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
-- Hieroglyphic text (drawing): LD III, 12 [d - b -c]
-- English translation in: James Henry Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, vol. II, Chicago, 1906, sections 1-16, 38-39, 78-82
-- English translation: [Lichtheim II, 12-15]

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."

End of EEF news.