Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Update on an earlier story John Hawks has posted some commentary on a paper by Jody Hey on the number of New World founders based on genetic analysis. We posted about this earlier. See paper here. Read especially John's Update.
Well, we're back from a long weekend of, um, doing important archaeological research-related stuff. We're not going to bother trying to catch up on all the news from the last few days, but troll for a few items of ongoing interest, and a couple of new ones:

Homo hobbitus update Bones of Contention

Because the female skeleton looked humanoid rather than human and the brain size was small, the researchers concluded she was not a Pygmy—a short but otherwise normal version of Homo sapiens you still find in equatorial Africa and pockets of Southeast Asia—but a member of an entirely new species whom its discoverers named Homo floresiensis. This species, say the scientists, probably branched off from Homo erectus, the commonly accepted ancestor of Homo sapiens.

. . .

Now, however, the presence of small people living within strolling distance of Liang Bua has cast doubt over the separate-species theory, and sparked a bitter split in scientific circles over its validity. Battle lines have been drawn, with each side vigorously trying to discredit the other.

This is a good summary article of where things stand at this point. We admit we're starting to question whether or not this is really a new species or not. The presence of very short-statured people on the island now seems to us to seriously call into question much of the argument. It's harder to get around the brain-size issue, and this reminds us of the old Neanderthal critique -- "It's a furrowed-brow old man with the gout" schtick. Is it possible that they managed to find the one person with microcephaly? Yes, but this seems unlikely, unless due to some founder effect, the condition was more common than usually seen. So, as one researcher quoted in the article says "Show me eight more similar skulls from the site and I'll shut up." At this point, we'll just fall back on that old archaeological canard and say "We need more data."

Archaeological Controversy II Hunters Cleared in Aussie Megafauna Extinctions

Humans and ancient giant marsupials coexisted for at least 15,000 years, according to new findings that re-ignite the debate over how and when Australia's megafauna became extinct.

Archaeologist Judith Field, of the University of Sydney, says the team's findings put to rest one high-profile theory, that humans arrived in Australia and wiped out the megafauna during a relatively brief 1000-year "blitzkrieg."

"In some places people may well have had a role, but in other places they had no role at all," she says.

Probably a bit overly optimistic of a headline. We figure the blitzgrieg model is probably itself overly simplistic and won't hold out much longer as a broad explanatory model. Still, Field and other researchers are making this problem out to be more complex than the either/or-climate/hunting opposition proponents have made it out to be (itself an oversimplification in most cases). Donald Grayson, himself a strong opponent of the blitzkrieg-uber alles model has recently published some data indicating that people may have had some impact on the extinction of at least one species, Ursus spelaeus or cave bear (see this paper section 3). Do a Web search (preferably Google Scholar) on 'Pleistocene overkill' or 'Megafauna extinctions' for background.

[Update] Can't find the original paper that this article is based on (yet) but we located a couple with some background on Field's extinctions work (don't know whether they're freely accessible or not):

Megafaunal extinction in the late Quaternary and the global overkill hypothesis

Archaeology and Australian Megafauna (short summary of the Cuddie Springs site)

[Update II] And we just came across this by chance:

Small species back-up giant marsupial climate change extinction claim

Thinking small in a time when everything was big has helped Queensland researchers to unearth new evidence that climate change, instead of humans, was responsible for wiping out Australian giant marsupials or megafauna 40,000 years ago.

Instead of only excavating 'trophy specimens' such as giant kangaroos and wombats, the researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Queensland Museum performed the first systematic analysis of a site in the fossil rich Darling Downs region of south-eastern Queensland.

Reported in the journal Memoirs of the Queensland Museum tomorrow (Tuesday 31 May) they found smaller species, dependent on a wetter environment, had also disappeared.

By systematically analysing a 10 metre deep section of creek bed, the team uncovered 44 species, ranging from land snails, frogs, lizards and small mammals to giant wombats and kangaroos including many species previously unknown to have occurred in the Darling Downs fossil record.

The results suggest that the extinction of Darling Downs megafauna was caused by a massive shift in climate rather than by the arrival of humans who over hunted animals or destroyed habitats by burning the landscape.

[Who needs new posts when you can just keep Updating. . . .]

Found original paper, probably subscriber only though:

Prolonged coexistence of humans and megafauna in Pleistocene Australia.

["When will it these Updates be ended??"]

Yet another mention in Nature.

Note: This is a new story Mutilated Bronze Age lord found in Germany

Archaeologists have discovered the skeletons of a lord and his retainers in a burial mound at Germany's most celebrated Bronze Age site.

Archaeologist Olaf Schroeder said the intact, 4 200-year-old mound was one of at least eight "barrows" within view of the ancient holy site that yielded the 3 600-year-old Nebra celestial disc, a bronze and gold depiction of the heavens, in 1999.

Friday, May 27, 2005

No blogging yesterday or today. We're, um, doing important archaeological research.

In the sun.

With, you know, beer and stuff.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Media Corner We caught the last half(-ish) of a Nova program (PBS) on the peopling of the Americas (originally broadcast back in November). What we saw was pretty good, and after looking at a transcript we found our initial impressions were correct (at least as far as we're concerned). They hit all the right themes and didn't really push one idea or the other overly hard. In a sense, it wasn't about the peopling of the Americas at all, but rather about the Clovis-first hypothesis. Consequently, we didn't hear a whole lot on the various hypotheses regarding migration routes from Asia, considerations of the ice-free corridor timing, possible maritime routes, etc. The main "hook" seemed to be the possible European connection pushed by Dennis Stanford, that is, that Clovis is derived from the Solutrean. The major new evidence presented here was some mtDNA work by Douglas Wallace who apparently found a fifth source of DNA in the Ojibwa:

When we studied the mitochondrial DNA of the Ojibwa we found, as we had anticipated, the four primary lineages—A, B, C and D—but there was about a quarter of the mitochondrial DNAs that was not A, B, C and D.

They also spent some time on the Gault site which contains thousands of Clovis-era artifacts, only a few of which have anything to do with typical Clovis points. This is probably the least-popularly known aspect of Clovis: there are numerous Clovis sites that have little to do with big game hunting. In these cases, Clovis people are seen as fairly typical hunter-gatherers utilizing a wide variety of resources, depending on their local conditions. This obviously calls into question the whole Overkill Model which the show didn't really go into, and we won't either (here). We liked this portion of the show since it lifted the veil somewhat on Clovis and showed the stereotypical big game hunter model to be not entirely accurate.

The other neat idea they presented was Clovis as a technological innovation that spread through an existing population rather than a strict equivalence between Clovis-as-artifact-type and Clovis-as-a-human-population. This is a very important decoupling, as it is usually (this goes beyond Clovis as well) assumed to be the case that people = artifact types.

Anyway, check out the transcript and especially the companion web site.

Ancient astronauts update Giant Figures in Peru Desert Pre-date Nazca Lines

A group of about 50 drawings of giant figures recently discovered in the hills of Peru’s southern coastal desert near the city of Palpa has been said to predate the famous Nazca lines nearby.

Mr. Johny Isla, director of the Andean Institute of Archaeological Studies, said the “geoglyph” figures appear to have been created by the Paracas communities between 500 and 400BC, whereas the Nazca culture developed after 50 BC. Mr. Isla and his partner Dr. Markus Reindel from the Dutch Institute of Archaeology discovered the Paracas figures using aerial photography and land-based surveys. The figures of humans, birds, monkeys and cats vary in size from 10m to 50m across, and are also grouped together in areas up to 60 m to 90 m across.

Man trying to sell skull must apologize

A man who tried to sell the 200-year-old skull of a native Hawaiian warrior on eBay was sentenced Monday to 600 hours of community service and ordered to publish an apology in several Hawaiian newspapers.

Jerry Hasson of Huntington Beach must also pay more than $13,000 and post the same apology on an eBay bulletin board dedicated to archaeological memorabilia.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Well, this is cool (non-archaeological):

Student mistakes examples of unsolvable math problems for homework assignment and solves them.

George Dantzig recounted his feat in a 1986 interview for the College Mathematics Journal:

It happened because during my first year at Berkeley I arrived late one day at one of [Jerzy] Neyman's classes. On the blackboard there were two problems that I assumed had been assigned for homework. I copied them down. A few days later I apologized to Neyman for taking so long to do the homework — the problems seemed to be a little harder than usual. I asked him if he still wanted it. He told me to throw it on his desk. I did so reluctantly because his desk was covered with such a heap of papers that I feared my homework would be lost there forever. About six weeks later, one Sunday morning about eight o'clock, [my wife] Anne and I were awakened by someone banging on our front door. It was Neyman. He rushed in with papers in hand, all excited: "I've just written an introduction to one of your papers. Read it so I can send it out right away for publication." For a minute I had no idea what he was talking about. To make a long story short, the problems on the blackboard that I had solved thinking they were homework were in fact two famous unsolved problems in statistics. That was the first inkling I had that there was anything special about them.

. . .

George Dantzig passed away at his Stanford home at age 90 on 13 May 2005.

This is way cool in and of itself. Also mentioned in the text is Donald Knuth, computer scientist extraordinaire and author of perhaps the most widely read computer science book, The Art of Computer Programming. This book probably trained the majority of our current programmers. We mention this for two reasons. First, we hung out with his daughter once when she was living with friends of ours here. Second, there was an article in the May-June American Scientist (should be open access) that mentioned something Knuth had done:

During a decade's labor on the TeX typesetting system, he kept a meticulous log of all his errors, and then he published the list with a detailed commentary.


Back to archaeology

Founding fathers & mothers: How many crossed the land bridge?

Programs on the Discovery Channel and PBS have sparked fresh interest in the prehistoric peopling of the New World. Now, for the first time, we have a realistic estimate of how many ancients made that ice age trek across the long-lost land bridge from Asia to become the first Native Americans.

Jody Hey, a professor of genetics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, has developed a computational method that uses genetic information to create models of population divergence – where a group has split off from its ancestral population to pursue its own destiny.

In a paper appearing in the June 2005 issue of PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology, Hey disclosed his findings. "The estimated effective size of the founding population for the New World is about 70 individuals," Hey said. "Calculations also showed that this represents approximately 1 percent of the effective size of the estimated ancestral Asian population."

Could be interesting how this plays out with the archaeologists working on pre-Clovis remains. The one documented pre-Clovis site (Monte Verde) dates to only 12,500, but there are others that claim to be even earlier (we've blogged about one here, but darned if we can remember which one it is at the moment). More will no doubt follow.

Remote sensing update New city search for Roman remains

A £47,500 project using 21st-century technology could lead the way to new discoveries of ancient remains in the Chichester area.

It may help establish for the first time whether a Roman fort is buried away somewhere close to or in the city, as well as highlighting areas which archaeologists should be focussing on.

Chichester is one of 30 historic English towns chosen to make a detailed computer record of their complex archaeology.

Apart from its implications for archaeological discovery, the so-called 'intensive urban study' is intended to help with giving planning advice on the heritage implications of new developments, and on the management of the historic environment.

That's the whole thing. Too bad they don't say exactly what they'll be using.

See? Shoulda left him on ice Bacteria Eating Away at Otzi the Iceman?

Ötzi the Iceman, the world's oldest and best-preserved mummy, could be at risk of decomposition, according to the latest tests on the 5,300-year-old mummy.

Eduard Egarter Vigl, Ötzi's official caretaker, said that X-rays show suspicious grey spots on one knee.

"We noticed that these spots change aspect over time. This would indicate the formation of air or gas bubbles inside the tibia. And we know that gas is produced by bacteria," he said at a recent conference at the South Tyrol Archaeological Museum in Bolzano, Italy, where the mummy is kept.

We say that somewhat facetiously, of course. OTOH, it does allude to the all-too-common problem of curation we face these days.

Stone-Age Fashion update Exotic Deer Teeth a 'Must' for Stone Age Ladies

Grave goods found with the remains of a woman nicknamed the Lady of Saint-Germain-la-Rivière, who lived approximately 15,570 years ago in France, suggest rare animal teeth served as Stone Age status symbols that were comparable in value to today’s expensive jewelry and designer duds.

The find indicates that people within hunter-gatherer societies from the Upper Paleolithic may not have viewed everyone as a social equal, but instead recognized privilege and prestige.

The research, funded by the European Science Foundation, appears in the current Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

Artists' conception of what a fashionable Upper Paleolithic woman may have looked like:

Monday, May 23, 2005

Tutankhamun facial reconstruction update

Aayko Eyma of the EEF sends this along:

This is not to reopen debate on the merits of such facial reconstructions, just for information purposes, as most earlier press reports only showed one or two of the reconstructions:

To the EEF BBS, a picture of all three models has been added:

It is based on a picture from the Time Magazine article 'Unmasking King Tut' (May 23, 2005), of which a text version (without pictures, but with the text with the three models) may be found online at:

Update: Oops. Latter has become "premium" content.

Also, the first link allows some comparison between the different reconstructions. Unfortunatly, they are all from different angles so it's difficult to really compare them in any detail.
Great heaping gobs of stuff today. . . . .

Digging in the NW Archaeology Enthusiasts In Southern Oregon Offered Rare Opportunity

The Southern Oregon Historical Society seeks volunteers (18 years of age or older) who would like to participate in the Fort Lane archaeology project scheduled for the week of July 11-15. SOHS is joining Southern Oregon University to provide this unique opportunity to the public. Archaeological experience is not necessary but volunteers should be prepared for hiking and working in strenuous summer weather conditions.

Not archaeology, but cool A Beetle-sized armadillo

The fossil of a giant armadillo which lived up to 2 million years ago and would have been the size of a Volkswagen Beetle has been found by builders in southern Peru.

"They were working inside a private home and stumbled upon this surprise during the digging," Pedro Luna, an archaeologist from the National Institute of Culture in the southern city of Cuzco, said.

The fossil skeleton was "almost complete" at two metres long including the tail and 1.1 metres wide.


AN UNDISCOVERED stretch of Hadrian�s Wall has been unearthed by archaeologists on the route of the �30 million Carlisle Northern Development by-pass.

The team of archaeologists from Cumbria County Council have discovered a section of the Roman wall and fragments of ancient pottery on the banks of the River Eden near Stainton, west of Carlisle. The discovery is directly on the line of the planned Northern Development Route and could mean further delays to the long-awaited by-pass � now more than three years late.

More from the BBC here.

China’s 5,000-Year Old Civilization Is No Bluff – Prehistoric Relics Provides New Evidence

United archaeologists from Shandong University and Chicago Field Museum of Natural History have recently come up with preliminary conclusions after 10 years of excavation and research at the Rizhao district in Shandong province. They believe that the remains of ancient monument, which have been excavated, could be the relics of a prehistoric country dating back to 4,200 or 5,000 years ago.

Furthermore, this ancient country is estimated to have had a population of around 63,000 and the area of the capital alone is estimated to be one thousand square kilometers.

Antiquities Market update I
Getty's antiquities buyer faces trial over stolen goods

The woman who for many years was in charge of buying archaeological treasures for the Getty Museum of Los Angeles is to stand trial in Rome in July, charged with receiving stolen goods.

The trial is the culmination of an investigation started nearly 10 years ago, which claims to have discovered that, of the many marvels of the ancient world purchased in Italy by Marion True, the 56-year-old curator for antiquities at the J Paul Getty Museum, a huge number had been stolen - a fact of which prosecutors say the curator was well aware.

Oxyrhynchus Papyri update NASA science uncovers texts of Trojan Wars, early gospel

The scholars at Oxford University are not sure how it works or why; all they know is that it does.

A relatively new technology called multispectral imaging is turning a pile of ancient garbage into a gold mine of classical knowledge, bringing to light the lost texts of Sophocles and Euripides as well as some early Christian gospels that do not appear in the New Testament.

Originally developed by NASA scientists and used to map the surface of Mars, multispectral imaging was successfully applied to some badly charred Roman manuscripts that were buried during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Examining those carbonized manuscripts under different wavelengths of light suddenly revealed writing that had been invisible to scholars for two centuries.

Heh. Oops: The Archilochos fragment confirms what scholars have long suspected: that the Greeks got lost on their way to invade Troy and mistakenly landed at place called Mysia. There they fought a battle, lost and had to regroup before heading off again for Troy.

More at Nature. (Sub only)
Archimedes manuscript yields secrets under X-ray gaze

Antiquities Market update II 800yr-old temple unearthed

t least four statues and other priceless antiques, found in the recently discovered Shiva temple that was built in 1213 AD, at Pirapat village in Khaloo Upazila reportedly went missing some time Friday night.(The Daily Star )

Officials at the Archaeology Department and local people said some miscreants might have entered the temple Friday night by cutting an 18-foot-long tunnel. The Hindu devotees last said their prayers at the temple on Thursday.

Regional Archaeology Office sources said higher authorities have been informed of the incident and requested to declare the site protected for a preliminary excavation.

Excavation of ancient desert tombs ends, riddles waiting to answer

Chinese archaeologists finished the excavation of an ancient tomb complex in the Lop Nur Desert, northwest China, but researchers say the finds are puzzling and need more time to be understood.

By mid March, archaeologists in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region unearthed 163 tombs of the Xiaohe Tomb complex, which sprawls on a 2,500-square-meter oval-shaped dune, 174 km from the ruins of the Loulan Kingdom, an ancient civilization that vanished 1,500 years ago.

The complex contains about 330 tombs, but about 160 of them were spoiled by grave robbers, said Idelisi Abuduresule, head of the Xinjiang Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute, which launched the excavation project in October 2003 with the approval from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

'Discovery of a lifetime' thrills mayor, archaeologists

On a forgotten hilltop sprinkled with daisies and horse manure, an astounding remnant of history was discovered recently at what was once thought to be a Cherokee graveyard.

But rather than burial ground, Stanford Mayor Eddie Carter discovered that his pasture land was once home to heavy artillery and Union troops.

"This is big time," Carter said. "This is one of the largest Civil War mound forts. They say it's a very significant find ... I'd thought for years it was an old Cherokee burial ground."

We're not usually into this sort of recent-historical stuff, but this sounds interesting.

Oaxaca Residents Battle Over Shade Trees

Two years ago, artists and architects banded together to stave off McDonald's from opening on the picturesque main square in the southern city of Oaxaca. Now some of those same activists are under attack themselves, over their plan to evict another foreign invader the towering India laurel trees that shade the historic plaza.

Opponents say the idea is political correctness run amok.

"This is almost dogmatic," said painter Francisco Verastegui, who joined the fight to oppose McDonald's but is leading the battle against the renovation project. "They're nonnative species, so we have to get rid of them? That's like botanical racism."

Local elms, when asked for comment, rustled.

Forensic stuff Something is rotting in the state of Tennessee

"You want to watch where you're walking," warns Dr Richard Jantz as he steps through a small razor-wire topped gate at the back of a Tennessee hospital car park. He might just as usefully have said to watch where you look, breathe or smell. The two-acre patch of wooded hillside that constitutes the Anthropological Research Facility of Tennessee University hides a wealth of sensory surprises.

Better known by its nickname of the Body Farm, this pastoral setting is littered with about 80 dead bodies. Their decomposition is the focus of a unique scientific project that aims to help murder investigations to establish the time-since-death of human remains.

This is probably better known to Americans, being commonly highlighted in forensic-related TV shows over the past several years.

More bioanthropology Indian Tribes Linked Directly to African 'Eve'

Two primitive tribes in India's Andaman and Nicobar islands are believed to be direct descendants of the first modern humans who migrated from Africa at least 50,000 years ago, according to a study by Indian biologists.

A team of biologists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad studied the DNA of 10 Onge and Great Andamanese people in the Indian Ocean archipelago who lived for tens of thousands of years in "genetic isolation" from other human contact.

The findings suggest the tribes are descended from the "oldest population of the world and were among the first batch of modern humans to migrate from Africa," said professor Lalji Singh, director of the center.

Czech Homo update Prehistoric Bones Point to First Modern-Human Settlement in Europe

Scientists have confirmed that bones found in the Czech Republic represent the earliest human settlement in Europe.

The collection of bones, which include samples from two males and two females, was excavated from the site of Mladec more than a century ago. Scientists have until now failed to date the fossils accurately.

The new research, using radiocarbon dating, has shown the bones to be about 31,000 radiocarbon years old.

Ethnoarchaeology update Digs reveal the truth about trash

The nation's pre-eminent "garbologist" delights in wielding his findings from 30 years of landfill archaeological digs: Throwaway synthetics like Styrofoam and disposable diapers -- the bane of environmentalists -- don't actually make up that much of our total garbage, especially when compared to, ahem, newspapers.

What really gets him going is the concept of "biodegradables," packaging and products billed as being able to break down quickly. Rathje's research has showed that in modern, sealed landfills, almost nothing breaks down.

During an entertaining lecture Wednesday that capped a three-day meeting of the Federation of New York Solid Waste Associations, Rathje showed a photo of a reasonably well-preserved, if somewhat blackened head of lettuce -- from 1971.

Something must be breaking down since they produce so much methane. . . .

New Theory Places Origin of Diabetes in an Age of Icy Hardships

When temperatures plummet, most people bundle up in thick sweaters, stay cozy indoors and stoke up on comfort food. But a provocative new theory suggests that thousands of years ago, juvenile diabetes may have evolved as a way to stay warm.

. . .

People with the disease, also known as Type 1 diabetes, have excessive amounts of sugar, or glucose, in their blood.

The theory argues that juvenile diabetes may have developed in ancestral people who lived in Northern Europe about 12,000 years ago when temperatures fell by 10 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few decades and an ice age arrived virtually overnight.

Archaeological evidence suggests countless people froze to death, while others fled south. But Dr. Sharon Moalem, an expert in evolutionary medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, believes that some people may have adapted to the extreme cold. High levels of blood glucose prevent cells and tissues from forming ice crystals, Dr. Moalem said. In other words, Type 1 diabetes would have prevented many of our ancestors from freezing to death.

Kind of interesting. Read the whole article, as the second page gives more of the possibly adaptive values of high blood sugar.

Searching for the Queen of Sheba

The queen of Sheba was once one of the most powerful leaders in the world but there are few clues left anywhere about this woman who ruled a rich and powerful nation somewhere in Africa – perhaps, as some archeologists maintain, in what is now southwest Nigeria.

Now, in what may be the site of her last home and gravesite, a University of Toronto professor is trying to unearth the queen's story – partially told in the Old Testament – as well as honouring her in the form of a new Nigerian museum and interpretive centre.

"Each year both Muslim and Christian religious pilgrims come to this site in Ike-Eri, Nigeria, to pray and honour the queen of Sheba (also known as Bilikisu Sungbo to those of the Islamic faith) even though Ethiopia maintains that she is actually buried in their country," says professor and museologist Lynne Teather of the Museum Studies program at U of T. "Indigenous knowledge and oral traditions maintain that this is the shrine of the queen and through working with the Bilikisu Sungbo Project, we are trying to not only learn more about this fabulous queen, but to establish a feasibility study on how we can marry tourism to this heritage site."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Unearthing Tse-whit-zen

This is an almost week-long series of articles on the Tse-whit-zen village unearthed last year in Port Townsend WA during contstruction of a dry dock. Turned out to be one of the largest nearly-intact village sites in the state (they say it's the largest but we're not sure about this). At any rate, it's big. It's also intersting how many of the local tribespeople are working on it. Check it out over the next few days.

Friday, May 20, 2005

First, news from the EEF

Press report: The Egyptian Gazette, Miscallaneous:
"Ten years ago three stelae were stolen from Akhmim in Upper Egypt whereupon they began a long trip that covered Switzerland, France and the US. Finally, the SCA managed to retrieve the pieces, laying them to rest in the Egyptian Museum." The pages contains some other Egyptological bits as well.

A new resource is available on the AEL web site: an index to textual references appearing in popular grammars; created by Ken Saunders:
This will be of particular interest to anyone working on the Westcar papyrus or the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor. The index follows the sequence of the text, giving references to where the line or phrase is discussed in four major grammars. Databases for the Eloquent Peasant and the Story of Sinuhe may follow in the future.
[source: Mark Wilson]

* The On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics
has several digitized articles relating to ancient Egypt (and I may have missed some):
-- Roth, H. Ling. "Ancient Egyptian and Greek Looms", Banksfield Museum, 1913, 45 pages, 3.6 MB
-- Mace, A. C, "Loom Weights in Egypt", Ancient Egypt, 1922, 3 pages, 752 KB PDF
-- Roth, H. Ling and G. M. Crowfoot, "Models of Ancient Looms", Ancient Egypt, 1921, 7 pages. 1 MB PDF
-- Mace, A. C., "Heddle-Jacks of Middle Kingdom Looms", Ancient Egypt, 1922, 4 pages. 808 KB PDF
[Eds. GREAT resource for weaving papers. All appear to be non-sub access.]

Bonani, G., et al., "Radiocarbon Dates of Old and Middle Kingdom Monuments in Egypt." in: AMS Radiocarbon Dating Lab, Annual Report 2001 (PDF, 31 kB):
(An extended version appeared as an article in: Radiocarbon, 2001. 43(3): pp. 1297-1320.)

[Submitted by Kat Reece (kat@hallofmaat.com)]
Online version of: Colin Reader, "Giza before the Fourth Dynasty", from the Journal of the Ancient Chronology Forum 9 (2002), pp. 5-21.
The age of the Sphinx has generated a certain amount of controversy. Geologist Colin Reader believes that a dating earlier than the 4th dynasty but still firmly within the dynastic period is the best solution to reconciling the geological and archaeological evidence. The Hall of Maat website presents this JACF article -- which is a follow up to the author's article "A geomorphological study of the Giza necropolis with implications for the development of the site" (Archaeometry 43: 1 (2001) 149-165) -- with a short update
by the author.

Online version of: Jean-Daniel Stanley, The Near-Destruction of Giza, in: American Scientist, vol. 93, no. 2 (2005)
"How a 19th-century French engineer saved the Egyptian pyramids from being dismantled"
[Eds. We probably linked to this earlier, but it's well worth linking again.]

Review of three books aimed at those "obsessive, Egypt-factoid-gathering kids":
(password and id: eefeef)

End of EEF news.

Ancient gods uncovered

Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a Nabataean monument during an excavation at Jordan's ancient city of Petra, the English language newspaper Jordan Times reported on Wednesday.

It quoted Patricia Bikai, who headed the excavation team that made the discovery, as saying that they "initially thought the building was either a shrine or a royal residence".

"However, after further examination we identified the monument as a banquet hall, which was decorated with 22 stone heads of ancient gods," she added.

Fast Food, Cheap Souvenirs And A Good Fight - A Day Out At The Amphitheatre

Football just wouldn't be the same without the obligatory burger vans and stalls selling cheap scarves outside the ground.

But the latest finds by archaeologists, led by Tony Wilmott who is based in Fort Cumberland, Hampshire, working at Chester Amphitheatre suggest things may not have changed that much in the last 2,000 years.

The dig, jointly carried out by English Heritage and Chester City Council, has uncovered a large number of animal bones discarded by fast-food loving spectators in the 8,000 seater stadium.

We've heard this before. . . . Indiana Jones raids next-gen consoles

When he's not teaching students about archaeology or working on his five-o'clock shadow, Indiana Jones is buckling swashes, trotting globes, and all other manner of derring-do. According to a statement from LucasArts, come 2007, he'll be back doing it on the "next generation of gaming consoles."

. . .

This new game looks to be just one aspect in a full-on Indy resurgence, with Harrison Ford reportedly signed on to star in a fourth film in the franchise. The project will be written by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg, and it's tentatively due out sometime next year.

They'd better do it quick or Indy will be wiping out bad guys with his walker. . . . .

Roman conquerors had woolly socks

The sartorial elegance of the Italians has been shattered, with news that woolly socks helped their ancestors' conquest of northern England.

The evidence has emerged among archaeological objects found in the River Tees at Piercebridge, near Darlington in County Durham.

Among the items was an unusual Roman razor handle, made of copper alloy and in the shape of a human leg and foot.

Fight! Fight! Roman soldiers help new fight against windfarm

ANCIENT Roman legions who once marched through South Yorkshire could soon be playing a part in a new battle—this time to halt a green scheme.
Image Campaigners fighting to stop three towering wind turbines springing up on green belt land at Loscar, near Harthill, say the site is surrounded by evidence of Roman settlements dating back to the first century.
Now local historian Paul Rowland has unearthed evidence to show that even the country lane along which heavy equipment for the three 311 feet high turbines will be brought is an old Roman road, once known as Ryknild Street.

Fancy that Archaeologists Find Relics at Ga. Fort

On a narrow peninsula along Georgia's marshy coast, archaeologists have uncovered relics from a forgotten piece of American history — the fort where British and U.S. troops waged the final battle of the War of 1812.

Point Peter, where cannons once pointed from the city of St. Marys toward Cumberland Island, fell to British forces days after Gen. Andrew Jackson's victory in the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815.

The fort was burned down by British troops and its remains had been buried until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers required an archaeological survey by developers of Cumberland Harbour, a 1,014-acre waterfront subdivision being built on the site. Only a state historical marker, placed on the site in 1953, pointed out the fort's location.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Just a couple of items today as our network connection is kinda flaky.

Archaeologists Unearth 5,000-Year-Old Jars

Archaeologists uncovered a 5,000-year-old chamber believed to have been used for the burial rituals of Egypt’s first major pharaoh found a cache of 200 rough ceramic beer and wine jars, Egyptian authorities said today.

The mortuary enclosure of King Hur-Aha, the founder of Egypt’s First Dynasty, also included a cultic chapel where the floor and benches are stained with organic material – probably the remains of offerings made during rituals, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said.

“It is a very important discovery because it would provide us with new information about the First Dynasty,” Zahi Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told The Associated Press.

This is probably a very important find. Not much is known about the first three dynasties. The beer jars are common throughout the Old Kingdom and are typically large parts of any site's ceramic inventory. They're a fairly crude form of vessel and in tomb contexts were generally used to contain offerings of beer, wine, or just about anything else. They are also found in settlement areas and probably carried much the same sorts of contents. Don't have any photos, but here are two drawings:



Earliest European 31,000 years old

Fossilised human bones found in the Czech Republic have been dated back to some 31,000 years, which scientists say confirms them as the oldest known examples of Homo sapiens found in Europe.

Austrian and US scientists publish their carbon-dating results in today's issue of the journal Nature.

An upper jaw, teeth and the skull of a female were found in a cave in Moravia in the 19th century, but scientists have debated how old they are.

Dig near Las Vegas continues to yield fossils

Fifty years ago, 27-year-old archaeologist Charles Rozaire had high hopes he would find clues around charcoal deposits at Tule Springs that could be linked to the earliest humans in North America.

First thought to be evidence of fire pits or hearths, the charcoal smudges that dotted cross sections along the upper Las Vegas Wash in the valley's north end were near the area where giant animals – camels, horses, lions, bison, bears, sloths and mammoths – roamed what is now southern Nevada 11,000 to 40,000 years ago.

"We were literally scratching the surface," Rozaire, 77, told students and scientists at a recent Geoscience Summit at Shadow Ridge High School, a 10-minute walk from Tule Springs. The site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is in Floyd Lamb State Park, 10 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Don't dig in Washington Discovery of bones halts road project near Arlington

Work was halted yesterday on a highway expansion project near Arlington after construction crews unearthed what were initially deemed "ancient" human bones on the north side of state Route 530, near Arlington Heights Road.

It was the latest in a string of discoveries of human remains and ancient artifacts that have halted highway or construction work around the state.

The latest bones found were embedded in the dirt about two feet under a very large boulder, the state Department of Transportation said. Work stopped immediately. The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, called to the scene, ruled out the possibility that the site was a crime scene, Transportation Department spokeswoman Jamie Holter said.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Yesterday sex; today alcohol "Antibiotic" Beer Gave Ancient Africans Health Buzz

Humans have been downing beer for millennia. In certain instances, some drinkers got an extra dose of medicine, according to an analysis of Nubian bones from Sudan in North Africa.

George Armelagos is an anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. For more than two decades, he and his colleagues have studied bones dated to between A.D. 350 and 550 from Nubia, an ancient kingdom south of ancient Egypt along the Nile River.

The bones, the researchers say, contain traces of the antibiotic tetracycline. Today tetracycline is used to treat ailments ranging from acne flare-ups to urinary-tract infections. But the antibiotic only came into commercial use half a century ago. So how did tetracycline get into the Nubian bones?

We could have done without this: Armelagos said the Egyptians used beer as a gum-disease treatment, a dressing for wounds, and even an anal fumigant. . .

This seems like good news International alliance to unlock secrets of Egyptian mummies

Two world-renowned teams of experts on Egyptian mummies have joined forces in an international effort to better understand disease and its treatment in ancient Egypt.

The University of Manchester's Centre for Biomedical Egyptology and Cairo's National Research Center have signed a formal agreement to enhance future academic research and teaching in the field.

The Manchester-Cairo alliance will promote cooperation between the two institutions by supporting joint research activities and encouraging visits and exchanges by their staff and students.

Raiders of the Lost Bathroom Aristocrat's bathing room is unearthed

ARCHAEOLOGISTS are hoping to unearth fresh information about the lifestyle of 17th Century aristocrats after re-opening rooms at Bolsover Castle which have remained sealed for more than 100 years.

The castle is undergoing an improvement programme, and its owners, English Heritage are taking the opportunity to break through into some rooms which were sealed for safety reasons as the building crumbled into disrepair more than a century ago.

"That commode represents everything we got into archaeology for in the first place."

Archaeologists uncover scene of human sacrifice

A gruesome sight has met archaeologists engaged in excavations in central China - an altar devoted to human sacrifice, complete with the remains of an unfortunate victim.

The discovery of the 7,000-year-old cult site, near Hongjiang city in Hunan province, may make it necessary to rewrite history, as it is the earliest human sacrificial site ever found in China.

News from Mehr Burnt City’s satellite villages to shed light on ancient lifestyles

Iranian experts have determined that ten mounds located near the 5200-year-old Burnt City were once villages, archaeologist Alireza Khosravi announced on Wednesday.

“The discoveries will definitely provide us with useful information on the people living in the villages over the millennia,” added Khosravi, who is the director of the regional research center of the Burnt City in Sistan-Baluchestan Province.

The mounds are located near Iran’s border with Afghanistan, southeast of the Burnt City, which is located 57 kilometers from the city of Zabol.

This would actually be quite interesting as investigation of these satellite villages would no doubt contribute immensely to knowledge of how the larger social system worked.

Note to any fabulously wealthy individuals out there: We'll do it!

Mohr from Mehr New find at Palace of Cyrus the Great in Charkhab

Experts working at the Palace of Cyrus the Great in Charkhab recently discovered the remains of several water channels four meters beneath the ground, the head of the archaeological team announced on Tuesday.

Ali-Akbar Sarfaraz said that the team found the channels while they were attempting to drain the water that had collected in several holes from previous excavations at the site, which is located near Borazjan in Iran’s southern province of Bushehr.

Wal-Mart cleared in lawsuit

A Circuit Court judge yesterday dismissed all claims against Wal-Mart in an ongoing lawsuit alleging mishandling of human remains unearthed during construction of the retail giant's Ke'eaumoku Street store.

The lawsuit will proceed on claims against the other defendants, the state and city governments. Trial is scheduled to begin July 18 on the remaining issues of violating state law and desecration of graves.

Judge Victoria Marks yesterday granted Wal-Mart's motion for summary judgment, saying plaintiffs Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei and Paulette Kaleikini could not seek damages for emotional distress stemming from the discovery of iwi kupuna (ancestral bones) at the construction sites in 2003.

Chinese made first use of diamond

Stone age craftsmen in China were polishing jade objects using diamond 2,000 years before anyone else had the same idea, new evidence suggests.

Quartz was previously thought to be the abrasive used to polish ceremonial axes in late stone age, or neolithic, China.

But the investigations of a Chinese-US team of scientists indicate that quartz alone would not have been able to achieve such lustrous finishes.

Archaeologists Find Artifacts Dating Back 3,000 Years

Something's got archaeologists sifting through a site in our area. While surveying the land where a new intersection will be, they found several artifacts dating thousands of years back.

The Department of Transportation is getting ready to start construction on a new intersection in the Cedar Creek area, and it must follow certain guidelines.

Tom Peronto, the WisDOT Design Project Leader, says, "Whenever you have a state or federally funded project, it's one of the historical requirements that you investigate and document any historical buildings or historical cultural sites like this."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Way cool web site alert From Peter Manuelian via EEF:

After four years of preparation (2000-2004) and thanks to the generous
support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the 'Giza Archives
Project' Web site went live in January 2005. It is located at


This evolving resource will serve as a centralized online repository for
all archaeological activity at the Giza Necropolis, beginning with the
Harvard University - Boston Museum of Fine Arts excavations
(1902 - 1947).

Recent updates and additions (May 2005) to the Web site include the
following materials:

--2,641 individual Giza tomb records;
--22,757 original HU-MFA black-and-white excavation photos;
--21,048 records of finds
--3,105 original HU-MFA Expedition Diary pages;
--1,977 ancient & modern people records;
--9,905 plans & drawings, from overview plans to individual burial
--over 200 free downloadable Giza books and articles in text-searchable
PDF format.

Users can search in several ways:
--by any keyword ('Quick Search),'
--by specific categories ('Advanced Search'),
--by browsing Giza photographically ('Visual Search').

The Visual Search page contains a zoomable aerial photo of the entire
Giza Necropolis, with tombs shown as clickable rollover buttons that
link to the relevant photos, diaries, drawings and finds for the tomb
clicked. The Visual Search page also contains at present 657 color
panoramas (QTVR files) from standpoints all over Giza, allowing the
user to view the surroundings in 360 degrees.

Thousands of additional documents, old and new, are in preparation,
along with efforts to incorporate Giza materials from other institutions
and excavations. We welcome your comments, reactions, and suggestions
at http://www.gizapyramids.org/code/emuseum.asp?newpage=contact

Seems like a great resource. The Library is an especially good use of the Web. There are a lot of out of print works here with no need of a university library membership for access. Readers should definitely send suggestions in for new volumes and papers.

SEX! SEX at ArchaeoBlog! A Critic Takes On the Logic of Female Orgasm

Evolutionary scientists have never had difficulty explaining the male orgasm, closely tied as it is to reproduction.

But the Darwinian logic behind the female orgasm has remained elusive. Women can have sexual intercourse and even become pregnant - doing their part for the perpetuation of the species - without experiencing orgasm. So what is its evolutionary purpose?

. . .

Dr. Lloyd said scientists had insisted on finding an evolutionary function for female orgasm in humans either because they were invested in believing that women's sexuality must exactly parallel that of men or because they were convinced that all traits had to be "adaptations," that is, serve an evolutionary function.

We've always been partial to the explanation that this phenomenon is at least partially due to the similarity in development. But, of course, that only explains the How, not the Why. And then there's the whole 'current utility doesn't necessarily explain past utility' argument. This is probably an excellent example to illustrate the complexities of evolutionary explanation though, since it brings a whole range of factors from embryonic development, adaptation, selection, cultural pressures, etc.

And, you know, it's kinda tittilating.

Tombs! Tombs uncovered at Peruvian ruins

Archaeologists have uncovered a multi-level grave site at Peru's ancient ruins of Pachacamac, including mummy bundles containing whole families.

There were also bodies of pilgrims who presumably sought cures from an oracle deity for diseases like syphilis, tuberculosis and cancer, the project's leader said.

"What is interesting in this cemetery is that it is totally intact, and we have mummies of different epochs, different periods, and they have their burial goods with them," archaeologist Peter Eeckhout, of the Free University of Brussels, told The Associated Press.

Archaeologists Unearth Britain's Own Miniature Coliseum

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of Britain’s own miniature Coliseum, it was revealed today.

The two-tier stone built structure, in Chester, which dates back to 100AD, hosted gladiatorial contests, floggings and public executions.

Experts say the amphitheatre is the only one of its kind in Britain and the new evidence proves that Chester must have been an important site within the Roman Empire.

Did the Vikings drive natives from the isles?

VIKING settlers may have "ethnically cleansed" Scotland's islands, waging a genocidal campaign against native Pictish tribes as they arrived, according to evidence uncovered by archaeologists.

Excavations on Orkney could finally settle a centuries-old historical debate over whether the Norsemen integrated with indigenous locals or slaughtered them at the dawn of the last millennium.

Well, you know, there is that whole "crush your enemies, drive them before you, and hear the lamentations of their women" schtick they had going.

That's one way to put it Thracian Owner of Gold Mask Axe-Chopped

The Thracian king Seutus III, whose gold mask was unearthed in 2004 by Bulgarian archaeologists, has been chopped with an axe after his death, an expert research showed.

According to archaeologists this discovery is pure sensation because it proves the theory that ancient Thracians used to chop into pieces their rulers' bodies and buried them in different places.

Fight! Fight! Archaeology chief blamed for Harappa mess:-

The head of Pakistan's archaeology department has been blamed for a controversial amusement park being established adjacent to the ruins of the 5,000-year-old Harappa civilisation, work on which has been halted after a public outcry.

Holding Director General Archaeology Fazal Dad Kakar responsible for issuing a no objection certificate for the park, Culture Minister Ajmal Khan has warned that anyone "misguiding" the ministry on the issue would be punished, The News reported Monday.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Kinky. . . . Bronze Coffin with Golden Blindfold Found in Western Iran

A two thousand-year bronze coffin containing a skeleton with golden blindfold and muzzle was found by archaeologists in a farm near Khorram-abad, in western province of Lorestan.

"These golden blindfold and muzzle Indicates that they belonged to a person from high class" said Jalal Adeli, the head of excavation group.

The shape of this 180x87x55cm coffin is similar to a bathtub with four helves. The blindfold and muzzle which were found over the skeleton was made of narrow golden layer.

VERY cool looking coffin:

And we can't ignore the Mehr angle on this story.

Lost city village. . .found! Archaeologists unearth destroyed village

Chinese archaeologists have discovered what could well be a local version of Italy's Pompeii, in the form of an entire village destroyed in an earthquake nearly 700 years ago, state media has reported.

The hitherto unknown village, located in northern Hebei province, appears to have been a booming commercial centre during the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279 AD), the Xinhua news agency reported.

Web site alert Rick Baudé alerts us to the LA County Museum of Art's web site that contains data on a lot of seals from the Amarna kings (Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, etc.) and provides links to some samples:


One of the great dangers of archaeology Battle for the books of Herculaneum

"The promise and potential there is immense. This is the wellspring of Western civilisation. There could be the lost dialogues of Aristotle down there, the lost plays of Sophocles, poems of Catullus - it's just priceless. Anything that could be done to get it out should be done. It's irresponsible to leave it in the hope that it could be got out in 50 years."

So why aren't the archaeologists and engineers busy burrowing under the Villa of the Papyri now, as we speak, to bring this hypothetical treasure to the light? The essential reason is contained in a paradox: under present circumstances, the only way to ensure the survival of whatever may emerge from the villa is to leave it exactly where it is, encased in rock.

This is a pretty good article that sums up one of the central paradoxes of archaeology: Finding out what's there usually destroys most of it. We're tending more and more to assume that if it's not in immediate danger, leave it there. (We realize this is a horrendously complicated issue)

Ancient mural walls unearthed in Three Gorges area

Murals dating to China's Song dynasty (960-1279) have been unearthed at the Tuchengpo graves in Wushan county, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. The mural walls were found in a man's grave where 9 other historic relics, such as porcelain bowls, porcelain pots and lampstand, were unearthed.

At the door of the grave, images of people, flowers and plants can be clearly seen. On the north wall, there are paintings of principal rooms, courtyard, corridor and more than ten figures.

Unique violet shards discovered in East Azarbaijan

A team of archaeologists has recently discovered over 100 violet-colored shards at the ancient site of Kala Tepe in the reservoir area of the Ai-Doqmush Dam, near the city of Mianeh in Iran’s East Azarbaijan Province, Javad Qandgar, the director of the team said on Sunday.

The team has been tasked with saving the artifacts and gathering information from Kala Tepe, which contains ruins and artifacts from the Bronze Age. The site is being threatened by the Ai-Doqmush Dam, which recently became operational.

At least they clarified why the purple was important. Otherwise, heck, we could make the news every day! "Archaeologists find thousands of red burnished shards. . . "

The Masang Daza tombs

The history department of Sherubtse College in Kanglung is trying to unearth more on this possibility prompted by the discovery of about 20 burial tombs in Masang Daza, a village in Lingmithang, Mongar.

The Masang Daza burial tombs are the first of its kind to have been discovered in Bhutan and could throw light on some aspects of our ancient history.

Masang Daza lies on the left bank of Moi ri river and across the lateral highway that connects Mongar to Bumthang. Nearby is Jangdung village and the ruins of the Old Zhongar Dzong.


Skeletons belonging to some 35 corpses have surfaced from a Portuguese excavation site which archaelogists believe could be one of the the largest medieval Muslim burial grounds in Europe. The corpses, found in vaults carved out of the rockface were buried facing due west in the direction of the Muslim holy city, Mecca. The remains were unearthed at the Largo de Candido Dos Reis park, near the northern Portuguese city of Santarem.

Useless trivia department: We watched the National Treasure DVD this weekend and it includes a short mini-documentary on the Knights Templar. Kind of overwraught with intrigue we thought, but we could have sworn that the narrator was the 3rd knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

[Update]: That would be Robert Eddison if that is him.

Pleistocene Park update 'Pleistocene Park' experiment

Efforts are under way to restore part of Siberia to the way it was more than 10,000 years ago, before the end of the last ice age.

The "Pleistocene Park" experiment will try to turn the wet, boggy tundra back to the dry grasslands that once were home to large herds of stampeding mammals.

These creatures included bison, horses, reindeer, musk-oxen, elk, saiga, and yaks and even woolly rhinos and mammoths. There were top predators, too, such as cave lions and wolves.

It is hoped that by re-introducing some of the still-surviving species, grazing will begin again and restore the landscape.

Kind of an interesting article. Read the whole thing.

Some ancillary stories of interestes

Leprosy genome tells story of human migrations, French researchers report in Science

A French genetics study comparing strains of leprosy-causing bacteria has revealed some surprises about how the pathogen evolved and how it was spread across the continents by human migrations. The research, led by scientists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, appears in the 13 May issue of the journal Science, published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

The findings indicate that the world's existing leprosy infections are all caused by a single bacterial clone that has spread yet barely mutated for centuries. They also show that the disease may have begun in East Africa, as opposed to India as previously thought, and then spread to the other continents in part through European colonialism and later the slave trade.

One of the oldest known human diseases, leprosy is still a significant problem in parts of the developing world, especially India. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 500,000 new cases were detected in 2003. (http://www.who.int/lep/stat2002/global02.htm)

See also here and here.

Early African migrants made eastward exit

The first modern humans to emigrate from Africa may have done so by sticking to the coast.

Analysis of surviving aboriginal populations in Southeast Asia suggest that they arose from a single wave of migrants who left the Horn of Africa more than 65,000 years ago. By following the coasts, say the authors of the new analyses, early humans may have been able to colonize the globe with remarkable speed - reaching far-flung lands such as Australia within just a few thousand years.

Most experts agree that modern humans arose in Africa before spreading throughout the world. But while archaeological evidence suggests that humans moved north into Egypt and the Middle East, climate records show that this region was an inhospitable desert until 50,000 years ago, making this an unlikely choice of route.

Homo hobbitus revisited Pygmy Village Casts Doubt on 'Hobbit' Human

Indonesian researchers have found a thriving community of pygmies on the island of Flores, just over a half mile away from where scientists had excavated a "hobbit" skeleton attributed to a new human species, according to a recent report in Indonesia's Kompas newspaper.

Teuku Jacob, professor of palaeoanthropology at Gadjah Mada University, led the research team. Since the discovery of Homo floresiensis — nicknamed the "hobbit" human — Jacob has expressed doubts that the skeleton represents an extinct hominid species.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

There been a bit of a kerfuffle over at the EEF lists regarding the forensic reconstruction of Tutankhamun. It's been referred to as a "waste of time" and some discussion has ensued as to whether such projects help or hinder research in the area. Problem being, of course, that since facial reconstruction only provides an approximate facsimile to the original person, and that different artists will obtain somewhat different results with the same skull, what good is it?

We here at ArchaeoBlog disagree that it's a waste of time. The technique obviously has limitations, but this is true of almost every type of archaeological analysis. Certainly, however, the technique has some utility in modern forensic work since individuals are regularly identified using facial reconsruction. We saw this issue erupt in some degree with the initial reconstruction of Kennewick Man -- the famous one that looked like Patrick Stewart -- that seemed to suggest Caucasoid characteristics. One practionioner (a cultural anthropologist) dismissed it as being "more art than science" and not useful at all. We question why it should be that reconstructions of modern murder victims seem to be accurate enough for individual identification, but similar reconstructions on anything archaeological are said to be useless.

We think it's a perfectly legitimate avenue of inquiry and the fact that reconstructions by different researchers differ from one another and, in this case, from sculptural representations, becomes an interesting topic itself. We figure the art historians can probably learn something about artistic conventions by comparing their interpretations with the forensic reconstructions, and vice versa. If there's one thing we oughtn't be complaining about, it's a plethora of data.

Anyway, here are a few links to look into in more detail:

Computerised 3D facial reconstruction by Martin P. Evison at the University of Sheffield.

Facial reconstruction from ForensicArtist.com. Check out the Links link at the bottom of that page for many more.

And here's a good background article by Mark Rose on the National Geographic program coming up this Sunday, which includes the facial reconsruction. Also, see Mark's TutWatch page for even more.

More news

Congratulations! Archaeology museum wins top award

A 100-year-old museum, home to one of the world's largest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology, has won an industry award.

A panel of experts judged University College London's Petrie Museum to have remained relevant and interesting since its creation in 1892.

We tend to do that Archaeologists uncover thousands of artefacts

Parks Victoria has just completed the most extensive archaeological survey ever of the Victorian high country.

More than 300 cultural heritage sites and thousands of Aboriginal stone artefacts were uncovered by the 2003 bushfires.

Alps' chief ranger Peter Jacobs says the excavation of shelters shows Aboriginal people occupied the high country all year round.

Archaeologist Reads Ancient Seeds for Clues

''As with all good scientists, archaeologist Dr. Virginia Popper's stock and trade is asking questions. Even when she is showing schoolchildren though her lab in the basement of the Fowler Museum at UCLA, she asks the simple question that is always her baseline. What did you have to do with plants today?

''Popper's specialization is paleoethnobotany, which means she's fascinated by how prehistoric people used plants. Were they used for foods, fuel, medicine, exchange or fibers? Did certain plants mark status, such as chocolate among the elite in Aztec culture? How did the diets vary among distinct workers in Peru, where the fisherman, weavers and farmers consumed different foods.

More on the Great Tara Road Controversy Route of road has Irish stewing

This grassy, wind-swept hill outside Dublin was long the spiritual and political center of Ireland, an earthen fort where Celtic chieftains jockeyed for power and legend says St. Patrick confronted paganism.

Today, the Hill of Tara is at the center of another showdown -- over whether Ireland, a rapidly developing country where construction often uncovers the past, can reconcile its heritage with the demands of modern life.

After two years of arguments, the government on Wednesday authorized archaeologists to begin excavating 38 sites along the proposed route of a new highway past the hill.

'Original men' of Malaysia tell story of migration

A team of geneticists believe they have illumined many aspects of how modern humans emigrated from Africa by analyzing the DNA of the Orang Asli, the original inhabitants of Malaysia.

Because the Orang Asli appear to be directly descended from the first emigrants from Africa, they have provided valuable new clues about that momentous event in early human history.

More whining about wine Cypriots made Mediterranean's first wine: archaeologist

Cyprus was the first Mediterranean country to make wine, an Italian archaeologist said Friday in a declaration likely to upset other nations in the region claiming to have been the first to develop the tipple.

Maria-Rosaria Belgiorno said she uncovered evidence during an archaeological dig near the southern coastal town of Limassol that Cypriots produced wine up to 6,000 years ago.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Sorry about no posts yesterday. We were busy with numerous projects and going on about 4 hours of sleep. Besides, the only news out there seems to be a hundred and fifty stories about King Tut. . . .

Heh. Well, now we know what the discrepancy between 666 and 616 as the Number of the Beast was: Before and after taxes.

HT to Ace.

More later.

News from the EEF

Press report: "Slice of Egypt in the office"
[login and password both: eefeef]
"Dr Karin Sowada (...) assistant curator of the Nicholson Museum of antiquities [Sidney] (...) came across an ageing volume she had never noticed before...It was a collection of eight 19th-century graphic impressions, called squeezes, made in Egyptian tombs (...) long-forgotten impressions made almost 150 years ago by Australia's first Egyptologist, Sir Charles Nicholson. "

Press report: "Discover raiders of the lost art"
About some Egyptological items on auction with Sotheby's today, among which 142 photographs of Harry Burton documenting the excavations of Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon. See also:

Press report about the planned National Museum for Egyptian Civilisation:

Dr Zahi Hawass dedicates his column to Farouk Hosni, minister of culture, the first to receive a new SCA award:

Press report: "A glimpse into ancient Egypt"
"In about a week, tests will reveal whether the art on an Egyptian vase on show at the Royal Pump Room Museum is of international importance or the work of a brilliant forger."
Another (different) press report about this: http://snipurl.com/euce

Bruno Halioua, Bernard Ziskind, Medicine in the Days of the Pharaohs. Translated by M. B. DeBevoise. Belknap Press, April 2005. Hb, 288 pp., ISBN 0-674-01702-1, $24.95
"A comprehensive account of pharaonic medicine that is illuminated by what modern science has discovered about the lives (and deaths) of ancient Egyptian people from all walks of life. "
You can read an excerpt in PDF format at this site (43 Mb though):

Digitized book from the Giza Digital Library
-- Peter Der Manuelian (ed.), Studies in Honor of William Kelly Simpson, vols. 1-2, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1996 - pdf-files: 32.2 MB (vol. 1), 33.8 MB (vol. 2) - you can also download the articles separately

Digitized books from the Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée
-- Jacques de Morgan, Carte de la nécropole memphite: Dahchour, Sakkarah, Abou-Sir, s.n. [Imprimérie de l'IFAO], s.l. [Le Caire], 1897. 12 pls.

Online dissertation: Jitse Harm Fokke Dijkstra, Religious Encounters on the Southern Egyptian Frontier in Late Antiquity (AD 298 - 642), Proefschrift, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 2005. 242 pp.
"This book, then, aims to be a multidisciplinary study of how religion, in so far as it can be reconstructed from the variety of sources, became transformed on a regional level in Late Antiquity ... Our focus will be on how the region became Christian, and how the Ancient Egyptian cults at Philae were affected by this development." - pdf-file: 3.7 MB
[snipped from:

[Submitted by Troy Sagrillo (netherworld@scarlet.be)]
Also issues 4, 5 and 6 of the Bulletin de la Société d'Égyptologie, Genève (BSÉG), have now been put online (articles as PDF files):
[For issues 1-3, see EEFNEWS (350)]

Online version of: M. Masseti, "Did endemic dwarf elephants survive on Mediterranean islands up to protohistorical times?" in: G. Cavarretta et al., The World of Elephants. Proceedings of the 1st International Conference, Rome 2001, pp. 402-406, in PDF, 306 kB.
"The wall paintings of the 18th Dynasty tomb of Rekh-mi-Re... show, among other figures, that of a small-sized elephant borne by the Syrian tributaries as a gift to the Egyptian pharaoh.... it cannot be excluded that the elephant depicted could...represent a dwarf
proboscidean, possibly imported to Egypt from somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean islands where endemic dwarf elephants might still have survived up to protohistorical times."
[To be consumed with a jumbo-size spoon of salt, I'd say.]

Online verison of: Mahmoud Ezzamel, "Accounting, the Divine and the Symbollic: The Memorial Tempels of Ancient Egypt", in: Proceedings of the 3rd Accounting History International Conference 2003, 59 pp., in PDF, 856 kB.
"This paper ...focuses upon the symbolic role of accounting, drawing upon evidence from the NK...in the form of accounting inscriptions related to royal memorial temples. "

Electronic Antiquity, the e-journal for the Classics, has some book reviews that are relevant for EEF, namely in the issues of February 2003 and July 2004:
--- review (in HTML) by Kasia Szpakowska of:
Jan Assmann, The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, Translated by David Lorton. 2001.
-- review (in HTML) by Anthony Spalinger of:
Erik Hornung, The Secret Lore of Egypt. Its Impact on the West, Translated by David Lorton. 2001.
-- review (in PDF, 300 kb) by Duane W. Roller of:
K. Mysliwiec, The Twilight of Ancient Egypt: First Millennium B.C.E., Translated by David Lorton. 2000

End of EEF news

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Breaking news Ireland OKs Highway Near Hill of Tara

Overruling the protests of environmentalists and historians, the government on Wednesday approved construction of a highway that will pass near the Hill of Tara, an ancient site where St. Patrick reportedly confronted and converted pagans.

Opponents had demanded a different route farther from the hill, which was a popular meeting point for Irish kings and chieftains from pre-Christian times until the 11th century.

Recalling Ancient America's Forgotten History

For anyone who has studied the story of America, the books often emphasize how young this country is, especially compared to those countries in Europe or Asia.

But this country has an ancient history, too. And a rare exhibit at the St. Louis Museum of Art until May 30 is teaching Americans about that past.

"I had no idea that, Native American culture went back so far," said Louisa Brouwer, a high school student who saw the exhibit on a previous stop at the Art Institute of Chicago.

This is a great idea. Most people probably know more about the ancient history of Egypt than about North America.

Ancient Musical Instruments Found

Chinese archaeologists have discovered an unprecedented collection of approximately 500 clay musical instruments that date to around 496 B.C., according to news reports from China.

The collection, found in a three-chambered tomb in East China's Jiangsu Province, includes many percussion and bell-like instruments, such as a three-foot-long fou, a dingning, a niuduo, a yongzhong and a quing.

Many of these instruments are so rare that little is known about them, aside from a handful of descriptions in old texts. The fou and duo, for example, are firsts for China.

How Culture Pushed Us to the Top of the Food Chain

Specialties in the social sciences are proliferating at a record pace, and the job title of Dr. Robert Boyd illustrates that point perfectly.

Dr. Boyd is a theoretical biological anthropologist: he uses mathematics and deduction to develop ideas about how Homo sapiens became earth's dominant species.
J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

Over a 30-year career, Dr. Boyd, 57, of the University of California, Los Angeles, has made it his task to show how contemporary human behavior is rooted in the cultures that humans developed as they lived the evolutionary process.

Good, long interview with Boyd. He and Richerson seem to be among those who think that regular evolutionary theory (Darwinism) can be usefully applied to culture. That is, culture is a means of transmitting phenotypic traits both within and between generations. Read the whole thing.

Search for roots of modern images

Where do the images that surround us come from?

This was the seemingly innocuous question we asked ourselves when we began work on How Art Made The World, a major new BBC Television series.

Little did we know our search for the answer would take us on a journey across five continents, through a hundred thousand years of human evolution and involve some of the most stunning works of art ever created.

This is kind of an introduction/trailer to a television program tracing the history of artistic images. There's not a whole lot there, just some suggestions about what will be covered.
Well, we ought to just get this out of the way right off the bat since it's being splashed all over the place:

The boy behind the mask: how scientists built the face of Tutankhamun

The face of Tutankhamun, the Egyptian boy king whose early death sparked an historical murder mystery, was revealed yesterday.

Archaeologists working with forensic specialists and artists have created reconstructions of the pharaoh's head using information from a computed tomography (CT) scan carried out on his mummified body earlier this year.

The cause of Tutankhamun's death around 1325BC has long been a matter of historical controversy. Speculation about royal intrigue, plots and cold-blooded assassination were bolstered by the discovery of skull fragments in X-rays carried out in 1968 by anatomists from Liverpool University.

And more on the supposed cause of death here: Gangrene Felled King Tut

So anyway, now we are sure that there is a race of immortal beings who regularly crop up in various societies throughout history as either political figures or entertainers. We offer as proof:


Kennewick Man:

And so, on to far less interesting stuff:
Earliest states possibly in shape 5,000 years ago

Dozens of prehistoric states might have been developing in eastern China as early as 5,000 years ago,thousands of years before the birth of the first textually attested state that existed in Xia Dynasty (2100 B.C.-1600 B.C.), said a Sino-US archaeological research team.

The presumption was based on a decade-long regional survey and excavation in Rizhao, a coastal city in east China's Shandong Province. Archaeologists with the team are almost sure they have identified the ruins of a prehistoric state dating back between 3,000 B.C. and 2,200 B.C.

The population of the state was roughly 63,000, and the size of its capital might have an area as large as one million square meters, said Fang Hui, a member of the team and professor in the archaeology department at the Shandong University based in Jinan, the provincial capital.

Lost city ethnic group update Unique Burials and Human Skeletons Identified in Lafourak of Mazandaran

Archaeological and paleontology studies on a graveyard dating to 2800 years ago in Lafourak of Mazandaran, north of Iran, led to the identification of three unique tombs among a group of 15.

Lafourak village is part of Savad Kouh area of Mazandaran. Excavations in the graveyard located next to the village have dated it to the late Iron Age, to 2800 years ago.

Archaeologists are carrying out new excavations and paleontology studies in the area to identify and save the ancient remains behind the Alborz Dam before it is flooded. Unique tombs with a type of human skeleton never found before in any other part of Iran, have been identified there.

Persian Gulf artifacts suffering as officials dispute where to display them

Several artifacts which were discovered two years ago during underwater archaeological operations in the Persian Gulf are being kept in improper conditions at Tehran’s Masudieh Palace.

The items, which were the first discoveries in the field of underwater archaeology in Iran, include a 16th century helmet and piece of armor as well as an anchor and several dishes that probably date back to the Sassanid era.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Media corner The Fallen Ones on May 14, SciFi Channel:

An archaeologist unearths the remains of a giant humanoid. Soon, evidence is uncovered that reveals the creature to be the offspring of a human woman and a fallen angel — the beginning of a lineage whose terror is about to be reborn into the modern world. Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) stars.

We hate it when that happens. Out there in the field, excavating a nice 2x2, getting a good sample of beer jar and bread mold ceramics, a few identifiable mammal bones, and feeling pretty pleased with yourself for recognizing what appears to be a hearth, and the next thing you know you're running for your life from, say, the rotting, animated remains of Ra-Hetep-Heres that you happened to resurrect by accidentally reciting the reanimation spell from the Book of the Hereafter. Then for the next few days it's fight with mummy, run for your life, fight with mummy some more, run for your life, recover the Sword of Amun-Ra from the lost Temple of Aten, run for your life, find the Book of the Dead, read the correct verse while simulataneously holding said mummy captive in the Pool of the Spirits and running him through with the Sword of Amun-Ra thus sending him back to the netherworld.

And don't even get us started on the warm beer we have to deal with.

Anyway, it's got pyramids and at least one 42-foot tall mummy. We suggest stocking up on (cold) beer and pretzels and just having a go at it if you wish.

Note to television executives everywhere: You know, being a world famous blog read by tens of people a day, you really ought to consider sending us previews of these things a week or so in advance so we could properly review them. Why should Mark Rose have all the fun?

Zahi Hawass in the news again The king of Egyptology

Beyond Egypt’s political demonstrations and suicide bombings lies a country where history lives outside classrooms. A country that draws inspiration — and money — from its past to fuel its present.

And while tourism is good for the economy, too many tourists can destroy the very monuments they flock to see, warns Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s top archaeologist and the person who led the CT scan on King Tutankhamun’s mummy.

“Egypt’s monuments can finish in a 100 years if we don’t control the tourists now, and I mean NOW. Think, no more pyramids, no more sphinx, no more temples. All our ancient treasures lost to the future.”

Lost city ethic group. . .found! Ancient tombs of unknown ethnic group discovered in Mazandaran

Archaeologists working at the Laforak Cemetery in Savadkuh of Mazandaran Province recently discovered the remains of three skeletons with dolichocephalic skulls, anthropologist Farzad Foruzanfar announced on Tuesday.

Of the fifteen graves excavated in the 2800-year old cemetery, three were different, in that they contained three skeletons with dolichocephalic (long-headed) skulls which were covered with a layer of earthenware, and their walls were reinforced by earthenware, too, he added.

Experts have surmised that the three people belonged to a non-indigenous nation, since the inhabitants of Mazandaran at that time were a round-headed nation, he added.

Archaeologists find 'Britain's oldest shoe'

Archaeologists excavating a quarry in Somerset claim to have found Britain's oldest shoe, believed to be 2,000 years old.

They said the shoe, which was found at Whitehall Quarry, near Wellington, was the equivalent to a modern size 9 or 10, and was so well preserved that the stitching and lace holes were visible in the leather.

It was taken to a specialist conservation centre in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and was expected to go on display at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.

We doubt it Egypt's "King Tut Curse" Caused by Tomb Toxins?

Stories of "the mummy's curse" or "King Tut's curse" excited the world after the discovery in 1922 of the ancient pharaoh's tomb in Egypt. Lord Carnarvon, a British sponsor of archaeology in Egypt, died shortly after attending the tomb's opening, inspiring speculation that supernatural forces were at work.

In recent years a scientific mummy's-curse theory was offered for Carnarvon's death. Was he killed by exposure to ancient, toxic pathogens from the sealed tomb? Did they prove too much for his immune system, which was weakened by a chronic illness he had experienced before he went to Egypt?

Kind of a misleading headline since the article pretty much does away with the notion. Generally speaking, the most physically deleterious factors we've experienced in the field have to do with either bad food or too much alcohol. And, you know, stabbing yourself in the knee with your trowel. . . .