Tuesday, February 28, 2006

There's something fishy about human brain evolution

Forget the textbook story about tool use and language sparking the dramatic evolutionary growth of the human brain. Instead, imagine ancient hominid children chasing frogs. Not for fun, but for food.
According to Dr. Stephen Cunnane it was a rich and secure shore-based diet that fuelled and provided the essential nutrients to make our brains what they are today. Controversially, according to Dr. Cunnane our initial brain boost didn't happen by adaptation, but by exaptation, or chance.

"Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists usually point to things like the rise of language and tool making to explain the massive expansion of early hominid brains. But this is a Catch-22. Something had to start the process of brain expansion and I think it was early humans eating clams, frogs, bird eggs and fish from shoreline environments. This is what created the necessary physiological conditions for explosive brain growth," says Dr. Cunnane, a metabolic physiologist at the University of Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Hmmm. Kinda short on detail and no commentary from critics. Seems as interesting a hypothesis as any.
Ann Althouse has a post up on the scholarship potential of law blogs.

One lawprof is quoted as saying blogs "have nothing to do with scholarship". This is probably overstating things. Archaeologists/anthropologists don't seem to generally like blogs. Perhaps it's too public. Email lists tend to be quite popular and get a lot of use for discussing the minutae of archaeological issues. John Hawks uses his for throwing his ideas out in kind of a semi-formal way (providing references, making fairly detailed discipline-centered arguments), and also includes commentary on more mundane and entertaining matters.

Archaeologists should use blogs. There. I said it. It would be a GREAT way to communicate what we do to a larger lay audience. It can create a space where your average person can, through Comments, ask a professional archaeologist a question. We can let people know why we do what we do, what we get out of the sites we excavate, what the controversies are and what we think of them. It would humanize us, especially if we include some more personal stuff on our blogs. It's really easy to blast someone for holding a particular (but probably heavily stereotyped) view on some issue or other, but harder when you've just finished reading how their kid just learned to walk. Well, maybe not for some. But still, any archaeology blog is almost bound to be less full of fireworks than your typical political blog.

Archaeology Team Discovers Oldest Remains of Sea-faring Ships in the World

A team of archaeologists from Boston University and the University of Naples l’Orientale recently uncovered the oldest remains of sea-faring ships in the world and cargo boxes containing goods from the lost-land of Punt – a fabled southern Red Sea trading center. The discoveries were made during a round of excavations inside two man-made caves previously found by the team at Wadi Gawasis on Egypt’s Red Sea coast.

In remarkable condition, the unique artifacts of cedar planks and decking timber – some with the mortises and tenons, and copper fastenings still in place – demonstrate that the Ancient Egyptians were excellent ship builders and provide further evidence that they reached Punt by sea. The findings may also help researchers determine the location of Punt, a long-time source of debate among scholars.

Not much new here from previous stories on this find, but it's a good reminder anyway.

Chinese find 3,000-year-old hand painting

A 3,000-YEAR-old painting made with human hand prints and believed to depict a dancing man and woman has been discovered by archaeologists on a cliff in south-west China.

The painting, measuring about 4ft by 5ft and created using a mixture of iron ore and animal blood, was found near the Jinsha river in Yunnan province, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Local people guided three archaeologists to the scene, according to Ji Xueping, an associate professor with the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.

That's the whole thing. There are more stories around, but all seem to be similarly short.
Archaeologists discover Saint Chad's Burial Place and Shrine

In a discovery hailed as being of “European significance” and the “foundation of English art”, archaeologists working at Lichfield Cathedral have uncovered the church built to house the grave of St Chad; together with the “Lichfield Angel” - part of the shrine created around AD700 by Bishop Hedda to mark the resting place of Lichfield’s first Bishop.

And now the remains of the shrine are to be reunited for the first time in more than 1,000 years with the Lichfield Gospels – an illuminated manuscript commissioned in the eighth century to adorn the shrine. And, thanks to collaboration between the Cathedral, the British Library and the Parish of Llandeilo, members of the public will be able to ‘turn the pages’ of the precious Lichfield Gospels as they have been digitised – digital versions of the St Chad Gospels will be on display in the Cathedral and also available to tour across the diocese.

Never heard of him, but it seems to be quite important.

CRM update State Archaeologist: The future can wait for some work on our past

All the Utah state archaeologist has the power to do is slow things down a bit. And because the things he or she might want to slow down are the destruction of priceless human artifacts, the loss of irreplaceable fossils and the creation of huge gaps in our understanding of the land that gives us life, that is hardly too great a burden.
Of course, deliberation and thought have few friends in our modern world, least of all among legislative bodies that are motivated to hurry things along so they can bring revenue to both private investors and public tax collectors.
Thus HB139, which passed a lopsided Utah House Tuesday and went to the Senate. It would eliminate the position of state archaeologist and move what remained of the function of preserving our unwritten past from its natural home in the History Division of the Department of Community and Economic Development over to the Governor's Public Lands Policy Coordination Office.

It's another editorial against this particular bill.

But it's still flat Prehistory of Kansas is not what you thought

If pressed, most Kansans would guess the Kansa Indians were the state’s first farmers and corn was their first crop.

And they’d be wrong.

“There were people farming here a thousand years before the Kansa got here,” said Robert Hoard, state archaeologist at the Kansas State Historical Society. “Corn didn’t really kick in as a crop until about 1000 A.D.”

Euro C-14 dating update John Hawks has some comments on the Mellars paper that caused some stir recently.

Hawks also alerts us to the falsity of the Blonde Extinction Event that's mentioned near the bottom of that article:

The World Health Organization says there is no such study -- and that most journalists didn't call to check.

"We've certainly never conducted any research into the subject," WHO spokeswoman Rebecca Harding said yesterday from Geneva. "It's been impossible to find out where it came from. It just seems like it was a hoax."

Don't remember if I posted that story or not. I recall it, but I don't even know if ArchaeoBlog was around then.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Big Woman with a Distant Past: Stone Age gal embodies humanity's cold shifts

A 260,000-year-old partial skeleton excavated in northwestern China 22 years ago represents our largest known female ancestor, according to a new analysis of the individual's extensive remains.

This ancient woman puts a modern twist on Stone Age human evolution, say Karen R. Rosenberg of the University of Delaware in Newark, Lü Zuné of Peking University in Beijing, and Chris B. Ruff of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. The fossil individual's large size and the apparent adaptation of her body to cold conditions are "consistent with the idea that patterns of human anatomical variation that we see today have deep evolutionary roots," Rosenberg asserts.

2200-year old graveyard of children discovered in Inner Mongolia

Chinese archaeologists have found a 2200-year-old graveyard containing the remains of children in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

According to Chen Yongzhi, vice director of the regional archeological research center, nearly 20 tombs at the 100-square meter graveyard were unearthed at the ruins of ancient Tuchengzi Town in Helinger County.

The archaeologists spotted many earthenware jar-shaped coffins for housing the children's remains inside the tombs, which date back to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD).

Qasr'e Shirin's 6,000-Year-Old Mystery

Discovery of some clay relics from Obeid Site (an ancient site in Mesopotamia and current Iraq belonging to the 4th Millennium BC) in the city of Qasr'e Shirin has laid the origin and destination of this city�s migrants about 6,000 years ago under ambiguity.

Archeologists want to know whether these migrants came to this region from Mesopotamia or they were traveling among different regions of Zagros Mountains. "Continuation of the surveys and identifications in this city led to the discovery of 75 ancient sites most of which belong to the Obeid Site," said Ali Hajbari, head of archeology team in Qasr'e Shirin.

"Archeologists are also trying to find out whether these clays are indicators of a kind of economic and cultural connection between this region and Mesopotamia," added Hajbari.

Power of the Internet, Part 4,397 Ancient maps to soon go online

While they may study places and people that are thousands of years old, scholars at UNC are at the forefront of modernizing antiquity.

Researchers long have had to dip into hefty and static atlases to study the stomping grounds of Alexander the Great or the Roman emperors, but they soon will be able to do so on a comprehensive, open-source database on the Internet -- thanks to UNC's Ancient World Mapping Center.

The group started the project this month with the help of a $390,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Mapping center leaders hope the online project will serve as a template for other humanities scholars to incorporate technology into their research.

Desert site holds centuries of culture

On Tammera and Clay Walker's property east of Bend, a shallow wash bracketed by basalt walls suggests nothing more than a typical desert draw.

But closer inspection reveals a legacy of at least 13,000 years of human habitation, documented by more than 200 panels of rock art, obsidian tool bits and potential burial sites. Northern Paiute tribal members, who still worship at the site, consider it sacred ground.

The Walkers want to place the site, which experts call the most important archaeological site in Deschutes County, on the National Register of Historic Places.

Towers of stone – the brochs of Scotland

Today they provide some of our most impressive archaeological remains, yet they still retain an air of mystery – there is a lot to learn about brochs.

Brochs comprise circular stone towers, apparently built to house the elite of a community and also to provide safety for everyone in a time of need. There is an element of display in their size, as well as an element of defence. They developed out of a tradition of circular stone dwellings, enhanced by master builders who knew exactly how to make the most of local stone resources.

Yet another object/strucure I'd never heard of.

Bronze Age Sky Disc Deciphered

A group of German scientists has deciphered the meaning of one of the most spectacular archeological discoveries in recent years: The mystery-shrouded sky disc of Nebra was used as an advanced astronomical clock.

The purpose of the 3,600 year-old sky disc of Nebra, which caused a world-wide sensation when it was brought to the attention of the German public in 2002, is no longer a matter of speculation.

A group of German scholars who studied this archaeological gem has discovered evidence which suggests that the disc was used as a complex astronomical clock for the harmonization of solar and lunar calendars.

Aha. Well, this is how it is proposed to operate: The Bronze Age astronomers would hold the Nebra clock against the sky and observe the position of the celestial objects. The intercalary month was inserted when what they saw in the sky corresponded to the map on the disc they were holding in their hands. This happened every two to three years.

I like that. Fairly simple.
Anatomically modern gentlemen prefer blondes Cavegirls were first blondes to have fun

THE modern gentleman may prefer blondes. But new research has found that it was cavemen who were the first to be lured by flaxen locks.

According to the study, north European women evolved blonde hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to make them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males.

The study argues that blond hair originated in the region because of food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago. Until then, humans had the dark brown hair and dark eyes that still dominate in the rest of the world. Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses. Finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men.

The study itself and some of the ancillary findings (the Japanese study where the blonde gene is thought to have arisen 11k BP) are certainly interesting. However, the scenario about blondes being far more attractive to men, men getting killed hunting, etc., seems more like one of the "just-so" stories usually created to "explain" a particular trait (Gould and Eldridge's spandrels again). It seems as if a trait like this were to become truly fixed in a population, it would have to be far more functional in nature than simply a 'gentlemen prefer blondes' issue. No doubt the reading on the distribution of hair and eye colors geographically will be worthy in and of itself.

Do we really need another Scarlett Johanssen picture to demonstrate what a blonde cave-woman might have looked like?

Yes, I believe we do:

Artists' conception of what the first blonde northern European female might have looked like:
More breaking news out of Egypt

Aayko sends this along from the EEF lists regarding some earlier reports on Ramesses II statues that were found (we didn't post that; you can hardly dig a hole in Egypt without finding a statue of R-II):

Press report: "Ancient temple found beneath Cairo market"



"Archaeologists discovered a pharaonic sun temple with large
statues believed to be of King Ramses II under an outdoor
marketplace in Cairo (..) The partially uncovered site is the
largest sun temple ever found in the capital's Aim Shams
and Matariya districts. "

This report is a bit clearer about the amount of statues
than previous ones.
Easter Island Field School update

Email received from Terry Hunt:

Dear Colleagues/Academic Advisors:

We have a few remaining places open to qualified students in both 2006
sessions (5 June-5 July & 10 July-9 August).

Please inform interested students that we have extended our application
deadline until 10 March.

Information and applications are available on-line:

Thank you for your assistance.

Best Wishes,

Terry Hunt

Looks like they're having trouble getting all the people they need (or want). If you know anyone who really would like to participate, let them know. It's a chance to do solid research in one of the most fascinating places on earth.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Kennewick Man update Kennewick Man buried by others, scientist finds

Kennewick Man was laid to rest alongside a river more than 9,000 years ago, buried by other people, a leading forensic scientist said Thursday.

The skeleton, one of the oldest and most complete ever found in North America, has been under close analysis since courts sided with researchers in a legal battle with American Indian tribes in the Northwest who wanted the remains found near the Columbia River reburied without study.

Douglas Owsley, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, discussed his findings in remarks prepared for delivery Thursday evening at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Seattle.

"We know very little about this time period," Owsley said in a phone interview. "This is a rare opportunity to try and reconstruct the life story of this man. ... This is his opportunity to tell us what life was like during that time."

Most interesting points:
-- The point lodged in his hip is probably not a Cascade point
-- This injury did not kill him (it had healed)
-- Skeletal indications of cause of death are not apparent

There are a few other tidbits. No mention given of why the mode of burial is thought to be deliberate, 2-3 feet down, etc. This should be covered once the formal talk is provided somewhere.
Important news Spielberg confirms Indiana Jones 4

Blockbuster filmmaker Steven Spielberg has finally confirmed that he is set to begin filming the anticipated fourth 'Indiana Jones' film later this year.

The Oscar-winning director has kept fans of the action epic waiting for months while he finished work on his acclaimed motion picture 'Munich', but has now given the green light for the sequel.

Well, maybe it's really gonna happen this time. For years we've been treated to the "We've got some scripts we're working on" routine, which essentially translates to "Eh."

Let's hope it's more Last Crusade than Temple of Doom.

Interesting trivia: The same guy played to Big Bad Dude in the first two. The bald guy Indy fights at the funky airplane is also the bearded dude who gets squished in the rock crusher. Can't find his credit on IMDB though.

News from the EEF

Digitized books from the Digital General Collection, University of
-- Georges Perrot, A history of art in ancient Egypt, from the French
of Georges Perrot and Charles Chipiez, vols. I-II, Chapman and Hall,
London, 1883
vol. I: LXIV, 444 pp., 255 figs., 7 col. pls. (the images are in b/w only)
vol. II: XIV, 434 pp., 336 figs., 8 col. pls. (b/w only)
"These volumes are the first instalment of an undertaking which has for its
aim the history and critical analysis of that great organic growth which,
beginning with the Pharaohs and ending with the Roman Emperors,
forms what is called Antique Art."

Digitized images from the "The New York Public Library" [NYPL] Digital Gallery
-- David Roberts, The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia, 6
vols., F.G. Moon, London, 1842-1849 [252 images, including front matters] -
vols. 4-6 also published separately [see below]
-- David Roberts, Egypt and Nubia, 3 vols., F.G. Moon, London, 1846-1849
[127 images, including front matters]

The Proceedings of the Working Week 2005 of the International Federation
of Surveyors (FIG) are available online. Two papers deal with Ancient Egypt:
-- John F. Brock, "Four Surveyors of the Gods: In the XVIII Dynasty
of Egypt - New Kingdom c. 1400 B.C." [a version in advance of the
Proceedings was mentioned in EEFNEWS (346).]
abstract (14 kB, PDF):
paper (271 kB, PDF):
-- Joel Paulson, "Surveying in Ancient Egypt"
abstract (10 kB, PDF):
paper (425 kB, PDF):a href="http://www.fig.net/pub/cairo/papers/wshs_02/wshs02_02_paulson.pdf">http://www.fig.net/pub/cairo/papers/wshs_02/wshs02_02_paulson.pdf
slides (255 kB, PDF):

End of EEF news

Interesting non-archaeological (but still old) news Jurassic beaver find stuns experts

The discovery of a new, remarkably preserved fossil of a beaver-like mammal that lived 164 million years ago is shaking palaeontologists’ understanding of early mammals.

Looking as if it was put together from pieces of platypus, river otter, and beaver, the creature was nearly half a metre long and weighed about half a kilogram. This makes it the largest mammal ever found in the Jurassic Period, from 200 million to 145 million years ago.

The fossil of the semi-aquatic mammal Castorocauda lutrasimilis was discovered in the middle Jurassic Jiulongshan formation in Inner Mongolia, China, by Qiang Ji at Nanjing University, and colleagues. It boasts the oldest fossil fur ever found.

Palaeontologists had long thought the mammals living under the feet of the dinosaurs were tiny shrew-like animals. But recent discoveries have challenged this notion.

Probably the biggest impact overall will be in the last quoted paragraph. The idea that mammals were tiny little insignificant critters skittering around underfoot is one of those oft-repeated phrases on par with 'nothing -- not even light -- can escape a black hole' in terms of standards in any piece. Almost like no evolution occurred before the dinosaurs got whacked. This should start to change that. One suspects this idea is largely based on lack of evidence rather than evidence per se.

Also check this story: New evidence that natural selection is a general driving force behind the origin of species

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Carbon dating dashes old theories

While other scientists have for several years been pondering the implications of the revised radiocarbon dating for archaeological research throughout the world, Mellars's description of the new techniques and their significance is the first comprehensive review of the subject in a major journal.

The most pronounced discrepancies between radiocarbon and actual ages coincide with the fateful epoch when modern people first made themselves at home in Europe.

For years, it had been thought that modern humans from Africa began arriving in Western Europe at least 40,000 years ago, and so could have competed and mingled with the local population for at least 12,000 years.

The revised dating of fossils and artifacts leaves much less time when the two could have been in close contact.

Doesn't appear to be much more than earlier articles.


John Ashall, archaeologist in charge of the Pan estate project, said he had uncovered much more evidence than expected of prehistoric, Roman and medieval life.

Experts were still investigating the discovery of a mystery item found during a recent field walk, he said.

The final field walk is due to take place on Saturday, when the public will be able to join the search for evidence of historic activity.

Mr Ashall, who has worked on projects around the world, will then catalogue the finds and prepare a report for the county archaeologist and other experts next month.

Worship of phoenix may start 7,400 years ago in central China

New archaeological discoveries show that the worship of the phoenix by ancient Chinese can be dated back as early as 7,400 years ago in central China.

A large amount of pottery, decorated with the patterns of beasts, the sun and birds have been excavated at the Gaomiao relics site in Hongjiang, Huaihua City of central China's Hunan Province, according to a report by the Guangming Daily.

"The patterns of birds should be the phoenix worshipped by ancient Chinese," said He Gang, a researcher with the Hunan Institute of Archaeology.

Interesting Liability waiver angers volunteers

State-trained volunteers are holding off from monitoring Peoria's archaeological and historic sites.

Peoria wants all site stewards to sign a waiver of liability, which Site Steward Program officials say is extreme and provides no coverage for any medical expenses for injuries.

"Nobody has asked for a separate and total waiver of liability like they have," said Mary Estes, a resource protection specialist in charge of the program. "I am not encouraging them (volunteers) to sign. If they want to sign, they can. It's not a happy place between the program and the city of Peoria over this requirement."

Cool non-archaeological news Explorers Discover Huge Cave and New Poison Frogs

A cave so huge helicopters can fly into it has just been discovered deep in the hills of a South American jungle paradise.

Actually, "Cueva del Fantasma"—Spanish for "Cave of the Ghost"—is so vast that two helicopters can comfortably fly into it and land next to a towering waterfall.

It was found in the slopes of Aprada tepui in southern Venezuela, one of the most inaccessible and unexplored regions of the world. The area, known as the Venezuelan Guayana, is one of the most biologically rich, geologically ancient and unspoiled parts of the world.

This is the first geographic report and photographic evidence of such an immense cave. However, researchers say, it isn’t really a cave, but a huge, collapsed, steep gorge.

Picture of it here. Very cool.

But no Tyrannosaurs. Darn it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

This is interesting Radiocarbon review rewrites European pre-history

The ancestors of modern man moved into and across Europe, ousting the Neanderthals, faster than previously thought, a new analysis of radiocarbon data shows.

Rather than taking some 7,000 years to colonize Europe from Africa, the reinterpreted data shows the process may only have taken 5,000 years, scientist Paul Mellars from Cambridge University said in the science journal Nature on Wednesday.

"The same chronological pattern points to a substantially shorter period of chronological and demographic overlap between the earliest ... modern humans and the last survivors of the preceding Neanderthal populations," he wrote.

Neolithic site wins reprieve from diggers

Conservationists in Yorkshire today won their fight to save the prehistoric site of Thornborough Henges from a gravel extraction scheme, writes Martin Wainwright

It seems careless to overlook Britain's largest prehistoric site for the best part of 1,000 years - but that it what has happened in the case of the threat to the Thornborough Henges.

The country only woke up at the 11th hour, thanks to a determined group of enthusiasts in Yorkshire who networked remorselessly to get every conservation group on their side.

The most interesting part is that it was never recognized as an actual site until it was viewed aerially.

Pompeii Premise fulfilled. . .for once China's "Pompei" reproduces rural life 2,000 years ago

An ancient village which was buried underground more than 2,000 years ago has been unearthed in Neihuang County, central China's Henan Province, Chinese archaeologists announced on Monday.

The Sanyangzhuang ruins were excavated in the old course of the Yellow River, the second longest waterway in China. The only intact ruins of an ancient village so far discovered in China, said Xu Pingfang, a famous archaeologist of archaeological studies of the Han and Tang dynasties (618-907).

They tell vividly the scenes of production and life in rural areas in the late Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-24 A.D.), said Xu,also president of the Archaeological Society of China.

Hard to tell, but it appears to have been buried in a flood that was not violent enough to wash everything away, just cover it up.

A few links on KV63 from Aayko at the EEF

The University of Memphis website dedicated to KV63 speaks of 7 wooden coffins in the cache:
With photos of the crew.
Also the KV63 website has now photos of the KV10/KV63 team:

A new page on the website of Dr Hawass:
"A Concealed Cachet in Luxor!! February 2006"
Not much new info, but with fine photos of the shaft
which have not appeared elsewhere, I think. I presume that
the 3rd photo shows the "8 holes" mentioned in the
SCA press release.

[URL submitted by Lynn Harvey (om@anthemion.com)]
A blog of a grad student (Sharon Nichols), who worked
at the KV63 site, with her personal impressions:

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Additional Egyptian tomb update

A local news station did this story on Paul Leroy of Tacoma, WA, who funded (whole? part?) the project that found the new tomb:

Tacoma man shares in Egypt tomb find

The recent discovery of an untouched burial chamber in Egypt is a sweet success for a Tacoma man.

After years of research and writing checks to help pay for archeological digs,75-year-old Paul Leroy hit pay dirt in Egypt's fabled "Valley of the Kings."

Leroy's dream now is that these secrets of the past will soon be available to all.

Video of the story also available. Think I met the guy once after giving a lecture on the Fayum at the Burke Museum. Excellent chap.
Mysterious pots: 'Beautiful and incredibly well-made'

It's a treasure of the Hopi Nation and a centuries-old mystery.

A University of Arizona doctoral student is using polarized-light microscopes and other 21st-century technology to determine which primitive method was used to create the unique yellow-ware pottery between 1350 and 1630.

The pottery is recognized for its fine, pale ivory paste, said Caitlin O'Grady, 29, during an interview in her lab at the UA materials science and engineering department.

"These ceramics are beautiful and incredibly well-made," she said while sorting sherds collected about 25 years ago.

Make sure to click on a couple more of the photos.

Lady of Wells reveals her secrets

A mysterious medieval wall painting found beneath the floor of the Bishop of Bath and Wells' bedroom has given up its secrets.

The painting, which shows a partly-clad woman wearing a transparent dress, dates from between 1460 and 1470.

It was part of the decoration of the throne room of Bishop Thomas Beckynton.
Met to return disputed art to Italy

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Italian Culture Ministry agreed Monday on a deal to return six disputed antiquities in the Met collection that Italy says were illegally taken out of the country, the ministry said.

In exchange, Italy is expected to provide long-term loans of equivalent works of art.

A signing ceremony between Met chief Philippe de Montebello and Culture Minister Rocco Buttiglione was scheduled for Tuesday.
New Egyptian omb update New mummies may point the way to lost pharaohs

With the discovery by archaeologists earlier this month of the first truly "new" tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings since Howard Carter found King Tutankhamen's in 1922, the question arises of who's still missing in the Valley of the Kings.

Within the newly discovered tomb are five wooden coffins believed to contain mummies. Although the identities of the presumed occupants are not known, the excavators think they are more likely to be members of the royal court than pharaohs or their queens.

Nevertheless, when ancient Egypt buffs hear about such a discovery, they hope that a "royal cache," a stash of lost pharaohs, has been found.

Actually, nothing much new here. Another picture of the tomb though:
Two related stories
First Americans May Have Been European

The first humans to spread across North America may have been seal hunters from France and Spain.

This runs counter to the long-held belief that the first human entry into the Americas was a crossing of a land-ice bridge that spanned the Bering Strait about 13,500 years ago.

The new thinking was outlined here Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Nothing new here, just a bit more on Stanford's Solutrean connection. It does bring in another idea, that if possibly following marine animals on a northern route on ice floes.

And from marine animals to kelp: Ancient People Followed 'Kelp Highway' to America, Researcher Says

Ancient humans from Asia may have entered the Americas following an ocean highway made of dense kelp.

The new finding lends strength to the "coastal migration theory," whereby early maritime populations boated from one island to another, hunting the bountiful amounts of sea creatures that live in kelp forests.

This research was presented here Sunday at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science by anthropologist Jon Erlandson of the University of Oregon.

Again, another hypothesis waiting for data.
8,000-year-old drill to make fire found in Zhejiang

Chinese archaeologists said that parts of an instrument to make fire, dating back to 8,000 years ago, have been found in east China's Zhejiang Province.

The relics, made of bones and wood, were discovered at the Kuahuqiao Relics Site in Xiaoshan, Zhejiang Province, according to Qianjiang Evening News.

Liu Zhiqing, a retired professor from Zhejiang University, was quoted by the newspaper as saying that the relics were part of an instrument to drill wood to get fire.
Ruins of Harrappan city found in Haryana

The ruins of a city believed to date back to Harrappan civilisation have been discovered near Meham in Haryana, the State Archaeology and Museums Department said here today.

A department spokesman termed the discovery at Farmana Khas, about 12 kilometers from Meham on Julana road, as very significant.

He said that till now urban settlements of the civilisation -- Banawali, Bhirdana and Rakhigarhi -- had come to light in the state, but this was the first discovery of the ruins of a city.
Lost civilization box of pottery. . . .found Ancient Egypt pottery discovery

A request from the Department of Ancient Egypt at the British Museum has resulted in a 4,000-year-old discovery at Hawick Museum.

A box of pottery, long-untouched and undocumented, turned out to contain numbered items, many of them from the Middle Kingdom of 2040-1750 BC.

The items were collected by the Egyptologist John Garstang at Esna, Upper Egypt, in the early 20th Century.
Archaeologists unearthed more than 5,000 artifacts in Fairfield

The history of the "four squares" at the heart of colonial Fairfield lives today — not just on the printed page, but in the ground.

Archaeologists have unearthed more than 5,000 artifacts from one of the squares carved out by settlers in 1639.

The artifacts, some of which are believed to be nearly 300 years old, came from ground around the Sun Tavern, a historic structure where President George Washington slept in 1789 — 10 years after 2,000 British troops invaded and torched Fairfield.
Archaeologists in Jordan discover bronze and iron age remains

Archaeologists found a skeleton and other remains dating to the bronze and iron ages in the Jordan Valley, the official Petra news agency reported on Sunday.

A team from Jordan and Greece discovered the skeleton along with "with various remains of bones and pottery" dating to the bronze age, Petra said, citing Saad Al Hadidi, director of the department of antiquities in Salt, central Jordan, in charge of the dig.

Excavations in the region of Tal Al Kafrein, 38 kilometers (23 miles) south of the capital Amman, unearthed a cave containing a passage and staircases, the agency said.

They also found two floors of living quarters and brick and stone walls "in a good state", dating to the bronze age, which lasted from 3,200 to 1,950 BC, and later iron ages, Petra said.

Hadidi said that further excavations were made impossible by the presence of recent Islamic tombs nearby.
Early Americans faced rapid late Pleistocene climate change and chaotic environments

The environment encountered when the first people emigrated into the New World was variable and ever-changing, according to a Penn State geologist.
"The New World was not a nice quiet place when humans came," says Dr. Russell Graham, associate professor of geology and director of the Earth & Mineral Sciences Museum.

Archaeologists agree that by 11,000 years ago, people were spread across North and South America, but evidence is building for an earlier entry into the New World, a date that would put human population of North and South America firmly in the Pleistocene.

"We want to know what it was like back then," says Graham. "What did they have to deal with?"

There's not a whole lot in the article unfamiliar to the post-Pleistocene extinctions issue, but it summarizes the climate-controlled-extinctions argument pretty well.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Early Chiefdoms Offer Clues to Modern Wealth, Power, Study Says

When human ancestors gave up a nomadic way of life to farm the land, they gathered in small communities where they could share some of their skills.

These early societies, known as chiefdoms, sowed the seeds of modern human civilization.

Now a unique study of archaeological data has shown that the organization and symbols of power in these chiefdoms varied greatly. The finding provides tantalizing insight into how and why certain social structures developed.

The article doesn't seem to be online yet. Definitely must-read though.
Artful Surgery

oday, most medical students take a solemn vow, repeating the Hippocratic Oath, named for Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician we call the "Father of Medicine." Although we know little about him--he has been described as the "most famous but least known Greek physician"--in his own day, Hippocrates (ca. 460-370 B.C.) was spoken of with respect by Plato and Aristotle. He was born at the island of Kos, near Ionia (the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea), and after practicing medicine throughout Greece, he devoted considerable time to teaching students.

None of the surviving late fifth- and early fourth-century B.C. Greek medical treatises--numbering about 70 and collectively known as the Hippocratic corpus--can be securely ascribed to the great physician himself. They could have been compiled by his students, who conceivably added to their master's notes, handbooks, and lecture materials. Perhaps in part from a library on Kos, the texts--gathered together in Alexandria at a later date--reflect the rich legacy of the Ionian school of medicine.

The article describes a case of trepanation and has a couple of nice large photos of the skull. Read the whole thing.
Lost civilization shoe. . . .found 1,400-year-old moccasin found in Canadian glacier

Archeologists studying melting alpine ice for clues on early life in Canada's North have uncovered a 1,400-year-old moccasin, officials said on Thursday.

Researchers at first thought the artifact found in the southwest Yukon in 2003 was a hunter's bag, but after cleaning and reassembling the hide they realized it was the oldest aboriginal moccasin ever found in Canada.
Greek Hiker finds 6,500-year old pendant

A Greek hiker found a 6,500-year-old gold pendant in a field and handed it over to authorities, an archaeologist said Thursday.

The flat, roughly ring-shaped prehistoric pendant probably had religious significance and would have been worn on a necklace by a prominent member of society.

Only three such gold artifacts have been discovered during organized digs, archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mendesidi, head of the Greek archaeological service in the northern region where the discovery was made, told The Associated Press.
Two from Al-Ahram, boh updates Sailing to Punt

he long-held belief that the Ancient Egyptians did not tend to travel long distances by sea because of poor naval technology proved fallacious last week when timbers, rigging and cedar planks were unearthed in the ancient Red Sea port of Marsa Gawasis, 23 kilometres south of Port Safaga.

The remains of seafaring vessels were found in four large, hand-hewn caves which were probably used as storage or boat houses from the Middle Kingdom to the early New Kingdom periods. Early examination revealed that each cave measured 60 square metres and had an entrance constructed of reused anchors, limestone blocks and wooden beams. Other stone anchors were located outside the entrances.

One of these caves contains more than 80 perfectly preserved coils of different sized ropes which were once used on ships. The Italian mission director, Rodolfo Fattovich of the University of Naples " l'Orientale ", says: "Today, we have access to the rear of the cave and we can see that most of its walls are concealed with these coils of lines, each about a metre long and 60cms wide. Each bundle of ropes represents from at least 20 to 30 metres of line."

Enigmatic discovery

"This really is a very surprising discovery," Hourig Sourouzian, director of the German conservation project for the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III's temple, told Al-Ahram Weekly. She explained that since excavation of the site began in 1998 the mission had consistently stumbled upon homogenous New Kingdom statuaries until last week, when a well-preserved red granite royal head with Kushite features -- full cheeks and bulging lips -- was unearthed.

The 50-cm-tall head was found among several decaying granite block on a sandstone slab at the north end of the temple. Its top and right side were damaged, the nose was lightly chipped and the chin was broken. "It is a very beautiful head wearing a nemes (regal headdress)," says Sourouzian, who asserts that it does not belong to the area where it lay buried.

"If this head belongs to the Kushite period of the 25th dynasty, which is seven dynasties later than the reign of Amenhotep III, why is it deposited here?"
This seems like a good thing Cahokia Mounds to expand, protect archaeological sites

For years, Cahokia Mounds' administrators longed to snatch up more property near the ruins of the prehistoric city but lacked the money to do it, fearing all the while that artifacts on the coveted private land could be forever lost to development.

Their concerns eased a bit Thursday, when the state finally released funds — $837,800 — earmarked years ago for expanding the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, now spanning 2,200 acres of the 4,000 that comprised the once-thriving city of up to 20,000 American Indians.

"We're so proud of Cahokia," Bob Coomer, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's director, said during a news conference at the historic site just west of this St. Louis suburb. Land-acquistion "funds have been extremely difficult to come by; we feel very fortunate to get these funds at this time."
Pre-archaeology story Early human ancestors walked on the wild side

Arizona State University anthropologist and Institute of Human Origins researcher Gary Schwartz, along with fellow anthropologist Dan Gebo from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, have studied fossil anklebones of some early ancestors of modern humans and discovered that they walked on the wild side.

It seems some of our earliest ancestors possessed a rather unsteady stride due to subtle anatomical differences. Schwartz and Gebo's findings will be published in the April 2006 edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, but the article is available online at www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/112169244.

Schwartz and Gebo looked at seven anklebones from a variety of early human ancestors found in eastern and southern Africa and compared them to samples taken from modern humans, chimpanzees and gorillas.

Basically, the robust australo's weren't just regular australo's with bigger heads. For a long time, these things were kind of thought of as static offshoots that just eventually died out. It looks as if they're becoming an object of study in and of themselves rather than as little more than an interesting sidenote to hominin history.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Maritime Museum event focuses on local archaeology

The Columbia River Maritime Museum offers a presentation, “Cathlapotle and the Archaeology of Lewis and Clark and the Fur Trade,” by Portland State University Professor Kenneth Ames, at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18. The program is free and open to the public.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition and the maritime fur trade (1792-1835) are best known from historical documents. However, recent archaeological research along the lower Columbia River has produced significant archaeological evidence about the period, especially American Indian people along the river and their responses to, and participation in, the fur trade. Excavations at Cathlapotle, a Chinookan town near Vancouver, Wash., and at McGowan Station Campsite, across the Columbia from Astoria, are particularly important in this record.

Lost civilization wall. . .found Archaeologists unearth Alexander the Great era wall

Greek archaeologists excavating an ancient Macedonian city in the foothills of Mount Olympus have uncovered a 2,600-meter defensive wall whose design was "inspired by the glories of Alexander the Great", the site supervisor said on Thursday.

Built into the wall were dozens of fragments from statues honoring ancient Greek gods, including Zeus, Hephaestus and possibly Dionysus, archaeologist Dimitrios Pantermalis told a conference in the northern port city of Salonika, according to the Athens News Agency.

Early work on the fortification is believed to have begun under Cassander, the fourth-century BC king of Macedon who succeeded Alexander the Great. Cassander is believed to have ordered the murders of Alexander's mother, wife and infant son, Pantermalis said.

Not 'archaeologists' but interesting anyway Large number of dinosaur fossils found in Yunnan

Archaeologists recently excavated a large number of dinosaur fossils in the county of Shuangbai in the Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Chuxiong in southwest China's Yunnan Province.

Experts say new dinosaur species may be found among the newly unearthed fossils. Preliminary studies show the dinosaurs lived from the late Triassic Period to the early Jurassic Period (180 million years to 120 million years ago).

More later.
Interview: Archaeology magazine interviews Ellen Herscher on museum acquisiions Conversations: Museums on Trial

As ARCHAEOLOGY went to press, Marion True, former antiquities curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and art dealer Robert Hecht were on trial in Italy and facing possible jail time, charged with conspiring to traffic in looted antiquities. Their partner Giacomo Medici, convicted in 2004 on similar charges, is currently appealing his 10-year sentence. Ellen Herscher, former director of international programs for the American Association of Museums and past chair of the AIA's cultural property legislation and policy committee, spoke to ARCHAEOLOGY about what ramifications the case may have on the future acquisition practices of America's most powerful museums.

And you can just ignore the whole chain of events that goes back to really criminal and sleazy kinds of activities. There's a denial of the fact that by taking or buying that object, you're stimulating the looting of sites. It's just amazing how many people try to deny that direct cause-and-effect relationship.

KV63 update Archaeologist 'privileged' at role

A County Antrim man who helped discover an intact Egyptian tomb has said he was privileged to be involved in the find.

Alistair Dickey, 26, from Broughshane, was part of the University of Memphis-led team which found the tomb and five mummies.

It was the first intact tomb to be found in the Valley of the Kings since Tutankhamun's in 1922.

"The first half hour after we found it, we actually saw into the chamber - the whole team was on cloud nine," he said.

And a picture of one of the mummy cases:

Friday, February 17, 2006

This week's EEF news

Press report: "Satellite technology has more than doubled the number of ancient sites known in part of the Nile valley"
[scroll down the page]
"The survey was carried out on the west bank of the Nile, opposite
the famous abandoned city of Tell el-Amarna or Akhetaten (..) A
sample area of 30km by 15km was chosen: Napoleon's survey of
1798 had noted 12 sites in the area, and by 2004 the number had
risen to only 23. (...) Dr Sarah Parcak used a combination of
different satellite images, including high-resolution photographs
taken in the 1960s and 1970s, when there was somewhat less
building development, and multispectral electronic images taken
by the Landsat 7 satellite in 2002. In addition the Quickbird
satellite, which has a pixel size of only 60cm (2ft) and allows
very detailed images to be constructed, was used on some sites,
including Akhetaten itself. "

Press report: "Out of Egypt. From a long-buried pyramid to
the Saint Louis Art Museum: The mysterious voyage of the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask."
Article of 10 pages about the discovery of the Saqqara Mask
by Mohammed Zakaria Goneim [3 pages, at beginning and
end of the article], and the subsequent wanderings of, and
controversies surrounding, this artefact. [Cp. the open letter
by Dr Hanna in EEFNEWS (393).] The above report says
that Dr Hawass did not comment on the affair, but this
other, much shorter, press report quotes him as saying:
"The SCA is now taking steps to launch an official
restitution request."

Yuval Goren, Shlomo Bunimovitz, Israel Finkelstein, and Nadav N'aman
"The Location of Alashiya: New Evidence from Petrographic Investigation
of Alashiyan Tablets from El-Amarna and Ugarit" in: AJA 107 no. 2 (2003)
pp. 233-55. Available online in PDF, 7.14 MB
See also: "Provenance Study of Amarna Tablets", in Near Eastern
Archaeology 6500 (2002) pp.196-205, available in HTML:
Based on the clay of Amarna letters, locations mentioned in
Egyptian sources, like Alashiya, Tunip, and others are located.

[Next three items submitted by Michael Tilgner]

Online version of: P. Martinetto, E. Dooryhee, M. Anne, J. Talabot, G.
Tsoucaris and Ph. Walter, Cosmetic Recipes and Make-up Manufacturing in
Ancient Egypt, in: ESRF [= European Synchrotron Radiation Facility]
Newsletter, no. 32, April 1999, pp. 10-11
HTML: http://www.esrf.fr/info/science/newsletter/apr99/dosexp/pagexper.htm
pdf-file (226 KB):
"Powder x-ray diffraction, carried out at the ESRF (BM16), was used to
elucidate the composition and the elaboration processes of the mineral
constituents of ancient Egyptian cosmetics."

Online version of: M. Uda, S. Sassa, S. Yoshimura, J. Kondo, M. Nakamura,
Y. Ban, H. Adachi, Yellow, red and blue pigments from ancient Egyptian
palace painted walls, in: Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics
Research B 161-163, pp. 758-761 (2000) - pdf-file (74 KB)
"Yellow, red and blue pigments from the painted walls of the Malqata palace,
founded by Amenhotep III, 18th Dynasty, were analyzed using PIXE and X-ray
diffraction (XRD). From most of the yellow, red and blue parts, goethite,
hematite and Egyptian blue, respectively, were found on the basis of
diffractometry results. From some yellow parts, As was detected together
with Fe spectroscopically, suggesting the use of orpiment as a yellow
pigment. The red pigment seems to be natural and not man-made. This
assumption is deduced from the dehydration experiment of a synthesized

* Online version of: Karen Polinger Foster, Gardens of Eden: Exotic Flora
and Fauna in the Ancient Near East, in: Yale School of Forestry and
Environmental Studies, Bulletin, no. 103: Transformations of Middle Eastern
Natural Environments: Legacies and Lessons, pp. 320-329 (1998) - pdf-file
(107 KB)
"The idea of the garden began in the ancient Near East, in concert with the
origins and development of agriculture, urbanism, and imperialism. From the
start, exotic flora and fauna played vital roles in the world's earliest
transformations of the natural environment, creating physical and
metaphysical gardens of far-reaching significance. This paper examines
selected aspects of exotica in Mesopotamia and Egypt, drawing together
evidence from art, texts, and archaeology."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Whoops Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted

From the time he was a child in Peru, the Mormon Church instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other Native Americans were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago.

"We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people," said Loayza, now a Salt Lake City attorney. "It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God."

A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of American natives came from Asia, not the Middle East.

I had a half dozen jokes ready to go, but successfully resisted the temptation to post them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ancient site looks safe from quarry diggers

CONTROVERSIAL plans for sand and gravel quarrying near Thornborough Henges in North Yorkshire look set to founder as new research offers further evidence the ancient monument was aligned with the stars.
Councillors have been urged to turn down an application to quarry 112 acres of land on a site just over half a mile away from the henges at Ladybridge Farm, near Masham, amid claims they are of national importance.
Ancient site looks safe from quarry diggers

CONTROVERSIAL plans for sand and gravel quarrying near Thornborough Henges in North Yorkshire look set to founder as new research offers further evidence the ancient monument was aligned with the stars.
Councillors have been urged to turn down an application to quarry 112 acres of land on a site just over half a mile away from the henges at Ladybridge Farm, near Masham, amid claims they are of national importance.

Experts believe they have discovered the remains of the largest-ever Roman building found in Leicester.

The dwelling, thought to be a second century town house is 230ft long - equivalent to 15 terraced houses.

Archeologists believe it could have been a hotel for Roman officials visiting the city.

Alternatively, it could have been a large home for a wealthy family.
Heh. Vandals.. . Most cave art the work of teens, not shamans - A landmark study of Paleolithic art

Long accustomed to lifting mammoth bones from mudbanks and museum shelves and making sketches from cave art to gather details about Pleistocene animal anatomy, renowned paleobiologist and artist R. Dale Guthrie offers a fascinating and controversial interpretation of ancient cave art in his new book “The Nature of Paleolithic Art.”

This ancient art was made during the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 to 35,000 years ago, and has typically been the purview of art historians and anthropologists, many of whom view Paleolithic art as done by accomplished shaman-artists. “This assumption may be true of a few of the best known and better-drawn images, but these are a small proportion of preserved Paleolithic art,” Guthrie said.

Using new forensic techniques on fossil handprints of the artists and examining thousands of images, “I found that all ages and both sexes were making art, not just the senior male shamans,” Guthrie said. These included hundreds of prints made as ocher, manganese, or clay negatives and a few positive prints made with pigments or mud applied to hands that were then placed on cave surfaces.

"Dude. . . .put your hand up there and blow paint on it!"
Remote sensing update NASA, UNH Scientists Uncover Lost Maya Ruins – from Space

Remains of the ancient Maya culture, mysteriously destroyed at the height of its reign in the ninth century, have been hidden in the rainforests of Central America for more than 1,000 years. Now, NASA and University of New Hampshire scientists are using space- and aircraft-based "remote-sensing" technology to uncover those ruins, using the chemical signature of the civilization's ancient building materials.

NASA archaeologist Tom Sever and scientist Dan Irwin, both from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., are teaming with William Saturno, an archaeologist at the University of New Hampshire, to locate the ruins of the ancient culture. Saturno discovered the oldest known intact Maya mural at the site in 2001.

“From the air, everything but the tops of very few surviving pyramids are hidden by the tree canopy," said Sever, widely recognized for two decades as a pioneer in the use of aerospace remote-sensing for archaeology. "On the ground, the 60- to 100-foot trees and dense undergrowth can obscure objects as close as 10 feet away. Explorers can stumble right through an ancient city that once housed thousands – and never even realize it.”

Basicaly, the limestone they used to build their cities disintegrated over time and changed the chemistry and drainage of the soil creating different vegetation from the surrounding areas. Hey, maybe this could be used to identify shell middens. . . .
This just in Karima Adebibe as the new Lara Croft

Karima Adebibe, 20 years old from London who has been chosen as the new international face of 'Lara Croft' action hero, poses for the media in London, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006. Karima was chosen from thousands of hopefuls, and will now embark on a gruelling training programme to prepare her for the role.

Alrighty then.

Not sure what she is going to actually do, but probably sort of a spokesmodel who goes to gaming conventions and what-not, rather than taking over the movie role from Angelina Jolie.

First Scarlett Johannsen, then Josh Bernstein, now Karima Adebibe. Archaeology departments worldwide are going to have their doors busted in by young, attractive undergraduates wanting desperately to study archaeology.

Thanks to Nick at The Perfect World.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Early California: A killing field

When explorers and pioneers visited California in the 1700s and early 1800s, they were astonished by the abundance of birds, elk, deer, marine mammals, and other wildlife they encountered. Since then, people assumed such faunal wealth represented California's natural condition – a product of Native Americans' living in harmony with the wildlife and the land and used it as the baseline for measuring modern environmental damage.

The news release below is a story by University of Utah Public Relations science writer Lee Siegel, published this month in the spring 2006 issue of Continuum, the magazine of the University of Utah.

That assumption now is collapsing because University of Utah archaeologist Jack M. Broughton spent seven years – from 1997 to 2004 – painstakingly picking through 5,736 bird bones found in an ancient Native American garbage dump on the shores of San Francisco Bay. He determined the species of every bone, or, when that wasn't possible, at least the family, and used the bones to reconstruct a portrait of human bird-hunting behavior spanning 1,900 years.

. . .

Broughton says his study challenges "a common perception about ancient Native Americans as healthy, happy people living in harmony with the environment. That clearly was not always the case. Depending on when and where you look back in time, native peoples were either living in harmony with nature or eating their way through a vast array of large-sized, attractive prey species."

Interestingly, this research (and it's been going on for a while) hasn't attracted (that I know of) quite the controversy surrounding other findings that can cast aboriginal groups in a negative light, such as cannibalism in the southwest. This will undoubtedly attract some of that sort of attention. It will no doubt also provide some, at least rhetorical, support for the Overkill Hypothesis of late Pleistocene megafauna extinctions.

Our graduate student careers intersected for a time at the University of Washington. See Jack's page at the U of Utah. My God, he still looks exactly the same as he did then! Outlines of some of his research are here and also his list of publications which documents the type of foraging models he works with.

Monday, February 13, 2006

More battlefield archaeology West Columbia dig uncovers mysteries, but not right ones

An archaeological dig in one of Texas' oldest cemeteries Saturday failed to find the mass graves of 248 Mexican War soldiers that local lore has long said were buried there.

The dig did, however, uncover some other historical mysteries.

"I knew we would find some answers," said Texas A&M archaeologist Alston Thoms, "and I was fairly sure they wouldn't be the answers we were looking for."
U of Minnesota professor investigates ancient battlefield

In the year 9 CE, three Roman legions, 15,000 troops in total, were attacked and destroyed by German tribespeople in the Teutoberg Forest. Despite its relatively recent discovery, this battlefield is on its way to becoming the best-researched ancient battle site in the world, according to Peter S. Wells.

In his Feb. 3 lecture, Wells, a professor at the University of Minnesota, informed students of the details of this particular military encounter, as well as some techniques used in analysing ancient battlefields. The author of The Battle That Stopped Rome, Wells received his BA and PhD from Harvard University, and his MA from the University of Tübingen. He was introduced as “one of the real giants of Roman archaeology.”

The cause of the ancient defeat: underestimation of other cultural groups, in particular the cultures of barbarian groups, according to Wells, who explained the lesson to be learned.
VK update Archaeologist Digs A Path For Home

Broughshane archaeologist Alistair Dickey, one of the team that has discovered a 3,000 year old tomb in the Valley of the Kings, is coming home to Northern Ireland. Because of other pre-arranged commitments he is having to leave the history-making dig, which has uncovered the first major find in that region since the 1922 discovery of that of King Tutankhamin's last resting place.

It was, he said, both very exciting and very surreal. The 26-year-old Co Antrim man said yesterday that while he is unable to stay along with the team from the University of Memphis, he will be keeping a close eye on developments, particularly as more incredible discoveries could take place over the coming weeks at the site of the dig in Egypt which has unearthed five mummies with painted funeral masks. Mr Dickey said that they were found in an undecorated single chamber tomb, but that the door is only partially open at present. The team is currently clearing rubble at the foot of the shaft and when that is completed the door will then be fully opened. The top priority then will be searching for hieroglyphs that could identify those who were buried there.

That's the whole thing.
Dead Sea Scrolls update Touching our ancient past

Over a year ago we began to see the attractive billboards along our highways: The Dead Sea Scrolls are coming to Charlotte. It was true. Charlotte's Discovery Place had been chosen over many competitors to host this new historic exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Why are the Dead Sea Scrolls causing such a stir in the Charlotte area? Why do hundreds of thousands of us sense some kind of connection with them?

In the last few months I regularly have given lectures in churches and synagogues scattered around the city that have drawn crowds of 300, 500, even 800. My topic: What do the Dead Sea Scrolls mean to us today?

The Biblical Archaeology Society has planned a seminar here in March, and it is filling up. World-class scholars are flying to Charlotte to lecture as part of the Discovery Place Dead Sea Scroll program during the 100-day exhibit. Busloads of visitors are coming from all over the country.
This is the year for tombs Greek tomb find excites experts

The tomb is thought to be from the time of Alexander the Great
Archaeologists in Greece say they are examining the largest underground tomb ever found in the country.

They said a farmer had stumbled across the tomb carved into the rock near the ancient city of Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Archaeologists believe it dates to the period after Alexander's death, which was marked by mass power struggles.

The tomb was probably used by a noble family about 2,300 years ago - some of whose names are still visible.

Archaeologists said that the eight-chambered tomb was significant in style. It is accessible through a 16-metre entrance.

Also see here.

And still more from Reuters.

And CNN.
How do you spell relief? Methane burps disproved?

Methane escaping from the sea floor to the atmosphere has been a popular suspect for causing rapid climate changes during and at the end of the last ice age. But new data derived from a Greenland ice core have delivered a killer blow to the idea.

Methane (CH4) is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It is usually released from swamps or through biomass burning. But it is also trapped in huge amounts in some ocean-floor sediments, where it lies buried in a strange kind of ice known as 'methane clathrate'. These clathrates are stable only within a certain range of temperatures and pressures; when brought to the surface, they melt rapidly and release burnable gas to the air.

A catastrophic release of trillions of tonnes of methane is thought to have triggered a temperature jump some 55 million years ago in an already warm climate at the Palaeocene/Eocene boundary (see 'Gas leak!'). But some scientists suspect that similar methane bursts, triggered perhaps by submarine landslides, sea-level drops or changes in water temperature, may also have caused a number of rapid warming episodes during and at the end of the last glacial period.

There are other jokes that could be made here.

But then, you knew that.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bronze Age mourners used flowers

The practice of placing floral tributes on graves may date back 4,000 years, research in west Wales suggests.

Archaeologists have been examining a Bronze Age burial mound on the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire.

As well as analysing cremated bone, an urn and flint tools found in a cist, tests on soil taken from around the site found microscopic pollen grains.

Researchers believe it paints a new picture of ancient burial rituals - more tender than previously thought.
And another mystery! Can genes unravel
a Viking mystery?

The grave of a mysterious Viking queen may hold the key to a 1,200-year-old case of suspected ritual killing, and scientists are planning to unearth her bones to find out.

She is one of two women whose fate has been a riddle ever since their bones were found in 1904 in a 72-foot (22-meter) longboat buried at Oseberg in south Norway, its oaken form preserved miraculously, with even its menacing, curling prow intact.

No one even knows the name of the queen, but the Oseberg boat stirred one of the archaeological sensations of the 20th century two decades before the discovery of the tomb of Egypt’s Pharaoh Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings.

It's a pretty good article.
A long-standing mystery Digging deep for a clue to a global mystery

For more than two decades, Yang Shoukai had hoarded his secret, unsure what to do with a possible clue to one of China's most baffling mysteries.

As construction supervisor on the site of an abandoned U.S. military barracks in Tianjin in 1982, he had discovered a strange cement box in the basement of the old wartime barracks. He tried to dig it up, but lacked the proper tools, and the box was buried under a new medical laboratory.

Mr. Yang, now retired and in poor health, is convinced that the box contains a 500,000-year-old archeological treasure that China has hunted for in vain since the Second World War: the missing skulls of Peking Man, one of the most famous links in the evolution of prehistoric humans.
A tiny paradise slips away

Rome's tiny Non-Catholic Cemetery possibly contains the highest density of famous and important bones anywhere in the world, the cramped final resting place of the poets Shelley and Keats, dozens of diplomats, the Bulgari family, Goethe's only son, and Antonio Gramsci, a founding father of European Communism, to name a few.

The site, also widely known as the Protestant Cemetery, although it contains the graves of Jews and other non-Christians, is also the oldest burial ground in continuous use in Europe, conservationists say.

. . .

But today, this precious bit of paradise is decaying and in financial crisis, recently added to the World Monument Fund's 2006 Watch List of the 100 most endangered sites on earth. Many of its important monuments are crumbling like the bones they mark, damaged by pollution and years without archeological maintenance. The landscape is overgrown, waterlogged by poor drainage.
Peterborough’s earliest people

Leading archaeologist Dr Francis Pryor will officially open Peterborough Museum’s new-look archaeology gallery featuring ‘Peterborough’s First People’ on 11 February at 2pm.

Dr Pryor, who discovered the internationally important Flag Fen Bronze Age site in Peterborough, gained national recognition for his television appearances on 'Time Team' and as presenter of the 'Britain BC' and 'Britain AD' series.

The Museum's archaeology gallery has undergone a one-year refurbishment financed by English Heritage, the Esme Fairbairn Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Friends of Peterborough Museum.
Archaeologists dig not so deep for buried town

Cast your minds back to 1804 when Lieut-Col. William Paterson led four ships carrying more than 200 convicts, soldiers, women and children to a place that he named York Town.

The West Tamar Historical Society is now conducting tours of the site, near Beaconsfield.

It is the fourth- oldest settlement site in Australia, which tour guide John Dent said was often forgotten.

"We know a lot about Sydney, Norfolk Island and Hobart, but not a lot about York Town," he said.

Friday, February 10, 2006

New 18th Dynasty tomb update

Obviously, there's a lot of stories coming out about this one. From all the reports, it's not going to turn out to be another exceptionally rich Tutankhamun-type thing. There are several small, uninscribed tombs in the VK (see Don Ryan's work, for example) that were probably meant to contain court officials and the like. Here's a roundup of some stories sent over the EEF:

A clear press report, with a brief interview with Patricia Podzorski, curator of Egyptian Art at the University of Memphis:


Note the map with find-spot and close-up photos of jars and coffin face.

Slideshow with photos also at:

And at

With close-up photo of coffins and a photo of Otto Schaden.
Also good photos of the discovered Amenhotep III head (see EEFNEWS 392), curiously mixed in with the tomb find.

Edwin Brock, co-director of the University of Memphis team, says "I don't think it's a royal tomb, maybe members of the court."
"Contemporaries of Tutankhamun are possible - or of Amunhotep III or even Horemheb," he said. Based on their style, the jars appear to date to the late 18th Dynasty:

"It could be the gardener," Schaden joked to Hawass at he site. "But it's somebody who had the favor of the king because not everybody could come and make their tomb in the Valley of the Kings."

University of Memphis press release, mainly containing information about the team/expedition (rather than the find):

Two other reports:

"The large storage jars [are] sealed with pharaonic seals,
according to Zahi Hawass. (..) The tomb is rectangular, and
the wooden sarcophagi are surrounded by the jars, which seem
to have been placed haphazardly, suggesting that the burial had
been completed quickly, according to Dr Hawass".
Some details of how the tomb was found are given.
"Some time ago a British team did remote sensing around
the tomb and said they thought there might be something
down there," said Dr Podvorzski [which refers to
http://www.ldolphin.org/egypt/egypt2/index.html ]
"The fact that the tomb contains a single chamber likely means it was
meant for only one mummy, Weeks said. More likely is that the
tomb was used as a storeroom for sarcophagi moved from
other tombs later -- either by priests to protect them from thieves,
or by thieves to stash before removing them completely. The
jars, he said, appear to be meat jars for food offerings."

So, apparently, only the coffins and some offering jars are in there. There could be interesting items within the coffins, of course, and hopefully some texts.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Breaking news This actually started coming in yesterday, but the articles on it were too short to be of any use:

Intact tomb found in Egypt's Valley of the Kings

An American team has found what appears to be an intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the first found in the valley since that of Tutankhamun in 1922, one of the archaeologists said on Thursday.

The tomb contains five or six mummies in intact sarcophagi from the late 18th dynasty, about the same period as Tutankhamun, but the archaeologists have not yet had the time or the access to identify them, the archaeologist added.

The 18th dynasty ruled Egypt from 1567 BC to 1320 BC, a period during which the country's power reached a peak.

The Valley of the Kings in southern Egypt contains the tombs of most of the pharaohs of the time but the archaeologist said the mummies in the newly found tomb need not be royal.

"There are lots of non-royal tombs in the valley. It wouldn't be the only one by any means," said the archaeologist, who asked not to be named because the Egyptian authorities are planning a media event at the site on Friday.

Aayko Eyma (EEF) added this to the email with the above link:

Moreover (with thanks to John Wall), the team that made the discovery is the one that is working at the tomb of Amenmesse http://www.kv-10.com/
So the new tomb/shaft must be near there. Perhaps below the workmen's huts mentioned here:

Stay tuned. . . . .

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Possibly major big news New analysis shows three human migrations out of Africa

A new, more robust analysis of recently derived human gene trees by Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D, of Washington University in St Louis, shows three distinct major waves of human migration out of Africa instead of just two, and statistically refutes — strongly — the 'Out of Africa' replacement theory.

That theory holds that populations of Homo sapiens left Africa 100,000 years ago and wiped out existing populations of humans. Templeton has shown that the African populations interbred with the Eurasian populations — thus, making love, not war.
*Homo sapiens*: 'Out of Africa' three distinct times, new analysis shows
Homo sapiens: 'Out of Africa' three distinct times, new analysis shows

"The 'Out of Africa' replacement theory has always been a big controversy," Templeton said. "I set up a null hypothesis and the program rejected that hypothesis using the new data with a probability level of 10 to the minus 17th. In science, you don't get any more conclusive than that. It says that the hypothesis of no interbreeding is so grossly incompatible with the data, that you can reject it."

No comments from other researchers in this article so it's difficult to judge how this is being received. No doubt this will receive more coverage in the coming weeks.
Book corner UT Body Farm prof writes tale suitable for 'CSI'

Bill Bass reads bones as easy as most folks read the morning paper.

The man, who has shaken the skeletal hands of death a thousand times, founded the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility, better known as the Body Farm, in Knoxville.

Now, he and Jon Jefferson have written a mystery novel, using the pen name of Jefferson Bass, so that readers can see just how many clues are left behind in the skeleton of a murder victim.

This is probably worth a read, if you're into fiction and have some time. Aaron Elkins wrote several novels based on a forensic anthropolgist. Gideon Oliver was the main character's name. I believe it was also a short-lived movie series at one time as well, starring Louis Gossett. No idea if this is any good, but at least the science ought to be well-founded.
Also in Italy
Archaeologists Unearth Headless Sphinx

Archaeologists who have been digging for more than a year at the villa of Roman Emperor Hadrian in Tivoli have unearthed a monumental staircase, a statue of an athlete and what appears to be a headless sphinx.

The findings were presented Tuesday by government officials who described the discoveries as extremely important for understanding the layout of the ruins. The staircase is believed to be the original entrance to the villa, which was built for Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D.

So far, 15 steps, each 27 feet wide, have been identified and archaeologists did not rule out uncovering more.

Officials said that the newly uncovered area of the site, northeast of Rome, would be open to the public within a year.

That's the whole thing.
More tombs in Rome Tomb of Prehistoric Leader Unearthed in Modern Rome

The ashes of an ancient chief or priest who lived three centuries before the legendary founding of Rome have been unearthed in the heart of the city, archaeologists report.

The remains were discovered late January inside a funerary urn at the bottom of a deep pit, along with bowls and jars, all encased in a hutlike box.

The artifacts date to about 1000 B.C. The size and richness of the tomb suggest that the ashes are the remains of a high-ranking individual, said the researchers who made the discovery.

A team of archaeologists with the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Rome Municipality discovered the prehistoric tomb under the sprawling ruins of ancient imperial forums that still lie in the center of modern Rome. (See photos of Rome.)

Between 1999 and 2000 the researchers had found two smaller, barer graves near this latest pit that date to the same period.

Apparently more stuff from earlier reports on tombs under the Forum.
Make that pre-historic French caver makes historic find

A French caver has discovered prehistoric cave art believed to date back 27,000 years - older than the famous Lascaux paintings.

Gerard Jourdy, 63, said he found human and animal remains in the chamber in the Vilhonneur forest, in caves once used to dispose of animal carcasses.

The paintings included a hand in cobalt blue, he told AFP news agency.

The discovery was made in November, but kept secret while initial examinations were carried out.

Good idea keeping the location secret.
Another amazing psychic feat Human skeletons found at falls

A week after a psychic investigation of the 20-year-old unsolved murder of Luana Williams was aired on television, police yesterday took two archaeologists to examine skeletal remains discovered at the reserve.

In TV2 show Sensing Murder, three psychics independently identified a spot at the falls as the burial site of Williams.

The Tauranga woman disappeared without trace from her Gate Pa home on June 5, 1986. Her body has never been found.

A man phoned police the day after the show screened, saying he knew of a skull at the falls.

But his discovery was kilometres away from the spot the pyschics were drawn to - at the top lake end of McLaren Falls.

They weren't the bones of the person in question and they were miles away from the site the "psychic" said. This virtually guarantees that this will be a celebrated success story in the psychic world for years to come.

Lost civilization village. . . .found Ancient village found in China

Four well-preserved residences in an ancient village, probably submerged by a flood, have been unearthed in central China, providing an insight into rural life about 2,000 years ago, archaeologists said.

The village in Neihuang county, Henan province, belongs to the late western Han dynasty (206 BC - AD25), director of the Henan provincial institute of cultural relics and archaeology, Sun Xinmin said.

"With the excavation, archaeologists are able to map out the layout of the ancient village and the architecture of village residences in the western Han dynasty for the first time," Sun said.

Breaking news Part of colossus found near Luxor

A German expedition has unearthed part of a colossal statue of an XVIII dynasty pharaoh. Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni said that "the red granite head and shoulders of Amenihotep III (1390-1352 BC) were unearthed in the pharaoh's temple area at Kom el-Hetan on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor."

Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), Zahi Hawass said that "The one-metre, high bust is in good condition' except for a slight crack on the right side." For her part, the leader of the German team described the bust as "the best portrait of King Amerihotep III that has over been found.

The team is led by Hourig Sourouzian (via EEF).

Rising water threatens great temples of Egypt

Some of the world's most precious archaeological treasures - the ancient Egyptian tombs and temples at Luxor - are being devastated by salt water that is eating their foundations, scientists have discovered.
The temples of Amun, Luxor and Karnak, designated World Heritage Sites, have survived 4,000 years of arid desert heat but are now being destroyed by rising ground water.

The threat has been uncovered by American Egyptologists, who have warned that urgent action is now needed. Their view has been backed by Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. 'When I found out the Temple of Luxor and the Temple of Karnak were going to completely fall apart because of the rising water table, I was shocked,' Hawass said in an interview in Science.

Well. Not exactly news since all of this has been discussed in depth for years.

Mystery solv-ed BBC history team solves riddle of Llywelyn

One of the last great mysteries of the history of the independent Welsh nation was apparently solved yesterday by a group of English historians working for the BBC.

For centuries, people living in and around the chicken farm called Pen y Bryn on top of a hill overlooking the Menai Straits in Caernarvonshire have been convinced that it is a royal place.

More than that, they all firmly believed that the 36-acre farm was the last remnant of the palace of Llywelyn, the first and last prince of a "free" Wales, who died in 1282.

But Cadw, the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage, says it has found traces of a medieval house about 400 yards away, near to a Norman motte, or defensive mound, that is the real site of the palace.

Kennewick update Researcher seeks secrets of Kennewick Man

Milwaukee Journal SentinelMILWAUKEE - Ground to the bone, the teeth of the famous fossil skeleton, Kennewick Man, look as if they've spent a lifetime gnashing rocks.

But it's from these worn choppers that Thomas Stafford Jr., a research fellow in the department of geology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and president of Stafford Research Laboratories in Boulder, Colo., plans to learn about the origins, movement and lifestyle of this highly controversial, 9,000-year-old North American.

In 1996, Kennewick Man was discovered on the banks of the Columbia River near Kennewick, Wash.
Found by a couple of college students who were hydroplaning along the river, K-Man - as he is fondly called by Stafford - became one of the most notorious and controversial skeletons ever discovered.

Actually a pretty good article explaining what they'll be doing and why. The same techniques were used on Otzi the Ice Man te determine where was hailed from.

Not that kind of tongue Ancient Tongue Linked to Aztec Past

For 15 years, David Vazquez has awakened each morning at 5:30 to clean the pews and the patio at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana.

His wife, Rosa, brings him lunch. When the musicians don't show up on Sundays for the Spanish-language service, Vazquez plays the guitar. For Good Friday, he weaves religious figures out of palm leaves and makes church decorations for Day of the Dead.

But what has attracted attention among Mexican Americans seeking to learn more about their heritage is his second, unpaid job. He teaches his native Nahuatl, a language spoken by the Aztecs and still spoken in parts of central Mexico.

Good show.

Scholars to explore protocol for defending cultural heritage

As the plundering of artifacts continues in Iraq, the work that University scholars and others have done to protect them will be the focus of a conference titled, “Protecting Cultural Heritage: International Law after the War in Iraq.”

The conference, which will take place at 3 p.m., Friday, Feb. 3, in the Weymouth Kirkland Courtroom at the Law School, will examine shortcomings in the international legal framework built over the last century to prevent looting and destruction of cultural property in times of war. McGuire Gibson, Professor in the Oriental Institute, as well as other academics, called international attention to the pillaging of Iraq’s National Museum in the early weeks of the war in Iraq. They also drew attention to the plundering at archaeological sites throughout the country that took place as a result of the war.

Good idea to bring the issue front and center but, you know, everywhere is being systematically looted. We can't even control it here.