Friday, June 25, 2004

Fight! Fight! Extinction's group theory

For more than three decades it has been known as the Blitzkrieg theory of extinction - the orgy of hunting and blood lust that took place when humans first arrived in new lands around the planet. Wonderful and bizarre giant beasts, known as megafauna, were rapidly pushed to extinction over the last 50,000 years and ancient man was the culprit.

By the time the killing was over some of the most impressive creatures that evolution has ever thrown up, such as the six-tonne woolly mammoth and the 2.7-tonne Australian diprotodon, had been wiped out from millions of square kilometres of their habitat.

. . .

The only problem with this grisly story is that, to some of the researchers who study these ancient extinctions, it is becoming clear that the crime could not have been committed by human hunting alone.

This is one of the few truly archaeological controversies that spills over into current affairs. The ArchaeoBlog staff has its own views on this topic, but we shan't divulge them here. Not that we're afraid of alienating anyone, but we prefer to be right in silence and modesty. We will therefore take this rare opportunity to provide a couple of links to online papers that will hopefully elucidate the issue.

Actually, we somewhat take that back, the only papers we can find freely available seem to be those on one side of the issue. Hopefully, however, the interested reader can do some web searching and come up with more argument from the other side. These are from David Meltzer's site, which has quite a few of his articles available without subscription and should make good reading anyhow.

Clovis Hunting and large mammal extinction: A critical review of the evidence

A requiem for North American Overkill

North American overkill continued? Reply to critique of the Requiem paper.

New topic Man unearths Bronze Age dagger in field

A METAL detecting enthusiast has unearthed a 3,600-year-old dagger from the depths of a South Lakeland field.

The finder, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear others will descend on the secret site, said he could not believe his luck when he stumbled across the Bronze Age relic.

"I was going along a small footpath when I got a good signal from the detector. I dug down a few inches and saw a piece of green metal," he explained.

"My immediate reaction was it's Bronze Age'."

Fragments of Roman armlets found in dig

Fragments of two glass armlets, dating back to the Roman era, have been discovered during an archaeological dig at Knowes Farm near East Linton.

The remains of several circular Iron Age houses with stone-flagged floors, apparently belonging to the latest period of occupation, have also been uncovered.

A team of around 20 students and archaeologists have set up the dig in a field the size of a football pitch, as part of the Traprain Law Environs Project.

Prof Colin Haselgrove from the Department of Archaeology at Durham University has been joined by his colleague, Mr Peter Carne, and Professor Leon Fitts from Dickinson College in the USA.

Since the 1950s, aerial surveys of the Iron Age hill fort at Traprain Law have revealed the buried remains of an estimated 100 smaller enclosures.

That's the whole thing.

Antiquities Market update ART DEALER'S $1M SMUGGLE

An art dealer pleaded guilty yesterday to smuggling a $1 million ancient silver griffin — believed to have been plundered from an Iranian cave — from Switzerland to New Jersey.

Hicham Aboutaam, of the Phoenix Ancient Art firm in Geneva, agreed to sell the griffin-shaped drinking vessel, created around 700 BC, to a New York collector, Manhattan federal prosecutors said.

He personally transported the griffin to Newark Airport in February 2000, claiming the antique was from Syria, when really it was from the Western Cave of Iran.

The cave, the site of many ancient artifacts, was completely plundered by treasure hunters in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Aboutaam, who pleaded guilty to falsifying a commercial invoice, faces up to one year in jail.

That's the whole thing, too.

Looks like they're heading home Scottish Museum to Return Maori Heads

Three 19th-century Maori heads that were hidden away in a Glasgow museum for more than 50 years will be returned to their native New Zealand, the Glasgow city council decided Thursday.

Council members voted unanimously to repatriate the tattooed preserved heads, called "toi moko," along with an 18th-century leg bone of a Maori warrior chief and several other artifacts.

The items were donated to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow between 1900 and 1950 but never put on display.

Sri Lanka's history under attack

Environmentalists warn that unchecked vandalism and neglect are destroying thousands of ancient rock caves in Sri Lanka, with scores of Buddha statues rendered headless and paintings defaced.

In the absence of a detailed survey, it is believed there are between 3,000 and 4,000 caves of historic importance in the country, bearing testimony to its ancient history and religion.

Former director general of archaeology Shiran Deraniyagala declared that unless the authorities took immediate action to save the caves, important historical evidence would soon be gone, reports OneWorld.

He alleged there was an orchestrated move to destroy archaeological sites to remove precious artefacts.