Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Review of Discovery Channel's Rameses program Pharaoh's legacy lives on

In nearly seven decades of ruling ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh Rameses II — aka Rameses the Great — scattered dozens of temples, tombs and sons across the land of the Nile.

Archaeologists believe they have found the remains of four of those sons during the excavation of a tomb called KV5, the largest in Egypt's famed pharaonic burial ground, the Valley of the Kings, outside Thebes.

Forensic reconstructions of the sons' faces provided to USA TODAY show a strong family resemblance to the powerful pharaoh who ruled Egypt more than 3,200 years ago. Some scholars believe that the exodus of Hebrew slaves from Egypt described in the Bible took place during the reign of Rameses II.

Also, check out the "Gather the children" photo series. It would probably have been better had the forensic person doing the reconstruction done it "blind" so they wouldn't know whose skull it was thought to belong to. That would take care of any confirmation bias that might be present.
Archaeologists studying lifestyles of the Achaemenid era

The National Museum of Iran will temporarily loan a number of Achaemenid era clay inscriptions unearthed in Persepolis to the Parseh and Pasargadae Research Foundation for research, the director of the foundation announced on Saturday.

“Our archaeologists are trying to obtain information on the quality of life and social conditions of the people who lived in Persepolis. The inscriptions will be good sources for our research,” said Mohammad-Hassan Talebian.

More Viking stuff The Vikings: A Memorable Visit to America

Exploring the New World a thousand years ago, a Viking woman gave birth to what is likely the first European-American baby. The discovery of the house the family built upon their return to Iceland has scholars rethinking the Norse sagas

Roughly 1,000 years ago, the story goes, a Viking trader and adventurer named Thorfinn Karlsefni set off from the west coast of Greenland with three ships and a band of Norse to explore a new land that promised fabulous riches. Following the route that had been pioneered some seven years before by Leif Eriksson, Thorfinn sailed up Greenland's coast, traversed the Davis Strait and turned south past Baffin Island to Newfoundland—and perhaps beyond. Snorri, the son of Thorfinn and his wife, Gudrid, is thought to be the first European baby born in North America.

About three years after starting out, Thorfinn—along with his family and surviving crew—abandoned the North American settlement. After sailing to Greenland and then Norway, Thorfinn and his family settled in Iceland, Thorfinn's childhood home.

Just where the family ended up in Iceland has been a mystery that historians and archaeologists have long tried to clear up.

Intensive fishing was an ancient practice

Intensive fishing by humans may be more ancient than previously thought, suggests a new archaeological study, which shows that significant marine fishing may have started in the UK in the 9th century.

The diminishing levels of marine fish stocks as a result of over-fishing has caused great concern since the mid-20th century. The rapid increase in commercial fishing after World War II has had a devastating impact on the marine ecosystem in the North Sea, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and caused a number of marine fish species to become endangered.

But new analyses of remains at key archaeological sites in England suggest that the foundations of this recent problem were laid as far back as AD 1000.

Guess it was the next-to-Last Crusade. . . The never-ending search

Fascination with the Holy Grail has lasted for centuries, and now the Bletchley Park code-breakers have joined the hunt. But what is it that's made the grail the definition of something humans are always searching for but never actually finding?

Could an obscure inscription on a 250-year-old monument in a Staffordshire garden point the way to the Holy Grail - the jewelled chalice reportedly used by Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper?

That is one theory entertained by Richard Kemp, the general manager of Lord Lichfield's Shugborough estate in Staffs.

The code breakers at work:

Somewhat related story here.

Yes, that would be a good idea Bulldozing an ancient site: Turkish Cypriot developers say they’re willing to bring in the archaeologists

THE row over whether a Turkish Cypriot construction company should be allowed to build on the site of a Bronze-Age necropolis in the village of Kazafani outside Kyrenia resurfaced yesterday with the company at the centre of the debate calling on the north’s authorities to join them in excavating the site.

The offer coincided with a renewed debate over the site’s status within the Turkish Cypriot administration. In line with local law, the antiquities department has reissued its application for the site to be recognised as a grade one archaeological site. The application is currently waiting for ratification by the ‘economy and tourism ministry’, after which its status will be published in the official gazette.

The argument first erupted in June, when the north’s antiquities department called a halt to development of a 40-donum site, known as Vounos, into a complex of luxury housing for sale to predominantly British clients. The department had, unbeknownst to the company, declared Vounos a grade one archaeological site on May 27 this year, but not soon enough to prevent extensive bulldozing of the Bronze Age relic.

Ummmmmm. . . . .no Prehistoric Julia Roberts Found

Bulgarian archaeologists have found what they claim is Europe's oldest skeleton, which they have named "Julia Roberts" because the woman was a "rare beauty" with a nearly flawless set of teeth.

The archaeologists reported their findings in the Sofia News Agency and Bulgaria's Standart News newspaper.

If radiocarbon analysis, scheduled to take place in Germany, confirms the skeleton's suspected age of 9,000 years old, the find will predate all other human remains discovered in the Balkans by several centuries. The female skeleton will represent the first agricultural civilisation in the region.

We'd prefer Prehistoric Anna Kournikova ourselves, but that's just us.

Whoops. Greek museum roof collapses, reportedly damaging ancient artifacts

A section of the roof of the Archaeological Museum of Iraklion on the island of Crete collapsed, authorities said Tuesday, reportedly damaging artifacts more than 3,000 years old.

The collapse was discovered after the museum opened early Monday, the Culture Ministry said, adding that it had ordered an "emergency investigation" into the incident.

The ministry gave no details and museum officials were not available for comment. But the Athens daily To Vima said several ceramic vases dating from the early Minoan era - around 1,900 BC - had been smashed.

The vases reportedly damaged were discovered at a Minoan palace in the Cretan seaside town of Zakros. British archeologist David George Hogarth began the excavations in 1901, and they were followed by more systematic digs in the 1960s by Greek archeologist Nikolaos Platon.

That's the whole thing.

More later. So much news, so little time. . . .

Monday, November 29, 2004

Overkill update Ancient hunters off hook for bison

Big game hunters could be off the hook in the latest effort to explain the steep decline of bison populations thousands of years ago.

Proponents of the overkill theory blamed the first Americans -- who crossed the corridor connecting what are now Alaska and Siberia -- for hunting bison within a whisper of disappearance.

Those super-hunters are also considered responsible for pushing massive mammals, including woolly mammoths, short-faced bears and North American lions into extinction.

Here's the summary from Science:

In an international collaboration of more than 15 museums, Shapiro et al. (p. 1561; see the news story by Pennisi) used mitochondrial DNA sequences from more than 350 late Pleistocene and Holocene bison bones to record evolutionary processes in real-time throughout the late Pleistocene. The genetic diversity of Beringian bison populations underwent a catastrophic decline immediately before the Last Glacial Maximum, well ahead of the arrival of humans in the New World. Old World steppe bison are all descended from a re-invasion from the New World around 90,000 to 120,000 years ago, and New World bison are descended from a small population of bison isolated to the south of glacial ice barriers.

The original paper is here for those with subscriber access, as is a more detailed summary article.

Hmmmmm. . . . . Unearthed: ancient burial pit shows how Bronze Age Scots prepared for afterlife

Archaeologists have hailed the discovery of an early Bronze Age cemetery as one of the most significant in Britain after new technology enabled them to pinpoint the date of graves.

The remains of more than 35 men, women and children who lived between 1900BC and 1600BC have been uncovered at a previously unknown settlement at Skilmafilly, north-west of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.

Among the cremated bones, which were buried in pottery urns, scientists found a wide range of artefacts which signify that the community had widespread trade links with other parts of Britain and probably shared a common belief in an afterlife.

We didn't see what "new technology" was used to date these things. The only one mentioned was radiocarbon, but that's not exactly "new". Maybe it was a new technique relative to what other burials of this type (which they said hadn't been found in 30 years) had been dated with.

Underwater archaeology update
Stone age relics found off coast

The site of a stone age settlement, preserved under layers of silt, has been discovered off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

Included in the find is a fire pit, presumed to be an oven, which was first used about 9,000 years ago.

The settlement, now thirty feet beneath the sea and 500 yards off the coast of Bouldnor, was found by divers.

The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology hope to gather funds for a full investigation.

A small flint tool was also found embedded in a piece of wood near the oven.

More details of the finds will be given at a public lecture in Newport on Thursday.

That's the whole thing.

Here they come again Viking map may rewrite US history

Danish experts will travel to the U.S. to study evidence that the Vikings landed in the New World five centuries before Columbus.

A controversial parchment said to be the oldest map of America could, if authentic, support the theory that the Vikings arrived first.

The map is said to date from 1434 and was found in 1957. Some people believe it is evidence that Vikings, who departed from Greenland around the year 1000, were the first to land in the Americas.

The document is of Vinland, the part of North America believed to be what is today the Canadian province of Newfoundland, and was supposedly discovered by the Viking Leif Eriksen, the son of Erik the Red.

We are agnostic on the authenticity of the map, though Vikings in North America around that time is not really in question.

Update on Genghis Khan tomb Has Genghis' Tomb Been Found?

After four years' work, a joint team of Japanese and Mongolian archaeologists announced on October 4 that they had found what they believe to be the true mausoleum of Genghis Khan (1162-1227).

The ruins, dated to between the 13th and 15th century, were found at Avraga, around 250 kilometers east of Ulan Bator, the capital of the People's Republic of Mongolia. Team members said that they expect the discovery to provide clues to the whereabouts of the khan's actual burial site, which they believe may be within 12 kilometers of the mausoleum.

Actually, nothing really new here.

Following news courtesy of the EEF.

A Belgian mission excavated a tomb sculptured in the rock with a skeleton (of a 50-60 year old woman) and funeral furniture inside. The tomb, which was found in Wadi Hosh, Aswan, dates to 4,000 BC.

Dr Hawass's campaign against the illicit antiquities trade in Egypt:

Dr Zahi Hawass retells the story of Tutankhamun:

Three important mosaics at Alexandria's Graeco-Roman Museum have been restored and put on display.
Some other news about this museum:

Al-Ahram has two brief items, about the tomb of "Ankh-Khonsu-Derat-Hor" (which here is assigned to dyn 26, while earlier press reports spoke of either dyn 27 or NK - take
your pick) and about Roman period items (that were thought to be mislaid in the Cairo Museum basement) being stolen.

[Submitted by Michael Tilgner] The Autobiography of Ahmose, son of Abana
-- Hieroglyphic text: Urk. IV, 1-11
URL: URL: http://snipurl.com/8de8
-- Hieroglyphic text (drawing): LD III, 12 [d - b -c]
URL: http://snipurl.com/8deb
-- English translation in: James Henry Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, vol. II, Chicago, 1906, sections 1-16, 38-39, 78-82
URL: http://snipurl.com/8ded
-- English translation: [Lichtheim II, 12-15]
URL: http://members.tripod.com/~ib205/ahmose_ebana.html

John Lewis Burckhardt, Travels in Nubia (to which is prefixed a biographical memoir) (1819) [zipped; 418 kB]
For those who like old travelogues. Contents (in HTML): Memoir on the Life and Travels of John Lewis Burckhardt Journey along the Banks of the Nile, from Assouan to Mahass,
on the Frontiers of Dongola.
Description of a Journey from Upper Egypt through the Deserts of Nubia to Berber and Suakin, and from thence to Djidda in Arabia. Performed in the Year 1814.
[Eds. Burckhardt was an amazing character. Definitely worth looking into. We think there's also a volume on his travels through Egypt, as well as Arabia.]

Online dissertation: Glennda Susan Marsh-Letts, Ancient Egyptian linen: the role of natron and other salts in the preservation and conservation of archaeological textiles; a pilot study. Institution University of Western Sydney, 2002 [in several PDF files]

Online version of: Hany Farid, Samir Farid, Unfolding Sennedjem's Tomb, in: KMT, vol. 12, no. 1, 2001 - 8 pp., pdf-file: 1.5 MB
"... the highly valued and often reproduced tomb decorations have had a profound influence on art and have contributed signficantly to our understanding of the Ancient Egyptian culture. This article describes how recent advances in computational and digital technology can add a new perspective to these marvels of antiquity."
URL: http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~farid/publications/kmt01.pdf

End of EEF news.

Welcome back from the long (for all you US readers) holiday weekend. And look, no lame stories on The First Thanksgiving from an archaeological perspective. You should worship us just for that.

Few items to start. We'll be catching up on all the news off and on, because there's so much of it.

Enough with the LOTR references already Hobbit defended against research Gollum

Australian scientists have dismissed as ill-informed claims that a member of a tiny new species of prehistoric human, known as Hobbits, found on the Indonesian island of Flores, was a modern human with a brain deformity.

Peter Brown, of the University New England, who was a member of the team that made the discovery, said the suggestion had come from a researcher who had not seen the specimen nor the archaeological site.

He said Maciej Henneberg, a palaeopathologist at the University of Adelaide, was not an authority on ancient hominids. "And his claims have not been peer reviewed."

Professor Henneberg told the journal Science that the Australian and Indonesian research team had "jumped the gun" in deciding the metre-high human that lived about 18,000 years ago was a member of a new species, Homo floresiensis.

He said the skull was similar to that of a 4000-year-old modern human found on Crete with a condition called secondary microcephaly, which causes a small brain.

We will stay on the side of the original scientists and accept for the moment that this is, in fact, a new species.

Plat 'em and plant 'em Renovation turns up old cemetery

Cameron County officials say they will try to relocate a downtown project's utility lines after the planned site turned out to be a forgotten graveyard. Construction workers in September dug up bodies under a county-owned parking lot across from the 1912 courthouse the county is renovating. Archaeologists believe the workers found the city's first platted cemetery, which they think dates to 1848 and has as many as 700 bodies. Debbie Head, spokeswoman for the Texas Historical Commission, said the state is willing to help find alternatives.

That's the whole thing, it's a small blurb on a page full of small blurbs.

We like to see this word in print Connecticut archaeologist an expert at rooting out historical hooey

The lost land of Atlantis has been discovered. Again.

In a press conference last week, a U.S. researcher named Robert Sarmast announced that his six-day expedition had detected evidence of man-made structures on the Mediterranean seabed off Cyprus. Not only had sonar scanners picked up the ghostly contours of walls and trenches on a rectangular landmass, he said, but these features matched the descriptions in the original account of Atlantis.

. . .

An archaeologist who has taught at Central Connecticut State University for more than 25 years, Feder rejects Sarmast's claim and the countless others that have come before it with the same simple argument _ namely, that Atlantis' only location was in the imagination of the man who first described it.

But that rationale hasn't prevented Feder from using the myth for his own purposes.

Indian campground may be excavated

An ancient Indian campground in the path of a proposed highway likely will have to be excavated before the roadway can be built, a state archaeologist said.

"We may have a site that is intact and isn't badly disturbed," said Mark Denton, director of the state and federal review section of the Texas Historical Commission's archaeology division.

Tests conducted during the 1990s found two layers of artifacts at the site, both within four feet from the surface.

Officials said the campground is on private property along the Clear Fork of the Trinity River, but would not be more specific.

Still waiting Santee tribe still waits for ancestor's remains

Chief William Koon is still waiting to throw the first shovels of dirt atop his ancestor's graves more than three years later.

The member of South Carolina's Santee tribe is trying to navigate government's red tape to get back human remains and other items unearthed from a mound in Clarendon County during the 1970s.

Koon has become discouraged at times, but giving his ancestors a proper burial is more important.

"It's extremely frustrating," Koon said. "You do think about giving up and saying the heck with it, but you can't do it."

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"This would look much better in a chartreuse, don't you think?"

"Who am I? Huh? Huh? Brad Pitt! Get it?"

"Be right back. I'm going to take Colin and Elliot waaaaay up there for a little, um, private conference."

"Son, do you like movies about. . .doomed airliners?"

"I just can't wait to be king!"

"See Angelina down there? Would one of you guys tell her the accent really sucks? I would, but she'd kick my ass."

In order for Muad'dib to become a leader of the Fremen people, he must first pass the rite of manhood and ride the Worm - Shai-hulud.

"Who am I? Huh? Huh? This isn't getting old, is it?"

Bronze Age Site Discovered at Gas Company Dig

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe is the most comprehensively-dated Bronze Age site in Britain, it emerged today.

The 29 cremations pits and a number of artefacts were uncovered by chance during the installation of a gas pipeline in Aberdeenshire.

The pits include 10 pottery urns containing ashes of children and adults and two golden eagle talons.

The talons are of particular archaeological importance as they have never been excavated from this period before.

Ming Dynasty coffin uncovered

An ancient tomb uncovered by construction workers in Yangpu District last Friday contains the remains of someone who lived during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), local archaeologists announced yesterday.

Two archaeologists, with the help of several construction workers, yesterday opened one of two coffins found at the site, unearthing a body covered by four shrouds and about 13 belts.

"It is one of the best preserved bodies from the Ming Dynasty ever found in Yangpu District, particularly its skeleton," said He Jiying, an archaeologist with the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission who worked on the site.

She said she is certain the tomb was made during the Ming Dynasty because the coffins were covered by two large stone boards-a typical way of arranging tombs during that period.

Scientists still haven't taken a good look at all the contents of the coffin, which is filled with water and mud. It will take two to three days to work out the detailed features of the tomb.

The tomb was found accidentally by workers in the Yangpu Dushi Industrial Park on Yinhang Road last Friday.

"I assumed the site was an ancient tomb because it was much harder than normal underground, which is mainly made of soft earth," said Wang Jiding, a construction manager on the project.

That's the whole thing. We figure there will be an inordinate number of discoveries coming out of China in the next few years as we A) Actually hear about them for a change, and B) They do gobs more construction.

Peking Man's digs gets archaeological redo

The first phase of work to reinforce caves where the 500,000-year-old Peking Man was found has been completed, with six relic sites threatened by collapse successfully saved.

The project at the Zhoukoudian area, a World Heritage site 50 kilometres southwest from downtown Beijing, started in July after archaeologists reported 21 areas at the site inn danger of geological calamity.

The second work phase will be carried out next year,protecting a further group of seven ruin sites, according to the Zhoukoudian management.

Disturbing, but important Archaeologists needed in investigation of mass graves

Beyond the flashy advertisements aimed at luring additional recruits for the U.S. military is a stark, help-wanted notice posted on the Internet by the Justice Department and the Archaeological Institute of America:

The government is looking to hire up to seven archaeologists to assist in a widening investigation and excavation of mass graves and suspected grave sites in Iraq.

The new recruits would be part of a second deployment of investigators and forensic analysts who have been assembling a catalog of evidence expected to be used against Saddam Hussein in his upcoming trial on charges of crimes against humanity.

This is, unfortunately, one of those areas where archaeological expertise cna be very useful indeed. Since we are more or less trained to excavate, among other things, burials and doing so in a manner that preserves the context of the burials and associated objects, the connection to recently buried bodies is evident. Most of this is covered under forensic anthropology though, not archaeology generally, and most of the people doing it are physical anthropologists. See About.com's Forensic and Human Skeletal Archaeology page for lots of links to sites and online articles.

We'll also put a special plug in for FindAGrave.com. Fascinating site. Especially click on the "Stroll through our online cemetery" link and look at random tributes. There are numerous search functions as well to look for famous people in your area or to find where famous (and not so famous) people are buried as well. The site seems to be responding very slowly at the time of this writing though.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Breaking news Ancient Ape Discovered—Last Ape-Human Ancestor?

In Spain scientists have discovered 13-million-year-old fossils of new species of ape. The species may have been the last common ancestor of humans and all great apes living today. (See pictures of the new ape species.)

The great apes—which later gave rise to humans and which now include orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas—are thought to have diverged from the lesser apes about 11 to 16 million years ago. Today's lesser apes include the gibbons.

The new species was christened Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, after the village, Els Hostalets de Pierola, and region, Catalonia, where it was found. Like great apes and humans, Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, had a stiff lower spine and other special adaptations for climbing trees.

You'd think they could come up with maybe a slightly friendlier-looking critter.

Original summary of the Science paper here. The actual paper is here. Both by subscription only.


We describe a partial skeleton with facial cranium of Pierolapithecus catalaunicus gen. et sp. nov., a new Middle Miocene (12.5 to 13 million years ago) ape from Barranc de Can Vila 1 (Barcelona, Spain). It is the first known individual of this age that combines well-preserved cranial, dental, and postcranial material. The thorax, lumbar region, and wrist provide evidence of modern ape–like orthograde body design, and the facial morphology includes the basic derived great ape features. The new skeleton reveals that early great apes retained primitive monkeylike characters associated with a derived body structure that permits upright postures of the trunk. Pierolapithecus, hence, does not fit the theoretical model that predicts that all characters shared by extant great apes were present in their last common ancestor, but instead points to a large amount of homoplasy in ape evolution. The overall pattern suggests that Pierolapithecus is probably close to the last common ancestor of great apes and humans.

ArchaeoBlog film corner That's right, film corner. Alexander to be exact. We'll not bore you with an actual review of the film, since we haven't seen it and probably won't until it comes out on DVD or HBO and maybe not even then. But we thought we would deal with the issue of Alex's sexuality head-on in a decisive and scholarly manner. . . . .and simply link to a quote we found uproariously funny: Richard Roeper:

A group of Greek lawyers has threatened to file a lawsuit against Warner Bros. and Oliver Stone "for suggesting Alexander the Great was bisexual," as the National Post put it.

Some two dozens Athens-based attorneys are demanding that Warner Bros. issue a disclaimer saying "Alexander" is fiction.

Having seen the film, I can categorically state that Stone does not in any way suggest Alexander was bisexual.

He suggests Alexander was absolutely, fabulously gay.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Now, off to investigate the historical and cultural accuracy of this "nude and revved-up Rosario Dawson". . . . .

Genuinely interesting Canadian dig unearths Sinai desert fortress

A Canadian archeological expedition in Egypt has uncovered the remains of a 4,200-year-old fortress near the Red Sea coast in the Sinai Desert, a discovery that sheds some light on life at the time when the Great Pyramids were built.

Details of the discovery will be published soon in the Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, and archeologists say it offers important clues on what was going on during the last years of the period in Egypt called the Old Kingdom (2700-2200 BC).

The team first learned of the site two years ago -- and returned this past summer -- while mapping archeological sites in the Sinai Desert. Led by a brief report of ruins in the area of Ras Budran and information from local Bedouin, they went south along the Red Sea coast to the remains of the fort.

Especially so because it's Old Kingdom.

Easter island, fools' paradise

The great mystery of Easter Island that struck all early visitors was not just that these colossal statues stood in such a tiny and remote corner of the world, but that the stones seemed to have been put there without tackle, as if set down from the sky. The Spaniard who attributed the marvels of Inca architecture to the Devil was merely unable to recognize another culture’s achievements. But even scientific observers could not, at first, account for
the megaliths of Easter Island. The figures stood there mockingly, defying common sense.

We now know the answer to the riddle, and it is a chilling one.

The article suggests (okay, it says so outright) that the inhabitants denuded the island and brought about their own destruction. We seem to recall reading about some recent work indicating it may have been more of a climatic disaster perhaps exacerbated by human activities. We'll do more research.

The ancients: now available in colour

For hundreds of years, Caligula's handsome, marble face has stared out at a fascinated world. Now situated at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum in Copenhagen, the celebrated first-century bust of this cruel young Roman emperor is made repellent, yet intriguing, not so much by his petulantly downturned mouth as by the blank, staring eyes chiselled from marble by an unknown sculptor.

It comes as a shock to be confronted with an exact replica with unthreatening hazel eyes. Add garish pink skin and glossy brown hair, and the new painted version of Caligula's bust looks as if it might once have been used to model hats in thewindow of a men's outfitters. Yet, according to the curators of a new exhibition at the Vatican museums, this is a lot closer to what the sculptor intended we see than the white marble to which we are accustomed.

CSI: Rodel, on south Harris

Moors murders scientist traces buried medieval village

A LOST medieval village has been discovered by a scientist who led a search for Moors Murder victims.
Professor John Hunter and a team of 15 have discovered what is believed to be a buried medieval crofting settlement while carrying out general field survey work in and around a harbour village in the Western Isles.
Artefacts buried under the clachan of Rodel, on south Harris, may provide evidence that the community was once an international trading centre, with vessels arriving from Scandinavia and also the Mediterranean.
It is not yet known what remains could be found if further investigation is carried out.

This seems to be making headlines Evidence of 16th-Century Spanish Fort in Appalachia?

A long-standing theory says that more than four centuries ago Spanish explorers ventured into the foothills of what is now North Carolina. They stayed long enough to possibly change the course of European settlement in the New World, then vanished into the fog of time, the story says.

Until recently historians regarded a 16th-century Spanish presence this far north in North America as more theory than fact. But archaeologists working in a farm field near the tiny community of Worry Crossroads might change that perception.

Combining detective work with old-fashioned digging, the team may have unearthed ruins and artifcats—evidence that Spanish soldiers did, indeed, roam the Appalachian Mountains. The researchers think they've found the site of Fort San Juan, where Spanish explorers reportedly stayed from 1566 to 1568. The outpost was near the American Indian village of Joara, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of present-day Asheville.

Actually interesting from a number of perspectives, not the least of which is the Spanish's role in depopulation due to disease. Read the whole thing.

Divers find ancient homes

International divers have discovered several cave sites along the Cape Peninsula coast where ancient lost civilisations might have lived.

The team embarked on their search earlier this month after Dr Bruno Werz, a marine archaeologist, found a prehistoric axe, that could be 1.5m years old, in Table Bay nine years ago.

Werz said in Simon's Town on Friday there were indications that more remnants of prehistoric civilisations could be found under the water.

The text quoted is somewhat misleading in that it calls these the remains of "civilizations". In fact, they appear to be fairly typical cave sites of hunter-gatherers from 45k years ago.

And finally. . . State plans to beef up security at Range Creek

The state of Utah is beefing up security at the remote eastern Utah canyon of Range Creek to protect an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 archaeological sites kept secret until last summer.
Archaeologists estimate as many as 250 households occupied the canyon over a span of centuries ending about 750 years ago. They left half-buried stone-and-mortar houses, cob houses and granary caches, and painted colorful trapezoidal figures with spiky hair styles on canyon walls.
Researchers had quietly conducted surveys at the site for three years, but the significance of the finds was hidden until news reports surfaced in June about the transfer of the land from a rancher to the state.
Because the publicity causes a greater risk of looting, the state has allocated $152,000 to secure the site through the end of the fiscal year 2005.
A combination of rangers and conservation officers will provide security for the site, and Division of Wildlife Resources employees will include it in some of their aerial flyovers.

That's the whole thing. This is the area where a rancher had kept quiet about numerous sites that appear to be in fairly pristine condition, thus keeping numerous graduate students in dissertation topics for probably the next hundred years.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Heh. Amateur archaeologists curse pharoahs' guardian

Dr Zahi Hawass is one of the most powerful men in history - at least of archaeology - and he is angry.

The 57-year-old is secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities but, as any Egyptologist will tell you, this is the least of his titles.

The self-styled guardian of the pharaohs, commonly referred to as the "Big Zee", is the minder of 4000 years of history, 500 kings, scores of legends, thousands of tourists and hundreds of competing archaeologists.

Yet the theatrical, outspoken and Stetson-wearing Egyptian with a string of academic credits to his name and the power to dictate what the world is told about Ancient Egypt is being challenged relentlessly by two plucky French amateurs.

This is an update on the story we've linked to over the past few months regarding two amateur archaeologists who wish to drill into the Great Pyramid.

We would, however, caution against using the moniker "Big Zee" in his actual presence.

And the winner is. . . . Turn-up for the books earns archaeology award

A Northern Ireland property development company has won an archaeological award for its work on a Bronze Age settlement.

The Coleraine-based Kennedy Group was highly commended in the developer-funded archaeology category of the British Archaeological Awards, which have been running since 1876.

The company shared the prize with Drogheda firm Archaeological Consultancy Services.

During preparation work for a housing development at Corrstown near Portrush Kennedy's uncovered 70 Bronze Age roundhouses.

Found! Buddhist antiquities unearthed near Taxila

The Pakistan government's archaeology department has discovered eight antiquities dating back to the first century AD, including rare sculptures of 'future' Buddha, Hindu God Indra and his bodyguard from an ancient archaeological site very near to Taxila, considered as a seat of learning during the Buddhist period.

According to the Daily Times, experts from the archaeology department's preservation and restoration team unearthed the treasures while carrying on preservation work at the world renowned Dharmarajika Stupa and monastery dating back to 3rd century BC to 5th Century AD, regarded as the epitome of the Gandhara civilization.

Archaeologists have confirmed that one of the antiquities excavated depicts in exact detail the 'the reappearance of Buddha' as told in Buddhist mythology.

Apart from the other discovery of Corinthian capital, which was used in Magna, Garcia and Sicily from the early third century, the statue of Indra, regarded as the rain god in Vedic mythology and another depicting the bodyguard of Indra has also interested experts to a great extent.

Archaeologists have said that the artefacts made of grape black schist and green phylite belong to the early stage of the first or second century AD.

That's the whole thing.

Archaeologist digging in his native habitat, part XXLIV Archaeologists dig into tavern’s past

The circular concrete patch looked like simply that – a patch of concrete on an old dirt driveway.

But as he bent down to look, Dave Hazzard, an archaeologist with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, saw something else on the lane surrounding historic Boykin’s Tavern in Isle of Wight County.

Because the concrete had caved in from time to time, it probably meant an old well was underneath.

“Yes. Yes,” Hazzard said, waving his arms and all but dancing a jig. “It’s a well, a well. The right distance from the house. The right shape.”

DOTD archaeologist digs history before it gets paved over by progress

Many people think that when the state or federal governments decide they want to build a new road or construct a bridge, it's simply a matter of budgets and bulldozers. But before even a spoonful of dirt is moved, developers have to answer to a woman who sits in a cubicle on the second floor of the Department of Transportation and Development's building downtown.

That's because, as the DOTD's chief archaeologist, Elizabeth Davoli is responsible for making sure that construction projects promising a better tomorrow don't do so at the expense of yesterday's buried treasures. Simply put, before the heavy equipment is rolled in, Davoli and her team engage in a far more hands-on attempt at historic preservation -- usually on their knees, sifting through dirt, bucket by bucket, looking for anything that's worth saving.

"If it's at all possible we try to avoid (construction) on certain sites," said Davoli. "But if we cannot, then we are interested in data recovery."

Non-archaeology blog of note We'd just like to pass along to our faithful readers a blog we peruse occasionally called WithoutBound.net. The author is a semi-personal friend and she presents a fascinating series of both personal vignettes and insightful commentary on important medical issues. And we like the fact that she has many pictures of kittens.

Plus, you know, she has a link to ArchaeoBlog so we are obligated to return the favor.
Port Angeles dig update Ancient village, graveyard torn apart by bridge project

In a makeshift morgue, handmade cedar boxes are stacked row upon row, each holding the ancient remains of the ancestors of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, all facing east toward the sunrise.

Ripped from what was to be their final resting place, the remains were put here for safekeeping until the tribe can find a place for their dead to rest once more.

The bones have been exhumed by contractors for the state Department of Transportation as it builds a marine facility needed for reconstruction of the Hood Canal Bridge.

Good long article with more information than has been published thus far. Interesting that the initial test excavations (apparently shovel tests) did not pick up anything.

Amazing the number of burials they're finding also. We are unsure of whether this was a common practice, burying people within the environs of a village for this area and period. We are also wondering whether this is to be a permanent installation or not. It seems as if it's only a staging area for construction of the new bridge and therefore be temporary, but the tone of the article indicates it's going to stay that way. Well, stay that way in human lifespan terms, not necessarily archaeological terms.

However, we object to this quote: Excavation has desecrated grave after grave. . . 'Desecration' seems far too value-laden and does not really belong in a newspaper article.

And on a related note Up to 700 graves may exist near Dancy Building, archaeologist says

Up to 700 undisturbed graves could be in the old City Cemetery on East Monroe Street, archaeologist John Keller estimated Friday.

Cameron County officials directed him to stop counting this week when he identified at least 38 graves in one trench under a county-owned parking lot across from the historic Dancy Building.

“Signs of more graves just jump out of the ground at you,” Keller said.

And more from the Pacific NW Tlingit site may get historical listing

The state Office of History and Archaeology plans to submit Indian Point for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. It would be the first traditional cultural property in Alaska on the register.

The site, about 78 acres that is north of Juneau's state ferry terminal, is considered sacred by the Tlingits, according to Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, which prepared the application.

The land is associated with key events in the history of the Auk Kwaan, especially the Yaxte
Taan L'eineidi clan, the application says. Dwellings, subsistence sites and burial sites there date to A.D. 1100 to 1300, it said.

CPR for artifacts UMF breathes life into history

There is nothing remarkable about the outside of the University of Maine at Farmington's Archaeology Research Center -- just a plain white building on Quebec Street with a sprawling pile of bagged dirt out front. But step inside and you might just catch the faint scent of history being discovered.

This year, UMF's Archaeology Research Center (the UMF ARC) is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Specializing in consulting archaeology and cultural resource management, the UMF ARC's team of archaeologists and students excavate sites across Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Hired by state and federal agencies as well as private developers in compliance with the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act, the UMF ARC consults on building projects to ensure that valuable Native American and Euroamerican archaeology sites are not jeopardized by road construction and land development.

Eh, not much of a pun. We'll let it slide Archaeologists dig up P.G. history (Quickie registration required)

A bottle from the late 1800s, a piece of pottery, and an 1880 Indian head penny -- no bones yet. But archaeologists in Penns Grove have uncovered a bit of borough history at the proposed Riverwalk site at the end of West Main Street.

As part of the last phase of the approval process for the Riverwalk project, archaeologists are combing the area along the Delaware River shoreline to be sure no historic items are being disturbed when new construction begins.

The site is proposed to become a major riverfront development dubbed the Riverwalk with retails stores and restaurants on the waterfront.

Perhaps the last 'Troy' movie update Hollywood's gift horse brings hordes back to Troy

Tourists descend on the sleepy Turkish town of Canakkale at all hours to gawp at the Hollywood star - a 12-tonne fibre-glass horse, held together with bolts, ropes and nails, which dominates the seafront.

It was a gift from Warner Brothers and a small consolation for the fact that Troy, the $200m blockbuster starring Brad Pitt as Achilles, was not made in Turkey.

Troy may have bombed at the box office but, in Turkey, the film has put Homer's "well-walled city" back on the tourist map.

Note that we have yet to post anything about Alexander (we think; if we did, we just lied so ignore that). Well, maybe we did. Perhaps it's just because Colin Farrell doesn't look as good in a skirt as Brad Pitt. That wouldn't stop us, of course, since Angelina Jolie is far better than anything from Troy.

Bit from the EEF

Al-Ahram Weekly has two relevant articles, news of new finds under Newsreel and the Tutankhamun autopsy on the front page:
-- The dyn 13 sarcophagus found in Dra'a Abul-Naga:
-- No DNA test for Tutankhamun after all:

For the Egyptian scientists involved in the autopsy, see

The United Nations European Headquarters will get a pharaonic statue of the goddess Maat(?):

Friday, November 19, 2004

Before popping off for the weekend, we thought we'd toss this site out for your perusal: Internet Archaeology, which bills itself as "The first fully refereed e-journal for archaeology". We don't know if this is exactly true or not, but we recall when it first went live. The papers seem to be geared more toward archaeology and technology, but there are several more traditional topics scattered about ("The antler finds at Bilzingsleben, excavations 1969-1993", Issue 8).

And it's free.
This may be the only entry today as the entire staff of ArchaeoBlog is engaged in several ongoing research projects and meetings. Who makes meeting dates on Fridays?

It's time! Once again our weekly visit with news from the EEF!

Well, this is interesting Press report about what medieval Arabic scholars thought about Cleopatra; interview with Dr Okasha El Daly.

Online electronic version of: Janet H. Johnson, The Demotic Verbal System, The Oriental Institute, Chicago, 2nd corrected edition, 2004 (Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization, no. 38). xii, 228 pp. "This study of the Demotic verbal system is based largely on four ancient texts, two Ptolemaic period (Khaemwast I and Onchsheshonqy) and two of the
Roman period (Mythus vom Sonnenauge and Demotic Magical Papyrus)." - pdf-file: 1.4 MB
URL: http://oi.uchicago.edu/OI/DEPT/PUB/SRC/SAOC/38/SAOC38.html

New online article on the Antiquity of Man website: "The nature of Ancient Egyptian urbanism" by Mike Brass (unpublished Masters degree essay, 2004, in pdf-format)

Online version of: Jean François Champollion, De l'obélisque égyptien de l'île de Philae, in: Revue encyclopédique, vol. 13, pp. 512-521 (1822) - Important early work of Champollion discussing the relationship between the Greek and hieroglyphic inscriptions of the obelisk of Philae, now in Dorset, UK.
"L'obélisque de Philae a-t-il été érigé par un roi de race égyptienne, ou bien appartient-il au tem[p]s de rois Ptolémées ou Lagides, comme
l'inscription grecque du socle?"
URL: http://visualiseur.bnf.fr/Visualiseur?Destination=Gallica&O=NUMM-106039

Online version of: Veronica Sundstedt, Alan Chalmers, Philippe Martinez, High Fidelity Reconstruction of the Ancient Egyptian Temple of Kalabsha, in: Proceedings of the 3rd international conference on Computer graphics, virtual reality, visualisation and interaction in Africa (AFRIGRAPH '04), Stellenbosch, South Africa, November 3-5, 2004, pp. 107-113, ACM SIGGRAPH, November 2004
"... Computer graphics in collaboration with Egyptologists makes it possible to recreate the temple on a computer, place it back to its original location and orientation, and illuminate it, as it may have appeared some 2000 years ago. ... This paper describes the practical methodology that should be undertaken in order to create a high fidelity reconstruction and realistic lighting simulation of an ancient Egyptian temple." -7 pp., pdf-file: 740KB
URL: http://www.cs.bris.ac.uk/Publications/Papers/2000136.pdf

Nicoleta Marinescu, Zooming in on Egypt, in: College of Charleston Magazine, Fall 2004 issue
"What do photography, space science and geology have to do with understanding ancient Egyptian tombs? A pilot project combines these disciplines for the first time at the College of Charleston [South Carolina, USA]. The On-Line Geographical Information System for the Theban Necropolis (OLGIS-TN), an exciting new interdisciplinary initiative, is the brainchild of professors Peter Piccione (history), Kem Fronabarger (geology) and Norm
Levine (geology)..." - 4 pp., pdf-file: 300 KB
URL: http://crmc.cofc.edu/magazine/Egypt%20feature.pdf
-- also without photographs: http://crmc.cofc.edu/magazine/feature.htm
-- press report [was already in last EEFFNEWS]:

A new image database application, called "InscriptiFact," is designed to allow users access via the Internet to high-resolution images of ancient inscriptions from the Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds with particular focus on Northwest Semitic inscriptions. However,
it also contains Aramaic papyri from Egypt and Egyptian scarabs.
Anyone who agrees to use the images solely for study and classroom purposes can get a (free) password and access instructions. InscriptiFact works under both Windows and Macintosh (OS 10.2.6 and above).
URL: http://www.inscriptifact.com/

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Another link on the Topper >50k site Early Dates, Real Tools?

Key paragraphs: Archaeologists unaffiliated with the Topper project contacted by ARCHAEOLOGY today were cautious in their assessment of the announcement. David Anderson, an archaeologist and Clovis expert at the University of Tennessee, was one of several who said they were awaiting formal publication of the results before critically examining the new radiocarbon dates. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary standards of evidence," said Anderson. "A human presence upwards of 40,000 years old in the New World has been proposed by many previous investigators, but none of these early sites have survived careful professional examination." Other sites, such as Brazil's Pedra Furada, or California's Calico Hills, have been championed in the past as evidence of human occupation of the New World before 50,000 years ago, but have not withstood subsequent scrutiny.

"The early dates from Topper will require verification through careful and comprehensive analysis," says Anderson. "They'll also need to be evaluated through professional reporting in scientific journals." Specialists will be waiting for publication of the Topper data to take a close look at the stone tools and flakes found by Goodyear to determine whether they are indeed of human manufacture, or the result of natural processes. At least one archaeologist who has seen the objects, Michael Collins of the University of Texas, has already made his mind up. "I don't believe those are artifacts," he says. "They're geofacts--not man-made." The context of the finds and the geology at the site will also likely come in for close scrutiny.

So it seems likely that the key issue to be resolved is whether or not they are dealing with real artifacts or simple geofacts. This has been a persistent problem for sites claimed to be of vastly pre-Clovis age, such as Calico Hills.
Good news! Treasure Trove of Culture Recovered

They were priceless artifacts, and the Kabul Museum curators wrapped them carefully, some of them in pink toilet paper, others in newspaper, and put them in metal boxes. Then government people, eight to 10 of them, signed pieces of paper that were glued to the locks. No box would be opened unless all the signers were there.

That was a quarter-century ago, during the Soviet occupation. But the pact held through the warlordism of the late 1980s and 1990s, through the xenophobic rule of the Taliban and the American invasion.

Archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert, second from right, watches with Afghan officials as a safe containing artifacts is forced open in April 2004. (Kenneth Garrett -- National Geographic)

Many feared the treasures were lost forever, but yesterday archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert announced that a just-completed inventory showed that all but a handful had been recovered from hidden caches in Kabul's presidential palace complex and other "safe places."
A few more stories on the 50k year old "site" in South Carolina:

S.C. site topic of lectures

Shards of history

Evidence Hints at Earlier Humans in Americas (NY Times) This is what we were talking about yesterday: "Dr. Goodyear acknowledged in a telephone interview that the research would "be extremely controversial," because some other scientists are not as convinced that the stone objects are really tools, and not naturally chipped and battered chert, or dense quartz.

Team Says Humans Lived In North America Earlier (WA Post)

Hey, someone else gets it, too How Often Is Atlantis Discovered?

American architect-turned-archaeologist Robert Sarmast claims to have discovered the lost city of Atlantis, off the southeast coast of Cyprus. Sarmast says his latest sonar readings reveal submerged walls that closely resemble those described by Plato, the first person to ever mention Atlantis in print. In Timaeus, written around 360 B.C., the renowned philosopher portrayed Atlantis as "a great and wonderful empire" that was destroyed by earthquakes and floods in a 24-hour span. How many times have researchers previously claimed to have discovered the vanished island-state?

Oodles—and that's not even counting the numerous psychics and crackpot "Atlantologists" who've placed the city everywhere from Nicaragua to Ceylon.

Archaeology: Exotic Life of Ancient Thrace

A series of spectacular discoveries at three sites in central and eastern Bulgaria has highlighted the exotic lifestyle of the ancient Thracians as never before.

Georgi Kitov, a veteran Thrakologist who has excavated more than 30 tombs built for the ancient warrior elite, says that the Thracians were known for drinking undiluted strong red wine and were famous for their martial skills. They were the most successful gladiators in ancient Rome.

As a result of the latest finds, the Thracians, who excelled at constructing elaborate tombs and rock-cut shrines, have seized the popular imagination.

Apparently not this one

Maltese Archaeology featured on La 7's 'Stargate'

The uniqueness of Malta's pre-historic sites (Hypogeum, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra) found on the Maltese Islands will be under the spotlight on the popular Italian national television station La 7, during the programme 'Stargate'.

The episode, which includes a fifty-minute documentary about Malta, will be broadcast on La 7 on Wednesday 17th November at 21.30 hrs.

The presenter Prof. Valerio Massimo Manfredi, a prominent Italian archaeologist, and writer of the best-selling trilogy on Alexander the Great, together with the La 7 crew visited Malta last week.

The 'Stargate' presenter and crew were brought over to Malta by the Malta Tourism Authority, working in collaboration with Air Malta and Heritage Malta.

That's the whole thing. We were (obviously) kind of expecting something cooler.

Well, now we know who to blame Archaeologist discusses Iraq’s relics

Where Paul Zimansky goes trouble is sure to follow.

The Boston University archaeology professor has been forced to leave the last three countries he visited due to political revolts and militant uprisings.

UTA anthropology professor Karl Petruso said this earned Zimansky a reputation as a dark omen in the archaeology field.

“Some have wondered whether this guy is a destabilizing force on the geopolitical scene,” he said. “Dr. Zimansky is currently working in Turkey, but I’m sure it’s only a coincidence that they’ve suffered two devastating earthquakes recently.”

And from the dark and mysterious rainforests of. . .Iowa? Archeologist Dig Underway Near Rainforest Site

During the past month the City of Coralville has been working to dig up a piece of Iowa's History.

University of Iowa Archaeologist are studying an ancient campsite in Edgewater Park.

Archaeologist believe Native Americans once lived there about 3,600 years ago.

U of I Archaeologist David Stephenson told TV9, "Were finding firecrack rock and camp fires and animals hide."

Organizers hope to finish digging by the first week of December.

Just in time for the start of Coralville's Hotel and Convention Center construction.

We still don't get the whole 'rainforest' connection. But you know it's Iowa after all.

We do that sometimes IUP group protects history in Pine dig

Brandon Reefer woke up one morning a few weeks ago to find archaeologists digging up his yard.

Three members of Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Archaeological Services Team were there conducting a Phase I dig for a proposed sewerage project in the township.

The team of archaeologists purpose was to make sure there were no significant cultural resources present that could be lost in the construction of the project.

"It fell into my lap," said Reefer who happens to be professional photographer with an interest in archaeology. "I went to IUP for awhile and had an anthropology class that I was really into."

Well. . . .maybe Unburied treasure: PBS follows a voyage to recover the cargo of a Civil War vessel bound for N.O.

Bound for New Orleans from New York in October 1865, the S.S. Republic hit bad weather off the Georgia coast and then hit bottom, about one-third mile down.

Passengers and crew made it off the boat safely, though some died aboard lifeboats before others could be rescued.

The ship's cargo, including an estimated $400,000 in gold and silver coins, remained at rest until re-discovery a couple of years ago by Greg Stemm's Odyssey Marine Exploration.

The engrossing saga of recovering the Republic's sunken treasure will be told Wednesday at 7 p.m. on WYES-Channel 12, in a National Geographic Special titled "Civil War Gold."

These two quotes caught our attention:
Aquatic archaeology is expensive. The Republic's excavation cost $25,000 a day. To Stemm's credit, some of the recovery windfall is reinvested in cataloging some of the ship's less profitable finds.


"We believe that there's nothing to prevent a commercial for-profit company from doing the best archaeology in the world."

There may eventually be some merit in this argument. With very few exceptions -- Robert Ballard being the most prominent (maybe the only one) -- most marine archaeology is obscenely expensive. We wonder if in many cases, scientific archaeology could profitably (from a research perspective) piggy-back on these sorts of salvage operations. The cost would be giving up some of the more commercially valuable items. We have some reservations about this, but on the other hand many gold objects, while definitely cool to look at, are probably not all that informative in and of themselves. We'd definitely take a well-excavated Delta settlement site over another Tutankhamun any day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Breaking news! Scientist: Man in Americas earlier than thought

An archeologist from the University of South Carolina today announced radiocarbon dating results of burned plant material dated the first human settlement in North America to 50,000 years ago.

"Topper is the oldest radiocarbon dated site in North America," said Albert Goodyear of the University of South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.

That would make it significantly older than previously discovered sites, which were thought by most scientists to be from man's earliest venture into the Americas, about 13,000 years ago.

We may have blogged another story on this at some point in the past. The crucial points of contention will be:
-- Are the "tools" actually tools?
-- Are the dates both reliable and in good association with the tools?
-- Do other environmental remains support the dates?

The other criteria usually applied is whether the site is adequately published, which this clearly is not (yet).

For the record, chert is the general term applied to microcrystalline quartz, of which flint, jasper, etc. are varieties.

[Update not having to do with the breaking news]

Humans Were Born to Run, Scientists Say

Humans were born to run and evolved from ape-like creatures into the way they look today probably because of the need to cover long distances and compete for food, scientists said on Wednesday.

From tendons and ligaments in the legs and feet that act like springs and skull features that help prevent overheating, to well-defined buttocks that stabilize the body, the human anatomy is shaped for running.

"We do it because we are good at it. We enjoy it and we have all kinds of specializations that permit us to run well," said Daniel Lieberman, a professor of anthropology at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

We didn't want to upset the flow of the 50k-year old site.
Blogspot was terribly finicky yesterday so we were unable to get through to post anything past mid-morning. Here's some stuff we had in waiting. We'll be tossing up more as it comes in today.

Iranian archaeology update Ancient Iranian site shows Mesopotamia-like civilisation

Shellfish is not seen on most Iranians dining tables but it was part of the daily diet of the inhabitants of ancient Jiroft in southern Iran 5,000 years ago that showed the existence of an ancient civilisation.

Jiroft, located in Kerman province, is one of the richest historical areas in the world, with ruins and artefacts dating back to the third millennium BC and with over 100 historical sites located along the approximately 400 km of the Halil Rood riverbank, according to Mehr news agency.

Many Iranian and foreign experts see the findings in Jiroft as signs of a civilization as great as Sumerian and ancient Mesopotamian. They believe that Jiroft is the ancient city of Aratta that was described as a great civilization in an Iraqi clay inscription.

Jiroft came into the spotlight nearly three years ago when reports of extensive illegal excavation and plundering of priceless historical items of the area by local people surfaced.

Ignore the headline 3,000-year-old Embryo-Like Skeletons Found in Bulgaria

Bulgarian archeologists have discovered 3,000-year-old human skeletons, just weeks after Europe's oldest skeleton was unearthed in the country.

The skeletons, discovered near the village of Moguila in the district of Yambol, are about two meters tall, which is unusual for the people who inhabited the region in the Early Bronze era.

The skeletons are balled up in an embryo position, which, ancient peoples believed, immortalized the soul, archeologists explained.

The people came to the region from the Black Sea steppe and after mixing with the locals gave birth to the Thracians.

Bulgaria's ancient Thracian heritage has been put in the spotlight this year with a number of key archaeological discoveries in the so-called "Valley of the Thracian Kings".

We figure they mean "fetal". As in, buried in the fetal position. That's the whole thing, too.

Applied archaeology update The Rise and Fall of the Mayan Empire

Where the rain forests of Guatemala now stand, a great civilization once flourished. The people of Mayan society built vast cities, ornate temples, and towering pyramids. At its peak around 900 A.D., the population numbered 500 people per square mile in rural areas, and more than 2,000 people per square mile in the cities -- comparable to modern Los Angeles County.

. . .

Sever, NASA's only archeologist, has been using satellites to examine Mayan ruins. Combining those data with conventional down-in-the-dirt archeological findings, Sever and others have managed to piece together much of what happened:

Recall once again that much evidence now suggests that the abundant rain forest now seen across the Maya region is probably of recent origin, and that, were one to go back to the Classic period, one would probably see very little rain forest.

Also another good example (of very few unfortunately) where archaeologists might be able to assist modern people. Rare, but neat when it happens.

Neat article Garbage betrays date of earliest village life

It is amazing what you can find rifling through someone’s rubbish. You can even work out that people didn’t settle into permanent village life as early as once thought.

The first permanent human settlements are found in the Levant region which borders the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. But precisely when and why people made this transition is the subject of fierce debate.

“Virtually every possible explanation has been advanced,” says archaeologist Philip Edwards of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.

And another one! British farming? Thank the French

No individuals have shaped Britain's landscape more profoundly than its farmers. They turned a forested wilderness, peopled by hunter-gatherer tribes, into a land of hedges, fields and orchards.

Yet the identity of the first people to begin this land-shaping has been shrouded in mystery. Scientists once thought farming was brought by invaders. More recently, some argued it was imported as an idea that only gradually spread across the country.

But now scientists are putting together evidence that paints a surprising picture: that farming arrived as an already sophisticated set of practices imported by continental entrepreneurs.

Note the bit about the longhouse design being different from standard ones from earlier, aboriginal people. That's a good example of how migration of people is differentiated from migration of ideas.

Archeological find won't deter plans for veterans memorial

Archeologists unearthed more than 1,000 artifacts during a recent exploratory dig on the Town Hall's front lawn. But the salvaged pieces of history won't stop a planned veterans memorial park from being built on the site.

Heidi Savery, director of the Robbins Museum of Archeology, said nothing of critical historic importance was found. The museum, on Jackson Street in Middleborough, serves as headquarters for the Massachusetts Archeological Society.

Savery said it's ''important to know they're not going to go in and destroy something significant. The worst thing that can happen is to have bulldozers come in and find a village."

And finally, a look at Hagar the Horrible's temples

A new look at Hagar Qim Temples

Various studies have been carried out and various theories have been proposed on the Maltese prehistoric temples, such as what the buildings were used for, what rituals were carried out in them, the methods used in their construction, their decoration, their alignment, the type of roofing they may have had, the society that built them, and so on. However, during this presentation we shall be taking a step back from these studies to look at the actual monuments themselves and how much we know about the physical remains we are using as evidence for these prehistoric studies.

Each generation of archaeologists, curators, conservators and restorers has left their mark on the temples so these monuments have changed through time. Therefore the prehistoric monuments we see today consist of the original prehistoric structures as well as the various elements that were introduced in them as part of past conservation and restoration interventions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

One quickie item:

Antiquities Return! Italy Prepares to Return Prized Ethiopian Obelisk

Italy finally looks set to heal a feud with Ethiopia by returning one of its most cherished relics, the obelisk of Axum, taken by fascist invaders almost 70 years ago.

Final details of a plan to transport the 200-ton granite column from Rome to the holy city of Axum are expected to be discussed when Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi meets Italian officials on Thursday and Friday.

Ethiopia has had to build an airstrip to receive the obelisk, the most important symbol of the dawn of Ethiopian civilization, and a road to take it to a pit in the center of town.

"Talks are in the final phase, there are just a few things to check, like whether the road is ready," an Italian government source said.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Indian pottery dating to 700 B.C. found at Panhandle condo site

Archaeologists have found pieces of rare Indian pottery dating between 400 and 700 B.C. at the site of a proposed condominium complex in downtown Fort Walton Beach.

Among thousands of pottery shards are many with decorated rims very unusual for that period of the early Weedon Island culture, said lead archaeologist Frank Servello.

The decorations indicate the plates and bowls were used by wealthy people. They provide additional evidence the Weedon Island culture had a distinct class structure with the upper class living on the sound, which was the main food source, Servello said.

Um, we really like our readers, we really do! Scientist awarded cyberlibel damages

An Ontario judge has awarded an archeologist $125,000 in damages after a native man used e-mails to smear her as a “grave robber.”

The archeologist's lawyer is calling the ruling a precedent-setting one in the emerging field of Internet libel, a notion that may eventually have a chilling effect on the freewheeling ways computer users send messages.

“People seem to think there is a level of anonymity to e-mail and the Internet. And that it's a lawless area,” said winning lawyer Berkley Sells. “And clearly it is not, nor should it be.”

So, you know, don't send email out telling people we're all scum here.

But if you do, at least get your spelling and grammar correct. If there's one thing we can't stand more than libelous emails, its people who get there wurds all wrong and dont check there speling. or punctuation U Know?

Atlantis found. . . . .again Atlantis Hunt Reveals Structures in Sea Off Cyprus

An American researcher on the trail of the lost city of Atlantis has discovered evidence of man-made structures submerged in the sea between Cyprus and Syria, a member of his team said Saturday.

Robert Sarmast, who is convinced the fabled city lurks in the watery depths off Cyprus, will give details of his findings Sunday.

"Something has been found to indicate very strongly that there are man-made structures somewhere between Cyprus and Syria," a spokesperson for the mission told Reuters.

Remote sensing update A new look at ancient tombs

Home to the Valley of the Kings, storied burial ground of the Pharaohs, Egypt's ancient necropolis of Thebes is yielding its secrets to the most modern of technologies: high-resolution satellite photos.

"Welcome to the 21st century," says Egyptologist Peter Piccione of the College of Charleston (S.C.). "We've found a new way to look at old tombs."

These photos are one more way archaeological riddles are increasingly yielding to modern technology. Investigators also are using CT scans of mummies and loading three-dimensional views of cuneiform texts onto the Internet.

Fight! Fight! Resolved, apparently. Acre dig finds proof that site wasn't Jewish graveyard

A day after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intervened in a crisis over the archaeological dig near the train junction in Acre, another monument was discovered at the scene proving the area was a Roman graveyard without the presence of any Jewish graves whatsoever.

Work under way at the site is meant to create a safety barrier between the Acre-Safed road and the railroad tracks, and some NIS 15 million has been spent so far on the project, including moving the road temporarily.

Archaeological finds were discovered on the scene six months ago, and construction of the new, safe junction was halted as the Antiquities Authority attempted to rescue the archaeological finds, which indicated that the site had been a large cemetery previously unknown to archaeologists.

5,000-Year-Old Artifacts Near Texas Coast (Free registration required)

Archaeologists have discovered a cache of artifacts near South Padre Island that they say could be up to 5,000 years old, potentially providing new clues about early peoples of the Texas coast.

The items, found in a protective clay dune about 6 feet underground, appear to be part of a fishing camp for a nomadic group of hunter-gatherers, archaeologist Robert Ricklis said. They include fragments of shell tools, chipped flint projectile points, and a fish earbone, or otolith, that can be analyzed for information about the bay environment of the time.

Ricklis said the find is significant because so little is known about the ancient Rio Grande Valley. Most early manmade items would have been eroded by sand and sea air, or washed out by the ever-changing course of the waterways of the Rio Grande basin near the Mexican border.

Necessity is the mother of invention report Tools especially crafted to help tribal members, archaeologists at graving yard site

When Lower Elwha Klallam tribal workers at the graving yard site needed special tools to excavate human remains and artifacts, they turned to a tribal member known for his artistic ability.

``Some of my family members who work there told me about some of the problems they were having removing items from the ground, so I started playing around in the shop,'' said Darrell Charles Jr.

Note: One can also use the hard interior/proximal end of date palm leaves as excellent bone picks.

We know why they like digging around taverns Searching for clues to the past

With shovels slung over their shoulders, trowels and sifters in their hands, six archaeologists this week prepared to dig into the county's past. But so far, none of two dozen or so test holes - 185 are planned - around Boykin's Tavern has turned up what local history buffs hoped to find: the remnants of an icehouse, a kitchen and an herb garden.

"Nope," said Andrew Butts with a sigh, the project archaeologist, slapping his mud-stained knees to shake off wet dirt. "Not yet, but maybe tomorrow."

"It's just a very interesting place to dig, that's all" they'll say. "Boy, we sure do have a lot of test pits to dig. Might take us weeks. Good thing there's a tavern right here on-site for, ummmm, you know, water breaks and stuff. That's it, water. And food, too."

Hill dig yields treasure from 5000 years ago

ROCK art dating back 5000 years and an ancient jewellery workshop are among the treasures discovered in a Lothians excavation site ravaged by fire last year.

Details of the finds, from Traprain Law in East Lothian, were due to be unveiled at a conference in the Capital today.

Fraser Hunter, a National Museums of Scotland archaeology expert, is set to reveal the fruits of an intensive search of the area at the Edinburgh and East Lothian Archaeological Conference.

Team to reassess dig

The second day of the search for Amelia Earhart's remains on Tinian proved unsuccessful, and the Tinian Earhart Expedition team is considering reassessing the information they have and possibly postponing further digging until a potential phase two of the expedition.

However, the discovery of what the archaeologists believe is a nearby road built in the Japanese occupation era may be a clue to where to search at a future date.

As of yesterday afternoon, the team was still planning to excavate two sites that not only may be prehistoric ovens, but burial sites, as well.

The archaeological work had uncovered a great number of artifacts, such as chunks of stone tools, the sole of a shoe, a bit of cloth to crinkled beer cans. But thus far, no human bones.

We hadn't bothered posting anything on this Earhart fiasco before since we don't particularly regard it as archaeology, per se. This story had some possibly real archaeology in it though, so we figured we'd pass it along.

CSI: Cairo

Egypt Hopes to Solve Riddle of Tutankhamun Death

Egypt plans to X-ray the mummy of Tutankhamun to find out what killed the king who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago and died while only a teenager.

Archaeologists will move Tutankhamun's body from its tomb, which was discovered packed with treasure in 1922, to Cairo for tests which should resolve the mystery over whether he died naturally or was murdered.

"We will know about any diseases he had, any kind of injuries and his real age," Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told Reuters. "We will know the answer to whether he died normally or was he killed."

The mummy would be moved by the end of November and the CAT scan, which will produce a three-dimensional X-ray of his remains, completed by the end of the year, he said.

Hopefully a good set of CT scans will clear up some of the controversy about some aspects of the old x-rays.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Note: Link to Rise of the Nile video game fixed.
Waterfront real estate, cheap Artifacts reveal Lake CdA prime prehistoric real estate

Long before pioneers, loggers and wealthy retirees discovered the charms of Lake Coeur d'Alene, its shores were considered prime real estate.

Going back thousands of years, families have lived along the lake, fishing for mammoth bull trout in its blue depths and digging water potatoes near the shore. Archaeologists are now gathering evidence of prehistoric lakeside dwellers. In some areas, remnants of ancient villages have been found buried under deep layers of sediment. Some sites, however, have yielded only small flecks of charcoal from prehistoric hearths.

The work is part of a first-ever survey of prehistoric sites from the lower reaches of the rivers feeding into Lake Coeur d'Alene down the banks of the Spokane River all the way to Long Lake. The investigation is funded by Avista Utilities as part of its requirements for securing a new federal permit to operate hydroelectric dams in the region.

How Iranian Women Applied Makeup 3000 Years Ago

To describe how Iranian women applied makeup many thousand years ago is a difficult task. To say that how female cave dwellers used to array and beautify themselves within the geographical sphere now known as Iran, is not easy and the answer to such a question can be found only by a few archaeological excavations and rare records unearthed from ancient times. From a few records survived from such a time it is evident that not only women but men also used to apply cosmetics and that their makeup stemmed from religious beliefs rather than beautification ends.

Artists' conception of how an ancient Iranian woman may have looked:

Non-archaeological, but it's silly enough to post here MYSTERY SKELETON FOUND IN GARDEN

Forensic team called in to help identify 100-year-old bones

Dark and grisly tales of foul play sprang to mind when a skeleton was found buried in a Seal garden last week.

Rumours quickly spread around the village as residents speculated on the identity of the 'corpse' after the discovery of what was thought to be a collection of 100-year-old human bones.

But the mystery was solved when police confirmed that a forensic team and an archaeologist had identified the remains as Victorian farm animals.

This bears mention Fossil offers clues to bear migration

A fossilized jaw found in an Alberta gravel pit may have cleared up a mystery for researchers wondering how brown bears originally made it across North America.

They probably migrated from what's now Alaska and the Yukon before glaciers covered the region, thousands of years before previously believed.

The findings are discussed in today's issue of the journal Science.

"It's like finding the missing link," said Paul Matheus, lead author of the paper and a paleobiologist at the University of Alaska.

Matheus said the discovery could have interest to archaeologists trying to determine when humans first arrived in North America.

Indeed. More here. Key quote:

For decades many archaeologists have argued that humans migrated south of Beringia via an ice-free corridor about 13,000 years ago, when the ice sheets began to recede.

These scientists used the first appearance of certain animals, such as the brown bears, as a proxy indicator for when this corridor may have been available to humans.

"But our results show that brown bears were down further south much earlier, and that we just hadn't found the oldest fossils yet," Matheus said. "Archaeologists can no longer use brown bears as a test for when the first humans came south."


Russia now has a Stonehenge of its own. In the summer, a 4,000-year-old megalithic structure was uncovered at a Spasskaya Luka site, in the central Russian region of Ryazan. This structure, which, archeologists believe, was built as a sanctuary, sits on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Oka and the Pron rivers. The surrounding area has always been seen as an "archeological encyclopedia," a kaleidoscope of cultures ranging from the Upper Paleolithic to the Dark Ages.

"If we look at this archeological site as represented on a map, it will be a circle seven meters in diameter, marked with pillars, half a meter thick and the same distance apart from each other," says the expedition leader Ilya Akhmedov, who works in the Moscow Historical Museum's Archeological Monuments Department. "Here's a large rectangular hole and a pillar in the center of the circle. The wooden pillars have not survived, of course, but the large holes from which they once stuck out can be seen pretty clearly. Along the edges of the site there are two more holes. Originally, there may have been four of them, but the bank over here is being destroyed by a ravine, so the temple has caved in partially."

No doubt England is still way more fun to spend the solstices.

Historic site reveals its secrets

Archaeologists are set to learn about new discoveries at one of Scotland's most important ancient sites.

Investigators began work at Traprain Law in East Lothian after a major fire in 2003 which damaged some historical remains and endangered others.

The experts called in to carry out a full assessment made a number of finds, including 5,000-year-old Neolithic rock art and Bronze Age axes.

The details will be revealed at a conference in Edinburgh on Saturday.

The other discoveries included evidence of a jewellery workshop and part of a roadway.

Fraser Hunter, a curator at the National Museums of Scotland, said the discoveries all helped to reinforce Traprain's reputation as a power and population centre in pre-history.

Traprain Law's inhabitants had regular contacts with Roman visitors between AD80 and AD400.

A huge hoard of Roman silver was found in 1919 on the Law, which dominates the countryside east of Haddington.

That's the whole thing, except for the picture.