Saturday, April 30, 2005

Just a couple of quickie items for one of our rare weekend appearances. But it's raining so there's little to do except sit around and do stuff on the computer.

Excavation Starts Where Bones Were Found

Archaeologists began sifting through the dirt off River Road in Maumee on Friday. They're looking for more human bones on a site that is currently planned for river-view homes and condos.

They started their search at the trench where the first remains were found. They set a perimeter of less than 20 yards, then using a bulldozer, they dug up the soil looking for bones buried underneath. "We can get the disturbed soil off the very top layer we can see the tops of potential grave shafts where we see those we will go down further with power equipment," said Michael Pratt, an anthropologist.

Interesting story.

We knew it was there. . . Archaeologists find door 'to the thereafter'

The discovery outside the Egyptian capital of a particularly well-preserved mummy from the 30th Dynasty was announced on Friday by Egyptian government archaeologists.

Zahi Hawwas, head of the antiquities preservation team, said the find was made in Saccara, where a sarcophagus was discovered beneath a layer of sand. Although numerous ceramic amulets were found at the site, they presented no immediate clue to the identity of the deceased.

In addition to the mummy from a dynasty that ruled between 380-343 AD, two burial gates were discovered, one in honour of Iu-Ib, an official in a temple dedicated to Pepi II, who ruled from 2245-2180.

The other marker, also formed in the shape of a door intended to connect the present to the thereafter, was for a scribe by the name of Chentika. - Sapa-dpa

That's the whole thing. Obviously a mixture of old and new, what with the Old Kingdom and 30th Dynasty stuff.

Well, that sounds spooky Dark bastion is at center of Battle of Asheville controversy

Battle of Asheville issues won't die, which is appropriate, since more than 600,000 men gave their lives in the War Between the States for reasons they hoped would transcend their lifetimes. In its last weeks, the war devolved to Western North Carolina, toward which Confederate and Union armies targeted a last campaign.

Though the Battle of Asheville was a small affair, involving a minimal number of casualties in a five-hour exchange of fire, its significance is huge. Because of its position at the entrance to the region's Confederate stronghold, it may be the top candidate for a memorial to the emotion that swirled here as Federals implemented a three-pronged encirclement.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Archaeologists unearth rare Pharaonic seals

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a number of rare Pharaonic seals of soldiers sent out on desert missions in search of red paint to decorate the pyramids, Egypt's culture minister said Thursday.

The 26 matchbox-sized seals belonged to Cheops, who ruled from 2551 to 2528 BC, in whose honour the greatest of the great pyramids of Giza southwest of Cairo was built, and show Pharaonic soldiers' ranks, the MENA news agency quoted Faruq Hosni as saying.

More here.

School project update Walls middle school project back on track

Work has resumed on construction of a new middle school in the Walls area after researchers surveyed the site and found it to be clear of American Indian artifacts.

A temporary stop-work order was issued this past week after the property was identified as a potential archaeological site that included American Indian artifacts.

On Sunday, David Dye, a University of Memphis archaeology professor, and a class of students found pottery shards, animal bone, fired clay, flint chips and other items on property north of the middle school location. A new elementary school is planned for this site but the elementary project, which has not been bid, will be delayed, said schools Superintendent Milton Kuykendall.

Shippam site set to give up its secrets

Archaeologists are poised for the biggest and most exciting Roman excavation ever carried out in Chichester city centre – after demolition plans for the former Shippams factory site were approved by district councillors yesterday.

This will be the first time ever that a dig has been carried out on a major site fronting one of the main central streets.
The area is close to an important gateway where the Roman road from London entered the city, and significant material, including masonry buildings and even mosaics, could be found.

That's the whole thing.

This just seems weird Ancient Manuscript Discovery has 'Da Vinci Code' Touch

An ancient document likened to something which could have been featured in best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code was being analysed at a top auction house for its significance today.

The manuscript, believed to date from the 17th century, contains biographical details of every person in the Bible.

It was unearthed in the depths of the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth where it had been kept in storage for Llandovery College, an independent school near the Brecon Beacons. It was among about half of the school’s archive of books which were taken to the library around 50 years ago.

See, nowadays someone would write up something like that but it would be a web site. The Internet: The ultimate playground for the obsessive-compulsive.

The tell-tale Pallava stamp

In a significant development in archaeological terms, a fragmented stone inscription in Tamil, from the eighth century A.D., was this week found in the excavated depth of the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) of a collapsed temple close to the Shore Temple at Mamallapuram, not far from here. In February 2005, in the wake of the tsunami-driven waves that hit the coast on December 26, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had discovered the remains of a massive temple on the beach, a few hundred metres south of the Shore Temple. The inscription in Tamil with eight characters reads cika malla eti... ma. It evidently formed part of a larger inscription but the stone is broken.

Remote sensing update Archeological Vestiges Discovered in Ethiopia

Major archeological vestiges have been discovered at Ethiopia's Axum obelisk site, UN experts said Tuesday.

"Underground chambers and arcades have been found in the vicinity of the original location of the obelisk," said a statement released here by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

"Geo-radar and electrotomographic prospection, the most advanced technologies for underground observation, revealed the existence of several vast funerary chambers under the site's parking ground which was built in 1963," it said.

And now. . . . .the news from the EEF

Press report: "Brussels museum is to return a stolen 5th dynasty relief"
It's a relief "which was stolen from the Giza tomb of a 5th dynasty priest, Senenu of three pieces discovered in 1965 in Senenu's tomb...the museum had bought the piece from a private Belgian collector in 1973."

[Submitted by Kristin Romey
Press report: "Police: Egyptian Artifacts Looted By Accused Child Molester"
"The suspect admitted to looting while on Egyptian archaeological digs with the University of Chicago."

A press release from the Hermosa Beach Police Dept. says:
While searching the home detectives found various items of possible Egyptian Antiquities including what appeared to be mummified wrapping gauze, (analysis has not been completed on the wrapping as of this writing). Weinberg indicated that he has in the past volunteered to
participate on archaeological digs with the University of Chicago in Egypt. Weinberg admitted during questioning that he looted the artifacts from sites in Egypt. Weinberg aalled the items his "Pocket collection". He would find the artifacts and "Pocket" them. He would then smuggle the items back into the United States. The items included various amulets and other antiquities that may be up to 4000 years old. Hermosa Beach Police detectives called in special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to conduct a separate investigation into the looted artifacts. ICE took possession of the artifacts and is having an antiquities expert examine them to determine their authenticity.

Press report: "Ancient Egyptian art reappears online"
"The Senusret collection of ancient Egyptian art was gathered from private collections and shown briefly in the 1970s. It has never again been seen by the public -- until now. At, the contents of King Padibastet's tomb are once again on display."

Press report: "Reconstruction Reveals Mummy's Face"
"The face of "Bess," an Egyptian woman who died 3,000 to 3,500 years ago, is once again visible as technology brings to life what an artist's hand used to." Her mummy is at the
Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

[Eds. Criminy, guys, you could at least try to be a little more imaginative. Their reconstruction:

ArchaeoBlog's reconstruction:

Digitized Book from the Giza Digital Library
-- Peter Der Manuelian, Slab Stelae of the Giza Necropolis [Publications of the Pennsylvania-Yale Expedition to Egypt, Number 7], Peabody Museum of Natural History of Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, New Haven and Philadelphia, 2003. xxxiv, 244 pp. - pdf-file: 57.5 MB

* Digitized books from the Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée
-- Samuel Sharpe, The Alabaster sarcophagus of Oimenepthah I., king of Egypt: now in sir John Soane's Museum, Lincoln's Inn Fields, Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, London, 1864. 45 pp., 19 pls.
-- The plates are also available at

Gutierrez, Maria A., "Egypt's Bounty via the Humble Potstand," in:
The Penn State McNair Journal Summer 2003, Volume 10, pp. 120-144. In PDF (4.93 MB; with many pictures):
"The purpose of this study is to investigate the types, functions and contexts of stands and potstands from the earliest examples (middle Predynastic c. 3600 B.C.) into the Roman era. " [Eds. See, this is real archaeology.]

[Submitted by Michael Tilgner]
G. Bitelli, V. A. Girelli, M. A. Tini, L. Vittuari, Low-Height Aerial
Imagery and Digital Photogrammetrical Processing for Archaeological Mapping, in: Geo-Imagery Bridging Continents, XXth ISPRS Congress, 12-23 July 2004 Istanbul, Turkey, Commission 5, pp. 498-503 - pdf-file: 465 KB
"In the framework of the Joint Archaeological Mission of the Universities of Bologna and Lecce at the ancient town of Soknopaiou Nesos (Fayyum, Egypt) a wide-range of geomatic methodologies were experimented ... The paper deals in particular with the acquisition and processing of low-height aerial imagery to provide very large-scale mapping of the area in support of archaeological researches."

[Submitted by Marcel Maessen]
re: List of Museums with an Egyptian Collection worldwide I have updated the .pdf file with museums around the world with an Egyptian collection (I posted the first one on the forum earlier this week) .I have added a list with museums without a website. Any comments as to additions, broken links or new websites are welcome. The .pdf can be found at

End of EEF news

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Just a few items today. We haven't gotten tha latest installment of the EEF news, so that will probably be posted tomorrow.

Remains of Roman bathhouse unearthed

THE rich Roman heritage of Britain's oldest recorded town has been enhanced by the discovery of a “beautifully preserved” room from a bathhouse.

A single 2,000-year-old room was discovered beneath Colchester Sixth Form College during work to build a fire access road near the college's information technology block.

A leading archaeologist said yesterday it was one of the finest finds of its kind. The room from the bathhouse may now be preserved as an attraction.

Eh, not all THAT old. . . Ancient human remains found in mountainous province

A set of human remains, believed to be of a primitive man dating back 10,000-15,000 years, has been found in northern mountainous Tuyen Quang province.

Dr. Trinh Nang Chung, Deputy Head of the Viet Nam Institute of Archaeology's Viet Nam Stone Age Research Department, said that the scull, set of teeth and bones were discovered in Phya Vai cave, Coc Ngan village, Xuan Tan commune of Na Hang district.

That's the whole thing.

Mycenaean port of Athens found?

Archaeologists in the capital’s southern coastal suburb of Palaio Faliro have uncovered what appear to be traces of ancient Athens’s first port before the city’s naval and shipping center was moved to Piraeus, a report said yesterday.

A rescue excavation on a plot earmarked for development has revealed artifacts and light structures dating, with intervals, from Mycenaean times to the fifth century BC, when the port of Phaleron — after which the modern suburb was named — was superseded by Piraeus, according to Ta Nea daily.

“This is a port associated with two myths — Theseus and the Argonauts — and an historic event, the Trojan War,” archaeologist Constantina Kaza was quoted as saying. Theseus is believed to have been a Late Bronze Age king of Athens whose successors sent a contingent to fight in Troy.

The site, some 350 meters from the modern coastline, contained pottery, tracks from the carts that would have served the port, and makeshift fireplaces where travelers waiting to take ship would have cooked and kept warm.

That also is the whole thing.

New evidence challenges hypothesis of modern human origins

Chinese archaeologists said newly found evidence proves that a valley of Qingjiang River, a tributary on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, might be one of the regions where Homo sapiens, or modern man, originated.

The finding challenges the "Out-of-Africa" hypothesis of modern human origins, according to which about 100,000 years ago modern humans originated in Africa, migrated to other continents, and replaced populations of archaic humans across the globe.

The finding comes from a large-scale excavation launched in the Qingjiang River Valley in 1980s when construction began on a rangeof hydropower stations on the Qingjiang River, a fellow researcher with the Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

Tourism And Archaeology

PEOPLE have often said that tourism is the enemy of archaeology. The problem in the past has been that the tourist authorities seldom talked to the antiquities authorities. Scholars from all over the world have begun saying that the great monuments of the world could be gone within 200 years, and the damage caused by mass tourism to man-made and natural sites is now well documented.

Many good ideas in this essay, and the first paragraph highlights the most important problem: the conflicting interests of archaeologists vs. just about everyone else. When the tourist industry is your single largest source of income, a lot of people are going to want a slice of the pie and there is tremendous pressure to keep the money flowing. The tombs can probably be viewed by large numbers of people without damage, but it would require a large amount of money to install the proper ventilation and climate control equipment.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Couple more items for today. . . .

Oxyrhynchus papyri update II We've just learned that way back in 2001, Virginia Postrel posted a link to a story in Reason Express on this very development: see "NEXT RENAISSANCE" here. Of course, ArchaeoBlog wasn't around then, but we're glad to see this story had some history behind it.

The mummy's Iceman's Curse! Scientist seen as latest 'victim' of Iceman

He had lain in his icy tomb on an Alpine glacier in northern Italy for 5,300 years, a perfectly preserved Stone Age warrior, complete with fur robes, leather shoes and bow and arrow.

But since being found 14 years ago, five of the people who came in close contact with Oetzi the Iceman have died, leading to the inevitable question: is the mummy cursed?

Konrad Spindler, head of the Iceman investigation team at Innsbruck University, died on Monday, apparently from complications arising from multiple sclerosis. But that has not stopped his name being linked to a string of strange deaths related to the mummy.

Obviously silly, but fun to read anyway.

They who smelted it. . . . Ancient Metalworkers Burned Out of History

Evidence for ancient metalworking is sparse, and now historians who recreated Bronze Age smelting techniques know why — the clues naturally disappear.

The finding explains why, despite the discovery of 10 British mines dating from 2050 to 1500 B.C., very few remains of actual metalworking sites have been excavated around the world.

For the study, students at the University of London's Birkbeck college conducted a number of smelting experiments, including the construction of crude furnaces, at Butser Ancient Farm Project in Hampshire.
First. . .the news from Mehr" Archaeologists trying to unravel mystery of camouflaged Median monument

A team of Iranian archaeologists is trying to solve the riddle of why a newly discovered Median monument had been deliberately concealed with material such as stones, bricks, and mud, the director of the team working at the site announced on Tuesday.

“The monument contains one large and one small room constructed in a circular plan. The rooms have been filled almost to the ceiling with stones and their outer section has been hidden with a wall made of stone and brick which is about two meters thick,”

Mehrdad Malekzadeh said in reference to the Median monument which was discovered at the ancient site of Zarbolagh near the central Iranian city of Qom.

And mohr from Mehr Parthian city discovered on Minab plain

A team of Iranian and British archaeologists have discovered a Parthian era city on Minab plain in Iran’s southern province of Hormozgan, the director of the team announced on Wednesday.

“The city was discovered by chance during the study of Minab plain, which had been previously identified,” Alireza Khosrozadeh said, adding that no excavation of the area has been carried out but facilities are being prepared for the team to confine the site for further study.

The team is currently making an initial study on the Parthian city and will soon submit a comprehensive plan for excavation of the site to the Center for Archaeological Studies.

Lost city village. . .found! Enfield dig reveals remnants of village

Buried under grass and pavement in the upper portion of Robert H. Treman State Park are traces of a 19th-century mill town that has disappeared from maps but lingers in name.

Known as Enfield Falls, the former village lives on for archaeology students at Cornell University.

For about six years, Sherene Baugher's classes have excavated sections of upper Treman Park, which lies in Enfield, digging at the sites of former homes to uncover evidence of the people who lived there. Their most recent discovery, this fall, was the original footprint of Budd House, where the hamlet's blacksmith and postmaster lived.

That sounds like a neat long-term project.

Austronesians migrated from Taiwan, says archaeologist

Professor Peter Bellwood, director of the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at Australian National University, said archaeological evidence proved that ancestors of today's Austronesian-speaking people, numbering about 300 million, migrated from Taiwan to Pacific Rim areas.

Bellwood became convinced of his conclusion after completing fieldwork recently in the northern Philippine's Batan Island and the Yer Bac prehistoric site in northern Vietnam, where he found pieces of penannular jade rings and earthenware that can be linked to prehistoric Taiwan.

In a speech delivered at the National Museum of Prehistory in Taitung, Bellwood said that jade was not produced in most of the Austronesian-speaking areas except for Taiwan and the pieces of penannular jade rings found in both Batan and Yer Bac were similar to those found in Hualien, eastern Taiwan.

Graves Museum update Ruling goes against archeology museum backers

A judge on Monday threw out objections from several members of the Broward County Archaeology Society who oppose the dissolution of the Graves Museum.

The museum, on Federal Highway in Dania Beach, filed for bankruptcy in June. A month later, trustee Soneet Kapila was appointed to oversee the museum and its collection. He closed it in July.

Earlier this month, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Hyman approved the trustee's plan to donate the $1.9 million museum collection to Broward Community College and Florida State University.

Members had offered the judge an alternative plan that would have repaid the debt and loaned out the collections until they could reopen in another location. They say they may file an appeal.

That's the whole thing. There have been a few stories we've posted on this in the past (not the recent past though).

Oxyrhynchus papyri update Papyrus Reveals New Clues to Ancient World

Classical Greek and Roman literature is being read for the first time in 2,000 years thanks to new technology. The previously illegible texts are among a hoard of papyrus manuscripts. Scholars say the rediscovered writings will provide a fascinating new window into the ancient world.

Salvaged from an ancient garbage dump in Egypt, the collection is kept at Oxford University in England. Known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the collection includes writings by great classical Greek authors such as Homer, Sophocles, and Euripides.

Just a bit new in this one.

Fight! Fight! Will Ireland slice up its most mythical site?

The proposed road will not cut through the actual hill, but it will run close, slicing through a landscape that was once integrated with Tara. The route of the road includes many important archaeological sites that will have to be excavated thoroughly before the road builders destroy them.

The National Roads Authority has built up significant expertise in doing these rescue missions according to best possible practice. The interchange and the new road, however, will bring in their wake not only traffic, but development like warehouses and light industry. A rural idyll becomes an urban landscape.

Kind of an opinion piece on the Tara roadway project which we have blogged on before.

Roman relics spark village dig

Archaeologists are to excavate what they think could be the site of a Roman lead mine dating back at least 1,600 years.

In June last year, Cambria Archaeology unearthed the best preserved example of a medieval track in Wales in a peat bog near Borth in Ceredigion.

But workers also stumbled across evidence of what they described as a Roman "industrial estate."

Next month they are going back to the village to probe the area again.

Traitor. DNA shows Celtic hero Somerled's Viking roots

A HISTORIC Celtic hero credited with driving the Vikings out of western Scotland was actually descended from a Norseman, according to research by a leading DNA expert.

According to traditional genealogies, Somerled, who is said to have died in 1164 after ousting the Vikings from Argyll, Kintyre and the Western Isles, was descended from an ancient royal line going back to when the Scots were living in Ireland.

But Bryan Sykes, an Oxford University professor of human genetics who set up a company called Oxford Ancestors to research people’s DNA past, has discovered that Somerled’s Y-chromosome - which is inherited through the male line - is of Norse origin.

Another lucky schmuck Major Bronze Age haul unearthed

A large haul of Bronze Age artefacts has been uncovered by a gardener.

The 145 items, dating from about 800BC, were found by Simon Francis as he landscaped the grounds of a house in Cringleford, near Norwich.

Norfolk County Council archaeologists say the haul is one of the largest and most significant they have known.

Curator of archaeology Alan West said: "The items are in good condition and the more items we find the better knowledge we can develop of the era."

We mostly find peanuts that the local jays bury whenever we're digging in the yard. . .

Network of tombs found near obelisk site

Experts have discovered a major network of underground funerary chambers and arches near the original site of an ancient obelisk in Ethiopia, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) said on Monday.

The discovery was made in the past week during a surveying mission in the east African country in preparation for the return of the final piece of the 1 700-year-old Axum obelisk from Italy, the agency said.

Teams from the Paris-based Unesco found the chambers using high-technology imaging equipment.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Important non-archaeological news item Mystery of German exploding toads

Toads in an area of northern Germany are being killed off by a mysterious disease - they are exploding.

Thousands of the amphibians have died in recent days in a pond in Hamburg's Altona district, with their bodies swelling to bursting point.

The toads' entrails are propelled for up to a metre (3.2ft), in scenes that have been likened to science fiction.

Our first thought was that they're eating way too much beer and gyros, since we've experienced something similar, albeit not quite as dramatic, the morning after doing so ourselves. However, our herpetologist colleagues assure us that toads -- even German toads -- tend more towards insect life for their dietary needs. Thus, we are in as much of a quandary as the German scientists are.

And speaking of toads, our friend and colleague Andie of Egyptology News sends us a new blog to pass on, Homo Insapiens which, coincidentally, notes an altogether different activity ascribed to toads. There are two important coincidences here:

1) Said different activity is one we were attempting (largely unsuccessfully) to engage in on those nights when we were busily consuming too much beer and gyros (cause and effect -- or lack thereof -- already noted, thank you very much);

2) Once the mystery is solved, whatever's doing it should immediately be imported to Oz.

On to the news:

Remains of Neolithic Titan discovered in Guangxi

Archaeologists in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, south China, have unearthed remains of an 180-centimeter-tall man from a tomb dating back more than 6,000 years.

"Such a tall man was seen rarely in south China in ancient times," said Huang Xin, head of the Cultural Relics Management Institute of Youjiang District, Baise City. Huang is one of the archaeologists who took part in the recent excavation at the Neolithic site in Gongyuan Village, Yangxu Town of Baise City.

Huang said they were amazed to see the bones of ancient people scattering at the site are thicker than that of modern people, andthey were even awestruck by a stone totem in the shape of penis unearthed from the site.

Also from China Perfect mummies found in China

Remarkably well-preserved mummies have been discovered at an ancient burial site in China.

Archaeologists unearthed 167 tombs at the Xiaohe Tomb complex in the Lop Nur desert in the northwest Xinjiang region. The site is 174 km from the ruins of the Loulan Kingdom, an ancient civilisation that vanished 1,500 years ago.

"The mummies were unbelievably well preserved, even better than the mummies in Egypt," said Zhu Hong, director of the Archaeology Study Department of Jilin University. "Even the lice in the heads has been preserved," Zhu added.

Antiquities Market update Ancient Treasures for Sale

As you read this, criminals somewhere in the world are destroying portions of mankind’s past. With backhoe and shovel, chainsaw and crowbar, they are wrenching priceless objects from sites in the mountains of Peru, the coasts of Sicily, and the deserts of Iraq. Brutal and uncaring, these robbers leave behind a wake of decapitated statues, mutilated temples, and pillaged trenches where archaeologists were seeking clues to little-understood civilizations. The results of this looting include disfigured architectural monuments, vanished aesthetic objects, and an incalculable loss of information about the past. And it shows no signs of diminishing.

As you continue to read, other people across the globe are purchasing some of mankind’s oldest and most exquisite creations. Contemplating ancient statues, vases, and stelae, many of these purchasers experience antiquities’ near-mystical power to connect them to the past or to transcend time through beauty. Proud of their efforts, these private collectors, commercial dealers, and museum curators view themselves as temporary caretakers of timeless treasures. Their love for these artifacts often resembles the passion one associates with religious fervor. It, too, shows no signs of diminishing.

There are some pertinent arguments in this essay. Vincent seems to side with the dealers in some proportion.

Construction find Construction Crew Uncovers Artifacts in Walls, MS

Future plans for one large plot of land in the Walls community include three new schools. Presently, there are remnants of its life as a cotton field. But it's what took place here in the distant past that has peaked the interest of archaeology professor David Dye.

"This site is about, guessing by the pottery or whatever, 12 hundred years old," says Dye. Dye and two of his students from the University of Memphis spent their Sunday combing the cotton field. Pieces of pottery were among the artifacts they found. Arrowheads and even human remains have also surfaced here. It all points to this once being a prehistoric Native American village. "The benefit of not tearing it up is that we learn something about the history of this country," says Dye.

Monday, April 25, 2005

More on Bartholomew Gosnold The man who went to search for America

Bartholomew Gosnold is not a name you forget easily. It sounds gloriously Dickensian. Perhaps a friend of Barnaby Rudge. Or maybe a minor cleric from the works of Trollope. Still can't place it? Thought not. You really have never heard of him.

The previously anonymous Mr Gosnold has given rise to one of the stranger stories of the past week. In the churchyard of Shelley All Saints Church in Suffolk, researchers have been given permission to drill a hole into the coffin of a woman who died 400 years ago, and remove either a tooth or a small piece of bone. The DNA from this will then be used to determine whether a corpse found two years ago buried by the James river in Virginia is that of Bartholomew Gosnold.

More construction season finds Native American artifacts found at site of school construction

Construction of an elementary school just south of Memphis has been halted after workers found what archaeologists say could be a millennium-old Native American site.
Officials say human remains, pottery shards and projectile points dating back one-thousand years to the Middle Woodland Era have been found at the site of the DeSoto West Elementary School.

An archaeological team from the University of Memphis will conduct an initial field survey at the site Sunday.

More (apparently) here.

Today's news from Mehr Archaeologists collect 15,000 shards at Tang-e Bolaghi

A joint Iranian-Dutch team of archaeologists recently collected 15,000 shards dating back to the Sassanid and early Islamic eras at one of the sites in the Tang-e Bolaghi region of Fars Province.

The Iranian director of the team, Ali Asadi, said on Sunday that the shards were discovered at Site No. 64, which covers an area of nine kilometers.

“The collected shards are mostly cream colored, and the experts are currently identifying and classifying the fragments,” he added.

Mohr from Mehr 6000-year-old pottery workshop discovered at Toll-e Bondu

A team of archaeologists have discovered over 5000 pottery works and shards and a large pottery workshop at the 6000-year-old site of Toll-e Bondu in the southern Iranian province of Fars, the director of the archaeological team announced on Saturday.

“We unearthed the large number of earthenware items during the two phases of the excavation, which led to the identification of a major center for the mass production of pottery in the region,” Ehsan Yaghmaii added.

The pottery works were made of ocher and created with great precision.

And still MOHR from Mehr 2500-year-old gold unearthed at Bardak Siah

Four pieces of gold with a combined weight of about three kilograms were unearthed beside one of the columns of the main hall of the Darius Palace at Bardak Siah by a team of archaeologists working at the 2500-year-old site located near the city of Borazajan in Iran’s southern province of Bushehr, the director of the team announced on Sunday.

“Three pieces of the gold are folded thick sheets and the other piece seems to be the upper part of a cup, having a carved simple line on the edge,” Dr. Ehsan Yaghmaii added.

Mayan salt factory, canoe paddle stir archaeologists

A Louisiana archaeologist has discovered the remains of a massive Maya salt-producing complex submerged in a lagoon off the south coast of Belize.

The underwater site also revealed the first wooden structural artifacts from the Maya empire, including wooden poles and beams used in constructing the salt factories.

A wooden paddle from the canoes that were used to distribute the salt over inland waterways also was discovered — the first time such an object has been found.

This should eventually prove to be very interesting, if many more organic remains are found.


New research has revealed Britain's oldest fragment of modern human - a jaw bone unearthed in the Westcountry - is 6,000 years older than previously thought. The findings raise questions about current thinking on when modern man first inhabited the country. Carbon dating had indicated the piece of jaw bone, with only three teeth, originated around 31,000 years ago. But the specimen was recently deemed suspect, because it had been strengthened with paper glue some time around its excavation from Kents Cavern, Torquay, in 1927.

UK's oldest musical instrument keeps its title

An ancient horn has preserved its questionable reputation as Britain's oldest musical instrument.

Archaeologists yesterday displayed the Ripon charter horn and issued a ream of information on everything except its age. It is thought that the horn was given to the North Yorkshire city in AD886 by Alfred the Great.

Ripon is proud of its past, and the hornblower still sounds four blasts every evening at 9pm - although not on the charter horn.

"It's much too delicate for that," said Richard Hall of York Archaeological Trust, who led the study. He said that the research revealed interesting information, despite steering away from carbon dating. The archaeologists said that some of the early mediaeval craftwork suggests that the horn may have been a venerable object even then.

That's the whole thing.

Cannibalism update Stone Age Cutups

After excavating a cache of Neandertal fossils about 100 years ago at Krapina Cave in what's now Croatia, researchers concluded that incisions on the ancient individuals' bones showed that they had been butchered and presumably eaten by their comrades. That claim has proved difficult to confirm. A new, high-tech analysis indicates that the Krapina Neandertals ritually dismembered corpses in ways that must have held symbolic meaning for the group-whether or not Neandertals ate those remains.

Neandertals apparently possessed a facility for abstract thought that has often been regarded as unique to modern Homo sapiens, says study director Jill Cook of the British Museum in London. The Krapina Neandertals lived around 130,000 years ago.

"Some kind of mortuary practice that had symbolic significance was going on at Krapina," Cook suggests. Although cannibalism might also have occurred, the bodies were systematically sliced up rather than quickly butchered, in her view. "Even eating people is a complex behavior" that likely would have included ritual of some kind, the British anthropologist notes.

Antiquities Market update I Museum inquiry into 'smuggling' of ancient bowls

ONE of the world’s leading buyers of antiquities is at the heart of an inquiry to establish whether part of his multimillion-pound collection was illegally exported from the Middle East.

University College London has set up a committee of inquiry into the provenance of 650 Aramaic incantation bowls inscribed with magical texts, The Times has learnt.

The bowls were loaned to the university museum — the Petrie — by Martin Schoyen, a Norwegian tycoon who has built up one of the world’s finest collections of antiquities in private hands.

Antiquities Market update II Archaeologist warns tomb raiding rife in Asia

The head of the global body of archaeologists says the theft of sacred and historical artefacts is a huge problem in Asia.

Claire Smith, an Adelaide-based academic, says this weekend's return of the second part an ancient Ethiopian obelisk, looted by the Italians in the 1930s, highlights the importance of restoring lost history.

No kidding.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Kentucky human remains update Archaeologist find possible American Indian remains

Bone fragments unearthed at a planned development site turned up what archaeologists believe are the five-thousand-year-old remains of two American Indians.
The remains were accompanied by trash pits, charcoal, carbonized seeds and tools, suggesting a camp used by nomadic hunters. Kentucky Heritage Council archaeologist David Pollack says the hunters might have gathered medicinal herbs and food in the area around three-thousand B-C.

And Salt Lake City human remains update Indian bones to stay where found

At first, 13-year-old Alex Baker didn't think much of it when his shovel stuck a brittle, round object in the pit he was digging.
Alex tossed the object aside. Then he, his cousin Hayden Schofield and his friend Scott Paulsen examined the ball. Hayden saw what they believed was marrow spilling from it.
It was the first clue that the boys had discovered more than the hangout they were trying to construct. State archaeologist Kevin Jones says the three appear to have found the remains of an American Indian, possibly 1,000 years old.

Heh. Note this: The plan was to dig a hole 6 feet deep, 10 feet long and 6 feet wide, equip it with couches, an audio system and a disco ball and cover the top with boards.

See, when we were kids, we would have filled the thing with enough plastic, wood, and rubber military gear to equip a medium sized Central American junta's army. Kids these days. . . . .

(Still, a disco ball??? Serious intervention is needed here)

Mohr from Mehr Archaeologists to resume work at Paleolithic site in Lorestan

A joint Iranian and Belgian team of archaeologists plans to begin excavations at the ancient Yafteh Cave near Khorramabad in Lorestan Province in early May.

They will be resuming efforts to discover the remains of early inhabitants of the region with the cooperation of Belgium’s University of Liege and Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO).

And still mohr from Mehr Parthian era Phraaspa Castle discovered in Atropatene region

Phraaspa, an ancient castle of the Parthian province of Atropatene, was discovered during the archaeological studies near Zahak Castle in Hashtrud, in Iran’s northwestern province of East Azarbaijan.

“Due to the historical documents indicating that Phraaspa was located somewhere in Azarbaijan, our team began studying some areas around Zahak Castle, which dates back to the Parthian era. After finding more than 20 habitation sites and eight barbicans from the Parthian era, we were certain we had discovered the ancient castle,” said Mohammad Feizkhah, an expert of the East Azarbaijan Cultural and Tourism Department.

'Cultural tourism' is latest trend bringing people to Wyoming

With historic and cultural sites among Wyoming's top new tourist attractions, the state needs to take special care to make sure those sites remain viable, a state archaeologist said.

Speaking Monday at the Governor's Hospitality & Tourism Conference in Casper, assistant state archaeologist Danny Walker said sites like Hell Gap in eastern Wyoming, with its tepee rings, were becoming more popular.

"A big draw is what they call cultural tourism, and that includes historic sites," Walker said.

Such sites pose particular challenges, Walker said. Because they're off the beaten path, there are increased risks of vandalism, theft and accidental damage from overuse.

"Most of the places we send people are ones that have caretakers at them," Walker said.

The conference continued Tuesday.

That's the whole thing. We think being one of a handful of states with Sinclair Gas stations is enough reason to visit. Or at least drive through.

Sri Lankan archaeologists tour India

A team of nine Sri Lankan archaeologists are in India to interact with Indian experts on epigraphy, restoration and heritage monument conservation.

The team, who are on a two-week visit, will tour Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as part of an outreach programme organised by the Sri Lankan High Commission and the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka.

That's the whole thing.

CSI: Fort Edward (no, really this time!)

CSI team helps solve murder mystery

A CSI team is back in one North Country town hoping to solve a two-century-year-old murder mystery.

Forensics experts from New York and Florida were in Fort Edward to exhume the remains of Jane McCrea once again.

McCrea was scalped and killed back in 1777 by Indians that were fighting for the British during the American Revolution.

TV corner

Check out The Science Channel's Geology of Civilization: Hot Rocks. We just happened upon this show and it's been a nice surprise. It's told from the perspective of a geologist (Iain Stewart) rather than an archaeologist, so you get a slightly different take on things. In the first episode we saw a short tour of the Mediterranean basin and how the gology of three regions constrained the building efforts of the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. The effect that the type of local rocks had on building practices may have been a touch overdone, but he was spot on that there is some influence, and this is often glossed over in strictly archaeological presentations. For instance, most Egyptology-type programs will mention the local source of the limestone for the pyramids, but in this case we learned that this stone was formed during a transgression of the Tethys (see earlier post on this) and that this type of stone (limestone) was particularly easy to form into blocks because the bedding planes tended to fracture this way naturally. We also liked how he covered the three main types of rock when using each civilization: limestone and sandstone (=sedimentary) for Egypt, metamorphic (=marble) for Greece, and igneous (=ash for concrete) for the Romans.

All in all, an interesting take on things and probably worth watching. It's apparently on all this coming week.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Sorry for the delay in posting anything since Wednesday. We were otherwise disposed yesterday morning and then Blogger was down in the afternoon. On with the news!

Remains at building site may be of ancient Indians

Archaeologists have found what they believe are the 5,000-year-old remains of two American Indians at a southern Jefferson County site planned for development.

Bone fragments were unearthed last week during an archaeological survey of a 55-acre site near Interstate 65 and Outer Loop slated for a Wal-Mart, restaurants and condominiums. Spear tips and burned rock were found several years earlier at the site, officials said.

The remains, accompanied by trash pits, charcoal, carbonized seeds and tools, suggest a camp used by nomadic hunters who might have gathered medicinal herbs and food in the wetland area around 3000 B.C., said David Pollack, a Kentucky Heritage Council archaeologist and site-protection manager.

More on the Olmecs Mystery of the Olmecs endures

On a coastal flood plain etched by rivers flowing through swamps and alongside fields of maize and beans, the people archaeologists call the Olmecs lived in a society of emergent complexity. It was more than 3,000 years ago, along the Gulf of Mexico around Veracruz.

The Olmecs, mobilized by ambitious rulers and fortified by a pantheon of gods, moved a veritable mountain of earth to create a plateau above the plain, and there planted a city, the ruins of which are known today as San Lorenzo. They left behind palace remnants, distinctive pottery, and art with anthropomorphic jaguar motifs. Most impressive are Olmec sculptures: colossal stone heads with thick lips and staring eyes that are thought to be monuments to revered rulers.

Good article, though there's not much new here. But it summarizes the pros and cons very well.

CSI: Suffolk

Clue to earliest American may lie in Suffolk grave

A SAMPLE from the bones of a Suffolk woman buried 400 years ago is to be exhumed by scientists seeking to discover more about an English explorer who is the unsung founding father of America.

Archaeologists are to crosscheck DNA from remains they believe belong to the explorer Bartholomew Gosnold with samples from his sister, who was thought to have been buried in a Suffolk churchyard in the 1600s.

Church officials have given their backing to the project, which is thought to be the first of its kind in Britain. It will involve remains being taken from a narrow shaft in the grave of his sister Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney, who records show lies in the chapel of Shelley All Saints Church in Suffolk.

Just can't wait for those Gosnold Day parades that are sure to ensue.

Budding archaeologists Kids Find Prehistoric Bones in Backyard

A human skeleton found by three kids in Salt Lake City's Harvard/Yale neighborhood appears to be American Indian.

Clayton Middle School students, Scott Paulsen, Alex Baker and Hayden Schofield were digging a fort when their shovels struck a bone.

Paulsen said they thought it was just an animal and kept digging.

Predynastic cemetery update Ancient necropolis found in Egypt

Archaeologists say they have found the largest funerary complex yet dating from the earliest era of ancient Egypt, more than 5,000 years ago.

The necropolis was discovered by a joint US and Egyptian team in the Kom al-Ahmar region, around 600 km (370 miles) south of the capital, Cairo.

Inside the tombs, the archaeologists found a cow's head carved from flint and the remains of seven people.

They believe four of them were buried alive as human sacrifices.

A day without news from Mehr is like a day without sunshine Fragments of Achaemenid paint containers discovered at Persepolis

Workers at Persepolis recently discovered four fragments of earthenware which were probably used as paint containers during the Achaemenid era.

Archaeologist Ali Asadi said on Friday that the newly discovered shards are the bottom parts of containers which were filled with paint and it is surmised that they were paint buckets over 2500 years ago.

“Two of the shards are red and two are blue. They were found near the wall of the Apadana Palace near the relief sculptures which depict the ceremonial procession in which representatives from the conquered nations brought gifts to the king. We believe that Achaemenid era painters used the red and blue colors to decorate the walls of the Apadana Palace,” he added.

The analysis of the paint will provide new information on the art and the chemical industry of the Achaemenid era, he noted.

A group of experts from the Parseh and Pasargadae Foundation will soon begin studies to analyze the paint.

That's the whole thing.

Keep Oliver Stone AWAY Conversations: Return of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh is the story of an arrogant Mesopotamian king's exploits with his friend Enkidu, the civilized savage. Discovered in Nineveh in 1853 on 11 cuneiform-inscribed clay tablets, the tale was finally translated in 1872 by the British Museum's George Smith. Now Stephen Mitchell, the acclaimed translator and adapter of The Book of Job, A Book of Psalms, Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, Genesis, and other ancient texts, has created a new literary version based on English, French, and German literal translations. He spoke with ARCHAEOLOGY about the tale's moral sophistication, 16-foot-tall winged bulls, and how it compares to Beowulf.

Egyptian sea vessel artifacts discovered at pharaonic port of Mersa Gawasis along Red Sea coast

When Kathryn Bard reached through the small hole that opened in a hillside along Egypt's Red Sea coast, her hand touched nearly 4,000 years of history.

The opening that Bard, an associate professor of archaeology at Boston University, and her team's co-leader Rodolfo Fattovich, a professor of archaeology at Italy's University of Naples "L'Orientale," discovered was the entrance to a large, man-made cave. Two days later at a site about 30 meters beyond this cave, the team removed sand covering the entrance to a second cave, one that held the well-preserved cedar timbers of an ancient Egyptian sea-faring vessel.

Creswell rock art dated

A team of scientists from Bristol, The Open and Sheffield Universities have proved the engravings at Creswell Crags to be greater than 12,800 years old, making them Britain's oldest rock art.

Creswell Crags which straddles the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border is riddled with caves which have preserved evidence of human activity during the last Ice Age. Recently, engravings on the walls and ceiling were found by archaeologists.

These engravings depict animals such as the European Bison, now extinct from Britain, and other more enigmatic figures. The nature and style of these engravings led archaeologists to wonder if this art was perhaps older than any existing art in Britain.

Hunt on for vanished Saxon bowl

Archaeologists hunting an Anglo-Saxon bowl missing for nearly 140 years are calling on the public to check their attics for the silver treasure.

The Witham Bowl - worth hundreds of thousands of pounds - vanished after an exhibition in Leeds in 1868.

First found in 1816 in the River Witham, Lincolnshire, it is thought to be the most remarkable piece of pre-Conquest silver found in England.

The Society of Antiquaries hopes new pictures online will jog memories.

More later.

[Update] Weekly EEF news:

"Dig days: One day in Alexandria"
Zahi Hawass about three mosaics that were restored and are now on display at Alexandria's Graeco-Roman Museum.

Press report: "Ain Shams sites to be renovated"
(See middle of page)

Press report: "Britain may have to give up oldest known Bible",,2-1565403,00.html
Namely the 4th-century Codex Sinaiticus, from St Catherine monastery on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.Weekly EEF news

Press report: "CT scan unmasks mummy"
At Auckland Museum, a mummy has been examined and preserved. It's a young woman called Ta-Sedjemet.

Press report: "Culture Minister re-opens tombs of Thutmose III and Merenptah"
Next two tombs in line for renovation are those of Ramses III and Ramses VI.

Press report: "Uncovering secret buried deep in past"
Interview with Dr Bill Manley, about his book "How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs" and about his attempt to identify a female mummy with child, found in Qurna, now on exhibit at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh - he claims it is royalty, possibly queen ubemhat [name of course NOT directly linked with Nubia] or queen Haankhes. [Earlier
report in EEFNEWS (347). At least it is now clear why the Nubian connection is proposed - pottery.]

New eBooks (mostly 19th c. works) in 2005 from Project Gutenberg:
-- E. A. Wallis Budge, "Legends of the Gods. The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations".
-- Champollion le Jeune, "Lettres écrites d'Égypte et de Nubie en 1828 et 1829"
-- M.A. Murray, 'Oude Egyptische Legenden'
-- Lewis Spence, "Mythen en Legenden van Egypte"
-- George Rawlinson, "Ancient Egypt"

[Submitted by Franco (]
A new file (pdf) has been added to my website:
"Porphyrius and the Egyptian Gods "
Text, translation and commentary of Porphiryus' discussion on the images of the Egyptian Gods. (0.455 MB)
On the site you will also find these online papers:
-- "The Sarcophagus of Na-Menkhet-Amon at San Lazzaro degli Armeni (Venice)" - edition of the texts on this dyn 22 sarcophagus (1.12 MB).
-- "The Book of the Dead of Pashedu (Sforzesco Castle, Milan)" - edition of the text on this papyrus (hieroglyphic text and commentary) (3.14 MB)
-- "A new Stela from Akhmim" (3.14 MB) - edition of a Ptolemaic stela (photo, hieroglyphic text, commentary).

[Submitted by Chris Bennett (]
H. Thurston, "On the Orientation of Early Egyptian Pyramids", in: DIO. The International Journal of Scientific History, Vol. 13 No. 1 (December 2003), pp. 4-11
A mathematician's reaction to studies of changes in the orientation of the pyramids.

[Submitted by Thierry Benderitter (]
John Brock, "Who Were the First Surveyors? Four Surveyors of the Gods: In the XVIII Dynasty of Egypt - New Kingdom c. 1400 B.C."
Paper prepared for the Workshop on History of Surveying to be held during the FIG (Federation Internationale des Geometres) Working Week / GSDI-8 Conference in Cairo, Egypt, April 16, 2005. Available in HTML and PDF:

Online version of: James McLane, Raphael Wüst, Flood Hazards and Protection Measures in the Valley of the Kings, in: CRM [Cultural Resource Management], vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 35-38 (2000) - pdf-file: 1.2 MB
"The authors are members of a research team that is preparing a master plan in an attempt to mitigate the impact of flooding on the tombs in the VOK [Valley of the Kings]."

Online version of: The Ptolemaic Economy, in: Ian Morris, Walter Scheidel, Richard Saller(eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of the Graeco-Roman World, Cambridge, forthcoming - 50 pp., pdf-file: 665 KB [Version of 30 June 2004]
"I treat here the internal economic history of the Ptolemaic dynasty, the longest lived of the Hellenistic successor states, leaving aside the Ptolemaic empire (relevant to the first half of the period, or roughly from 330-168 BC), the role of military conquest (its expenditure and revenue), and international trade."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Breaking news Pre-dynastic graveyard has experts buzzing

A joint American-Egyptian archaeological team has excavated what is believed to be the largest ever discovered pre-dynastic funerary complex near the Upper Egyptian city of Edfu, antiquities officials said on Wednesday. (...)
An SCA statement said on Wednesday that the complex "consists of a large rectangular tomb covered with the earliest known superstructure and a wooden offering table. (...)
One rare discovery was of "a complete figurine of a cow head skilfully carved from flint", the statement said. (...) "
Political intrigue in China Genetic testing reveals awkward truth about Xinjiang’s famous mummies

After years of controversy and political intrigue, archaeologists using genetic testing have proven that Caucasians roamed China’s Tarim Basin 1,000 years before East Asian people arrived.

The research, which the Chinese government has appeared to have delayed making public out of concerns of fueling Uighur Muslim separatism in its western-most Xinjiang region, is based on a cache of ancient dried-out corpses that have been found around the Tarim Basin in recent decades.

“It is unfortunate that the issue has been so politicized because it has created a lot of difficulties,” Victor Mair, a specialist in the ancient corpses and co-author of “Mummies of the Tarim Basin”, told AFP.

And we thought Kennewick Man was causing a stink. . . .

Albanian Temple Unearthed By UC Archeologists

It took a hunch, hard work and a heck of a lot of diplomacy. But the payoff is spectacular: Archeologists from the University of Cincinnati have discovered a previously unknown Greek temple outside the ancient Greek city-state of Apollonia.

The monumental temple is "the third of its kind to be discovered at Apollonia and only the fifth in all of Albania," said Jack L. Davis, the Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati. Davis is co-director of the international team that has located the temple in a rural site in what is now modern-day Albania.

Layers of clustered apartments hide artifacts of ancient urban life

In the long, long history of humanity's shift from tiny clans of hunter-gatherers to settled societies of crowded city dwellers, no step was more momentous than the emergence of the first clustered towns and the sophisticated cultures their inhabitants created.

Intriguing evidence of early urbanization is now emerging at one of the largest and most significant digs in the history of archaeology, a 26-acre site in Turkey's Anatolian plain known as Çatalhöyük.

Quite a good article.

Way cool non-archaeological news Whale fossil found in Egyptian desert

An American palaeontologist and a team of Egyptians have found the most complete fossilised skeleton of the primitive whale Basilosaurus isis in Egypt's Western Desert, a university spokesperson said on Monday.

Philip Gingerich of the University of Michigan excavated the well-preserved skeleton, which is about 40 million years old, in a desert valley known as Wadi Hitan (the Valley of the Whales) south-west of Cairo, spokesperson Karl Bates said.

"His feeling is that it's the most complete - the whole skeleton from stem to stern," said Bates.

We believe this is part of the Fayum Depression, that has yielded numerous important fossils for both the cetacean (whale) and primate lines. The Fayum is similar to other depressions in the eastern Sahara (e.g., Dakhla, Kharga), with a vertical wall of exposed deposits in the north, gently sloping upwards to the south.

These fossils probablty originated in the Qasr el-Sagha formation, a series of Eocene (ca. 55-33 million years ago) crossbedded sandstones, mudstone, limestone and carbonaceous shales. The shoreline of the Mediterranean (called the Tethys) was then far inland of the current coast of Egypt, putting it in the vicinity of the Fayum. The different strata indicate more or less the position of the shoreline at that point, representing the types of sediments found at different water depths and proximities to the shoreline. These deposits are named after the Qasr el-Sagha temple, which probably dates from Middle Kingdom times. You can see the formation behind the temple here:

The important fossils found in these deposits related directly to the evolution of modern whales. It was established as early as 1693 that whales were, in fact, mammals, and that they probably descended from some sort of terrestrial mammal was proposed by Darwin in 1859. The exact ancestor of whales has been somewhat controversial. It is known from immunological and DNA studies of modern species that whales are closely associated with artiodactyls, a group that includes modern deer, pig, and bison. In fact, the most recent DNA analyses indicate that whales are most closely related to hippopotami

For many years it was thought that both whales and artiodactyls shared a similar pair of ancestors in a group of early Tertiary mammals called "condylarths'. Artiodactyls were thought to have arisen from 'arctocyonid' condylarths while whales arose from closely related 'mesonychid' condylarths. More recent fossil finds in Pakistan have since seemed to show that both whales and artiodactyls both arose from the primitive artiodactyl ancestor (arctocyonid) rather than the mesonychids. At any rate, what IS clear is that whales and artiodactyls are closely related today and the best evidence today suggests a common ancestor sometime around 47 million years ago.

The Fayum comes into this a bit later during the late Eocene when Basilosaurus was found which takes whale evolution further down the fully aquatic path. Basilosaurus was one of the earliest fossils found that really cemented the relationship of whales to land mammals, but it may not be directly ancestral. Their vertebrae are extremely elongated compared to modern whales and may have represented a specialty adaptation, and only tangentially related to whale evolution.

Thus endeth the sermon on the Fayum whale fossils.
Sorry about no blogging yesterday; we were indisposed at the museum and talking to various and sundry faculty members.

Web site alert I Got this email from Robert Bigelow on some articles now on the web:

The following articles from The Ostracon of the Egyptian Study Society have just been published on the web. Go to and click on "The Ostracon Archives"

Web site alert II And also this email from Nicole Hansen on a new glyphic web site:

I wanted to announce the launch of a new Egyptology Web site, Currently the main hub of activity on the site is the online discussion forums about
ancient Egypt. These forums are modeled on the now defunct discussion board, with a number of extra features.

In the near future, I will be offering online courses in
Middle Egyptian for the general public through the Web site.
These courses will cover the same material you would get in a
university class and will be conducted entirely online, using
Jim Allens new grammar. General information about the courses
is now available on the site. Beta testers will be sought in
the next few months for the course, after which it will be
opened up to the general public. If you subscribe to the site
news from the homepage you will be among the first to know
about this opportunity.

Also, at some point in the future I am interested in offering
courses taught by other Egyptologists through the site. If
anyone who is attending the ARCE meetings this weekend would
be interested in this opportunity, please try and catch me
there and we can talk. Otherwise, sign up for the site news on
the homepage and when I am looking for instructors, you will
get a notice by email.

I invite you all to come take a look at

We definitely like the idea of an online course in glyphs, especially if there are true experts behind the scenes to answer questions. Just picking up a book and attempting to learn is difficult at best.

Fight! Fight! BLM, off-road group sparring

A San Juan County off-road group says it had permission from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to do trail-maintenance work on a 1,100-foot section of the historic Hole-in-the-Rock trail near Bluff in February.
Not so, says BLM Monticello Field Office Manager Sandra Meyers.
Now, Meyers and Mike Washburn, president of San Juan Public Entry and Access Rights Inc. (SPEAR), hope confusion over the incident in southeastern Utah will lead to better relationships between public-lands managers and ATV users.

Kinda light on the archaeology, but there you have it.

Burial-ground discovery hints at slavery

One of the sets of remains discovered by construction workers on Chestnut Street could give insight into whether slavery once existed in the city, experts say.

Scientists have found evidence of a leg infection on remains found under Chestnut Street in 2003, which the state archaeologist says adds to the probability the remains belonged to black slaves buried downtown.

While inconclusive, the sign of infection - found on the tibia bone of an adult man - suggests that the person had been in shackles at one time, according to state archaeologist Richard Boisvert.

Not exactly a slam dunk. . . . .

Remote sensing update High-tech to be used to unveil bronze culture in Jiangxi

High-tech will be used to further explore a 3,000-year-old bronze culture at Xingan County in east China's Jiangxi Province.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Archaeological Institute of Jiangxi Province will work together to carry out excavation on the ancient bronze culture with advanced archaeological remote sensing devices in China, according to local government.

In 1989, more than 470 pieces of bronzeware were unearthed froma grave dating back to the Shang Dynasty (16 B.C.-11 B.C.) at Xingan County in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.It proved that a developed bronze culture along the Yangtze coexisted with a bronze culture at the Yellow River.

What would a day be without news from Mehr? Achaemenid city discovered near Bushehr

The city of Temukan, an ancient city dating back to the Achaemenid era, has been discovered in the latest excavation at Borazjan in the southern Iranian province of Bushehr.

Archaeologists previously believed the historical site was part of Tavaj.

Or even two? Archaeologists to resume work at Paleolithic site in Lorestan

A joint Iranian and Belgian team of archaeologists plans to begin excavations at the ancient Yafteh Cave near Khorramabad in Lorestan Province in early May.

They will be resuming efforts to discover the remains of early inhabitants of the region with the cooperation of Belgium’s University of Liege and Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO).

Oxyrhynchus papyri update Infra-Red Brings Ancient Papyri to Light

A vast array of previously unintelligible manuscripts from ancient Greece and Rome are being read for the first time thanks to infra-red light, in a breakthrough hailed as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail.

The technique could see the number of accounted-for ancient manuscripts increase by one fifth, and may even lead to the unveiling of some lost Christian gospels.

A team at Oxford University is using the technology to bring back into view faded ink on thousands of papyrus scrolls salvaged from an ancient rubbish dump in the 19th century.

Not a whole lot more detail than earlier reports, but a bit more background.

We thought we'd heard of this technique before and we were right: it was used to make some of the dead sea scrolls more legible. See here for an old press release on it.

Update: A dissenting view on the importance/newsworthiness here.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Breaking news Decoded at last: the 'classical holy grail' that may rewrite the history of the world

For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

The skinny among those in the know is that, while perhaps not exactly "breaking" news, is nevertheless probably as significant as this article makes it sound. We'll continue to follow it.

Remote sensing update Research at South Abusir in 2001-2002 - methods and results

From an email sent by Miroslav Barta: We are happy to announce that the article

'Research at South Abusir in in 2001-2002 - methods and results'

which makes available the latest results of the Quickbird satellite imaging
(DigitalGlobeT) on the pyramid fields of Abusir, Saqqara and Dahshur has
been made available online. . .

Make sure to check out the interactive satellite images at:
-- (pyramid field of ABusir)
-- (Abusir, Saqqara and Dahshur)

NAGPRA changes update Check out the 4th comment to this post on the proposed changes to NAGPRA, supplied by Ryan Seidemann whose article we cited.

More later.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A rare weekend appearance for the ArchaeoBlog staff with a few items of interest.

Mohr from Mehr Ancient sites and monuments discovered near Pasargadae

A team of archaeologists working at the Mashhad-e Morghab plain near Pasargadae in Fars Province recently discovered historical sites and monuments dating back to ancient times.

The director of the research section of the Pasargadae Complex said on Friday that the discovery includes a total of seventy-seven ancient sites, caves, mounds, mines, dams, and monuments.

“The findings include twelve caves, five prehistoric mounds, four mines, two furnaces, three dams, ten Achaemenid era mounds, seven open sites from the Sassanid era, five graveyards, as well as several water mills, castles, and mosques dating back to the Islamic era,” Mr. Rakhshani said.

Yet mohr from Mehr 16 foreign archaeological teams heading to Iran

Sixteen teams of foreign archaeologists are to work with Iranian experts at several of the country’s historical and ancient sites during the current Iranian calendar year, an official of the Center for Archaeological Research said on Saturday.

“The teams will be from the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Germany, and Japan,” Karim Alizadeh added.

A group of archaeologists from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Chicago, which have worked at Iran’s ancient sites since 2002, have asked for permission to continue their activities.

And still more from Iran

International archaeologists who left Iran some 25 years ago are making a return to the land that cradles an ancient civilization, historical sites, and remnants of predecessors treasured by experts all around the world.

Many archaeologists went back home when the Islamic Revolution took place in 1978, leaving their work on the table. But since last year more than 50 experts from all around the world, including experts of universities in United States, Germany, Italy, Belgium, France, Australia, and Japan, have traveled to Iran to take part in explorations of the historical sites scattered all around the country, which Holly Pittman, archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, calls “Archaeologists’ Heaven”. Last year 9 teams of foreign specialists helped Iranians excavate the sites.

Kind of old news that we've been reporting on for a while.

Ancient shipwreck determined to be source of Lewes artifacts

State archaeologists now say the source of artifacts deposited on Lewes Beach near the Roosevelt Inlet this winter are from the earliest shipwreck ever found in Delaware waters.

“It could be as much as 50 years earlier than the DeBraak,” said Dan Griffith, director of the newly formed Lewes Maritime Archaeological Project overseeing research into the artifacts.

Griffith said the DeBraak, a British warship, sank in 1798 and archaeologists are dating the Lewes Beach wreck to between 1750 and 1760.

Fight! Fight! Forestry battle continues at Recherche Bay

Conservationists are pushing ahead with efforts to stop forestry work at Recherche Bay in southern Tasmania.

They are angry that the Federal Government has refused an emergency heritage listing for the historical area and are planning a protest walk tomorrow morning.

Geoff Law from the Wilderness Society believes people power is now the only thing that will stop logging on the peninsula.

Still not exactly sure what's there, but it sounds important.

Interesting non-archaeological story Prehistoric jawbone reveals evolution repeating itself

A 115-million-year-old fossil of a tiny monotreme, an egg-laying mammal related to the platypus, provides compelling evidence of multiple origins of acute hearing in humans and other mammals.

The discovery of a prehistoric jawbone, reported in February in the journal Science, suggests that the transformation of bones from the jaw into the small bones of the middle ear occurred at least twice in the evolutionary lines of living mammals after their split from a common ancestor some 200 million years ago.

“The earbones are still attached to the lower jaw, which implies this shift had to occur in later monotremes and independently of the shift occurring in the common ancestor of marsupials and placentals,” said James Hopson, Professor in Organismal Biology & Anatomy and an author of the paper.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Blog alert A couple of people (okay, maybe even the same person more than once) has alerted us via email to John Hawks' blog. Leaving alone the fact that he is currently employed at perhaps the greatest university on the face of the earth (same place as Ann Althouse; coincidence?), it's a pretty detailed blog on "paleoanthropology, genetics, and evolution" which we here at ArchaeolBlog only cover tangentially.

In particular, if you're into that sort of thing, check out his detailed post on the sophistication of early hominids with respect to the production of stone tools.

Egads, and we just noticed that he's provided a link to ArchaeoBlog. We hang our heads in shame and forthwith reply in kind.
What an Instalanche looks like

We here at ArchaeoBlog were gratified to see a link to this blog by Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame, one of the most widely read blogs out there, on our coverage of the NAGPRA change. Needless to say, this shot our hit count up a bit. This massive increase in site visits is known throughout the blogosphere as an 'Instalanche'. This is what one looks like graphically:

Which just goes to show, the biggest draws in the blogosphere are politics and porn. We leave our faithful readers to draw their own conclusions from that.

So now, back down to earth with just us archaeo-nerds. . . .

And speaking of porn. . . Stone Age Erotica Found?

German archaeologists have found what they believe is Europe's earliest known clay figure of a male, along with a female figure that they think once was attached to the male in a sexual position.

Together, the two finds could represent the earliest three-dimensional depiction of a copulating human couple, according to the archaeological team.

Clay is difficult to date accurately, the team indicated, but markings on the objects, their style and the place in which they were found suggest that the figures date to 5,200 B.C.

This one has a bit more detail than previous articles.

Whew! Temple Mount relics saved from garbage

On the grounds of a Jerusalem national park with a view of the Temple Mount, a small group of
Israeli archaeologists and volunteers sifting through piles of rubble discarded by Islamic Wakf officials from the Temple Mount into a city garbage dump have recently uncovered a series of history-rich artifacts dating back to the First and Second Temple periods.

The five-month old privately-funded project underway at the site, which is being directed by Bar Ilan University archeology professor Dr. Gabriel Barkay, is being called virtually unprecedented since archaeological excavation has never been permitted on the Temple Mount itself.

Nelson's troops update Nelson's troops reburied in Egypt

Thirty Britons who died in Egypt in battles over 200 years ago are to be reburied in a full military service, the British embassy in Cairo has said.

The soldiers' and sailors' remains were found on Nelson Island and will be buried on Monday in nearby Alexandria.

The men died during the 1801 British expeditionary landings and at the 1798 Battle of Abu Qir.

Hadrian's Wall update Hadrian's Wall May Be Closed

HADRIAN’S Wall faces being placed on the World Heritage ‘on danger’ list due to hundreds of visitors walking on top of the wall and eroding it.

Experts revealed the wall could become one of just 29 out of 600 World Heritage sites considered at risk after 400,000 people marched across the Hadrian’s Wall Path Trail since it opened nearly two years ago.

Actually, not much of an update, but there it is anyway. The formatting sucks so you might just skip reading it.

Update: Similar story on MACHU PICCHU.

Ancient capital laid to waste

Sometimes an archaeological site is more interesting for what is not there than for what is. The small open-air museum at Tel Basta near Zagazig, where a large statue of Ramses II's consort (discovered some years ago) is soon to be erected, contains no more than a dozen or so objects; even a century ago the area was so ruined that guide books -- including Baedeker's -- wrote that it was a waste of time to go there when there were so many more worthwhile places to visit. The fact is that the history of the devastation of Tel Basta -- ancient Basta, classical Bubastis -- situated where the Pelusiac and Tannic branches of the Nile join the Wadi Tumilat in the eastern Delta -- is more interesting than its surviving objects. But let us first recall the greatness that was.

Another great article by Jill Kamil. Definitely worth the read.

Skeleton find could tell us more about the Roman way of death

ANOTHER headless skeleton discovered in York is among a series of gruesome archaeological finds which could hold the key to unlocking secrets behind Roman burial rituals.
The latest discovery of human remains by archaeologists follows in the wake of another headless skeleton found shackled in a grave and a Roman mummy which was also unearthed in The Mount area of the city.
A total of 57 bodies – 50 adults and seven children – and 14 sets of cremated remains have been found during excavations, most by the York Archaeological Trust at a site in Driffield Terrace.
Archaeologists are now confident the bodies will provide perhaps the clearest indication yet on the Roman attitude to death.

And now. . . .news from the EEF

Press report: "Sobek temple [in Kom Ombo] to reopen"

More press reports about the CT scanning of the six BM mummies featuring in the Bowers Museum exhibition. With commentary by Dr. Nigel Strudwick.
-- "Mummies Undergo CT Scans at Calif. Museum

Lectures surrounding the exhibition during April - July:

Online Master's Thesis: Kristin Romey, The Vogelbarke of Medinet Habu, Texas A&M University, 2003. x, 88 pp. - pdf-file: 2 MB
"... In 1964 a connection was first proposed between the distinctive ships of the Sea Peoples in the Medinet Habu naval battle relief, with their high, angular stem- and stern- posts topped with outward-facing water-bird heads, and the vogelbarke, or bird-boat, of Late Bronze Age Central European religious iconography ... additional archaeological vidence suggests a Central European mercenary presence in Mycenaean Greece during the
period of Sea Peoples activity, as well as Central European participation in the multi-ethnic coalition reflected particularly in the material culture of the
Sea Peoples identified in Cyprus. This evidence strengthens the possibility that the vogelbarke-like vessel some scholars claim to see at Medinet Habu is indeed not a 'duck out of water.'"

Just to re-signal that there are now some 1000 articles of BIFAO online [see EEF NEWS 348; URL submitted by Augustin Barahona]:

Online version of: Philippe Martinez, Kevin Cain, Brett Bowman, 2003 INSIGHT Fieldwork in Thebes - Interim Field Report, 18 pp., pdf-file: 1.8 MB
"In this report, we: ... Sum up the results of our on-site work with different hardware and software used for 3D scanning of archaeological artifacts ... Present a practical analysis of portable field scanning."


Online version of: Joan Goodnick Westenholz, Matthew W. Stolper, A Stone Jar with Inscriptions of Darius I in Four Languages, in: Arta. Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology, no. 5/2002, 13 pp. - pdf-file: 560 KB
"Inscriptions of Darius I in four languages are incised on the fragments of a stone jar in the Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem, BLMJ 1979 ... An inscription on one shoulder of the jar is in Egyptian, in hieroglyphic script ... A different text appears on the opposite shoulder, in Old Persian, Elamite and Akkadian ... It is an artifact of a familiar kind, and the inscriptions have familiar texts, but the combination of the four versions on a piece from the reign of Darius is unique."

Online version of: John Baines, Defining social complexity in early Egypt: levels of patterning in the evidence, paper presented to the World Archaeological Congress 4, University of Cape Town, 10th - 14th January 1999 - 15 pp., pdf-file: 73 KB
"The 'Cities Palette', one of the key artifacts from the Egyptian formative period (c. 3000 BCE), comes from near the end of the development and elaboration of complex symbolic forms and exemplifies several issues I address in this paper. I begin by exploring implications of the palette and then move back to set the scene for developments toward the formation of the dynastic state of Egypt, perhaps around the time when the palette was made."

End of EEF news