New Ideas About People 5,000 Years Ago

MADISON -- Thanks in part to dynamite and the gold-seeking Mexican fishermen who detonated it in the late 1970s, archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 5,000-year-old shell mound.

Constructed of cement-like floors, the mound, researchers say, is the oldest known platform intentionally built in Mesoamerica, the cultural region comprising Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and it could completely change our understanding of the prehistoric people who once inhabited this area.

The mound, built almost entirely from marsh clamshells, is 240 feet long, 90 feet wide and 21 feet tall. John Hodgson, a University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral degree candidate in anthropology discovered it last October on a remote island in a swampy area along the Pacific coast of Chiapas in Southwestern Mexico. Hodgson has named the site "Alvarez del Toro," a tribute to the naturalist who studied the fauna and wildlife of this region.

Old Stones Reveal Their Age

A team of archaeological scientists in the United States and Germany say they have developed a technique to accurately determine the age of stone tools and artifacts between 50,000 and 100,000 years old, a period that has proved particularly tricky to map with other methods.

If it's accepted by archaeologists and anthropologists, the technique could result in a clearer picture of the era and even lead to new discoveries about the civilizations that thrived in that period.

"Our objective is to close the chronological gap that is so critical to paleoanthropology," said University of California at Irvine professor Jonathan Ericson, who helped form the project. "The process will allow people to refine chronologies that have not been able to be refined because of the limitations of current techniques."

Expert: Cleopatra Seduces Antony on Vase

The epic romance between Egyptian queen Cleopatra and the Roman general Marc Antony was immortalized on a Roman vase that is now housed at the British Museum, according to an expert in classical art.

Susan Walker, former deputy keeper of Greek and Roman antiquities at the British Museum who is now the head of a similar department at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, believes the Portland Vase shows Cleopatra seducing Antony, while cupid and Anton, the son of Greek mythological hero Hercules, look on. Marc Antony's family claimed they had descended from Anton.

After careful review, we at ArchaeoBlog feel that certain parallels can be drawn between the above representation of Cleopatra and modern images of, say, Kylie Minogue.

The staff is back from a pleasant weekend of communing with our fellow researchers in the wilds of Tucson, AZ. Yes, amidst all the papers and presentations and, okay, boozing it up with otherwise staid and pedantic Egyptologists, we found our sense of comraderie in our mutual respect and curiosity about the ancient past of Egypt.

Here's another hint: Leave the party in room 413 BEFORE the police show up.

Meanwhile, news will be coming in dribs and drabs while we catch up with our web surfing.

New museum director leads archaeologists at Tell Brak (Subscription required)

Geoff Emberling, an archaeologist with extensive research experience in Syria, will become Director of the Museum of the Oriental Institute on Wednesday, May 26, when he concludes his duties as field director of the Archaeological Expedition to Tell Brak, a joint project between the United States and Britain.

“Geoff is an extraordinarily talented young scholar who combines scholarly expertise, outstanding abilities as an archaeological field director and curatorial experience through his previous work in the Ancient Near East Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said Gil Stein, Director of the Oriental Institute.

“With his specializations in Mesopotamian, Iranian and North Syrian archaeology, Geoff is the ideal person to lead the Museum of the Oriental Institute through the completion of our gallery installation, while defining new directions for this world-class collection of Near Eastern artifacts,” Stein added.

VOlunteer for archaeology! Volunteers sought for archaeology projects

Volunteers interested in archaeology are invited to apply for this year's Passport in Time projects. Volunteers will participate in vital archaeological and historical research in the Umpqua National Forest with professional archaeologists. Up to 10 volunteers are requested to commit to a minimum of a one week session.

Ugh. Roseburg, Oregon. What a perfectly wretched and inhospitable hell-hole of a town.

Of course, my experience is slightly colored by a combination of a dead car, dealing with crooked used car dealers, and a perfect jackass of a driver. Your mileage may vary.

Pa site scoured for more remains

The remains of at least 14 Maori have been found buried in an ancient pa site on a multimillion-dollar Western Bay development.

The discovery of a large site of Maori occupation in Omokoroa, 18km northwest of Tauranga, could shed fresh light on the area's history.

The Historic Places Trust has given permission for the site to be destroyed after an assessment by two archaeologists. Descendants of the pa's inhabitants are digging to uncover as many bodies as possible before earthmovers cover all trace of the village.

The discovery of the historic site will not halt the Lynley Park development as the pa was largely in pieces underground and not deemed by archaeologists as worth saving.

Philanthropy alert! Couple give $8M to U-M museum

A Kalamazoo couple with ties to Western Michigan University and The Upjohn Co. are making an $8 million donation to the University of Michigan's Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.

The gift is the largest in the history of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, which operates the museum, according to the university.

Edwin Meader is a 1933 graduate of the University of Michigan. He taught geography of the Middle East at both Wayne State University and Western Michigan University. Mary Meader, a member of Kalamazoo's Upjohn family, attended Smith College.

You know, for far less than that you too could contribute money to important archaeological excavations in Egypt! Matter of fact, I could excavate for several seasons at Kom el-Hisn, a terribly interesting (and quite rare) intact Old Kingdom town site in the Delta, for less than half of that. *hint hint*

Archaeologists discover Indian artifacts in Tri-City area

Archaeologists are hard at work preserving a piece of history in the Tri-city area. Working along Highway 63, the group is discovering Indian artifacts that are anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 years old.

The project involves the excavation of four sites that are thought to once be Indian villages. The sites were discovered in 2000 when the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department surveyed the area to be affected by the installation of Interstate 555.

In 2003, a group of archaeologists led by Carol Spears, conducted a more in depth study of the sites and concluded that they contained artifacts dating back to the Late Woodland Period. The period dates to somewhere between 400 to 600 A.D. and is characterized by scattered settlements consisting of few houses.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Disruption in service

The staff of ArchaeoBlog will be in hiatus until next Monday (19th) while we attend the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

(Sorry about the formatting on the first few of these. Can't figure out why BlogSpt makes some of the text double-spaced and others not)

Journal article alert For those with online journal access, a new paper is

out summarizing the Late Quaternary of Egypt and northern Sudan. This impossibly long link supposedly

Otherwise, the reference is:

Nicoll, Kathleen, Recent environmental change and prehistoric human activity in Egypt and

Northern Sudan
, Quaternary Science Reviews 23 (5-6):561-580 (March 2004).


This paper reviews the various Late Quaternary records that are available from

western Egypt and northern Sudan, which includes more than 500 published radiocarbon dates

and various sedimentary archives from local landscape components, including palaeolakes,

soils, drainages (wadis), and archaeological sites. This palaeoenvironmental compilation

frames the spatial and temporal context of local cultural activities when the region was

most hospitable ~9000–6000 BP; at this time, monsoonal weather influenced the portion of the

African continental interior, creating enough convective rainfall for occasional surface

water storage. In this part of the modern Sahara, rapid hydroclimatic changes play a key

role in geomorphic evolution and resource availability. As `watering holes' formed and dried

up in the Early to Middle Holocene, Neolithic people developed various subsistence

strategies, including opportunistic hunting of small animals (e.g. gazelle and hare), and

food-related (e.g. wild sorghum, millet, and legumes) activities: gathering, plant

cultivation and livestock-rearing. During its wettest phases during the `monsoonal maximum,'

the area was drought-prone, sustaining a meager steppe–shrub desert flora. Further

desertification and aeolian deflation during the Middle and Late Holocene fostered

technological innovation, migration and settlement, as well as the further development of

agrarian communities and complex culture.

More on Egyptian paleoclimates

in Ancient Egypt
(Down the page; subscriber restricted)

Historical and paleoenvironmental data suggest that much of Africa was affected

by a damaging drought about 4,000 years ago. Jean-Daniel Stanley and colleagues

(Geoarchaeology 18 [2003]) use strontium isotopes and materials analysis of two well-dated

Nile Riverregion sediment cores to trace the variations in the river's flow and annual flood

patterns during this period.

Strontium isotopic tracer studies measure the ratio of 87Sr to 86Sr. Since the two

major tributaries of the Nile drain regions with different ratios of these isotopes,

sediments in the delta can be traced to either the high-ratio White Nile catchment or the

low-ratio Blue Nile catchment. Precipitation rates in these regions can be inferred from

sediment flow levels, since reduction in plant cover in drier periods allows more erosion to

take place. Petrological studies documenting the presence of iron-oxiderich sediments, a

characteristic of dry periods, show that the entire Nile River water catchment was

exceptionally low around 4,200 B.P. Further evidence for arid conditions comes from local

historical records and from reliefs depicting a desert landscape. These multiple lines of

evidence for widespread drought simultaneous with the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt

reveal a major causal factor in that collapse.

A disastrous drought at the end of the Old Kingdom has long been posited as one of the

causes for the collapse of the Old Kingdom. The king was seen as particularly divine during

these early DYnasties and primarily responsible for the well-being of the state. It is

thought that his inability to bring the annual flood may have contributed to the decreasing

authority of the monarch at this time bringing about the First Intermediate Period when

Dynastic rule was confused and probably non-existent throughout most of Egypt.

And now for something completele different. . . .

Archaeologist talks about Oregon's early natives

Dr. Dennis Jenkins believes the entire Sumner Lake Basin was once filled with water up to state Highway 31. Contributed Photo

Were humans present 12,000 years ago in the Great Basin region of Oregon when buffalo, non-Spanish horses and even camels roamed the landscape?

This, the central question of University of Oregon archaeologist Dennis Jenkins' series of digs, is what researchers have been trying to determine since the 1930s.

In 1938, Luther Cressman, the first to explore the region, discovered preserved 9,000-year-old shredded sage sandals at Fort Rock Cave in south central Oregon. Until radiocarbon dating verified his find, his belief was that humans had occupied the area a maximum of 4,000 years ago.

Significant quote: In these caves, Jenkins found both human artifacts and animal bones radiocarbon dated to the same time period, 12,000 to 14,000 years ago.

This would be very signficant as any remains this old bear on the question of the timing of human entry into the New World.

Archaeologist tracks down history of tiny statue

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The barbarian first caught his eye 19 years ago.

Robert Cohon strode through the classical galleries of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The light was low. The room was quiet. A spotlighted statue in a display case stopped Cohon in his tracks.

The barbarian was only 7 inches tall, but, Cohon says, "it was spectacular."

The nude figure had muscular legs and a cape. It held one hand high, the other low, as if carrying a shield and a weapon. The dark bronze surface was mottled with tiny patches of red and green patinas. With its twisted posture, the look on its face and a bandaged leg, the barbarian appeared wounded and in pain.

To someone steeped in the art of ancient cultures, this small bronze statue of a warrior was quite a prize. Its presence at the museum helped Cohon decide to take a job as the Nelson's curator of antiquities.

Yet, within a couple of years, his elation turned to doubt amid questions about the figure's authenticity.

Good article on how one investigates forgeries.

Two halves of ancient sculpture come face to face

Two halves of a terracotta lion's head have been reunited after 2,500 years apart.

Following an international search, the two halves of the head, which would have decorated an ancient Greek temple, went on display together at Newcastle University Shefton Museum of Greek Art and Archaeology for the first time today.

The right side of the sculpture has been on display at the university since the 1970s, when it was purchased by the late Lionel Jacobson, a regular benefactor of the university.