Tuesday, August 31, 2004

First up, Sudan Sudan's ancient treasures reveal the mighty culture that humbled the pharoahs

The Sudan of today is ravaged by inter-ethnic violence and on the brink of a humanitarian disaster. Yet 200 millennia ago the area that is now Sudan was at the cutting edge of technological and cultural development, creating what some scholars believe was the world's oldest known piece of art.

Now the people of its successive kingdoms, who humbled the pharaohs of Egypt, fought to a draw the power of Rome and held off the might of the Muslim Arabs, are to be recognised in an exhibition at the British Museum.

Sudan is another of those interesting places (archaeologically) that no one knows anything about. There's a great deal of prehistoric archaeology there, and it was a significant player through much of Egyptian dynastic history. Check out this site for a review of recent expeditions and also some of the links at About.com's Nubia page.

More on the CT-scanned mummy Technology unravels new views of mummies

London's storied British Museum is shining a fresh light on a 3,000-year-old mummy, pointing to high-tech times ahead for the venerable world of Egyptology.

An ongoing museum exhibit, Mummy: The Inside Story, presents a 3-D look at the unopened mummy of Nesperennub, an ancient Egyptian priest. Using the latest in medical technology, visitors see under the mummy's wrappings and flesh, catching researchers' insights into the art that went into its creation.

And we are happy to report the creepy orange pictures of Nesperennub are back.

This is interesting Data links early settlers to African diaspora

Long before Portuguese sailors put "Formosa" on the world map, and long before Chinese people crossed the dark current to set up home here, this land was inhabited by Austronesian Aborigines for thousands of years. Multigenetic analysis reveals that Austronesian tribes arrived as early as 14,000 years ago.

According to Marie Lin, who conducted the research as director of the immunohematory reference laboratory at Mackay Memorial Hospital, the gene typology of Taiwan's twelve indigenous peoples suggests a close kinship with Southeast Asian islanders, another subgroup of the Austronesian language family. Lin also deduced that the central mountain tribes and east coast tribes might have different origins due to separate waves of immigration from Africa between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago.

Another case where the genetic and archaeological data are seemingly at odds.

Archeologists Unearth Pre-Historic Artifacts in Coastal Turkey

Excavations carried out since 1987 in the ancient city of Kelenderis in the Aydincik district of Mersin (a Southern Turkish city) turned up pre-historic artifacts for the first time this year.

Kelenderis Excavation Head and Selcuk University Archeology Department Professor Dr. Levent Zoroglu explained that while the ancient city of Kelenderis dates back to the 8th century B.C., archeologists digging at the site uncovered ceramic pieces that are almost 5,000 years old.

Antiquities Market update I DAS seizes a huge shipment of archeological pieces

DAS seizes a huge shipment of archeological pieces in the north of Bogotá

Almost two thousand pieces dated 200 d.c were hidden in a pre- Columbian art gallery

The archeological treasure was illegally unburied from pre - Columbian tombs in the central and south areas of the country. This treasure was being commercialized.

Antiquities Market update II Public Plunder of Jiroft Artifacts Resumes

In a public frenzy to unearth lucrative 5,000-year-old artifacts, Jiroft residents are plowing their yards and gardens, reminiscent of nasty scenes last seen three years ago.

The historical site of Jiroft, home to an ancient civilization, is dubbed as “archeologists’ paradise”, since it is one of the most artifact-rich sites in the globe. Three years ago, local people, who are mostly farmers and businessmen, lunched a artifact rush and smuggled some priceless relics out of Iran.

“This time around, according to local tip-offs, people have clandestinely started to dig out their houses’ yards and gardens in search of 5,000-year-old artifacts,” said Rahmatollah Raouf, commander of the National Cultural heritage Corps.

He said law enforcement forces could not sweep on all suspected houses and the only solution is to increase the public awareness. Raouf threatened perpetrators with jail sentences, however, if they do not stop plundering national artifacts.

In January 2001 a group of Iranians from Jiroft in the southwestern province of Kerman stumbled upon an ancient tomb. Inside they found a hoard of objects decorated with highly distinctive engravings of animals, mythological figures and architectural motifs.

They did not realize it at the time but they had just made one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of recent years, one that is radically altering accepted notions of the development of the world's earliest civilizations in Iran and Mesopotamia between the fourth and third millennia BC. A few weeks after the discovery, officials from Iran's Ministry of Culture, vastly outnumbered by local people, watched hopelessly as thousands systematically dug up the area. The locals set up a highly organized impromptu system to manage the looting: each family was allocated an equal plot of six square-meters to dig.

This organized pillaging continued for an entire year. Dozens of tombs were discovered, some containing up to 60 objects, and thousands of ancient objects were removed. All of these were destined for overseas markets.

In February 2002 Iran's Islamic police finally arrived in force to stop the destruction. Some 2,000 objects were confiscated from locals in Jiroft and other hoards of the ancient artifacts ready to be shipped overseas were seized in Tehran and at Bandar Abbas.

The objects confiscated by the police are unlike anything ever seen before by archeologists. Many are made from chlorite, a gray-green soft stone; others are in copper, bronze, terracotta, even lapis lazuli. They are now being studied by a group of Iranian archaeologists led by Dr. Madjidzadeh. Official excavation of the site began in February 2003. It is focusing on both the necropolis, which was looted extensively, and on an ancient settlement not discovered by the looters.

We provide the entire story here as the formatting of the web page is difficult to read.

Antiquities Market update III Lebanese antiquities dealers prosecuted in US and Egypt

Hicham Aboutaam, a Lebanese principal in the antiquities dealers Phoenix Ancient Art, of Geneva and New York, was sentenced on 20 July in Manhattan federal court to one year’s probation and a criminal fine of $5,000 for falsely representing that an antique silver drinking vessel, which he imported into the US and then sold through his gallery to a private collector, originated in Syria.

The silver vessel, decorated with a griffin and dated about 700 BC, was sold by Phoenix Ancient Art to a collector for $950,000, but it has now been seized by US authorities and is in the custody of the US Department of Homeland Security.

A sleeping giant lies under Afghan sands

Archaeologist Zemaryalai Tarzi can barely bring himself to look at the ravaged cliff face where two ancient Buddhas towered until the Taliban infamously blasted them to bits.

"For me, everything there is over," Tarzi says, pointing toward the heap of peach-colored dust and chunks of rock that used to be one of the massive statues. "It hurts my heart to go there and see what has been lost."

But the scientist, who began his career in the sleepy valley in Afghanistan's central highlands more than 35 years ago, isn't letting the destruction get the best of him. He has turned his back on the cliff, stuck his trowel in the earth and is on the hunt for a magnificent relic perhaps five times as large as the ones that incurred the Taliban's wrath: the long-lost sleeping Buddha of Bamian.

"We are digging," Tarzi says, "to find the greatest statue in the world."

Silly, he's already been found.

More lost cities villages Neolithic homes unearthed at roadside

A Bronze Age cemetery is one of a number of prehistoric settlements that have been discovered in County Down.

Neolithic homes, which date to 4000 BC, were also uncovered by archaeologists along the A1 road near Newry.

Evidence from the excavation is being preserved before work begins on upgrading the road at Loughbrickland.

Head archaeologist Kevin Beachus said the find, which he described as "significant" was far more then his team expected.

Museum officials slobbering all over themselves Houston museum drooling at prospect of exhibiting famous 'Lucy' fossil

The first-ever public display of Lucy, a 3.2 million-year-old fossil discovered in Ethiopia, is scheduled for Houston in 2006, to the chagrin of some anthropologists who fear the project will harm the partial skeleton.

Ethiopia, the east African country where Lucy is stored in a museum safe, hopes to encourage tourism and investment by offering the treasure to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

"Nobody is happy about exporting the original Lucy outside of Ethiopia," said Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a curator at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. "People think the export might endanger Lucy."

We are unsure of what to make of this. On the one hand, of course one doesn't want the remains damaged (though that apparently wasn't an issue when they were shipped off with Johanson for study after their discovery). On the other hand, we can't imagine a better way to get the public's attention to things paleontological than the actual skeleton of one of the most significant hominids in history. So, we leave it up to you to decide.

BTW, Johanson's book on Lucy (Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind) is an excellent read. Apparently, it pushed a lot of people into physical anthropology as a university major. Johanson's a good writer and this book is a good description of what fieldwork is like and how analysis of the skeleton was carried out.

Monday, August 30, 2004

The famous Headless People of Lapita Headless skeletons found in Pacific graveyard

Archaeologists say they expect to gain valuable information from the oldest cemetery found in the Pacific islands.

A team from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra says 13 headless skeletons of the Lapita people have been unearthed in the 3000-year-old cemetery in Vanuatu.

Traces of the Lapita, considered the ancestors of all Pacific Islanders beyond the Solomons, have been found in more than 100 other archaeological digs across the region.

ANU archaeologist Matthew Spriggs says finding remains of Lapita people is so rare that, until the recent Vanuatu discovery, many archaeologists believed they must have buried their dead at sea.

Mr Spriggs says work at the site is being coordinated with the Vanuatu National Museum.

Archaeologist to conduct scar tree audit

Cowra Shire Council will engage an archaeologist to undertake a scar tree audit at Valley View Estate.

The resume of a qualified archaeologist referred to Council by a committee set up by estate protesters is currently being considered as a possible contender for the responsibility.

The archaeologist is from Canberra.

Cowra Shire Council General manager James Roncon said that once a decision had been made the audit would be quickly completed.

Um, shouldn't y'all be hiring an arborist instead?

Lost city. . .well, not 'lost' exactly, but. . .well, never mind Sanish Reappears

Low lake levels at Lake Sakakawa have revealed settlements that the U-S Army Corps of Engineers flooded by the Garrison Dam in the 1950s.

The rubble of Sanish, northeast New Town, has reappeared. So have some once-flooded parts of Van Hook to the west.

Corps Archaeologist Steve Gilbert says the sites are protected by the federal Archaeological Resources Act.

He say it's fine to visit the sites -- but it's illegal to take anything from them.

This is a common phenomenon and one good thing to come out of droughts. When lake levels drop they can uncover archaeological sites from times when the lake was similarly low.

TV Archaeologists Find Child Buried 2,000 Years Ago

The body of a child buried 2,000 years ago has been discovered in a field by archaeologists working for the TV series Time Team.

The skeleton of the child believed to be aged around 10 was found near Stonehouse in Gloucestershire during the three-day dig.

The skeleton, from an iron age farm, will now be analysed by experts who will try to determine its sex, diet and how it died.

Lost city campground. . .found! Archaeologists find rare ancient campground

About 9,000 to 12,000 years ago, on the banks of a creek southeast of the Black Hills, ancient hunters found themselves a good place to camp.

They had water and cover, and they could see any approaching game or enemies. It was a place they could spend time working animal hides. They could also make and repair their tools and hunting equipment made from wood, bone and stone.

"My impression was that this place was ideally suited for access to water, game animals, stones suitable for working into tools, and had good visibility over the surrounding region," Jim Donohue of the state Archaeological Research Center in Rapid City said.

That's a pretty good article. It's kind of simplistic in its language, but all the relevant information is there, from the type of site, to the cultural complex, to the possible dating.

Book Corner II A clever second outing for Arthur Phillips

As an indication of the playfulness at the heart of The Egyptologist, consider that the name of its protagonist, Ralph Trilipush, is an anagram of the name of its author, Arthur Phillips. Everybody is hiding behind something else, and nothing or nobody is what it seems, in this awesomely clever fiction.

Phillips, who had a best-seller two years ago with his first novel, Prague, has an excellent chance of repeating his success in this entirely different sort of outing, which takes the form of letters and journal entries written by Trilipush and by an Australian private detective named Ferrell, who is recalling in retirement (in 1954) his pursuit and investigation of Trilipush in 1922 (the time of the main story). The reader is well advised not to accept unreservedly what either man says.

We linked to a rather more negative review of this book some time ago, and just thought we'd post another one for variety.

Odin update Bisexual Viking Linked to Seahenge

An ancient wooden carving of the bisexual Viking god Odin suggests the prehistoric timber circle monument Seahenge and another, even older, structure might have included totem pole-like carvings, according to archaeologists who have excavated the over 4,000-year-old British wood monuments.

Because Odin was a mythological figure in prehistoric religion, the possible link between the carving and the monuments could mean that the mysterious circles held religious, funerary, or magical significance for the late Neolithic people who constructed them on Holme beach in Norfolk, England.

We reported on this some time ago as well. Don't know if this adds anything, but the bisexual angle seemed new to us.

Fight! Fight! (continued) The Greeks still want their Elgin marbles back

Aggelos Papandropoulos points to the east pediment of the Parthenon ruins, one of the man-made wonders of the world, and by far the most enduring symbol of his country.

"There is much that is missing from here that is very beautiful," the historical preservationist explains. "It is the politicians who have to bring back what is missing. I merely work here. But there is much missing, and it is very beautiful."

As these Olympics close, many Greek officials admit they were deeply hurt by the absence of certain faces they'd expected to return for the games. But this has nothing to do with some of the sparse crowds the world saw on television.

Here we go again. . . . Uncovering the secrets of the Great Pyramid

Two French amateur archaelogists this week published a book in which they claim to have located the secret burial chamber of the Pyramid of Cheops near Cairo, the largest pyramid ever built.

According to the study of the Great Pyramid, a fourth, undiscovered room lies underneath its so-called Queen's chamber, and is likely to have been the burial chamber for Cheops, an Egyptian pharaoh who ruled from 2560 to 2532 BC.

Cheops' final resting place has never been found despite decades of investigation at the site, but the French researchers are being denied access to the pyramid to put their theory to the test.

Okay, immediate tip-off: According to the French pair, none of the pyramid's three existing rooms would have been strong enough to qualify as a royal burial chamber Nwhich needs to withstand the test of centuries.

Even though it, um, you know, has survived for centuries.

News from Nicaragua Artifacts cast doubt on Nicaraguan history

For generations, Nicaraguan children have been taught that their ancestors came from central Mexico as migrants around 1000 AD, and that in 1300, a second wave made the trek. Both were believed to have brought their Aztec or Nahua culture and language with them. At least, those were the lessons passed on from the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in Nicaragua in 1529.

But Geoff McCafferty, an archeologist at the University of Calgary, said his team of researchers has recovered 400,000 artifacts from what is believed to be the country's ancient capital of Quauhcapolca, yet they haven't detected Nahua roots.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Breaking news: Atlantis found!. . . .again Atlantis "Evidence" Found in Spain and Ireland

An empire filled with riches, it was an awe-inspiring civilization west of the Strait of Gibraltar's Pillars of Hercules cliffs—until it was defeated by ancient Athens and consumed by a cataclysmic natural disaster.

"In a single day and night … the island … disappeared into the depths of the sea."

So wrote the Greek philosopher Plato in 360 B.C. about the island he called Atlantis. The story is one of the more mysterious and enduring tales in history.

Now new evidence claims that Atlantis was based on a real place—or places.

At least they put the word 'evidence' in quotes.
Another lost city. . .found! Second Temple village uncovered

Israeli archeologists have uncovered a 5,000-year-old Canaanite city and a 2,000-year-old Jewish village from the Second Temple period alongside each other in the Modi'in area.

The adjacent ancient sites, which were known to exist but previously lay untouched, lie on a barren, wind-whipped hilltop spanning 120 dunams near the present-day Israeli town of Shoham.

The area of the sites was to be converted into an industrial zone, but the finds – which include the remnants of ancient streets in each city, being excavated now by archeologists from the Antiquities Authority – will be exhibited in an archeological park.

"I love gooooooold"

Experts Study Rare Gold Viking Arm Ring

A gold Viking arm ring, only the second of its kind to be discovered in Britain, has been handed in to experts for analysis, museum officials said today.

The 325-gram ring, which consists of 95% gold, was discovered in the possessions of a deceased York builder whose relatives brought it in to experts at the Yorkshire Museum.

It is now being studied and valued at the British Museum after being declared treasure at an inquest in York earlier this week.

Simon Holmes, of the national Portable Antiquities Scheme, based at the Yorkshire Museum, said: “It’s a very rare object indeed, there’s just so much gold there.

Ancient Inuit graves discovered in Greenland

A team of archaeologists from Denmark, Greenland and Canada announced on Wednesday they had made the first ever discovery of ancient Inuit, or Eskimo, burial sites in the far north of Greenland.

The three burial grounds were found in Ingefield Land, around 100 kilometres north of Qaanaaq in the northwest of the island and probably dated from the 13th century, team member Hans Lange, the curator of Greenland's national museum, told KNR radio.

Reno trench site dig yields prehistoric items

All the digging that's going on for the train trench through downtown Reno has produced an unexpected archaeological bonanza - a prehistoric site that may be as much as 4,000 years old and unlike any other site discovered in Nevada.

About 80 historic sites have been found so far, but the unexpected time and resources needed for the archaeological site used up the $220,000 in contingency funds for unexpected work. The Reno City Council was to consider a request on Wednesday for an additional $600,000.

Latter day Ice Men European experts investigate new ice-man

Experts who examined the body of Otzi, the ice man who died in the Italian Alps 5300 years ago, have been given three months to investigate another body from the same place.

The second body is one of three soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian empire who died in battle on September 3, 1918, 3684m metres up in the Italian Alps.

One of the three experts, Dr Alex Susanna, director of the South Tyrol Archeological Museum in Bolzano, where Otzi is displayed, said: "Until now all comparative studies have been between Otzi and artificial mummies.

Interesting. This was an angle we hadn't thought of. They are looking to compare the preservation of the recent ice mummies with Otzi, the old one.

"To the tower!" Dig at ruins of stronghold uncovers unknown tower

HISTORY is again being re-written by archaeologists who have made another discovery about a landmark stronghold that was once the seat of the earls of Caithness.

It had already been discovered that the site in Caithness was built a century earlier than was previously thought, and that two ruins - Castle Sinclair and Girnigoe Castle - are part of the same structure.

Now archaeologists have unearthed a previously unrecorded feature of the medieval castle near Wick.

Ancestors Of Turks Came To Anatolia In 2000s B.C.

Various archeological and cultural findings prove that Turks had come to Anatolia around 2000s B.C., Associated Prof. Semih Guneri said on Friday. Prof. Guneri and his team recently unearthed artifacts in excavations in Turkey's eastern provinces of Erzurum and Hakkari.

According to experts, steles discovered by Associated Prof. Veli Sevin in Hakkari in the past will shed light on the question of ''When did Turks first come to Anatolia?''. Experts started to discuss this matter when a statue head which was sculpted around 2000s B.C. and was unearthed in Bulamac Tumulus in Pasinler town of Erzurum under a project to reveal Turkish Culture's Archeological Resources in Central Asia (OTAK), carried the traces of Turkish culture.

Oddest headline we've seen yet Make a Date with the Flying Archaeologist

A bird's eye view of a historical site can unearth many hidden treasures, as visitors to Provost Skene's House will discover next week.

Moira Greig, an archaeologist with Aberdeenshire Council, has been carrying out an aerial survey of the North-east since the early 1990s and has discovered a significant number of new sites.

She is to give an illustrated lunchtime talk on Wednesday, September 1, when she will discuss the highs and lows of recent archaeological photography work over the City of Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray and Angus.

Researchers find American Indian artifacts on UT land

Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of a small American Indian village dating to the 1300s on the site of a proposed University of Tennessee golf practice facility in Knoxville.
Also found was the foundation of a house dating to the 1700s.

The finds are located on the university's dairy farm across Fort Loudoun Lake from the main campus. The more than 200 acres for the farm are slated to be turned into recreational, research and housing development for the university.

The findings could place the site on the National Register of Historic Places.

U-T officials plan to have more archaeological surveys performed to help determine what to do next.

That's the whole thing. Kind of boring, but we posted it anyway.

And in a similar vein. . . . Native American artifacts found along Ohio River in Clarksville

A settlement area of the Mississippian native American culture has been found on the Ohio River shoreline at Clarksville, Indiana.

Corps of Engineers archaeologists say they have collected as many as 400 bags of artifacts. The items include animal bones, fish hooks and chipped tools.

The scientists also reports the detection of human bones. That has prompted contact with native American tribes to discuss the handling and testing of the bone fragments.

The settlement is believed to have existed between one-thousand and 16-hundred A-D.

That's the whole thing, too.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Following news courtest of the EEF.

A man with a mission (Auguste Mariette)

When Auguste Mariette, the celebrated founder of modern archaeological excavations and preserver of Egypt's monuments, made his remarkable discovery of the rock- hewn tombs of the sacred Apis bulls at Saqqara in 1851, his activities were watched over by Egyptian government officials.

In those days there was no restriction on the excavation of monuments for exportation abroad. Indeed, Mohamed Ali actually used ancient treasures as bargaining tools in return for foreign expertise. However, his grandson Abbas Pasha liked to keep a closer eye on things. He instructed guards to take up quarters on the Saqqara necropolis and watch what was going on. It was not that he was concerned about antiquities so much as he had little confidence in the French in general.

Long but good article. Photo of some of Mariette's collection here.

Another good article from Al-Ahram on Coptology:

The only absolute certainty is that 'Coptic' has to do with Egypt," observed Professor M Tito Orlandi of Rome's University of La Sapienza in his presidential address to the eighth International Association for Coptic Studies (IACS) congress in Paris last week.

The astounding fact is that, apart from linguistics (which alone can be clearly defined) there is neither an obvious character, nor can the limitations be set, on all other fields of Coptic studies, whether history, geography, literature or art. This vitally important subject concerning Orthodox Egyptian Christianity has been conscientiously considered, deliberated on and studied in depth at an international level for the last 30 years. But while there have been specialised studies by scholars around the world, seven international congresses and seminars in Egypt and abroad, its parameters are still being debated.

Besides being a terribly interesting field of study itself, Coptic was also instrumental in helping Champollion interpret Egyptian hierglyphics (good book, excellent read, go get it and read it). If you ever go to Egypt, make sure to check out some of the Coptic churches (there's a whole area of them in Cairo).

[Submitted by Michael Tilgner]
The Cannibal Hymn (PT 273-274)
Hieroglyphic text in: Kurt Sethe, Die altägyptischen Pyramidentexte nach
den Papierabdrücken und Photographien des Berliner Museums, vol. 1, Leipzig,
1908, pp. 205-216
URL (first page): http://snipurl.com/8ocx
-- English translation:
URL: http://www.pyramidtextsonline.com/AnteeastG.htm

Online version of: George Andrew Reisner, The Egyptian Conception of
Immortality - The Ingersoll Lecture, 1911, Boston / New York, 1912. vii, 85
pp. [BA 16554]
URL: http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/12255
[Ed. Check out the Gutenbrg Project for many, many other digitized books. It's What The Internet Was Invented For

Online version of: Ulrich Weser, Yoka Kaup, Borate, an Effective
Mummification Agent in Pharaonic Egypt, in: Z. Naturforsch., vol. 57b, pp.
819-822 (2002) - pdf-file: 220 KB
"In two samples of mummification salt one from Deir el-Bahari (26th Dynasty,
700-600 BC) and salt from the embalming material of Tutankhamen (18th
Dynasty, 1370-1335 BC) 3.9 and 2.1 µMol borate/gram were found,
respectively. Six mummified bone fragments from the Old Kingdom contained
up to 1.2 µMol/gram. It is suggested that borate containing salt was used
during mummification."
URL: http://www.znaturforsch.com/sb/57b/s57b0819.pdf (University/subscription access only)

Online version of: L. A. Pavlish, G. Mumford, A. C. D'Andrea, Magnetic
Survey at Tell Tabilla, Northeastern Nile Delta, Egypt, in: Jean-Luc Pilon,
Michael W. Kirby, Caroline Thériault (eds.), A Collection of Papers
presented at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Canadian Archaeological
Association, Ontario, 2001, pp. 268-277 - pdf-file: 1.4 MB
"A proton magnetometer survey was recently carried out at the archaeological
site of Tell Tabilla. ... Results suggest a substantial amount of
subsurface architecture still exists at the site below surface. These
geophysical targets will be integrated into the planning for future research
oriented excavation objectives."
URL: http://snipurl.com/8ocr

End of EEF section.

Interesting article with a vague archaeological connection Transhumanism: The Most Dangerous Idea? by Ronald Bailey. Relevant portion:

In his Foreign Policy article, Fukuyama identifies transhumanism as "a strange liberation movement" that wants "nothing less than to liberate the human race from its biological constraints." Sounds ominous, no? But wait a minute, isn't human history (and prehistory) all about liberating more and more people from their biological constraints? After all, it's not as though most of us still live in our species' "natural state" as Pleistocene hunter-gatherers.

Human liberation from our biological constraints began when an ancestor first sharpened a stick and used it to kill an animal for food. Further liberation from biological constraints followed with fire, the wheel, domesticating animals, agriculture, metallurgy, city building, textiles, information storage by means of writing, the internal combustion engine, electric power generation, antibiotics, vaccines, transplants, and contraception. In a sense, the goal toward which humanity has been striving for millennia has been to liberate ourselves from more and more of our ancestors' biological constraints.

Kind of an interesting article, if you're into that sort of thing. We bring it to your attention because the idea of "extending the phenotype" is the basis for a particular branch of archaeological theory, evolutionary archaeology.

Fairly good historical review here. The essence of the analogy used to bridge biological and "cultural" evolution is that artifacts -- tools, clothing, cars, etc. -- can be treated as aspects of the human phenotype. Thus, one can explain the differential transmission of certain kinds of artifacts or traits of artifacts in much the same way. This is way too complicated for a humble blog entry, so we direct the reader to the various links embedded herein.

More description here and some commentary here.

Critique and commentary here.

Dave Mathews' tour bus in the news again First Toilet And Sewer System Of Prehistoric Period Found In Van

The first toilet and sewer system of prehistoric period was found in an Urartian castle in Gurpinar town of eastern province of Van.

In an interview with the A.A correspondent, Istanbul University Eurasian Archaeology Institute Director Prof. Dr. Oktay Belli said on Saturday that they had unearthed a toilet in the western part of Cavustepe Castle built by Urartian King Sarduri II in 764 BC.

Warning! Warning!

Robots reach ancient Russian shipwreck

Russian divers, with a little help from a state-of-the-art robot, have reached the wreck of a famous icebreaker that has lain untouched for 70 years at the bottom of Russia's far-northern Chukotsky Sea, RIA Novosti news agency said on Monday.

The scientific ship Akademik Lavrentyev left the Arctic port of Anadyr, on Russia's Chukotsky peninsula, last week to reach the spot where the Chelyuskin icebreaker sank in 1934 after becoming trapped in ice.

According to Yevgueny Kupavykh, who heads the scientific expedition, the shipwreck lies 50m under the sea, 250km from Cape Severny and 230km from Cape Uelen, RIA Novosti said.

Okay, 70 years isn't really "archaeological" but we found this great robot graphic and had to use it. So sue us.

Crete cradles amazing ruins, myth of Minos

Once upon a time, on a Greek island in the Mediterranean, the mighty thunder god Zeus descended from Mount Olympus to try to win the love of a girl named Europa. When he failed, he visited her in the form of a great white bull.

The result of this mystical union was the birth of the demigod Minos, the king of Crete who took his throne at the age of 9 and built a great empire with a palace of wonders in its center.

The ruins of the Palace of Knossos lie three miles west of Heraklion, Crete's largest city, with roughly 170,000 residents. The legend of the Minoan king born of a bull is alive in the stone, wood and dust of the ruins: More than 4,000 visitors are drawn every day to this place where myth and reality collide.

Scientist digs into Chumash background

A Cal Poly archaeology professor is taking a fresh look at thousands of Chumash food remnants in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the lives of the Central Coast's earliest residents.

Using a federal grant of $34,000, Terry Jones is examining more than 20,000 animal and fish bones unearthed 36 years ago at Diablo Canyon in an effort to learn more about how the Indians lived and what effect they had on the ocean.

"I want to see what their dietary preferences were and how they might have changed over time," he said.

Excellent use of resources and older data.

More tombs from Egypt Ancient tomb uncovered in Cairo suburb

A domed Pharaonic tomb dating back to the 7th century BC was uncovered in a residential Cairo suburb, officials at the Supreme Council for Antiquities said on Wednesday.

SCA Secretary-General Zahi Hawass told reporters that the tomb was made for a priest during the 26th dynasty.

The tomb was found during the construction of a house in the neighbourhood, which is known to hold ruins underground.

Next time we're in Cairo, we're diggin' up the back yard.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Mummy Speaks

Ancient remains preserved intentionally or accidentally tell much about past human diseases caused by indoor air pollution from poor quality energy supplies and equipment. Yet today in sub-Saharan Africa and regions of Asia more than 90 percent of households lack electricity and must rely on hazardously burning coal, wood, vegetation or dried animal dung in open hearths or poorly ventilated stoves for their cooking and heating needs.
. . .
The earlier disease burden from indoor air pollution in past cultures is revealed from preserved human remains by modern archaeological pathologists. Ancient Egyptian mummies have proven especially helpful in that task.

"Why'd it have to be snakes. . . Ancient serpent mound in Ohio remains a mystery

The 1,348-foot-long Serpent Mound remains Ohio's biggest mystery. No one knows who built the ancient earthwork in southern Ohio or when it was constructed, but it's believed to have been a religious or mythical symbol to its makers.

The mound is the largest serpent effigy in America and one of Ohio's only effigy mounds. It is a National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Monumental Fountain Unearthed In Ancient City Of Sagalassos

A monumental fountain including a statue of Apollon was unearthed in the ancient city of Sagalassos near Aglasun town in southern province of Burdur.

Prof. Marc Waelkens from Belgium`s Leuven Catholic University who leads archaeological excavations in the ancient city, told the A.A correspondent on Sunday that they unearthed a monumental fountain which was 20 meters in height.

``The fountain was built by a rich merchant and dedicated to Roman Emperor Hadrianus. The fountain attracts attention with its rich ornaments. Bronze and marble statues were used to decorate the fountain,`` he said.

Unearthing the Bible

Sacred relics lie scattered beneath the deserts of the Middle East. In Iraq, our religious history is being obliterated; in Israel, it's a question of faith.

What there was in the beginning, in the world of the Bible, is what there was in the land now called Iraq. There is nothing left of the Garden of Eden, no artifact at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where myth has placed the Temptation and the Fall. But the great cities and empires from the Books of Genesis and Kings and Chronicles have left their traces: Ur, where Abraham was born; rapacious Assyria with its capital, Nineveh, and Babylon, where the ancient Israelites were carried into captivity and where, as the psalm
tells us, they wept when they remembered Zion.

Kind of a fluff piece decrying the looting in Iraq, but with a Biblical angle.


Fragments of ancient fabric – some dating back to the time the Coliseum was built in Rome – may give researchers better insight into the lives of Native Americans who lived in eastern North America some 800 to 2,000 years ago.

"Textiles give us information about the technological skills of the people who made them," said Kathryn Jakes, a professor of consumer sciences at Ohio State University. "We can learn about a population from what they wore just as we learn from the tools and other gear they used on a regular basis."

Jakes has spent years studying the textiles from the Hopewell and Mississippian cultures which flourished in North America. She uses a variety of chemical and physical analysis techniques to help uncover the composition and structure of these ancient textiles.

Since textiles are usually not preserved, people don't hear much about this side branch of archaeology. Most fabrics are found in dry conditions, but they can be preserved elsewhere, as the article notes, by either charring or being in contact with copper. Copper is toxic to life and hence stops bacteria from growing and destroying organic remains. Every so often in Egypt's Delta (very wet conditions) one can find parts of the burial shroud preserved next to copper mirrors or daggers.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Interesting article alert We would like to call your attention to an article in a recent issue of Scientific American entitled Back to the Future of Cereals (subscribers only). It's interesting partly because it describes the sorts of changes (genomic and phenotypic) that occurred during the early years of domestication of certain domesticated grains. The main interest, however, is the genetic similarities among many of these plants and the importance this has for understanding both Darwinian evolution and the current controversy over genetic engineering. Read it online, or get a copy of the magazine.

Archaeologists find signs of ancient advertisements from Sassanid era

During the latest season of excavations of the northern gate of Takht-e Suleiman, an ancient Zoroastrian fire temple located in northwestern Iran, the stamps of two seals were discovered which indicate that objects entered Takht-e Suleiman from other regions with special tags attached to them which seem to be advertisements.

They signify that an early form of advertising was being practiced during the Sassanid era (224-642 C.E.), Yusef Moradi, the head of the excavation team, said on Friday.

More underwater archaeology from a warm sunny location Group Finds Ancient Ships Off Italy Coast

Archaeologists exploring the bottom of the sea off the island of Capri have found the wrecks of three ancient ships that once plied the Mediterranean between Rome and northern African colonies.

Culture Minister Giuliano Urbani took a mini-submarine tour Thursday to see the latest additions to Italy's rich archaeological heritage, which were found earlier this month.

And in the Caribbean, too. Archaeologists to lead expedition to find sunken Spanish slave ship

Archaeologists are set to begin an expedition this month in hopes of finding a Spanish ship that wrecked along the jagged reefs off the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1841 carrying a cargo of African slaves.

The story of the Trouvadore is unusual because all 193 slaves made it to shore, and all but one survived to see their freedom granted by a British government that had just outlawed slavery. Most settled in the arid, low-lying islands and began new lives working its salt ponds and raising families.

The shipwreck holds particular significance for the British territory of 25,000 people because researchers say they believe that virtually all native islanders have ties by blood or marriage to the survivors.

Okay, at least these guys are actually working Underwater Archaeologists Dig for History

Instead of wearing khakis, students this summer at Croton Point Park donned wet suits and scuba gear as they dug up discoveries beyond the reach of landlocked archaeologists.

Daria Merwin and a team of students found buckets full of submerged stone artifacts where the Croton River flows into the Hudson River, about 30 miles north of New York City.

"I know it's stone tools, but it's stone tools people haven't seen in few thousand years," said Merwin, an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University.

More bones found at a construction site Archaeologists studying bones found at work site

Archaeologists are sifting through the remains of roughly 40 humans, estimated to be 3,500 to 4,000 years old, searching for clues on what could be an old Native American Indian encampment.

Officials were tipped off by an anonymous caller that home construction had turned up human remains, which have to be dealt with in a specific way.

''We didn't know about it until today,'' Nick Fielder, director of the state's Division of Archaeology, told The Lebanon Democrat this week.

Whoops. Sounds like the construction workers were conveniently failing to notice all of the bones they were digging up.

And this is why Three human skeletons sit in couple's front yard

For now, a Fox Lake family can't do much about the three human skeletons in their front yard.

Michael and Joanne Thompson discovered the skeletons of a man, woman and child while digging a drainage ditch in their yard on August 13th. Officials suspect the skeletons are Native American and say no one can touch them until a state archaeologist examines them next week.

More here. We thought NAGPRA didn't really apply in this case since it's on private property, but an Illinois state law apparently restricts what private landowners can do with human remains.

Good article Ties to the past Fremont Indians

Standing 900 feet above the canyon floor, the ancients who once lived in these rugged mountains could gaze down upon the creek that sliced through the area and nearby corn fields. Rock art adorned the cliff walls near a handful of ridge-top pithouses. Hidden granaries protected corn and other foods.

From this lookout near a natural stone arch, they could keep an eye on any neighbors or intruders moving through the canyon.

. . .

"There is not another region in the state of Utah that has the sheer number and density of essentially untouched archaeological sites - in fact, the archaeology of Range Creek Canyon may be unique in the United States," archaeologists wrote in a research proposal for the Book Cliffs site.

This is a nice article. It explains one of the big problems in archaeology, determining the type and extent of cultural interaction. Read the whole thing.

Book corner Archaeology With Brio, if No Mummy

The cast of Arthur Phillips's comic novel "The Egyptologist" could have come from one of those deliciously campy old Hollywood mummy movies. There's the intrepid explorer-archaeologist-adventurer, his beautiful, neurasthenic fiancée, her rich father who is bankrolling the expedition, and loads of confused-looking extras - including some upper-class English twits, a bevy of enigmatic Egyptians and a pair of naïve American tourists. All that's missing is a real live mummy, uttering ancient curses and imprecations as he rises, noisily, from the dead.

Who knows, maybe it's worth a read. Sounds like a nice sendup of the typical Egyptology stereotype (though we must confess, many in the field come scarily close to many stereotypes) and we here at ArchaeoBlog truly love those classic mummy movies. Well, at least it's not some smarmy new-ager trying to convince us she was both Cleopatra and Nefertiti in a past life. . . .

Ah, middle East archaeology not dealing with temples and tombs Uncovering Ice Age archaeology in Jordan

The early prehistory and archaeology of the Middle Pleistocene, or Ice Age, is being revealed in remarkable detail in studies in southern Jordan. The work, begun in the late 1990s, has documented the presence of Homo erectus, our ancient ancestor, at a series of archaeological sites at Ayoun Qedim in the al-Jafr Basin.

Today al-Jafr Basin is one of the most arid places in the Middle East. During the Pleistocene, the basin was filled with an enormous freshwater lake fed by springs and run off.

As we have mentioned on previous occasions, much of prehistoric archaeology in the middle east gets short shrift due to the later stuff.

News from Hertfordshire Ancient mosaic uncovered in park

AN ARCHAEOLOGIST has unearthed a colourful 3rd Century mosaic in Verulamium Park, St Albans, during building works on the ancient hypocaust and mosaic site.

The field archaeology unit at St Albans Museums was digging a trench for a new electricity cable when Jack Couch made the new find of a chequered mosaic.

Probably not seen for nearly 2,000 years, the mosaic is made up of red or brown tessera in a grid of grey Purbeck marble. It may be from the corridor of a town house built close to the hypocaust.

We have more, but Internet access is still spotty so we're just gonna hit Post and hope for the best right now.

Monday, August 23, 2004

We're not blogging much today, as our network has been experiencing many problems. We did, however, during a brief respite when we could actually access the Web, discover this fascinating story:

Irish archaeologists find 9th century Viking body

A Viking body, believed to be that of a woman who was buried 1,100 years ago, has been discovered at an undisclosed site north of Dublin, Ireland's National Museum said.

The find has been described as "exciting" and "significant" by the museum.

Archaeological excavation of the remains also led to the discovery of a bronze oval brooch, an unusually long bone comb and other copper alloy ornaments.

"The brooch is of Scandinavian manufacture and is dated to the early Viking Age - the later ninth century," the museum said in a statement.

Artist's conception of what she may have looked like:

Friday, August 20, 2004

Olympics update Olympics Construction Projects Push Athens Archaeologists to Balance Very, Very Old with New

Bringing Athens' transportation up to speed ahead of the summer games proved more difficult than what most modern cities usually endure, as massive construction projects turned into excavation sites. The city's archaeologists came up with a compromise keeping the very, very old along with the new.

For many Olympic visitors in the city of Athens, the metro is not just a way of getting somewhere, it's the destination.

Archaeologists discover unique items in Sarmat burial moulds in Orenburg region

Archaeologists have found household appliances and weapons of the Sarmat epoch (4th century BC) in the area of the Filippovsky burial mounds in the Orenburg region, a source in the Orenburg regional administration's culture department told Interfax.

The archaeologists found bronze items, including a boiler with animal-style handles, a brazier, mirrors and cosmetic vessels, Central Asian ceramic dishes, quivers, daggers and cuirass fragments. The origin of some finds is still unknown, the source said.

The expedition led by Doctor of History Leonid Yablonsky from the Russian Academy of Sciences' Archaeology Institute, also found medieval tombs in one of the mounds, the source said.

That's the whole thing.

More stiffs Archaeologists find skeletal treasure

The unearthing of 44 skeletons at a public works project in an Oslo park has helped locate a 13th century monastery site in Norway.

The skeletons were dug up from a depth of only about 16 inches at the Medieval park site where a concert was held during the weekend, the Aftenposten reported Wednesday.

A project to improve drainage around the old Olav's Church led to the discovery.

Archeologists say the skeletons belonged to a Dominican monastery located in the area from 1240 until the Reformation in 1537.

More here, with pictures!

"Here, take one, we've got plenty."

Underwater archaeology update A&M center to concentrate on shipwrecks

Texas A&M University plans to create a research center that officials hope will further anchor the school’s reputation as one of the world’s leading institutions in finding and excavating shipwrecks.

The Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation could attract state, federal and international funding for A&M researchers studying historical underwater wrecks throughout the world.

The center, which would be located in A&M’s anthropology department, also could develop technology that would allow researchers to explore deeper parts of the ocean, said David Carlson, head of the department.

City may seek Indian burial search

If Duluth wants the site of a proposed Rice Lake Road housing development searched for possible human burials, it likely will have to foot the bill itself.

The city's American Indian Commission this week passed a motion asking Mayor Herb Bergson to request that the state archaeologist search the tax-forfeit property for possible burial sites.

Bergson said he would probably make the request.

"We need to respect the interests of the Native Americans," he said Tuesday.

State archaeologist Mark Dudzik, however, said Wednesday it's unlikely that his two-person office would undertake a search.

So essentially the city wants the State archaeologist to do the survey, but they can't because they can't afford to. Ergo, the city must hire a contract archaeology firm. That's the way it usually works.

Another lost city, found Prehistoric Desert Town Found in Western Sahara

The remains of a prehistoric town believed to date back 15,000 years and belong to an ancient Berber civilization have been discovered in Western Sahara, Moroccan state media said on Thursday.

A team of Moroccan scientists stumbled across the sand-covered ruins of the town Arghilas deep in the desert of the Morocco-administered territory.

The remains of a place of worship, houses and a necropolis, as well as columns and rock engravings depicting animals, were found at the site near the town of Aousserd in northeastern Western Sahara.

This seems awfully early to us for something of this size and complexity.

Antiquities Market update Stolen Relic From Temple Is Returning to Egypt

A stolen Egyptian relief from 380-280 B.C. that was spotted in a Christie's auction house catalog has been seized by the United States government and is to return to Cairo today, federal agents announced yesterday.

The granite relief, valued at $5,000, was taken from the Temple of Behbeit el-Hagar in Gharbia in 1990, the government said.

It was featured on Christie's Web site as Lot No. 294, to be auctioned in an antiquities sale on June 12, 2002. The suggested bid for the relief, along with several other objects, was $7,000 to $9,000, according to an affidavit in support of a seizure warrant filed by the government in Federal District Court in Manhattan last October.

"I luff gooooooold"

Thracian gold mask

Archaeologists have unearthed a 25-century-old Thracian grave in which they found a gold death mask weighing half a kilogramme, a 15 gr ring and body parts believed to belong the Thracian king Teres, father of Sitalkes, who lived in the middle of the 5th century B.C.

That's the whole thing. Way cool mask.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Following news courtesy of the EEF

The integrated development plans for the avenue of the ram-headed sphinxes in Luxor is moving ahead:



"Sudanese security officials have recovered 54 historical artifacts (...) in an elaborate investigation following the theft of the pieces last year from the National Museum."


More about unearthing in Akhmim of "the largest seated statue of the 19th-Dynasty Pharaoh Ramses II yet found":


Some press reports that give an overview of some discoveries of the last months:

http://snipurl.com/8ivn (see last 4 paragraphs)

Special mention United Exhibits Group, "Quest for Immortality - Treasures of Ancient Egypt"
"United Exhibits Group developed the exhibition concept in collaboration
with several leading renowned Egyptologists, including Professor Emeritus
Erik Hornung of the University of Basel, Switzerland."

-- Concept of the exhibition - 47 pp., pdf-file: 1.7 MB

URL: http://www.unitedexhibits.com/exhibits.asp?exhibit=quest

-- Image collection - 31 pp., 1.1 MB

URL: http://www.unitedexhibits.com/Material/quest/Quest_imagecollection.pdf

Online dissertation: Mark L. Troy, Mummeries of Resurrection: The Cycle of Osiris in Finnegans Wake (Uppsala 1976)


About the influence of ancient Egyptian theology on James Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake.

The Theban tomb of Kheruef TT 192 is now on line, with over 80 photographs.
Though it has kept few of its original colors, the carving is very fine, and it is historically important.

End of EEF news.
TV program update

We watched another episode of PBS's "Secrets of the Dead" series. This one was on the origin of syphilis. It's long been thought this was one of the few diseases that originated in the Americas and was transmitted back to Europe. The program's premise is that there is now evidence that this disease was, in fact, present in Europe before Columbus discovered the New World.

We thought it was, like the last one on the shroud of Turin, fairly one-sided and more sensational than anything. For example, at one point, the evidence for New World syphilis (skeletal remains) was discounted, thus making the argument that there is little evidence for preColumbian syphilis in the Americas. However, the basis for the entire show is a skeleton in England that shows similar skeletal features and is therefore assumed to be evidence of syphilis. Apparently, such evidence is good enough to demonstrate Old World syphilis, but not New World.

But, make up your own minds. More information can be found here and here.
Kennewick update Judge limits Kennewick Man case to scientists, government

A federal judge has barred Northwest Indian tribes from further participation in the Kennewick Man lawsuit by ordering the case limited to government defendants and the scientists who want to study the ancient skeleton, attorneys said Wednesday.

The tribes had argued they have "spiritual, cultural and property" interests in the 9,400 year-old skeleton discovered in 1996 along the Columbia River near Kennewick, Wash.

The Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce and Colville tribes claimed they were entitled to the bones under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and wanted to have them reburied without any scientific studies.

Archaeological story mentioning Indiana Jones, #3,134 INEEL develops computer tool to help save archaeological treasures

If he'd only had an office computer and online treasure maps, Indiana Jones might have avoided all those snakes, scrapes and sneaky rivals. Now, archaeologists exploring the southeastern Idaho desert have a new tool that Indy would really die for. Computer scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s INEEL have developed a geographic computer system that sifts through data from various sources to help find and map archaeological sites. The system will save archaeologists time, money -- and maybe some digging.

Archaeologists need to protect 12,000 years' worth of artifacts lying forgotten among the sagebrush and basalt on the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory's 890-square-mile desert site. To help them, scientists in the INEEL's Ecological and Cultural Resources Department developed a computer program that merges data about the history, anthropology and archaeology of the terrain into one integrated system. Users can navigate through a friendly interface to call up detailed information and draw customized interactive maps. Computer scientist Sera White demonstrated the system Aug. 12 at the 2004 Environmental Systems Research Institute International User Conference in San Diego.

The new tool will help the archaeologists keep tabs on artifacts ranging from 12,000-year-old mammoth bones to 150-year-old pioneer homesteads -- and even help them predict where more pieces of the historic puzzle might be found, says Brenda Ringe Pace, the lead INEEL archaeologist helping develop the geographic system.

That probably should have gone under the remote sensing update moniker, but we couldn't resist yet another Indiana Jones reference.

More Biblical archaeology Student dig seeks link to King Solomon

Five George Washington University students and their archaeology professor went to Armageddon this summer, not to search for clues to a cosmic battle yet to come between Good and Evil, but to seek understanding of civilizations past.

One of the most important issues they addressed was whether a palace attributed to King Solomon in what is now northern Israel was in fact built by Solomon, the son of King David renowned for his wise leadership and for his illicit relationship with the queen of Sheba.

It’s no small question, and it has great significance for Jews and Christians alike, said Eric Cline, associate professor of ancient history and anthropology at GWU, who co-directed a dig on a hill about 15 miles southeast of Haifa, Israel, known as Megiddo. (Armageddon is a Greek corruption of the Hebrew word har, meaning mount, and Megiddo.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Breaking news Unprecedented Ice Age Cave Art Discovered in U.K.

Vivid frescoes of stampeding bulls, horses, and other animals drawn by Stone Age artisans grace the walls of many European caves. The most spectacular examples are found in Altimera in Spain and Lascaux and Chauvet in France.

For many years the total lack of cave art in Britain dating to the same period perplexed researchers. Britain was inhabited, after all. And throughout the Ice Age, it was linked to mainland Europe by a land bridge.

Last year researchers discovered a handful of simple bird and animal carvings in the caves of Creswell Crags, a limestone gorge in Nottinghamshire, northern England.

The finding proved for the first time that ancient Britons were capable of producing artwork similar to that of their Paleolithic (early Stone Age) counterparts on continental Europe.

We were going to post something here about Adrienne Mayor's work on ancient Greek "paleontology" but have not composed anything particularly scintillating yet. Kind of an interesting topic, but there seems to be little serious discussion of it out there on the web that we can find. At this point, we tend towards the idea that she is out on several very long and fragile limbs.

This was prompted by a show on the History Channel last night. It was pretty much a one-sided program, but that may be because there isn't really another side critical of it. Send links to anything if you find it.

Department of Lost Cities Explorers find ancient Peruvian metropolis

An American-led expedition has discovered five new districts in what its leader describes as a massive metropolitan complex spread along a river valley through thick mountainous jungle on the eastern slope of the Peruvian Andes.

"It is the oldest Chachapoyan find that we know of to date," said 31-year-old expedition leader Sean Savoy, just returned from leading a 21-day return trip to the ruins of Gran Saposoa, located some (335 miles) 540 kilometers north of Lima.

Department of Lost Cities IIDiggers find town on former sea bottom

Kazakh archaeologists have found a medieval town on the dried bottom of the Aral Sea, local media reported Tuesday.

The town, in the northeastern part of Aral, is covered with sand and bottom sediment. It could be Robat-Togan, a prosperous town that existed about 1,000 years ago, the Kazakh Nomad Web site said. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a levee surrounding the town that fits a description of Robat-Togan.

World peace breaking out, thanks to archaeology Ancient relics found in North Korea

South and North Korean archaeologists, in their first joint excavation, have discovered thousands of pieces of relics from as far back as the Old Stone Age, Xinhua reports.

Various historic sites and remains, up to the Joseon Dynasty, were unearthed from the construction site of an industrial park at Kaesong town in North Korea close to the border with the south.

Old Stone Age or Palaeolithic period is the earliest period of human development and the longest phase of mankind's history. It approximately began about two million years ago and ended 40,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

We are rather dissatisfied with our commentary earlier regarding preserving aboriginal culture and the importance of New World archaeology as a whole. Well, actually just the latter.

The reason the isolation we mentioned is so important is that, essentially, it doubles our sample size for comparing the rise of complex civilizations (among many other problems). Basically, without it we'd have nothing to compare. This is the problem origins-of-life people are having, as the total sample size for Places Where Life Arose currently stands at 1. Thus, any hypotheses one wishes to test regarding the orign/development of complex culture can at least be tested in two different places. This can't really be so in the Old World generally, with a few exceptions in a few places over time. There was simply too much interaction.

Example: Agriculture. The bulk of domesticated species, and perhaps even the idea of intensive agriculture as a dominant subsistence strategy, probably arose in the Near East and spread out from there to the remainder of the Old World (southeast asia excepted to a point). One can even trace the diffusion of agriculture out from the Near East as a rather nice wave. But since the New World was isolated at this point, one can also look at how agriculture developed there without any possible contaminating effects from the Old World centers. Consequently, any general theories of agricultural origins must be tested against two areas. This is not only scientifically desirable, but it also keeps archaeologists from becoming too dependent on one set of data for their theory-building exercises.

This 'comparitive method' (almost a discipline unto itself) also functions nicely for other cultural features. Ceramics were both invented in the New and Old Worlds independently of one another. They tend to be very similar in many ways -- everybody figured out that adding certain materials such as sand or crushed shell as temper will affect the functional parameters of the finished vessels -- but there are notable differences. The most obvious is that the New World never developed wheel-thrown pottery.

The impression we get from history, traditionally, is that the New World populations were essentially Stone Age peoples compared to Europeans of the time. In some sense, this is true since much of the New World populations still relied on chipped stone tools, never having developed metalworking. But this (among other problems) assumes a linear trajectory of cultural evolution. That is, it was assumed (still is in some quarters) that every culture must go through the same "stages", all heading inexorably towards what modern Anglo-European civilization has become. But who knows where New World civilization had gone if contact had never occurred.

It's also the crux of many comparisions between Old and New World archaeology. Why didn't they develop writing systems? Or metalworking? Why were they comparitively "late" in obtaining certain technologies compared to their Old World counterparts? We all got largely the same start at the end of the Pleistocene with late Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, so why were Old World populations sailing large ships across the globe while aboriginal Americans were still using stone tools? Many generations of scholars have worked on this, and progress is painfully slow but it remains one of the preeminent issues in the sudy of mankind.

Today's top billing Md. Field Dig May Reach Back 16,000 Years

Robert D. Wall is too careful a scientist to say he's on the verge of a sensational discovery.

But the soybean field where the Towson University anthropologist has been digging for more than a decade is yielding hints that someone camped there, on the banks of the Potomac River, as early as 14,000 B.C.

If further digging and carbon dating confirm it, the field in Allegany County could be among the oldest and most important archaeological sites in the Americas.

That would definitely be important. The 7,000 date on charcoal is problematic, and leads us to suspect that one is probably the correct date. But, stay tuned.

While researching this story a bit we came across the Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland site. This seems like a great idea, and would be especially helpful to non-professionals who happen across artifacts in their area. Looks to be geared mainly towards professionals, but none of it seems overly technical.

Archaeologists insist there was a community at Qumran

he Qumran myth is alive and well, despite recent attempts to disprove it, according to archaeologists digging at the site.

The archaeologists, who are financed by Christian fundamentalist organizations, believe that despite recent theories to the contrary, there was a community at the place sometimes called "the oldest monastery in the Western world."

The archaeologists said at a news conference yesterday that they intend to find the proof that the residents of the site indeed wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in nearby caves.

Virginia City dig finds toys, opium cache

A Virginia City store that burned to the ground nearly 140 years ago is yielding an archaeologist’s treasure from its ruins.

Given just a few weeks this summer to excavate, volunteers unearthed a wooden staircase and found what appears to be an opium stash, with a small glass vial, a slate plate, a tin and a pipe.

They also found the sacrificial remains of small cats or birds entombed in the concrete foundation, a ritual practice used by cultures of that day.

Fight! Fight! Rewriting History

In A.D. 612 an Imperial Chinese army of more than a million soldiers marched on the northeast Asian kingdom of Koguryo. Though vastly outnumbered, the soldiers of Koguryo—whom many modern-day Koreans see as their ancestors—routed the Chinese in a victory that is still a source of pride on both sides of the DMZ.

Now, almost 1,400 years later, Chinese scholars are attempting a subtler land grab, claiming that the ancient kingdom of Koguryo was a part of China—a "regional government founded by an ethnic group," as Beijing's state-run Northeast Asia Project put it in June. The argument isn't just academic.

Not gone yet Historians work to set record straight on Cuba's Taino Indians

In a sweltering coastal settlement, Alejandro Hartmann pulled out a spiral notebook and jotted notes as a local peasant described his family's ties to a long forgotten indigenous group that is witnessing a modest resurgence.

"What is the name of your mother and father?" Hartmann asked Julio Fuentes, a wisp of a man parked on a wooden bench. "Where do they live? How old are they?"

Hartmann fired off a dozen more questions as part of his effort to complete the first census of the descendants of the Taino Indians, an indigenous group that once thrived in this remote region of eastern Cuba and later were thought to be extinct.

This is very valuable work. It's only recently that we are beginning to appreciate the fact that two entire continents' worth of people and their culture are nearly gone. Apart from the humanistic value, scientifically it is imperitive that we document and help to preserve aboriginal culture and history, since it represents one of the very few culture areas entirely cut off from Old World influence. This point really cannot be overstated. Due to the vagaries of geography and timing, we are fortunate enough to have two populations that developed in isolation for the past 12-15,000 years. This is absolutely crucial for testing theories of cultural (and, of course, biological) evolution. Even though there are immense problems with using historical/oral data, we really need to do as much as we can to help preserve the language and historical ties extant aboriginal populations share with their ancestors.

Yet another lost city, found Forgotten Roman Town Unearthed on Farm

A forgotten Roman town has been unearthed in Gloucestershire after remaining buried under a farmer’s fields for hundreds of years, archaeologists said today.

The fortified town, which is thought to have been established in the 1st century, could have been home to 1,000 people.

Archaeologists believe the 10 hectare settlement was large enough to have been a regional centre for trade and industry.

Investigations have so far revealed evidence of an entrance gate, industrial works, a road and a large number of houses.

Update on John the Baptist cave find Cave in Israel linked to John the Baptist

Archaeologists think they've found a cave where John the Baptist baptized many of his followers — basing their theory on thousands of shards from ritual jugs, a stone used for foot cleansing and wall carvings telling the story of the biblical preacher.

Only a few artifacts linked to New Testament figures have ever been found in the Holy Land, and the cave is potentially a major discovery in biblical archaeology.

"John the Baptist, who was just a figure from the Gospels, now comes to life," British archaeologist Shimon Gibson said during an exclusive tour of the cave given to The Associated Press.

This one, together with the above regarding Qumran, illustrates one of the great dangers of archaeology, not to life and limb -- although that sometimes happens -- but no, we're talking about. . . .written records. Especially sacred texts. It's a fine line to walk, trying to use information from both ducumentary sources and purely archaeological data. Trouble is, with written records there is already a built-in bias operating: people wrote down what they thought was important, not any sort of objective reality. Still, one can get a lot of useful information from texts.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Breaking wind news 'The Bay Was Packed With Ships'
How did a 'divine wind' save Japan from Mongolian invaders 700 years ago?

Kublai Khan was a conqueror of boundless appetite. When Japan refused to obey and pay tribute to the Mongolian ruler, he was outraged. Twice during the 13th century he sent massive fleets to invade Japan, possibly trying to seize its storied gold. Each time, though, the khan's aggression was repelled not by the Japanese military but by sudden storms that killed most of the invaders and destroyed their ships. The Japanese dubbed these storms kamikaze, or divine wind.

That's the myth, but what exactly happened in the high seas more than 700 years ago? Archeologists have been trying for decades to nail down the specifics.

Antiquities Market update Egypt turns attention to domestic suppliers of stolen treasure

Inaugurating his appointment as Egypt's antiquities director, Zahi Hawass fired off letters to museums around the world, warning them not to traffic in stolen treasures. Now, he acknowledges, the problem is as much at home as abroad.

Hawass, who took over the government's Supreme Council of Antiquities in 2002, said he has started to "clean house" by tightening security, improving record keeping and launching programs aimed at convincing Egyptians that it's their job to protect their past.

Every week, it seems, archaeologists report discovering another treasure testifying to Egypt's long, rich history. Almost as often, police report the arrest of an Egyptian trying to sneak out a cache of coins, a mummy, even a stone sarcophagus.

Bingo: Looting of antiquities in Iraq - some straight from museums - following the U.S.-led invasion was a rare instance of the issue seizing the public's attention, Renfrew said.


ROMAN and medieval artefacts have been discovered in the last two weeks as the excavations at Chester´s Amphitheatre continue to throw up surprises.

Among new finds during the first season of a three-year dig are 18th Century games pieces, a Roman bronze spoon, medieval tweezers, a bone comb, dice and two pottery gaming pieces.

Other more unusual discoveries are fruit seeds, fish bones and parasite eggs, possibly dating back to the 13th or 14th centuries.

Goat horns and leg bones left attached to animal skins when they went to the tanners may help experts learn more about Chester´s important medieval leather industry.

Oh yeah? Did he ever try to cross a Cairo street? Unlocking the Mayan mystery

When he's not lecturing and writing within ivy-covered buildings in the button-down world of academia, Stephen Houston spends weeks and months at a time far from home, playing in the dirt.

Of course, as an internationally renowned scholar, exploring ancient civilizations in remote, primitive areas of Mesoamerica is all part of his job.

. . .

"I've had a lot of close brushes with lethally toxic vipers. I've had to negotiate with guerrillas and left-wing insurgents in Guatemala," he says. "More recently, there have been a lot of problems with bandits in Piedras Negras. Over the years, I've had workers kidnapped by guerillas. I've had pits almost collapse on me. In a certain part of your brain, there's a certain acceptance that you could die tomorrow. I'm probably so stupid, or I've compartmentalized things so well, that it doesn't stop me."

Curses? No.

Terrorists? No.

Booby-trapped tombs? No.

The automobile and gastrointestinal diseases: The bane of 3rd world archaeologists everywhere.


Near Voitenki village (Kharkov region, Ukraine) archeologists unearthed an ancient Goth settlement. The Goths lived in the Kharkov region alongside of Slavs 17 centuries ago, ICTV channel reported.

According to the archeologists, this is one of the largest settlements of the Kingdom of Germanarika, which was located in modern Ukraine.

A large amount of coins, jewelry and fragments of Roman glass cups prove that Goth aristocrats and their servants lived in this settlement, the archeologists said. In particular, the expedition found a unique potter's wheel covered with bronze drops, Mikhail Lyubichev, assistant professor in the history department of Kharkov University, said in an ICTV interview. There might have been a pottery at the site, he added.

The wheel is so large that it cannot be shown in any museum in Kharkov, ICTV said.

Current conception of what the Goths may have looked like:

Breaking Biblical archaeology news Group Discovers John the Baptist Cave

Archaeologists said Monday they have found a cave where they believe John the Baptist anointed many of his disciples — a huge cistern with 28 steps leading to an underground pool of water.

During an exclusive tour of the cave by The Associated Press, archaeologists presented wall carvings they said tell the story of the fiery New Testament preacher, as well as a stone they believe was used for ceremonial foot washing.

They also pulled about 250,000 pottery shards from the cave, the apparent remnants of small water jugs used in baptismal ritual.

"John the Baptist, who was just a figure from the Gospels, now comes to life," said British archaeologist Shimon Gibson, who supervised the dig outside Jerusalem.

However, others said there was no proof that John the Baptist ever set foot in the cave, about 2 1/2 miles from Ein Kerem, the preacher's hometown and now part of Jerusalem.

We have no comment really, but doubt it will ever be conclusively demonstrated it's the cave.

Update: More here. We guess we probably don't need to bring up the most recent exciting Biblical find that turned out to be a fake.

But we did anyway.

Henge-this, Henge-that Relic linked to Seahenge

A simple carved wooden figure could hold the key to an amazing new theory about the true meaning of Norfolk's Seahenge site.

Scientists have carbon-dated the relic, found in the Thames Estuary in 1912, and discovered that it dates back to the same period as the older of Norfolk's two timber circles.

Archaeologists now believe instead of being composed of plain wooden posts, parts of a Bronze Age timber circle found close to the site of Seahenge could have been decorated with carvings resembling native American totem poles.

The revelation comes as an archaeological journal sheds new light on the discoveries at Holme Beach, near Hunstanton.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Online dissertation alert The Spatial Structure of Kom el-Hisn is now available in its entirety, including all figures and tables.
Still more on the famous Anglo-Saxon princess Anglo-Saxon 'princess' shows face

State-of-the-art forensic techniques have been used to reconstruct the face of an Anglo-Saxon woman who had similar status to a modern princess.

The woman, nicknamed "Mrs Getty" after the oil mogulfor the 500 precious objects buried with her, was one of 219 bodies unearthed in Gloucestershire.

Mrs Getty, who died in the 6th Century, was surrounded by gilt bronze brooches, amber beads, silver and ivory rings.

Anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson made the painstaking facial reconstruction.

We still like ours better.

We won't post it again though. Use PicSearch.com for your own edification.


Extremely rare pottery from the Bronze Age has been unearthed by experts on land near Atherstone for the first time ever.

The pieces of pottery have been dated to between 1200 and 1800 BC by archaeologists from Warwickshire County Council who say they represent a 'unique' find for the area.

The fragments, uncovered during a dig in Old Farm Road, Mancetter, were a complete surprise for the team of field experts as very few such pieces have been found in the county before.

Another mystery solved Young bones lay Columbus myth to rest

A centuries-old historical row over the whereabouts of the body of Christopher Columbus appeared to have been solved yesterday when scientists in Spain conceded that the corpse buried at Seville's gothic Santa Maria cathedral was not that of the famous explorer.

Instead, the bones they studied were probably those of his lesser known son, Diego, who was a small and weedy man, unlike his father.

Christopher Columbus's body, the experts say, almost certainly lies back in the "new world" he sailed to 500 years ago.

The exhumation by Spanish anthropologists appears to have settled a row between Spain and the Dominican Republic, which has contested the claim that Columbus's bones ended up in Seville.

Although DNA tests have not been done, the anthropologists have already concluded that the body in Seville is too young and puny to have belonged to the rugged, hefty sailor who, depending on which version of history you prefer, was either Italian, Spanish or Portuguese.

This is cool Robot made in Singapore to reveal secrets of pyramids

The Supreme Council of Antiquities SCA Secretary-General Zahi Hawwas said the secrets of the pyramids will be revealed next year, noting that the council agreed with a Singaporean University to manufacture a robot for revealing what are behind the secret doors inside the pyramid, especially the second and the third ones.

He added that work is underway in the radar project that will be used in revealing what is inside the ground between the second Pyramid and the Sphinx.

This came during the meeting that was held at the Nursery College, Alexandria University in which Hawwas stressed that the SCA is preparing for a giant project to uncover the sunken the monuments along the River Nile in collaboration with a US company.

That's the whole thing. Meanwhile, several other stories involving Egypt can be seen here.

And another update on the giant seated statue of Ramesses II.

Another princess? Mystery of Iron Age woman with rings on her toes

SHE would have been a highly-skilled artisan who was buried 1500 years ago, her body covered with ornate jewellery and emblems of her high status.

Yet, with her rings still adorning her toes, she was laid to rest in one of the most unusual burial sites known to archaeologists: beneath the floor of a busy Iron Age workshop.

The discovery, at Mine Howe in Orkney, is extremely rare for an Iron Age site in Scotland and has baffled the team carrying out the dig.