Monday, December 06, 2004

Update from the Shire Professor fuels row over Hobbit man fossils

A find heralded as the greatest discovery in anthropology for a century has degenerated into one of its greatest rows.

Even in a field noted for personal animosity and clashes of personality, the arguments over Homo floriensis - also known as the Hobbit - have become unusually heated.

The row could yet end in the courts, if a top Indonesian scientist, once described as Indonesia's "king of palaeoanthropology", fails to return the Hobbit fossils which he has taken without permission.

Drs. Brown and Sutikna continue their search for the Hobbit fossils.

Chinese women doing the chicken dance A noble find reveals the life in the past

Chicken fighting, women dancing with long silk sleeves and other colourful mural portrayals of the ancient Chinese captivated archaeologists when they entered an ancient tomb in Shaanxi Province.

The murals have been considered a rare find, according to Cheng Linquan, deputy director of the Xi'an Research Institute of Archaeology.

They provide visual evidence for the study of the lives of the ancient Chinese in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24) and of the development of Chinese art.

Or something like that.

How to get a-head in archaeology Headless bodies found at Mexican pyramid

The discovery of a tomb filled with decapitated bodies suggests Mexico's 2 000 year-old Pyramid of the Moon may have been the site of horrifically gory sacrifices, archaeologists said on Thursday.

The tomb at Teotihuacan, the first major city built in the Americas, whose origins are one of history's great mysteries, also held the bound carcasses of eagles, dogs and other animals.

"It is hard to believe that the ritual consisted of clean, symbolic performances - it is most likely that the ceremony created a horrible scene of bloodshed with sacrificed people and animals," said Saburo Sugiyama, one of the scientists leading the ongoing dig.

"Whether the victims and animals were killed at the site or a nearby place, this foundation ritual must have been one of the most terrifying acts recorded archeologically in Mesoamerica."

Few more tidbits here.

Repariation update 2,000-year-old Ais Indians laid to rest

The remains of at least three Ais Indians received a second burial on Thursday, 2,000 years after early coastal residents laid the bodies into natural crevasses in the rock jutting toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Martin County contractors added seven dump trucks of sand to the burial mound and nearby shell midden, which were uncovered by the hurricanes and discovered by beach dwellers in October.

With the help of professional archaeologists, the graves were covered to preserve the site, said Chuck Barrowclough, the county's environmental lands administrator.

"We're putting sand back on the beach as it had been," he said. "We wanted to make sure the equipment we used didn't damage other parts of the burial mound."

Potential repatriation update Archaeologists say decades-old graves are in path of highway project

Archaeologists believe they have discovered the unmarked graves of three infants buried more than 80 years ago situated in the path of the state Route 9 widening project.

Denise Grantz Bastianini and Christopher J. Bobak of Pittsburgh-based Michael Baker Corp. were contracted by the West Virginia Division of Highways. They began digging at the old Berkeley County farm on Thursday. Evidence of the graves - which included what may be bone particles, and bricks possibly used to lower the coffins - was found on Friday.

The general location of the graves at the corner of an overgrown fenceline on what once was a 67-acre farm was shown to a state archaeologist last month by descendants of Amos and Sarah Belle Brandenburg. But wood crosses marking the burial sites of the infants, all of whom died at birth, had long rotted away.

Eh, not really since they appear to be fairly recent. Well. . .really recent.

Minor Topper site update Stones may not revise history

Archaeologists in South Carolina last month announced radiocarbon dates suggesting, they said, that people made tools on a wooded hillside near the Savannah River about 50,000 years ago.

That would be more than 35,000 years earlier than any established evidence for human occupation in the Americas — a stunning discovery, if true, and one which some experienced archaeologists are questioning.

. . .

Dr. Michael B. Collins, a prominent archaeologist at the University of Texas who excavates remains of some of the earliest Americans, said he found nothing wrong with the carbon dates.

But all they did, he said, was give the age of a sediment layer.

Mostly this just reiterates other stories that the main problem is with the status of the stone tools as actual tools.

And finally a reminder that, for those of you in the U.S., this week is the Discovery Channel's Egypt Week Live. Different program every day, mostly having to do with tombs (duh). We watched a bit of the Rameses program last night but not enough to give a proper review. Readers may, of course, submit their own and we'll happily post it. It's gotta be at least watchable with Morgan Freeman narrating it.

Watch this space for more.