Monday, October 31, 2005

Just in time for Halloween Polynesian cemetery unlocks ancient burial secrets

The first people to settle Polynesia went to surprising lengths to honour their dead, archaeologists show.

Remains from the oldest cemetery in the Pacific suggest the Lapita people buried their dead in many different ways, some in "weird yoga positions", and removed their skulls for ceremonial purposes.

Dr Stuart Bedford and Professor Matthew Spriggs of the Australian National University reported their finds on the Lapita culture in Vanuatu at a recent seminar in Canberra.

"We found for the first time skulls buried in a pot, sealed by a flat bottomed ceramic dish that had been overturned and used as a lid on top of another pot," Dr Bedford said.

Recent Landslides In La Conchita, California Belong To Much Larger Prehistoric Slide

The deadly landslide that killed 10 people and destroyed approximately 30 homes in La Conchita, California last January is but a tiny part of a much larger slide, called the Rincon Mountain slide, discovered by Larry D. Gurrola, geologist and graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The slide started many thousands of years ago and will continue generating slides in the future, reported Gurrola at the national meeting of the Geological Society of America today in Salt Lake City.

Prehistoric slides present at Rincon Mountain cover an area of about 1,300 acres with a minimum volume of about 600 million cubic yards, said Edward A. Keller, professor of earth science at UC Santa Barbara. Keller analyzed the landslide complex with Gurrola and Tim Tierney, UCSB research scientist.

Archeological Dig Northwest Of Tucson Uncovers 2,800 Year-Old Settlement

Archeologists are finding the people who lived here three thousand years ago have more in common with us than we might think.

One thing that's fairly obvious, they came here because water was plentiful.

"You have water coming off of the slopes of the Tortolita and the Tucson Mountains, and this is where the Santa Cruz sort of spreads out, and so this would be a really prime place for agriculture," explains Michael Cook, Archeology Project Manager for Westland Resources, Inc.

Not too long of an article.

More looting Black Earth, Black Archeology, Black Times

Ukraine’s beleaguered and cash-starved archeologists were entitled to view Viktor Yushchenko’s election to the presidency either as a beacon of hope or a symbol of its problems.

Before he became president, it was Yushchenko’s hobby to spend his free time gluing ancient pots and plates together, which he would then hang on the walls of his house.

But this avid amateur archeologist could also have been seen as a symbol of the crimes of amateurism. Yushchenko admitted that once while visiting the Kazakh place of exile of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s greatest poet, he ripped off a stone from a local fortress as a memento.

Greenhouse effect occurred 5,000 years ago

It is common sense nowadays that excessive carbon dioxide in the air caused by excessive lumbering leads to global greenhouse effects.

But a team of archaeologists from China and the United States is saying that the greenhouse effect started about 5,000 years ago, much earlier than people might expect.

This is the conclusion reached by a group of Chinese and US archaeologists based on research on the relics excavated from the ruins of a Neolithic site in Rizhao City, east China's Shandong Province, over the past ten years.

The joint archaeological team of experts from Shandong University and US scholars began its survey at the ruins of the ancient Liangcheng Town in suburban Rizhao in 1995, focusing on the relationship between plants and human activity.

Kind of a weird, disjointed article. No doubt it will get much more play in the western media over the next few weeks.


Stone Age Beer

Five years ago, Calagione and McGovern collaborated on Midas Touch, a beverage informed by the 2,700-year-old remains of a funerary feast discovered in central Turkey and believed to have been that of King Mita, the historical figure behind the Midas legend.

This morning they are pushing further into the murk of alcoholic prehistory. For the past few years McGovern has been analyzing scraps of pottery excavated from a site in central China. Last year he announced that he had detected traces of the oldest alcoholic beverage yet discovered, a Stone Age brew dating back 9,000 years.

THis is just the start of an article available to subscribers only. Pity, we'd like to see what the stuff consists of.

Not archaeology but cool The Map that Changed the World

ust two centuries ago, the world lacked a single geologic map. The chronology of the planet's history was unknown and effectively invisible to people despite the evidence of rock layers at cliffs and canyons.

Theological maps of the world then depicted such biblical concepts as the Garden of Eden. Some people believed that mountains grew organically like trees.

The study of nature and rocks was a novelty. Thinkers in the early 1800s disagreed over the age of the Earth, with some standing by Bible-based estimates of 6,000 years old.

Then along came the map that changed the world.

It's about William ("Strata") Smith's first geological map of Britain. Definitely worth looking at if you're in the neighborhood, and probably will be checked out by man, many geologists.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Web site alert From Brian Hunt, who is associated with Lehner's Giza project:

This is an announcement of the 28 October launch of AERAWEB, the
official Web site of Dr. Mark Lehner and the Giza Plateau Mapping
Project. Mark Lehner's large, international team is very excited to have
their work presented to the world in this new format.

Visit the new site at

Included on the website are links to artifacts, the Giza Field School,
and articles about the projects that comprise AERA's work in Egypt over
the past decades.

I hope you'll take time to view and read the pages in the days and
months ahead.
Lucifer's Hammer: 13k BP Scientist: Comets Blasted Early Americans

A supernova could be the "quick and dirty" explanation for what may have happened to an early North American culture, a nuclear scientist here said Thursday.

Richard Firestone said at the "Clovis in the Southeast" conference that he thinks "impact regions" on mammoth tusks found in Gainey, Mich., were caused by magnetic particles rich in elements like titanium and uranium. This composition, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist said, resembles rocks that were discovered on the moon and have also been found in lunar meteorites that fell to Earth about 10,000 years ago.

Just plain a weird story. First of all, if there were a supernova -- apparently of our sun? -- we, um, you know, wouldn't even BE HERE. Second, " comets struck the solar system during the Clovis period" is just plain silly, since there are comets all over the solar system. Other than that, there's little to go on. There's also mention of some stuff Goodyear present on his Topper site, but not much.

More here. Though this outburst from Michael Collins: Michael Collins called the idea that the first inhabitants traveled by way of a land bridge from Asia "primal racism." Instead, Collins said, they arrived by water, because "the rich marine environments" along the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts are "very attractive regions for human exploitation." we feel is a bit too trendy. Let's face it: When some actual sites are discovered that show this supposed water route, it'll gain some currency. Until then, it's mostly speculation.

World's earliest observatory discovered in China

Chinese archaeologists said they have found the world earliest observatory, dated back to some 4,100 years ago, in north China's Shanxi Province.

The ancient observatory in the Taosi relics site in Shanxi Province is at least 2,000 years older than the 1,000-year-old observatory built by the Maya in central America, said He Nu, a research follow with the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

He told Xinhua on Sunday that the observatory, built at the endof the primitive society, "was not only used for observing astronomical phenomena but also for sacrificial rites."

Sex! Gluttony! Violence! Apart from vomitoriums and orgies, what did the Romans do for us?

The best way to judge a modern recreation of ancient Rome - in film or fiction - is to apply the simple "dormouse test". How long is it before the characters adopt an uncomfortably horizontal position in front of tables, usually festooned with grapes, and one says to another: "Can I pass you a dormouse?"

The basic rule of thumb is this: the longer you have to wait before this tasty little morsel appears on the recreated banquet, the more subtle the reconstruction is likely to be. On these terms Rome, the new joint HBO-BBC series, does not do badly. It is not until at least 30 minutes into the first episode that anyone pops the dormouse question.

Kind of an interesting article on the current (and long-time) fascination the West has with Rome. Obviously it played a big part in Christianity and formed part of the revered Classical world that the Renaissance sought to glorify. It's an interesting view from the British perspective, vis a vis Rome vs. Greece, in that Romans were actually in Britain, while the Greeks were not. But, let's face it, Rome is endlessly fascinating for the very reasons the article lays out: They were enough like "us" to be familiar, but different enough to set ourselves out in contrast (to our betterment, obviously).

We've heard, but cannot substantiate, that the movie Caligula portrays the Roman Empire the most accurately of almost any film. Probably requires some field research at some point.

Mummy update
Mysterious mummy lays in Geology Hall

Although now at home in the Rutgers Geology Hall, the female mummy that resides on the Old Queens campus building spent many years in a far more undignified place: one of the closets of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

That's right, mummy.

Few students here are aware of the opportunity to catch a rare glimpse into the burial ceremony of a foreign and strange culture.

Of course, other than its resting place, there is very little known about the mysterious mummy.

"We know it came from Northern Egypt, but that's about it," said William Selden, the collections manager of the Geology Hall.

Tsunami (yes) update Tsunami reveals ancient temple sites

Archaeologists say they have discovered the site of an ancient temple in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

It is the latest in a series of archaeological discoveries in the area struck by December's tsunami, which desilted large areas of the coastline.

The brick temple dates back more than 2,000 years to the late Tamil Sangam period and was discovered on the beachfront near Saluvankuppam, just north of a famous World Heritage site at Mahabalipuram.

Interesting bit: Apparently the place was destroyed by tsunamis twice before as evidenced by the stratigraphy and building methods. The chronology established here, along with further studies elsewhere along the coast, might help to identify how often these things strike.

Friday, October 28, 2005

This blog has a picture of the supposed pyramid foud in Bosnia. We're rather suspicious of this since the researcher is claiming the thing to be anywhere between 12-27k years old (hard to tell which from the text). Since this generally flies in the face of previous evidence, we predict it will probably blow over within a few months.

Non-archaeology, but interesting Big bangs theory blames lava fields for mass extinctions

Vast sheets of prehistoric lava that oozed across the land millions of years ago were probably caused by meteorites slamming into the Earth's crust, scientists say.

The lava sheets, 10 of which have been discovered around the world, coincide with mass extinctions, suggesting the huge volumes of magma caused global changes in climate that made Earth inhospitable to all but the hardiest species.

The largest lies in Siberia, is roughly the size of Thailand and dates back 252 million years. "We think lava poured on to Siberia for between 100,000 and one million years, leaving the surface covered with four million cubic kilometres of lava," said Linda Elkins-Tanton, a geologist at Brown University, Rhode Island.

We don't have a lot to contribute here. We've seen this particular theory thrown around before, but we think this is the first time it's been linked to meteorite impacts.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

2,000-year-old burial site found

Archaeologists working on Shetland's most northerly isle have discovered a burial site more than 2,000 years old.

The site at Sand Wick on Unst, thought to date back to the Iron Age, had already been badly eroded by the sea when a team of experts began their work in August.

However, archaeologists from Glasgow University, the Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problems of Erosion Trust (SCAPE) and local volunteers managed to rescue artefacts and a skeleton.

The excavation, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland, was initially aimed at training volunteers how to excavate eroding coastlines.

New Digs Decoding Mexico's "Pyramids of Fire"

Using picks, shovels, and high-tech forensic sleuthing, scientists are beginning to cobble together the grisly ancient history and fiery demise of Teotihuacán, the first major metropolis of the Americas.

The size of Shakespeare's London, Teotihuacán was built by an unknown people almost 2,000 years ago. The site sits about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of present-day Mexico City. Temples, palaces, and some of the largest pyramids on Earth line its ancient main street.

Scientists believe Teotihuacán was the hub of trade and commerce in Mesoamerica until the city's civilization collapsed around A.D. 650. When the Aztecs stumbled upon the metropolis centuries later, they dubbed it the "City of the Gods," because they believed it was where the Gods met to create the present universe and sun.

Good article. Note this: Spence has also found evidence that the health of Teotihuacán's population declined in the city's final century. Residents' teeth have tell-tale lines that form in childhood during episodes of severe stress, such as malnutrition or infection. Lovell and Whyte found something similar at the Old Kingdom site of Mendes in the Nile Delta. They found that, while not statistically significant, Old Kingdom individuals had a higher incidence of dental enamal hypoplasia which they attributed to prolonged drought and malnutrition. This may indicate that during much of the 6th Dynasty and in the later 5th as well Egypt was suffering the effects of climate change, decreasing the ability of the central government to adequately feed, let alone closely administer, much of the population.

Ref: Lovell, N. C. and I. Whyte
1999 Patterns of dental enamel defects at ancient Mendes, Egypt. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 110:69-80.

Bridge to Mesopotamia

In a glass case stand a dozen carved statues of gypsum alabaster — male figurines with their hands folded at their chests and their shell-and-lapis-lazuli eyes wide open. Dating to around 2500 B.C., the statues were commissioned by wealthy Mesopotamians as proxy worshippers, to stand in the temples of gods and pray in their owners’ absence. “The Mesopotamians saw gods as present all around us,” explains Oriental Institute Museum director Geoff Emberling ’87. The gods were also believed to reside in their cult statues, he says, “so the idea that a person could be present in a statue is not so far removed.” The figurines and their role fascinate him because “they take us out of our way of seeing,” he explains, and provide “a good example of how, with a little understanding, we can glimpse” another world. Emberling, who has studied the ancient Near East for more than 20 years, has always tried to connect with that world.

Tut the Boozer update King Tut Drank Red Wine, Researcher Says

King Tutankhamen drank red wine, says a researcher who analyzed very dry traces of the vintage found in his tomb.

Maria Rosa Guasch-Jane, who briefed reporters Wednesday at the British Museum, said she had invented a process which gave archaeologists a tool to discover the color of ancient wine.

Guasch-Jane also discovered that the most valued drink in ancient Egypt, shedeh, was made of red grapes.

``This is the first time someone has found an ancient red wine,'' said Guasch-Jane, who earned her Ph.D. in pharmacy from the University of Barcelona in September.

We may have blogged this some time ago. Another story on it here.

Obituary Marshall Clagett, 89, Scholar on Science in Ancient Times, Is Dead

Marshall Clagett, a scholar of science in ancient Egypt and Greece and the way it was received in medieval Europe, died on Oct. 21 at a hospital in Princeton, N.J. He was 89 and lived in Princeton.

His death was announced by the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he was a professor emeritus in the Department of Historical Studies. He arrived to teach in 1964 and took emeritus status in 1986, but continued to publish, and at his death was working on the fourth and final volume of his "Ancient Egyptian Science," the institute reported.

Dr. Clagett's major work was his five-volume "Archimedes in the Middle Ages," published over 20 years starting in 1964. It covered the range of work and the influence of Greece's most famous mathematician and inventor, about whom little is known.

We admit we've never heard of him.

Not archaeology but interesting Woolly Mammoth's Childhood Revealed

Raising a mammoth wasn't an easy task and required huge quantities of mother's milk, according to a study of the nursing habits of a young woolly mammoth that died thousands of years ago.

Analysis of the young mammoth's relatively intact tusk revealed that the calf nursed from its mother for four or more years, apparently depending on the calorie-rich milk to survive in harsh, arctic conditions.

Carried out by researchers from the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota and the Wrangel Island State Preserve in Siberia, the study was presented at a meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) in Mesa, Ariz.

Very clever set of analyses.

Toe Bones Reveal World's Earliest Shoe-Wearers

A new analysis of toe bones suggests that ancient people from Europe and the Middle East were the first to adopt supportive footwear—most likely primitive sandals—around 30,000 years ago.

Before that time, most humans went barefoot—regardless of their environment.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, found that humans at the end of the Old Stone Age had weaker small-toe bones than their ancestors but no corresponding loss of leg strength.

The finding suggests that the ancient humans were using footwear for support for the first time in history.

And yet another story from NG on mummy eyes!

Out of Africa and on to California Study: Modern Humans Reached Americas Last

Modern humans left Africa in waves and colonized the Mideast first and then Europe, according to a new study that traced early human migration patterns through variations in DNA.

The study, which supports the "Out of Africa" theory that humans first emerged in Africa before migrating to other parts of the world, determined that South America was the last settled region.

"In (the) dataset (we studied), genetic diversity is highest in Africa and then decreases in the following order with diversity being the lowest in the Americas: Mideast, Europe, Asia, Oceania (the Pacific Islands), America. This indicates what the order of the human expansion might have been," said Sohini Ramachandran, lead author of the study, which is published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Update on a story from a few days ago.
More pyramids! Archaeologists find European pyramid

A team of American and Bosnian archaeologists claim to have found two new pyramids buried under hills in Central Europe.

The scientists say they found ancient labyrinths and other sand stone buildings under two unusually shaped hills in central Bosnia.

They believe the ruins indicate the hills were once human settlements, probably built by a stone age "super" civilisation tens of thousands of years ago.

They are now trying to locate ancient stairs that would lead them to the entry of the pyramids.

Either there is some odd translating going on, or Erich Von Daniken is doing their copy editing. At any rate, the real story ought to eventually come out. That's the whole thing, too.

Burial site discovered in Riverhead

Last week's stormy weather uncovered what experts said may be an important early American Indian burial site at Indian Island County Park in Riverhead.

The site was spotted by a park supervisor after the Peconic River bank was eroded early last week by heavy rains and high wave action, said Suffolk County Parks Commissioner Ronald Foley.

Archaelogists said yesterday that the site contained bones from at least two people believed to be Indians buried during the Early Woodland period, from 800 BC to AD 800. It also contained artifacts including a pipe and fragments of a bowl.

News from the EEF (Note the new web address, by the way)

"Tebtunis papyri returned to UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library decades after their discovery"
"Just a few weeks ago, three tins of ancient papyri belonging to
the University of California, Berkeley, finally arrived home, shipped
across the Atlantic [from Oxford] more than a century after they
were collected in Egypt. (...) Among the new materials are fragments
of (...) an ancient medical handbook, and papers from an influential
prophetess of the local crocodile god, as well as a family priest's
writings that trace that a family's history over eight generations."
Comments by the staff of the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri:

“Aqueducts, Darius’ Gift to Egyptians”§ion=2
“Following the arrival of Darius the Great the Achaemenid king, in Egypt,
Egyptians who were proud of the water of the Nile River and their country
springs, imitated the technique used by Iranian aqueduct diggers to provide
water for their dry lands. Historian Parviz Shahryari believes that aqueduct
diggers went to Egypt with Darius to teach the Egyptians the method of
digging aqueducts. According to Shahryari, it was Walter Hinz, the German
archeologist and Iranologist, who found out this issue for the first time.”
[Is this idea correct? Darius is of course known for his involvement in the
Nile-Red Sea canal, but..? ]

“The basement of the Egyptian Museum will be opened to visitors”
“Zahi Hawass (..) declared that a contract has been signed with a
state-owned company to insure and reorganize the Egyptian Museum’s
basement before making it accessible to visitors. The decision comes
after several items from the basement storage area have been “lost”
or stolen in the past year, to the embarrassment of those responsible.”

Dr Zahi Hawass's "Dig days" column:
"Adventures in the Step Pyramid"
About a year ago I had another great adventure inside the Step Pyramid.
(..) With difficulty I was able to see two beautiful alabaster sarcophagi
made for the burial of Djoser's daughters. The two sarcophagi were
masterpieces, and it is hard to explain their incredible beauty. We
know that the Step Pyramid is the only Old Kingdom Pyramid where
the queens were buried within the king's pyramid. "

Press report: "New law on the way. Can the new antiquities
law [in Egypt] put an end to the antiquities trafficking business?" [Eds. We doubt it.]

Online article: "Cardiology in Ancient Egypt" by Eugene V. Boisaubin,
MD, in: Texas Heart Institute Journal 1988, 15(2): 80-85. In PDF
(1,7 MB) or as seperately scanned pages.

Online article: "Egyptian contributions to cardiovascular medicine"
by J. T. Willerson and R. Teaff, in: Texas Heart Institute Journal 1996,
23(3): 191-200. In PDF (1,9 MB) or as seperately scanned pages.

Online article: A. T. Sandison, "Degenerative Vascular Disease in
the Egyptian Mummy", in: Medical History 1962 January, 6(1): 77-81.
In PDF (1,7 MB) or as seperately scanned pages.

The New York Public Library's Digital Gallery:
Pick "History&Geography", and then search for, e.g.,
"Ancient Egypt", and you will get many lithographs
and old photographs of temples etc.

End of EEF news

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Applied archaeology Cultural testing gives all-clear to car race

An archaeologist's report has given the go-ahead for a car race around Lake Buloke in south-west Victoria.

The Buloke Shire spent $2,000 testing the cultural value of Aboriginal sites around the lake, ahead of the first planned off-road race next month.

Mayor Reid Mather says some modifications will be made to the circuit to avoid sensitive sites.

"There are some areas that are culturally sensitive around Lake Buloke, but if it's a problem we just don't race in that area, we go round that area and that what it's highlighting [is] that we're not going to hurt those areas of cultural significance," he said.

That's the whole thing.
The Archaeology Travel Channel A trip archaeologists, golfers, whiskey fans can agree on

A famous signpost at the Scottish village of John O’Groats marks it as the farthest tip of mainland Britain – 874 miles from Lands End in Cornwall, the country’s most southerly settlement.
But getting here is just the beginning of a journey that takes visitors more than 5,000 years back in time.

The Orkney Islands are at once remote and mysterious, yet sophisticated – transformed by the economic boom following the discovery of oil in the North Sea. Yet the islands also have archaeological wonders around every corner, along with spectacular scenery, wildlife and some incredible modern history.

We rather like that particular trifecta. The Orkneys contain quite a few interesting archaeologucal sites, some of which are described in the article. Less famous than Stonehenge, the stone circles there have still been the subject of some study.

More from Scotland Discovery in Shetlands dates 2,000 years old

ARCHAEOLOGISTS on a remote Scottish island have uncovered a burial site and building believed to be more than 2,000 years old, it was revealed today.

The site at Sand Wick on Unst, Shetland's most northern isle, has suffered from severe erosion. The team of archaeologists say their discovery is quite significant.

A skeleton was found lying on its back with a polished stone disc found inside its mouth. Near the arm was a tiny ornament formed of rings of copper alloy and bone which the team believes was some kind of pendant.

Uhhhhhhh. . . . Mole's grave found at last

ARCHAEOLOGISTS yesterday uncovered the lost grave of philanthropist Joseph Williamson for just a few hours, before burying the tomb once more.

Local historians from the Friends of the Williamson Tunnels have been searching for the exact location of the grave for the past 10 years and said the find came at the 11th hour.

It was the third time archaeologists had searched for the grave of the "Mole of Edge Hill" who created a labyrinth of tunnels under Liverpool in the 1800s.

Apparently not the small furry type.

Experts excavate oldest worked metal in Europe

Archaeologists found the oldest worked metal in Europe while excavating an early Neolithic village near the village of Dzhulyunitza in central Bulgaria, state TV reported Sunday.

The 3 metal finds are 8,000 years old. The experts found signs of cold treatment during which the metal pieces were transformed into beads. The extraordinary find gives a new direction in the research of the prehistoric people who lived on Bulgarian territory. Only the worked metal pieces found in Anatolia, which is the Asian part of Turkey, is older (11,000 years) than the find in Dzhulyunitza.

Not much in that article, but we'll probably hear more of it.

More on the Dwarf of Kerman Sensations Rise around 25-centimeter Dwarf of Kerman

The 25-centimeter dwarf near Shahdad city of Kerman province and the rumors of the existence of an ancient dwarf city in Kerman province has brought a lot of questions to archaeologists and caused great sensations among the public.

Kerman’s Police Department and the provincial office of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) have asked for the clarification of the situation of the discovered mummified corpse in Shahdad to settle the issue as soon as possible.

Two months ago, illegal excavations in the historical fortress of Gudiz in Kerman province near Shahdad city, which dates back to the Sassanid era, led to the discovery of a 25-centimeter corpse known as the “mummified dwarf” facing archaeologists with a mystery since then.

With a picture!
Dang, can't seem to link to it. Hard to tell. It doesn't look obviously fake, but just looking at the skull structure in that picture it doesn't look 16-17 years old either.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Early Humans Settled Globe Gradually, Gene Study Says

If all modern humans originated in Africa and only later migrated around the globe, as theory holds, the paths of our ancestors' wanderings may still be visible in our genes.

A new genetic study supports just such a scenario and suggests that early Africans colonized the planet gradually through a series of small migratory steps.

Results of the worldwide genetic sampling project show a strong correlation between genetic diversity and geographic distance. The closer modern people live to one another, as measured along the ancient migration routes that led humans out of Africa, the more similar is their DNA.
Oh my! Research reveals the secrets of lions locked up in the Tower of London

Scientists from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and the Natural History Museum (NHM) have dated lion skulls discovered at the Tower of London back to the 13th century. As well as giving insights on the lives of England’s early monarchs, the research may also provide useful guidance for the modern conservation of zoo animals.

LJMU’s Dr Hannah O’Regan, who led the research, said: “These lions were potent symbols of monarchy at the time of the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses. Our research provides important information on some of the earliest lions seen in Northern Europe since they became extinct at the end of the last Ice Age. It also sheds some light on the conditions and health of animals in one of the world’s longest running menageries.”

The lions are thought to have been housed in the Tower’s Royal Menagerie. Established by King John (1199-1216), the Menagerie is known to have held lions, bears and other exotic species. It was finally closed in 1835, on the orders of the Duke of Wellington, and the remaining animals were moved to the Zoological Society’s Gardens in Regent’s Park, now better known as London Zoo.
Stone Age Cemetery, Artifacts Unearthed in Sahara

Archaeologists have excavated a trove of Stone Age human skeletons and artifacts on the shores of an ancient lake in the Sahara.

The seven nearby sites include an extensive cemetery and represent one of the largest and best preserved concentrations of ancient skeletons and artifacts ever found in the region, researchers say.

Harpoons, fishhooks, pottery, jewelry, stone tools, and other artifacts pepper the ancient lakeside settlement. The objects were left by early communities that once thrived on the former lake's abundant fish and shellfish.

Sounds like a great site. Apparently Neolithic, but the text is confusing as to whether these wree true Neolithic people. The date(s) been put at between 10-5k BP, which would work for Neolithic, and there is pottery and grinding stones. But, we all know how tricky basing entire subsistence practices on a few artifact types can be. Mention is made of domesticated animals but it's not clear whether these were associated with these remains or not. EIther way, it seems to be fairly extensive at least seasonal occupations. It seems similar to habitations found by Wendorf et al. around some of the now-dessicated playa lakes in the western deserts of Egypt and elsewhere: basically semi-sedentary herders who utilized permanent or semi-permanent lacustrine resources as part of their seasonal round. Interesting that there are so many burials at this one spot though. Probably a site to keep watching.
Iceman II World War II Airman Found Frozen in Glacier

It was a plane crash back in 1942 that wasn't discovered until 1947. Now, hikers made a frozen discovery in connection with a World War II plane crash.

Hikers found the frozen body of an airman while scaling Mount Mendel Glacier in the Sequoia National Park. Now, the military is working to find out who this airman is and whether he was ever reported missing.

It's believed the airman has been frozen in the glacier for decades until a pair of climbers got much more than ever imagined on a hike.

Not strictly archaeology since it's so recent, but it's an interesting story and ought to provide some data on how bodies react to being moved around inside a glacier for this period of time.
Golden land for finding Roman treasure

MORE Roman gold is found in Britain than anywhere else - and now a Welsh academic has come up with an intriguing theory explaining why.

Thousands of gold and silver artifacts from the Roman period, especially when the conquerors finally left these islands in the 4th and 5th centuries.

Dr Peter Guest, of Cardiff University's School of History and Archaeology, is the leading expert on the biggest ever Roman gold treasure discovered in Britain. In 1992, 15,000 gold and silver coins were found at Hoxne in Suffolk in 1992.

What he's proposing is that round about AD 400 the Romans left Britain and the inhabitants basically buried all their valuable stuff to keep it from falling into the hands of German invaders. Seems plausible, but this is out of our league so we don't really know how accurate the dating, quantities, etc. is.
DNAPrint genomics' Trace Genetics Laboratory Completes Analysis of 800-Year-Old DNA Samples From Mink Island for National Park Service

DNAPrint genomics, Inc. (OTC BB: DNAG) today announced that senior scientists from its Trace Genetics laboratory in Richmond, Calif., have completed analysis and reports on 800-year-old American Indian tooth samples from Mink Island, Alaska, for the National Park Service.

"Two of the samples had an identical DNA sequence, which suggests that the individuals could be siblings," said Dr. Ripan Malhi, Senior Research Director of Trace Genetics. "This is a sequence commonly found in many individuals from the Arctic and Subarctic, including the Chukchi, Siberian Inuits, Aleuts and Athapaskan groups."

Dr. Malhi noted that the sequence is also found in individuals of Apache and Nahua ancestry, suggesting that this lineage may have once been widely geographically dispersed throughout North America but is now restricted to the Arctic/Subarctic and Southwest/Mesoamerica, possibly as a result of European contact.

It's a press release, not a news story, but it seems interesting.
Mummy update

1,300-year-old mummy found

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of the oldest mummy found in Lima, Peru. They were discovered wrapped in an elaborately decorated rug or garment.

The remains are thought to belong to a high-ranking official of the Huari tribe who lived about 1,300 years ago. The headless mummy was found last month in the Huaca Pucllana ceremonial complex in Lima after protracted studies and exploration at the site.

That's the whole thing.

Update: Much more here.
Sweeney Center Digs - Experts: Remains may not be Tesuque's

Two state archaeologists say pottery found in a dig between Santa Fe City Hall and Sweeney Convention Center indicates the people who lived there moved to southern pueblos -- not north to Tesuque.

Tesuque Pueblo has asked the city to avoid excavating the area it believes to be its ancestral burial ground. The city wants to raze Sweeney to build a new civic center and underground garage in its place.
Slavery archaeology update Grave excavations continue at Kentland Farm

Virginia Tech is opening the historic Kentland property to the public this weekend, even offering visitors a chance to watch as archaeologists locate additional grave sites of slaves who once worked the property.

Saturday's "Community Heritage Day" will focus on the storied past of the land now known as Virginia Tech's Kentland Farm, as well as the history of surrounding communities.

American Indians inhabited, or at least used, Kentland for thousands of years before the first settlers arrived in the 1700s.
Chinese tomb treasure update Tomb scan reveals buried treasure

A magnetic scan of the unopened tomb of China's first emperor has detected a large number of coins, suggesting Emperor Qin was buried with his state treasury, a news report said Thursday.

Qin, who ruled in 221-210 B.C., already is renowned for the thousands of terra cotta statues of soldiers found buried around his immense tomb outside the former imperial capital of Xi'an.

The latest finding was announced by Chinese and German archaeologists at a conference Wednesday in Xi'an, where the tomb was discovered in the 1970s, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Remote sensing update CAMEL allows archaeologists to survey ancient cities without digging in the dirt, disturbing sites

CAMEL (the Center for Ancient Middle Eastern Landscapes) is at the leading edge of archaeology because of what it does not do and what it can do. First, it does not actually excavate. For a science based on the destructive removal of buried artifacts and an examination of them for meaning, CAMEL works in quite the opposite way: it aims to survey ancient sites and disturb them as little as possible.

What CAMEL can do however, is remarkable. It organizes maps, aerial photography, satellite images and other data into one place, allowing archaeologists to see how ancient trade routes developed and to prepare simulations of how people may have interacted, given the limitations of their space, the availability of resources and the organization of their cities.

Not much in the article about how exactly different sorts of data are merged together, it's mostly about aerial photography and some other non-destructive work they've done.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Blog roundup

John Hawks has comments on the most recent spate of papers regarding Homo hobbitus. Upshot: We don't know what the damn things are yet.

Andie over at Egyptology News has a link to some online manuscripts the Oriental Institute is beginning to provide online. Again, this is especially gratifying for much of the older work that is waaaay out of print and only carried by university libraries and such.
Ancient Roman town uncovered

The once bustling Roman town of Claterna is slowly re-emerging from the soil 15 centuries after it was abandoned and then vanished beneath farmland .

As a result of haphazard excavations in the past, the remains of a few patrician homes have been uncovered at the site near Bologna, along with mosaics and some pottery shards .

But a methodical, long-term research project is now getting under way for the first time ever, with funding from regional and provincial authorities, which have acquired the site .
Prehistoric ruins find near city

The knee-high ruins are “a late prehistoric homestead, probably dating from the Bronze or Iron Age,” explained Galway County Council Project Archaeologist, Mr Jerry O’Sullivan. “There is a round house built in stone, around eight metres wide, and a big enclosure wall, about the size of a tennis court,” he said.

A carved bracelet was also found at the site. “It is a very nice bracelet or amulet, carved from jet or lignite stone, very typical of the period,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

The ruins are located at Coolough, about one kilometre from the Galway Clinic and close to many of the city’s business parks and industrial estates, where archaeological digs are being carried out on behalf of the National Roads Authority, prior to the N6 dual carriageway being built.
Squatters, scribble threaten Peru's Nazca lines

A tiny, hand-painted sign mounted on a flimsy barbed wire fence warns visitors to Peru's Nazca lines: "No entry. Area off-limits."

It's not much of a deterrent.

The latest threat to the vast U.N. World Heritage site where the enigmatic shapes and lines, stylized figures of birds and animals were etched in the desert some 2,000 years ago, is a camp of around 30 shacks that appeared in August.
Always check your holdings 5,000-year-old treasure rediscovered in library storage room

Valdosta State University Odum Library has uncovered an ancient treasure that excites even the mildest Indiana Jones wanna-be.

The treasure is a collection of 5,000-year-old Babylonian cuneiform clay tablets, dating back from 2300 BC to 500 BC. Cuneiform is one of several writing systems of the ancient East, in which wedge-shaped impressions were made in soft clay tablets. These tablets, delicate in nature, literally fit in the palm of one’s hand, measuring only 1.5 inches squared.
Urban archaeology Under Downtown Prague

Every Czech school child knows the story. Prague was a crowded medieval city bursting at the seams when, in 1348, its problem was solved at a stroke by the brilliance of Charles IV. The greatest of Czech kings ordained that a massive swathe of farmland around the walled city should become a new urban space called Nove Mesto, or New Town. The Prague we know today is said to be largely a product of Charles IV's effort at urban planning.

But fascinating new finds from a rescue dig on the three-and-a-half acre site of a new shopping and office complex in downtown Prague are offering a different take on this historical chestnut. Evidence is emerging that proves Prague had a thriving--and wealthy--suburb beyond its early limits 150 years before Charles took on the mantle of master developer.
From the EEF lists:

A question was asked on medical papyri and Aayko provided this link to several translations and other data: Healing in Ancient Egypt from Digital Egypt out of University College London. Several links from pathology to texts.

In addition, Francesco Raffaele sends this link:
A summary of the recent international Conference on the Origin of
the State in Egypt (Toulouse, 5-8 Sept 2005) is available here:
More Chinese treasure Qinshihuang Mausoleum contains "state treasury", archaeologist

Chinese and German archaeologists said here Wednesday they have detected a lot of coins under the Qinshihuang Mausoleum in their latest magnetic prospecting operation in northwest China.

The location might be the "state treasury" in the underground palace of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), said Michael Petzet, president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

Petzet declared the finding Wednesday evening at the 15th ICOMOS General Assembly, which started on Monday and will end on Friday in Xi'an, which served as national capital of several dynasties in Chinese history.
Tomb Raider says. . .


Chinese archaeologists have discovered a series of complex tombs in eastern China and unearthed a haul of bronze mirrors, porcelains and ancient money, Associated Press reports. The tombs near the port city of Ningbo were uncovered by a forklift operator working at a construction site.
Lost Colony update Archaeologists finish dig, don't find Lost Colony

Archaeologists finished their underwater dig last week without finding out what happened to the Lost Colony, which was this country's first permanent English colony.

"We didn't find anything we were looking for," said Gordon Watts, a board member of the First Colony Foundation, a group of historians hoping to locate the site of the Lost Colony at Roanoke Island.

But the result didn't surprise Watts, an underwater archaeologist from Washington, N.C..

"There was no serious evidence we'd find something that's been lost 400 years in the first two weeks," he said.

Blogged this a couple weeks ago.
Mystery! Mysterious grave found in Gohar Tepe, Iran

Discovery of a 3000-year-old skeleton with a bronze strap and a semicircle bronze horseshoe from under its head has raised a lot of questions for archaeologists about such an unknown burial method, CHN said.

Recent excavations in the historical site of Gohar Tepe led to the discovery of a burial form different from the previous discovered ones. Archaeologists believe that the articles inside this grave are indication of changes and new eras in the life of the people of Gohar Tepe 3000 years ago.

?The latest excavations in the historical site of Gohar Tepe led to the discovery of a skeleton with a bronze strap underneath its head and a semicircle bronze horseshoe form which were never found previously in the other graves of the historical site,? says Ali Mahforouzi, head of the excavation team of Gohar Tepe of Mazandaran.
Chinese Archaeologists Find 1,700-Year-Old Tomb

China says archaeologists have unearthed a 1,700-year-old complex of tombs in eastern China's Zheijiang Province.

China's official Xinhua news agency says the tombs were first discovered by a forklift operator at a construction site near the port city of Ningbo.

The report says inscriptions in the tombs indicate they were built in 256-AD, and are the best-preserved ancient tombs ever discovered in the region.

Xinhua says there are figures of fish, beasts, dragons and phoenixes are etched in the walls. Other objects discovered at the site include porcelain vessels, copper money and bronze mirrors.

That's the whole thing.
Delving deep into Louisa past: Archaeologist digs into county’s history to unearth tales rich in history

Louisa County was home to at least two totally different cultures long before European exploration, according to former state archaeologist Bill Green.

He presented on Sunday “Decades of Digging and Discovery,” to 28 area residents, many of whom had participated as amateurs in local archaeological work in and around Louisa County. The program was part of Archaeology Week events in the county.

According to Green, the Louisa County area is rich in archaeological sites because of its position as a junction of the Iowa and Mississippi Rivers n which would have served as major highways for prehistoric peoples who traveled on rafts and canoes.
Get 'em young Digging deep

It's not exactly the stuff of an Indiana Jones movie, but an archaeological dig here is capturing intrigue.

Sixth- and seventh-graders from the University of Wyoming Lab School, a public middle school in the Albany County School District, are excavating what they believe to be an old kitchen at the Wyoming Territorial Prison.

On Thursday, students hauled out their trowels, buckets and clipboards to gently scrape layers of dirt from what might have been foundation walls of the defunct building, professionally documenting their discoveries as they went.

Monday, October 17, 2005

All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education,
wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public
health. . .

THE dawn of Scottish history began with a battle on an Aberdeenshire hill in 84AD. On one side of the field were the vast legions of the mighty Roman Empire. On the other, a 30,000-strong confederate army of Caledonians – our Scottish ancestors. This encounter, which became known as Mons Graupius, was a key moment for the Romans in their almighty struggle to conquer the whole of Britain. For the Scots, it was a battle for survival against a brutal occupation.

“Robbery, butchery, rape: the liars call it Empire,” roared Calgacus, leader of the Caledonians, at the men gathered before him. “They create a desolation and call it peace. Whether you are to endure slavery forever or take summary vengeance, this field must decide.”
Rare historic coins discovered in Egyptian mountain

The Polish archeological mission has discovered a number of rare historic coins in Al-Fayom's Al-Naqloun mountain, said Saturday Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

In a press release, SCA's Secretary-General Dr. Zahi Hawass said the top-quality coins were 13 gold dinars from the Fatimid dynasty's era that ruled Egypt during 909-1171.

He explained that the coins' diameter ranges between 21 to 23 millimeters (mm) containing three circles with inscriptions, such as "There is no god but Allah," on them.

He added that these coins represent part of Egypt's civilization and prosperity during the reign of Fatimids.

That's the whole thing.
Experts unearth an Iona of the east

WHEN St Columba landed in Scotland in the Dark Ages, he set about creating a centre of learning that would illuminate the Christian world.
His monastery on Iona, founded in 563AD, became a place of pilgrimage for saints and kings. It is believed to have produced the Book of Kells, one of the world's most famous religious manuscipts.
However, archaeologists have discovered the site of a second monastery in Scotland which they believe was also founded by St Columba at about the same time.
Happy Birthday, IMDb!

IMDb is probably the best example of the power of relational databases and the self-publishing nature of the Internet. There is probably no commercial entity that would have taken on such a project -- creating a searchable database of virtually every movie and television program ever made, cross-listed by actor, show, etc. -- nor any sort of public entity. No one would have seen any money in it. But it's a truly invaluable resource for nearly any bit of information regarding who played what character in what movie and what else they've been in.

About the only good correlation we can think of for an archaeological application would be a complete searchable bibliography with keywords, authors, etc. Something like EndNote with hyperlinks.

If any wealthy archaeological enthusiasts out there want to pay us to develop such a thing, we're game.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Amateur archaeology update What I Dug Up During My Summer Vacation

MOST of the year, Jim Jansson is a financial consultant outside Denver. On vacation, he is someone else.

"I'm no longer Jim Jansson, investment adviser," he said. "I'm Jim Jansson, archaeologist." Like many other archaeology hobbyists, he spends his vacation time on excavations, digging up ancient objects that usually are seen under lock and key. Hundreds of excavations take place every year around the world, and many are open to students, retirees and others who aren't professional archaeologists. The cost of participation ranges from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand, and lodging can be in hotel rooms - sometimes dormitory-style - or in tents or cabins.

Good article.
Iceman update Iceman Ötzi Court Fight Heats Up

The discovery of Ötzi the Iceman is being marked by a court fight among a group of four people, one of them deceased, who all lay claim to the reward for finding the world's oldest and best-preserved mummy.

According to the sensational court case under way in Bolzano, Italy, German hiker Helmut Simon, his wife Erika, a Swiss woman and a Slovenian actress say they found Ötzi on Sept. 19, 1991, in a melting glacier in the Ötztal Alps.

Ötzi is now resting in a refrigerated room at the South Tyrol Archaeological Museum in Bolzano, which attracts around 300,000 visitors a year.

How bizarre is this. First we'd heard about this, too. First there was the court fight over which country ought to have him and now it's about who discovered him. Sometimes maybe we think the idea of burying ourselves in permafrost isn't such a good idea after all.

On the other hand, it's kind of fun to think of all the trouble we'd cause long after our death. . . .
Footsteps from the past: the ancient village of Skara Brae

SCOTLAND'S towns and settlements are proud of their roots, but few can boast the antiquity of Skara Brae on the Orkney Islands.

Originally built around 3100BC to house a small group of Neolithic farming families, the abandoned houses with their stone dressers, beds and hearths provide a remarkable glimpse of a lifestyle that has long disappeared.

Of course the village developed slowly, as any village today, but Skara Brae is notable for the quality of its remains. The historic site still provides a powerful message, even for the 21st century visitor used to home comforts which the early Orcadians never knew.

Not a bad article.
Ancient relic is 'once in a lifetime' finding

AN ANCIENT relic worth thousands of pounds was recently dug up on an Aughton farm – by a man who thought it was a milk bottle top.

Metal detecting enthusiast Tim Pearson, of Denaby, found the gold Saxon aestel, which has the appearance of a four inch bottle, back in January this year and had no idea what it was.
"I've been going to that farm for six years and the only things I'd ever found was a Roman coin," he said. "I was off work at the time because I'd smashed my fingers. It was boring being at home so I decided to do some metal detecting. I was all ready for packing up when I heard the machine beeping."
Abu Dhabi archaeology group bid to stop bulldozing the past

Elephant skulls and six million year-old fossils are not usually the sort of bounty that surveyors in the Gulf are on the lookout for —normally it’s oil.

But not the people at the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS). They are charged with surveying undeveloped land in the emirate to see if there is anything of archaeological significance that needs excavating before construction work begins.

And their findings and subsequent recommendations are held in such high regard that developers in the emirate have been known to amend their construction plans accordingly.

Sounds very positive, but no indication whether the operation is really what it's held out to be in the article or not. It may be possible though, since money might not be that much of an issue in such oil-rich countries. The lower your margins the less willing you're going to be to spend time and money on archaeology.
Artifacts discovered in survey

An archaeologist hired by developer Newhall Land to survey the Riverpark site has found artifacts left by American Indians who once lived in what is now the center of town.

Grinding stones and arrowhead fragments that likely were used by members of the Tatavium tribe hundreds of years ago were found adjacent to where the extension of Newhall Ranch Road will be built, said Carol Maglione, assistant vice president for community programs for The Newhall Land and Farming Company.

"We had anticipated this was an area that had potential for (artifacts) before the (environmental report) was released to the public, before the public hearings," said Glen Adamick, vice president of forward planning and entitlements for the developer.
Archaeologists plan to return to scour Roanoke Sound

Muck on the floor of Roanoke Sound could harbor long-sought evidence of the Lost Colony and other 16th-century English activity, as an archaeology team worked to uncover the secrets time has swept aside.

With advanced, more sensitive technology available to look under the water, Gordon Watts, director of the Washington, N.C.-based Institute for International Maritime Research, said he had hoped by week’s end to explore at least 10 percent of the 230 targeted anomalies hidden in the sound off the north end of the island.

But Watts said “wretched weather” has made the mission slower than he had expected.

More from National Geographic here.
Archaeology and international politics! Iraqi archaeologists criticize proposed charter

Iraqi archaeologists have protested against the proposed constitution only a few hours before it is put to vote.

The archaeologists say the constitution ignores the country’s ancient history as it leaves the handling of antiquities in the hands of regional administrations rather than the central government.

They say they fear the country’s ancient heritage, one of the most priceless in the world, will be a victim of political squabbling.

Doubtful anyone paid much attention to it, but it's not something we have a reasoned opinion on.
Archaeologists dig the dirt on rare medieval farm find

THE REMAINS of a medieval farm settlement have been uncovered in the walled garden of a city hotel.

A team of archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 12th-century building, a garden wall and fragments of pottery from the same era in the grounds of the Norton House Hotel, near Ingliston.

They hope the find will shed new light on early farming in Scotland. The find comes after archaeologists were called in as a condition of the hotel's planning permission for an £8.5 million extension. It is not thought the discovery will delay building work due to start in January.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

More Homo hobbitus stuff

The NY Times has an article on the recent discovery of a jawbone and note that the original researchers are going in a different direction with the ancestry question:

In an exchange of e-mail messages from Australia, Dr. Brown said, "The limb proportions, stature, brain size and skeletal robusticity of H. floresiensis replicated those in Australopithecus afarensis, not in any member of our genus Homo."

Dr. Brown said he was preparing to publish results of research that could explain what, if any, connection the little people had to Lucy.

The other researchers seem to be concentrating less on the microcephaly hypothesis and more on island dwarfing.

John Hawks has more commentary here on the Australopithecine idea, and another link to a story from ABC Australia on research supposedly showing that the LB1 skull is closer to a microcephalic than than an early human. So, stay tuned.
Well, they had Prince Edward in a can. . . . Finding a Lost Emperor in a Clay Pot

Forget stone, a discovery of a Roman coin in Britain proves history is set in bronze and silver.

During the chaos and confusion of the third century A.D., amid widespread disease, famine, and barbarian invasions, a brazen upstart seizes control of a breakaway state within the Roman Empire. He proclaims himself emperor only to disappear days later, his life and story lost, save for only the briefest of remarks in two fragmentary and unreliable sources. Then, an amateur treasure hunter scanning the green fields of Oxfordshire with a metal detector chances upon a small clay pot filled with more than 5,000 ancient Roman coins. A British Museum archaeologist brushing away centuries of corrosion and carefully picking apart bronze and silver pieces, discovers one exceedingly strange coin. Among the thousands of unremarkable ones, this coin carries an unfamiliar bearded face, a perplexing name, Domitianus, and most strikingly, the three letters IMP, short for imperator, or emperor
Oops Dig will survey Fort Clatsop's site for relics

Federal officials said Wednesday the burned-out Fort Clatsop would not be rebuilt in time for the November start of Lewis and Clark Bicentennial celebrations while researchers excavate the site and design a more authentic replica of the fort.

They did limit the time allowed for research and said construction might begin Dec. 10 -- 200 years to the day that Lewis and Clark began constructing their winter quarters.

They also announced the fort site will reopen to visitors today, just as a National Park Service team finished its investigation into the Oct. 3 blaze that destroyed the 50-year-old log structure. Findings by the park service and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were not available, though as of last week they had found no evidence of arson.

Kind of a bummer of a story. The replica fort burned down recently just a few months short of the 200th anniversary of L&C's arrival at Clatsop.
Radiocarbon dates reveal that New Guinea art is older than thought

When the de Young Museum reopens in a new, earthquake-resistant building in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park next Saturday, Oct. 15, it will debut what curators consider the largest and most important private collection of New Guinea art in the world.

Gregory W. L. Hodgins and A. J. Timothy Jull of The University of Arizona will attend the gala event. The scientists have radiocarbon dated some of the collection that New York-based entrepreneur John Friede and his wife, Marcia, are giving to the de Young Museum as the Jolika Collection.

. . .

Results of this first large-scale dating project on New Guinean art and artifacts are preliminary, Hodgins and Jull say. But their findings so far have stunned museum curators and anthropologists. Their findings challenge previous assumptions that such objects are inherently ephemeral, perhaps surviving only a few generations.
Archaeology Magazine has an interview with Douglas Scott on battlefield archaeology
Lost city raman. . .found Chinese scientists uncover 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles

It was a long time to wait for a portion of noodles. Scientists have uncovered the world's oldest known noodles, dating back 4,000 years, at an archaeological site, Lajia, along the upper reaches of the Yellow river in north-west China. They were preserved in an upturned bowl among the debris of a gigantic earthquake. Until now, the earliest evidence for noodles has been a Chinese written description of noodle preparation dating back 1,900 years.

he Lajia settlement is thought to have been destroyed by earthquake and catastrophic floods. Houyuan Lu and his team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing were excavating this scene of ancient destruction when they came across a well preserved earthenware bowl, embedded upside-down in a layer of clay. In the bowl they were amazed to see the remains of somebody's dinner.
Incas' secret world untangled

Hidden atop the Andes, the mysteries of the lost Inca Empire are yielding to today's technology.

"We're adding a symphony of instruments to our efforts, which lets us just see more than we ever imagined," says archaeologist Fred Limp of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Archaeological advances and ongoing work in the Andes demonstrate the growing role of high-tech tools, he says.

Along the way, archaeologists are gaining a new appreciation for the elaborate Stone Age skills that allowed the Inca and their predecessors to rule Andean South America. A young empire snuffed out by the Spanish conquest in 1532, the Inca left behind monumental buildings and enigmatic knotted strings, thought to represent numbers and an undeciphered writing.

It's about recent developments in deciphering Inca khipu and some work with laser ranging and CAD tools to recreate architecture and other things-Inca.
Another gruesome find Warriors Mutilated in Tool Talesh Battles

Discovery of armless and legless skeletons in the cemetery of Tool Talesh, in Gilan province, alongside battle instruments, has provided further proof of the hypothesis of a big battle taking place in the area.

Evidence indicates that the corpses were buried after their arms and legs were cut off some 3000 years ago.

Talesh historical site is one of the most important historical sites of Iran. Talesh cemetery is 350 hectares (same as Tehran’s current cemetery) and the different kinds of graves there, from the first millennium before the Christ to Parthian times, indicate the continual life in this region throughout ages.
Mummy news Mysteries of the mummies

Unlike vampires, werewolves, and other monsters that capture the imaginations of kids, mummies are real. They don't rise from their tombs and walk around, of course, but they have gone a long way into making archaeology interesting to those who don't otherwise identify themselves as science enthusiasts.

On Wednesday morning, teacher Monica Emanuelson's sixth-grade class at Hamden Hall received a wealth of information about science and archaeology from two guest speakers: Mummy researchers Ron Beckett and Jerry Conlogue.

That was kind of a goofy show if you've seen it (The Mummy Road Show), but they covered a lot of territory and showed a lot of different sorts of mummies from all over. And they used almost exclusively non-destructive techniques to study them.
Fabric traces spotted in Iran's Gohar Tepe

Iranian archaeologists have discovered traces of ancient fabrics in the ruins of a burnt structure in Gohar Tepe, 7000 year-old site in Mazandaran. This is the first time that any sign of fabric is found in the site, CHN said.

Considering the vulnerability of fabric and its fast decomposition in the nature, any discovery of such material can be seen as a great achievement.

?The traces of fabrics in the site,? said Kobra Aqayi, an archaeologist of the site, ?were found beside some spindles on plastered floor. Due to multiplicity of the discovered spindles, we believe that the structure was dedicated to weaving activities.

No indication why it was preserved except maybe by charring?
Camden tool could be 5,000 years old

The tool that Don Rainville dug up outside his 18th century cape is now estimated to be 5,000 years old, and the mystery as to how it got to be there has deepened.

Rainville and Michele Mannion had been hoping to plant a spruce tree on the north side of the house they are renovating on Camden Street when they discovered the tool that bears strong likeness to those used by the Red Paint, or Moorehouse, People (named after the archeologist who spent much of the early part of the last century studying this prehistoric population). They thought the tool could date back 4,000 years.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fieldwork opportunities?

This came via email today and we thought we'd pass it along:

Call for Listings: 2006 Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities

Dear Excavation Directors and Project Sponsors,

AFOB Online continues to be one of the largest online listings of
fieldwork opportunities in the world. We are now preparing the 2006
print edition of the Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin
- derived from the online listings. AFOB 2006 will continue to
feature sections on how to find and choose fieldwork, what to expect
on site, regional bibliographies, and more.

Don't miss this opportunity to include your fieldwork project online
and in print. We encourage you to submit your project to AFOB Online
at^P015. Projects must be submitted by November 11th to be included in the print edition.*
Please note that preliminary listings are welcome. When your
submission is approved and posted on AFOB Online, you will receive a
confirmation email with a password allowing you to return to update
your listing as details become finalized. Your project will be
flagged as preliminary in the print edition, with instructions to
check the online listing for updates.

Please forward this announcement to any other listservs, bulletin
boards, or online resources that might be interested in
participating. We are striving to cover as many projects across the
globe as possible.

Thanks very much for your support,

Archaeological Institute of America
Publications and New Media

Cave discovery dispels lynx myth

Bones found in caves in North Yorkshire have dispelled myths about the extinction of a British hunting cat.

The discovery in Moughton Fell Fissure Cave, near Settle, in the 19th Century led experts to believe the lynx became extinct in the UK 4,000 years ago.

But new carbon dating of other bones found at Kinsey Cave in the 1920s and 30s suggests the animals were still around in early medieval times.

The findings have been described as of "national significance" by researchers.
Egypt prepares new probe of mystery pyramid shafts

Egypt will send a robot up narrow shafts in the Great Pyramid to try to solve one of the mysteries of the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum, Egypt's top archaeologist said on Monday.

Zahi Hawass told Reuters he would this week inspect a robot designed to climb the two narrow shafts which might lead to an undiscovered burial chamber in the pyramid of Cheops at Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo.

Hawass said the shafts and stone panels which block them could mark the location of the burial chamber of Cheops, also known as Khufu. That would mean none of the chambers already discovered in the pyramid were the pharaoh's real tomb.

We predict they'll find precisely nothing of interest.
Lost city. . . .found Low tide reveals lost city find

Archaeologists believe that photographs taken along the Suffolk coast may prove that the ancient city of Dunwich may have been connected with shipbuilding.

Recent exceptionally low tides have revealed timbers and banks that experts say may be connected with shipbuilding at Dunwich nearly 500 years ago.

Photographs taken by members of the Suffolk Underwater Studies group show piles driven into the sea bed.
Homo hobbitus update Tiny chinless wonders threaten anthropology rift

In a hole in a ground there lived some hobbits -- lots of them.

A tiny hominid whose discovery in a cave on an Indonesian island unleashed one of the fiercest debates in anthropology has suddenly been joined by several other sets of dwarf-sized beings.

At least nine other wee individuals lived in the cave, where thousands of years ago they skilfully butchered meat and handled fire, according to new findings.

The initial find at Liang Bua cave, reported almost exactly a year ago, became known as the Hobbit Hominid, after the pint-sized characters of J.R.R. Tolkien's stories.

Not much of an "update" really, just a summary of the story thus far.
Yeah, we're pricey Experts warn of huge cost of excavating prison site

The site for the proposed new 'super-prison' in west Dublin is embroiled in fresh controversy today, with archaeologists reportedly warning that it will cost tens of millions of euro to excavate.

Reports this morning said the archaeologists were predicting that the site would cost millions more to excavate than the €30m the Government has paid for it.

The prediction is based on aerial photographs of the Thornton Hall site, which experts say is part of an archaeological landscape stretching back to prehistoric times.

The Government is already facing widespread criticism for paying €30m for the land when a nearby site of a similar size sold for just one fifth of that figure.

Apparently a rather large site which is why it would take a long time to fully excavate. "Fully" being the operative word. That's the whole thing.
An old mystery, revisited Archaeology: Peking Man, still missing and missed

On a sunny morning last month, the normally tranquil Paleoanthropological Research Center at Dragon Bone Hill in the outskirts of Beijing was abuzz with journalists. They were gathered outdoors before a festive red and gold banner that announced the purpose of the gathering: the official establishment of the Working Committee to Search for the Lost Skullcaps of Peking Man.

Beneath the banner were poster-size photos of six skullcaps of the 500,000- year-old human ancestor known as Sinanthropus pekinensis, or Peking Man, now called Homo erectus pekinensis. The bones were discovered at Dragon Bone Hill in the Fangshan District in the 1920s and 1930s but were inexplicably lost in 1941 while being transported to the United States for safekeeping during the Japanese occupation of China.

Not a great deal of detail on the bones themselves but it's still one of the most fascinating stories of anthropology.
Greek archaeologists unravel 1,400-year-old grave tragedy

Deep under a quiet valley in southern Greece, archaeologists are struggling to unravel a 1,400-year-old tragedy that wiped out a rural Byzantine community.

Sometime in the late 6th century, a group of at least 33 young men, women, and children sought sanctuary from an unknown terror in a sprawling subterranean network of caves in the eastern Peloponnese.

Carrying supplies of food and water, oil-lamps, a large Christian cross and their small savings, the refugees apparently hunkered down to wait out the threat. But experts believe the sanctuary became a tomb once supplies ran out.

"In the end, they knew there was no hope of escape and just lay down to die in the pitch black," archaeologist Dimitris Hatzilazarou told The Associated Press.

Well, isn't that all cheery.
Underwater archaeology update PSU professor worked on Greek archaeology project

Last July, Plymouth State Professor Emeritus and marine archaeologist David Switzer traveled to Greece to serve as a member/observer of The Chios 2005 Expedition Team. At the invitation of the Ephorate (directorate) of Underwater Antiquities, a department of the Greek Ministry of Culture, a team of computer experts, archaeologists and technical support staff from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) and MIT partnered with the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) to document ancient shipwreck sites using an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). The project leader, Dr. Brendan Foley of WHOI, was the lead American archaeologist. A UNH graduate with an advance degree from MIT, Foley has been a PSU nautical archaeology field school student under Switzer's direction, and they have worked together on underwater surveys in New Hampshire.
Iran's ancient horses had their own cemetery

Discovery of the 3,000-year-old cemetery of horses came as a surprise for the Gilan Talesh Tool excavators. It was the first time ever that in a historical cemetery a section has specific to burying of horses has been found, said CHN.

Horses are one of the animals that have accompanied human beings from the ancient times. This animal has been in the service of human beings in different aspects of daily life, wars, and work, always a big help for human beings. Therefore, its death was as mournful as the death of a close relative.
Archaeology group digs into history at Beaufort site

An eye, an ear, two teeth, some arms and a leg -- almost enough parts to build a 200-year-old doll -- were just some of the relics found Sunday at Historic Beaufort Foundation's North Street archaeological dig.

With the help of Charles Haecker -- an archaeologist with the National Parks Service and a direct descendant of the lot's antebellum owner -- the group excavated the back lot of 807 North St. in a historically middle-class neighborhood.

Patrick McGrath, a carpenter, purchased two North Street lots in 1841 and built the house at the front of the lot.
Wrong profession again, but cool Archaeologists unearth ancient pregnant rhino

Archaeologists in eastern China have excavated a fossilised pregnant hornless rhinoceros thought to have lived 18 million years ago, state media reported Monday.

The fossil was dug up during a recent excavation at the Shanwang Ruins of Ancient Extinct Life near Linqu County in the central province of Shandong, the China Daily said.

The rhino, 2.7m long and 1.7m high, was well-preserved. The foetus, inside its mother's uterus, had an almost fully developed skeleton and teeth.

Paleontologists. P-a-l-e-o-n-t-o-l-o-g-i-s-t-s.
Breaking news Jawbone of Hobbit-like species uncovered

Scientists digging in a remote Indonesian cave have uncovered a jaw bone that they say adds more evidence that a tiny prehistoric Hobbit-like species once existed.

The jaw is from the ninth individual believed to have lived as recently as 12,000 years ago. The bones are in a wet cave on the on the island of Flores in the eastern limb of the Indonesian archipelago, near Australia.

The research team which reported the original, sensational finding nearly a year ago strongly believes that the skeletons belong to a separate species of early human that shared Earth with modern humans far more recently than anyone thought.

Apparently not all that interesting as far as the critics go. We'll have to see if this is from an entirely different area or not.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Amateur strikes again! Walker discovers 5,000-year-old log path on moor

FOR 5,000 years one of the world's oldest ever footpaths has remained a hidden secret, locked deep beneath the earth in South Yorkshire.
That was until walker Mick Oliver quite literally stumbled across it while one day traipsing across Hatfield Moor, near Doncaster, shortly after it was re-opened to walkers in October last year.
"I looked down and I could see a straight line. I thought, that's unusual, maybe it's a bog oak – a fossilised tree – so I'll go and have a look," said the retired town and country planning officer.
"But when I got there I could see seven parallel poles of pine lined up on the floor. This was most unusual. I knew what I was looking at was old.

Good show.
The other Egypt

As we know, the inhabited portion of Egypt, which consists primarily of the Nile Valley and the Delta, makes up only about 10 per cent of the country. The vast deserts that comprise part of the great Sea of Sand to the west and that extend eastward to the Red Sea, and most of the Sinai, form the rest. This "other Egypt" is largely unfamiliar to us and only forces itself upon our consciousness on far and few occasions, such as when its depths are probed by explorers, or when it becomes a theatre of war, as occurred in the Western Desert in World War II and in the Sinai in the Arab-Israeli wars, or when it serves as a staging point for terrorist activities, as has tragically been the case recently.

One of the rare occasions when the attention of Egyptian public opinion was turned to the "unknown" part of Egypt occurred in 1937. The cause was what the press labeled "The Ameriya antiquities case" which surfaced in June that year and continued until a ruling was pronounced on 24 May of the following year.

Good article. The Sinai has seen some recent work, much of it related to CRM work before work begins on a canal being built. There is no doubt much there besides the later Greco-Roman stuff.

Also, this report from Al-Ahram on the meeting of the International Council of Museums.
Knappy time! Knappers use Stone Age techniques to carve tools

Seated on a low bench, Jim Spears used a piece of deer horn to whittle down a heavy chunk of Missouri flint. For an hour, he tapped, whacked and smoothed the hard rock until it was transformed into a delicate and potentially deadly artifact: a replica of an Indian arrowhead known as a Dalton point.

"Every stone is different and every stone is a challenge," said Mr. Spears, as he chiseled away and the arrowhead grew thinner and sharper. "It helps me get into the minds of ancient people."

At 62 years old, Mr. Spears is one of the country's finest flint knappers, a breed of die-hards who re-create ancient arrowheads, knives and tools using original Stone Age techniques.
Q-city update Q Marks the Spot: Recent find fingers long-sought Maya city

Scientists working at a Guatemalan archaeological site that's more than 1,400 years old have reported finding a hieroglyphic-covered stone panel that, they say, conclusively identifies the ancient settlement as the enigmatic Site Q, a Maya city about which researchers have long speculated.

Yale University archaeologist Marcello Canuto found the well-preserved panel last April at a site called La Corona.

"[The] writing on the panel opens up a new chapter in Maya history," says anthropologist David Freidel of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, codirector of the expedition. "This new panel provides the critical test for establishing that La Corona is Site Q."

Not much new here, except for some indications that this isn't entirely a slam dunk deal.
Repatriation update Aboriginal remains will be returned

Aboriginal body parts that scientists and explorers took to Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries can be returned to Australia, after the enactment of a new British law.

The British Museum and the Natural History Museum are among nine institutions that now plan to return human remains to indigenous communities around the world.

. . . .

The newly enacted section of the Human Tissue Act allows museums to return remains that "are reasonably believed to be under 1000 years in age".

A spokeswoman for the British Museum said the museum had pushed for the legal change and was absolutely committed to returning human remains, provided that Aboriginal communities could prove a link to the items.

They're a bit late to the party on this since they're not dealing with aboriginal populations on their home turf, as the US has. It ought to be interesting how the criteria above get applied in the real world.

And some more repatriation news here on efforts by the Burke Museum in Seattle to test objects for toxic chemicals before sending them back.
We'll still take the movie version, thanks Meet Helen of Troy: bald-headed, bare-breasted and bloodthirsty

For centuries, Helen of Troy has been portrayed as a woman whose beauty was so great that it caused a war. Revered for her flowing hair and breathtaking features, she eloped with Paris, sparking the siege of Troy after her husband raised an army to take her back.

But, more than 3,000 years after events described in The Iliad, Helen is to undergo a dramatic historical reappraisal. According to a controversial new book, she was more likely to have been a shaven-headed, bare-breasted warrior princess whose appetite for sex was matched only by her insatiable bloodlust.

Sadly, no real specifics of where she got these ideas from so it's hard to judge. We suspect that she wasn't much like the usual portrayals, much as we're beginning to see Cleopatra as much more of a mannish, powerful, intelligent ruler rather than the hot vixen usually shown in the movies.