Friday, March 31, 2006

Breaking news. . . From Aayko at EEF:

Press report: "New discovery in Luxor"

"An Egyptian-Spanish archaeological team, operating on the West
Bank in Luxor, have discovered a room housing the tomb of the
foreman responsible for decorating all the temples and palaces
in Thebes in the reign of Queen Hatshepsut. The discovery also
includes a collection of wooden and clay artifacts. "

Just guessing: with "tomb" they probably mean the entry to the
tomb chamber which could be in a corner of the transverse hall
of the tomb (like in the tombs of Paser and Amenemopet)?

Another press report pinpoints it at Zira Abu al-Naga [Dra Abu
el-Naga], and speaks of a "34 metre "hall" located in a rock
cut tomb (..) which opens into the tomb area":
"Pharaonic tomb may hold ancient secrets"

Found inside are "inscriptions on its walls and scenes that explain
religious rituals practised by ancient Egyptians [rather than "sermons"]
and show how they dug tombs."

And a third press report: "Parlour of Hatshepsut time unearthed"

This one reveals the name of the tomb owner as "Gihoti" [surely:
Djehuty - also the name of Hatshepsut's overseer of the treasury]
and adds that also a game board and house utensils were found.

Aayko Eyma

Stay tuned. . . .
The debate continues. . . Is It All Loot? Tackling The Antiquities Problem

On March 6, at the New School in New York, Michael Kimmelman, The Times's chief art critic, moderated a discussion about antiquities and their provenance. He opened by delving into the topic of the Euphronios krater, a 2,500-year-old Greek bowl that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently agreed to return to Italy. Here are excerpts, edited for clarity, from the conversation:

Some highlights:

JAMES CUNO: The same people who argue for agreements like Unesco say the illicit trade in antiquities has increased exponentially. Actually, the trade has gone elsewhere than to museums. Museums are collecting far fewer objects of antiquity than ever before. But private collectors are not. And those private collectors may not be in the United States. They may be in the Gulf states, in Japan, wherever. What the agreement has done is drive the market from the public to the private domain.

KWAME ANTHONY APPIAH: The Unesco system shares an assumption that the goal is to get everything into some public domain. I think that for the vast bulk of art, the right place for it to be is in the private world, governed by market rules. It's a very important fact about art, including antiquities, that it enriches the lives of people who live with it, not just people who visit museums.

That is, museums are not buying much of the stuff anymore so the market has shifted to private collectors.

DE MONTEBELLO: Between 1970 and 2006, we're talking about 36, 37 years, during which time a great number of very substantial objects of great merit have found their way into collections and onto the market. Archaeologists say we should not buy them. Then what should be done with them? Condemn them to oblivion? Or bring them into the public domain and to the attention of possible claimant nations?

CUNO: Or what about the Dead Sea Scrolls? We don't know where they were found. Some Bedouin showed up with them. Should people have said, Nope, sorry, we can't touch them? That's the choice museums now are told to make.

And here's an interesting exchange:

DE MONTEBELLO: If one of those tablet fragments Elizabeth Stone spoke about earlier chanced upon her desk with a fascinating inscription on it but no legitimate provenance, she would not be allowed to publish it: the Archaeological Institute of America forbids it.

STONE: And I won't.

DE MONTEBELLO: Does that advance knowledge?

STONE: No, but when you publish, as a scholar, you're authenticating the object. And when you authenticate it, its value goes up.

As I've repeatedly said, a sticky problem.
Italians find ancient Ur tablets

Italian archeologists working in Iraq have found a trove of ancient stone tablets from the fabled civilisation of Ur .

The tablets bear around 500 engravings of a literary and historical nature, according to team leader Silvia Chiodi .

"This is an an exceptional find," she said, noting that the area in question had previously only yielded prehistoric artefacts .

She said the tablets, made of clay and bitumen, were discovered by chance at an archaeological site not far from the location of the ancient city .

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Italians find ancient Ur tablets

Italian archeologists working in Iraq have found a trove of ancient stone tablets from the fabled civilisation of Ur .

The tablets bear around 500 engravings of a literary and historical nature, according to team leader Silvia Chiodi .

"This is an an exceptional find," she said, noting that the area in question had previously only yielded prehistoric artefacts .
And now. . . .news from theEEF

The season reports 2003-2004 of the archaeological mission in Schedia
(a Ptolemaic-Roman town 30 km SE of Alexandria) are available online at:

At the Columbia University, Excavations at Amheida website (Dakhleh Oasis Project site no. 33/390-L9-1), the Director's Report 2006 has appeared online:
(Source: Andie Byrnes' blog -
Cp. EEF NEWS 360 for earlier season reports.

[Submitted by Michael Tilgner]
"Dakhleh Oasis Project"
The following reports have been added:
-- "Report on the 2003-2004 season" - 72 pp., pdf-file (22.7 MB)
-- "Report on the 2004-2005 season" - 139 pp., pdf-file (15.5 MB)
Cp. EEF NEWS 312 for earlier season reports.

[Submitted by Michael Tilgner]
"Belzoni - Killjoy woz ere"
"While agreeing with Caminos, that both ancient and modern graffiti can
be of historical and philological significance, and that both should be
recorded by the epigraphist, the writing of modern graffiti on ancient
monuments must be discouraged."
pdf-file (109 KB) of this article:

Michael Rostovtzeff, A large estate in Egypt in the third century B. C. :
a study in economic history. Madison, 1922. 209 pp. (University of
Wisconsin studies in the social sciences and history 6). PDF, 7.64 MB. [Ed. Looks interesting but sloooooooow loading.]

Salvador Carmona and Mahmoud Ezzamel, "Accounting and Forms of
Accountability in Ancient Civilizations: Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt",
paper presented at the Annual Conference of the European Accounting
Organisation, 2005. PDF, 138kB.

[Submitted by Michael Tilgner]
Online version of: Kevin Cain, Philippe Martinez, "Multiple Realities:
Video Projection in the Tomb of Ramsses II", paper presented at the Congress
of Cultural Atlases: The Human Record, May 7-10, 2004, University of
California, Berkeley - pdf-file (1.3 MB)
"Here we present a new approach to archaeological reconstruction, in which
we project digitally reconstructed iconography within a damaged Egyptian
tomb. Combining video projection, computer animation, and digital
compositing, a kind of ‘plural space’ is generated in the tomb’s burial
chamber; this work is designed to enable visitors to view elements that were
destroyed in antiquity. Also, we suggest that the act of projecting computer
graphics reconstructions onto the walls of the tomb mirrors the ritual
animation of the tomb’s inscriptions during the Egyptian ‘opening of the
mouth’ ceremony. Our applicationmis grounded in art installation,
traditional archaeology, and the use of computers as theatre."

Errrrr. . .what?
[Submitted by Elisabeth Kerner (]
* The metal band 'Nile' have several albums out and are currently
on a world tour. See:
"They do proper research and even sometimes sing/chant in ancient Egyptian. Well worth checking out!" [EK]
More on the House of Ajax Archaeologist links ancient palace, Ajax

Among the ruins of a 3,200-year-old palace near Athens, researchers are piecing together the story of legendary Greek warrior-king Ajax, hero of the Trojan War.

Archaeologist Yiannis Lolos found remains of the palace while hiking on the island of Salamis in 1999, and has led excavations there for the past six years.

Now, he's confident he's found the site where Ajax ruled, which has also provided evidence to support a theory that residents of the Mycenean island kingdom fled to Cyprus after the king's death.

"This was Ajax' capital," excavation leader Lolos, professor of archaeology at Ioannina University, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Seems to make a better case for it than the earlier article did, though obviously it's a ways from being definitive.

But at least it's very clean. . . .
Neale archaeological dig into fifth month

LAST Tuesday marked the five-month anniversary of the erection of ‘temporary’ traffic lights at The Neale and with no clear light at the end of the tunnel, the local Councillors are demanding answers from Mayo County Council, as they wonder exactly how long more this situation will continue.

Now the council has said that it is looking to get more staff on the site to speed up the work. Last year, the Council began work on a stretch of road between The Neale and Cross, in an effort to realign and redevelop the R334. Initially, motorists had welcomed the work on the R334, as there was a clear need to reduce the incline on the road and fill in the valley that existed. However, in late October, when workers on this stretch of road uncovered an area of archaeological importance and were forced to call off all works until the site had been fully excavated, the road was immediately reduced to one line of traffic.

Apparently there is a need for more archys but they're having trouble finding enough to work on the site.
Lost civilization wells. . .found 1,000-year-old wells discovered in central China

Chinese archaeologists have discovered 18 ancient wells dating back 1,000 years in Ezhou City in Central China's Hubei Province.

The wells, located at the ruins of the ancient capital of the Wu Kingdom (A.D. 222 to 280), lie side by side in a variety of shapes, such as cylindrical and polygonal.

The well mouths were found 2.5 meters underground, with diameters ranging from 0.8 meter to 2.2 meters and depths from 4 to 12 meters. The building materials of the wells include earth, china clay, brick and wood.

Totally unsure what the significance here is.
Saloon archaeology update Archaeologist shares the dirt on Virginia City

Kelly Dixon believes there's a lot more to western archaeology than digging up coins and old bones.

Dixon, an assistant anthropology professor at the University of Montana, and author of "Boomtown Saloons: Archaeology and History in Virginia City, Nevada," is excited about "discoveries that deepen the understanding of saloon diversity to include women and African Americans."

"African-American women are a double minority historically, so when you can find the DNA of a woman on a tobacco pipe stem from an African-American saloon, you're able to insert tidbits of the past back into history books," Dixon said.

See more on Dixon here.
Extinctions update More evidence chicxulub was too early

A new study of melted rock ejected far from the Yucatan's Chicxulub impact crater bolsters the idea that the famed impact was too early to have caused the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

A careful geochemical fingerprinting of glass spherules found in multiple layers of sediments from northeast Mexico, Texas, Guatemala, Belize, and Haiti all point back to Chicxulub as their source. But the analysis places the impact at about 300,000 years before the infamous extinctions marking the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, a.k.a. the K-T boundary.

Using an array of electron microscopy techniques, Markus Harting of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands has found that chemical compositions of the spherules all match what would be expected of rocks melted at the Chicxulub impact. The spherules are now found in several layers because after they originally hit the ground, they were "reworked" by erosion to create later layers of sediments, he said. It's this reworking long after the impact that has misplaced some of the spherules into sediments that, based on the fossils in the same sediments, are misleadingly close to the K-T boundary.

Upshot: Chicxulub was too early to have caused the K-T extinctions and also the irridium layer seen worldwide. The article suggests that the irridium layer may have been caused by numerous smaller particles depositing their irridium in the atmosphere without actually colliding with the earth's surface. Still missing is a cause of the extinctions. But see other posts on this elsewhere.

Also compare to this: Climate blamed for mass extictions

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hmmmm. . . Were Early Humans and Cave Bears Trading Spaces?

For early humans, the biggest competitors for such prehistoric housing may have been an extinct species of bear larger than the grizzly that lived in Europe during the last glacial period.

Scientists know that Neandertals and cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) once used the same caves in southeastern France during the ice age (1.6 million to 10,000 years ago).

The question has been whether early humans and bears were challenging one another for food and shelter.

Now a new study of ancient bear bones and cave paintings shows that bears and Neandertals were not competing for caves, but instead were trading off with perhaps centuries-long gaps in between.

This seems significant with respect to other work possibly showing that humans may have had some responsibility in the extinction of bears. Need to do more research on this though.
Why the intelligent design lobby thanks God for Richard Dawkins

On Wednesday evening, at a debate in Oxford, Richard Dawkins will be gathering the plaudits for his long and productive intellectual career. It is the 30th anniversary of his hugely influential book The Selfish Gene. A festschrift, How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think, has been published this month, with contributions from stars such as Philip Pullman.
A week ago it was the turn of the US philosopher Daniel Dennett, second only to Dawkins in the global ranking of contemporary Darwinians, to be similarly feted at a series of lectures and debates across the UK launching his book on religion, Breaking the Spell. The two make quite a team, each lavishing the other with generous praise as the philosopher Dennett brings to bear his discipline on the scientific findings of Dawkins.

The curious thing is that among those celebrating the prominence of these two Darwinians on both sides of the Atlantic is an unexpected constituency - the American creationist/intelligent-design lobby. Huh? Dawkins, in particular, has become their top pin-up.

There is no doubt some truth to this. It's hard to win converts by calling people who don't agree with you stupid.
Ancient skull found in Ethiopia

Fossil hunters in Ethiopia have unearthed an ancient skull which they say could be a "missing link" between Homo erectus and modern people.
The cranium was found in two pieces and is believed by its discoverers to be between 500,000 and 250,000 years old.

The project's director, Dr Sileshi Semaw, said the fossilised specimen came from "a very significant time" in human evolutionary history.

It was found at Gawis in Ethiopia's north-eastern Afar region.

Also more at Nat. Geo.
Great fakers scammed ancient Italy

An ingenious counterfeit-coin scam has been rumbled by scientists in Italy. But no one is going to jail, because the forgers lived more than 2,000 years ago.

Giuseppe Giovannelli of the University of Rome 'La Sapienza' and his colleagues took a close look at what seemed to be a silver coin minted in southern Italy in the third century BC. It turned out to be a lump of lead with a thin silver coating.

This is not the first example of counterfeiting in the ancient world, but the researchers say that in this case the silver coating seems to have been created by a sophisticated chemical process.

"We are not yet aware of any other counterfeit coins like this one," says Giovannelli.

One would think fake coins would be fairly rare since they had to have had some standard by which to measure silver content. That is, a silver-covered lead coin of the same size as a true silver coin would have a different weight which would be caught fairly easily. Maybe that's why they're so rare. Or maybe no one's really looked before.
Huh? Hatshepsut mummy found

The true mummy of ancient Egyptian queen Hatshepsut was discovered in the third floor of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Secretary General of Supreme Council for Antiquities Zahi Hawwas revealed on Thursday.

The mummy was missing among thousands of artifacts lying in the museum, he said during his lecture at the New York-based Metropolitan Museum of Arts.

He said for decades archaeologists believed that a mummy found in Luxor was that of the Egyptian queen. It was a streak of luck, he said, to find this mummy.

The Metropolitan is hosting a Hatshepsut exhibition that displays 270 artifacts on the life history of the queen.

The American museum honoured Hawwas and his accompanying delegation in appreciation of their effort to unravel the mysteries of the Egyptian Pharaohnic age.

Andie posted this as well and hasn't found anything else on it either. There has been some speculation that an ummarked mummy found in KV-60, an uninscribed, poorly constructed tomb, was that of Hatchepsut. I did some work on this tomb with Don Ryan and he speculated on the identity of this mummy as H., following someone else whose name escapes me at the moment (email Don and have him tell you the story! He'll hate me for it. . .). Don has two pics of KV-60:

The entrance to the tomb:

And the mummy as found:

So, this should be interesting. (And happy blog-birthday, Andie!)

UPDATE: Dr. Ryan says that Hawass is referring to another mummy (not the one pictured above) that was also found in KV-60 within a coffin marked as belonging to Hatchepsut's royal nurse Sitre.

The KV-60-mummy-as-Hatchepsut (pics above) reasoning goes like this: After she died, Hatchepsut's mummy was removed from whatever tomb she had originally been placed and placed in the tomb of her nurse, Sitre, for protection. The mummy still in KV-60 (pictured above) is of an elderly and obese woman in the royal pose. So you had two mummies in KV-60: One in a coffin denoted as containing 'Sitre' and and unmarked one without a coffin. Hawass is suggesting the one in the coffin in Cairo is, in fact, Hatchepsut, and not Sitre. So, eh, who knows.
Huh? Hatshepsut mummy found

The true mummy of ancient Egyptian queen Hatshepsut was discovered in the third floor of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Secretary General of Supreme Council for Antiquities Zahi Hawwas revealed on Thursday.

The mummy was missing among thousands of artifacts lying in the museum, he said during his lecture at the New York-based Metropolitan Museum of Arts.

He said for decades archaeologists believed that a mummy found in Luxor was that of the Egyptian queen. It was a streak of luck, he said, to find this mummy.

The Metropolitan is hosting a Hatshepsut exhibition that displays 270 artifacts on the life history of the queen.

The American museum honoured Hawwas and his accompanying delegation in appreciation of their effort to unravel the mysteries of the Egyptian Pharaohnic age.

Andie posted this as well and hasn't found anything else on it either. There has been some speculation that an ummarked mummy found in KV-60, an uninscribed, poorly constructed tomb, was that of Hatchepsut. I did some work on this tomb with Don Ryan and he speculated on the identity of this mummy as H., following someone else whose name escapes me at the moment (email Don and have him tell you the story! He'll hate me for it. . .). Don has two pics of KV-60:

The entrance to the tomb:

And the mummy as found:

So, this should be interesting. (And happy blog-birthday, Andie!)
A cemetery of secrets

A Roman graveyard has been dug up in York. The skeletons all belonged to tall, strong men — and most are headless. Were they gladiators killed in the arena or victims of a deranged dictator? Richard Girling reports

Like nobody else before or since, Caracalla had it coming. On April 8, AD217, four days after his 29th birthday, appropriately on his way to a Moon Temple in modern-day Turkey, this irredeemable lunatic dismounted from his horse, pulled down his breeches and surrendered to the demands of diarrhoea. It was one of his own bodyguards who stepped forward and stabbed him to death.

Well, there's a pleasant way to go. . . . .

Interesting article.
Iraqi Archaeology and The Building of Nationhood, Subject of New Book by Williams College Historian

Magnus T. Bernhardsson, professor of Middle Eastern history at Williams College, is the author of "Reclaiming a Plundered Past: Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq."

The book, published by University of Texas Press, chronicles the history of archeology in Iraq and analyzes the strong link that has developed between archaeology and Iraqi nationalism.

The April 2003 looting of the Iraqi National Museum caused a world outcry at the loss of what was perceived as all of humanity's shared historical artifacts. This, however, was not the first time that Iraqi antiquities were plundered; the peoples of the Middle East have watched as time and time again Western archaeologists excavated and appropriated Iraqi antiquities, especially under the British Mandate.

Ought to be an interesting read. It's common enough to use archaeology and/or a sense of history to create a national identity -- even if much of it is more mythical than real. Egypt is interesting in that regard as it's almost always been a self-contained entity for the past 5,000 years, despite various stints as parts of larger empires. A modern configuration like Iraq is more complicated since the boundaries were created fairly recently and encompasses several different ethic groups with their own histories.
Palace of Trojan War hero found in Athens

Greek archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an ancient palace associated with Ajax the Great, a legendary warrior-king cited by Homer as a key participant in the Trojan War, the senior archaeologist supervising the project said Monday.

Dating from the 13th century BC, the Mycenaean-era palace found on the small island of Salamis, west of Athens, is part of a four-level complex extending over 750 square metres, supervising archaeologist Yiannos Lolos said in a statement.

"Travellers and archaeologists have been seeking this city from the early 19th century," Lolos said.

"This is one of the few cases where a Mycenaean-era palace can be attributed to a famed Homeric hero...with every possible certainty," he added.
Well, if psychics Say so. . . . Give up search for graves, S Taranaki council advised

No more money should be spent on trying to locate the graves of colonial and imperial soldiers believed to be buried in the vicinity of Patea’s beach.

That was the recommendation of South Taranaki District Council’s policy committee yesterday.

Crs Warwick Fry, Alex Ballantyne and Ian Smith voted against it. The final decision will be made by full council. The burials in question are of soldiers killed during the battles of the 1860s and 1870s.

There are thought to be armed constabulary graves near the beach and golf course and imperial soldiers’ graves in Kakaramea township.

But records and information from psychics indicate there are Maori graves in the area as well.

How come "psychics" can tell you there are scattered bones lying around some place in New Zealand but not where frickin' KV-63 was?
Iron Age relics found in central coastal province

Vietnamese archaeologists have recently unearthed several ancient stone and clay artefacts at an excavation site in Da Kai commune, Duc Linh district of central coastal Binh Thuan province.

According to the archaeologists, the relics - a clay tomb, a stone musical instrument and mostly remnants of hoes, axes, and chisels - date back to the late Iron Age about 3,000 years ago.

Not much more there.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Don't know if I posted this last week or not. . . .

Survivor Pottery: Vanuatu History between the cracks

Ancient pottery from Vanuatu might shed light on the last great human migration, writes Deborah Smith.

TAKARONGA KUAUTONGA carefully examines the shape, colour and patterns on the ancient fragments of pottery. "It's like a big jigsaw puzzle," he says, as he patiently pieces them together.

The 3000-year-old pot he is reconstructing was unearthed, along with 25 headless human skeletons, at a burial site in Vanuatu - the oldest graveyard discovered so far in the South Pacific.

Apparently, the only connection being made is with Taiwan, but that is a couple thousand years earlier and it is only on the basis of pot burials. Still, the burials themselves (weird) are interesting.
Clues to African archaeology found in lead isotopes

Microscopic specs of lead are offering clues about the enormous cultural changes that swept across northern Africa a thousand years ago.

At The University of Arizona in Tucson, a young archaeologist is analyzing lead traces in artifacts to shed light on the relatively little-understood archaeology of Africa, especially the period marked by the spread of the new religion of Islam.

Thomas R. Fenn, a doctoral student in the UA anthropology department, is unraveling evidence of centuries-old trade patterns across the Sahara Desert by identifying smelted metal artifacts, mainly copper, found in the continent's sub-Saharan regions.

Very neat.
Dumb archaelogical pun #16,347 Can you dig it? Glasgow's oldest building found

A TIME team have made a breakthrough discovery after unearthing a medieval bishop's palace dating back to the 14th century.

The archaeologists claim they have uncovered Glasgow's oldest building after finding the ruins. The palace, which sits in Easterhouse in the east end of the city, is believed to date back to 1323 and knocks the current title holder off the historical top spot.

Until now it was thought that Provan Hall, built between 1460 and 1480, was the oldest building in the city.
More on the Jamestown skeleton Colonial Skeleton Stumps Archaeologists

The quest to identify a nearly intact skeleton found at Jamestown continues.

Jamestown officials said this week that without DNA proof, researchers are doing other studies to test their theory that the skeleton discovered in 2002 belongs to Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold, a founder of the first permanent English settlement in North America, established almost 400 years ago.

The announcement came after The Church of England issued a statement that tests have cast doubts on the possibility that the skeleton belonged to Gosnold.

An archaeological dig in Southampton’s medieval city centre has unearthed Saxon structural remains and a WWII pharmacy.

Archaeologists were called in last November to investigate the 0.5-hectare site in the centre of bustling Southampton after an evaluation by the City Council.

The plot, between the city’s High Street and French Street has been earmarked for redevelopment, but the discovery of medieval vaults and structural remains dating from the late Saxon period prompted developers, Linden Homes, to delay building work while investigations take place.

This is cool, too: Among the layers of history was a collapsed 1940s chemist shop with a preserved pharmacy inside including medicine bottles, pots and potions.
Examining the Life of Tess Goell, a Pioneering Archaeologist

Tess Goell was the kind of American heroine that seemed to exist only in 1930's movies, played by Katharine Hepburn or Rosalind Russell. They were women bravely striding into what was largely believed to be a man's world — flying planes, battling city hall, working in formerly all-male offices or newsrooms. Goell strode into archaeology, a divorced, hearing-impaired Jewish woman amid Muslims in southern Turkey.

Her story, "Queen of the Mountain," a one-hour documentary directed by Martha Goell Lubell, a niece, has the feel of an affectionate family portrait, but that is not a complaint. The film, to be shown on Channel 13 tomorrow, is a strong, rich narrative with visuals to match.

I vaguely remember seeing a documentary about this site and perhaps Goell. Might be a manuacured memory though.
Spanish Ship Found Underneath Florida Beach

Navy construction crews have unearthed a rare Spanish ship that was buried for centuries under sand on Pensacola's Naval Air Station, archaeologists confirmed Thursday.

The vessel could date to the mid-1500s, when the first Spanish settlement in what is now the United States was founded here, the archaeologists said.

But the exposed portion looks more like ships from a later period because of its iron bolts, said Elizabeth Benchley, director of the Archaeology Institute at the University of West Florida.

Don't usually ost about shipwrecks but this one has been all over the news.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Book corner Actually, a non-archaeological book. Just finished reading PROJECT ORION - The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship (link conains a short interview with the author). The basic idea was that you would create a ship that consisted of three parts: A pusher plate, shock absorbers, and a crew compartment. Then you would drop some small hydrogen bombs out the back where they would explode and the resulting force would propel the craft. It sounds rather looney now, but the physics and engineering appeared sound. The book doesn't get very heavily into the physics at all, so non-math geeks will be perfectly at home. What killed it was largely the fallout (pun intended) from the limited test ban treaty and the existing Apollo program that garnered most of the available funding. Also the risks of exloding literaly hundreds of bombs in rapid (.5-second intervals) succession to get the thing off the ground. To get around the latter, they did discuss plans to use a Saturn V booster to get the damn thing out of the Earth's magnetic field and then use the bombs for propellant after that. Obviously carrying a couple thousand bombs into orbit wold have caused some concern (understatement intended) as well.

It seems odd to use a series of exlosions as a motive force -- they called it pulse propulsion -- now, given our images of a continuous motive force in the interim, from basic chemical propellants to sci-fi renditions. In fact, as the books notes, Stanley Kubrick initially wanted his spaceship from 2001 to use this type of propulsion. Hard to see this happening now, given a certain sector's revulsion to atomic anything. Recall the protests about the Casini mission a few years ago that carried a small amout of radioactive material for power.

Anyway, it's a good read if you're interested in that sort of thing. And it does, in fact, have some bit of archaeological import: Recall that the atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs produced large amounts of C-14 (see here). This testing has had some silver linings for the radiocarbon crowd as this known release of modern carbon has allowed them to track much of this carbon through the carbon cycle over the past 50 years or so. Hence, it allowed for a controlled release of modern carbon into the cycle with known beginning and end points.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Survivor Pottery: Vanuatu History between the cracks

Ancient pottery from Vanuatu might shed light on the last great human migration, writes Deborah Smith.

TAKARONGA KUAUTONGA carefully examines the shape, colour and patterns on the ancient fragments of pottery. "It's like a big jigsaw puzzle," he says, as he patiently pieces them together.

The 3000-year-old pot he is reconstructing was unearthed, along with 25 headless human skeletons, at a burial site in Vanuatu - the oldest graveyard discovered so far in the South Pacific.

Apparently, the only connection being made is with Taiwan, but that is a couple thousand years earlier and it is only on the basis of pot burials. Still, the burials themselves (weird) are interesting.
Fight! Fight! Scientists row over Gosnold claim

US experts claim that bones alleged to belong to a founder of the country are authentic and a skeleton buried in the UK, thought to be his sister, is not.

The archaeologists in Virginia are arguing with UK experts over American founding father Bartholomew Gosnold, born in Grundisburgh, Suffolk.

DNA tests revealed a skeleton buried in Suffolk is not related to the US bones.

US experts claim they have the real Gosnold while UK scientists believe the Suffolk skeleton is authentic.
Tall al-Farkha update Archeologists unearth ancient brewery

A Polish archeological excavation team have unearthed the biggest brewery used by ancient Egyptians in the Nile Delta before the first monarch ever ruled the country, Egyptian minister of culture Farouq Hosny announced on Wednesday.

The site discovered in Tall al-Farkha in the northern province of Dakahliya on March 8 dates back to around 3500BC, a period known as Naqada II D and C, the minister said.

The Polish archeologists, who have been working in the area since 1998, also discovered a cemetery with 33 graves belonging to middle and lower class ancient Egyptians.

Original post here.

And here's an Al-Ahram story on the sun temple recently discovered at Heliopolis.
This week's news from the EEF

"A chance trick of the light has provided proof that the town of
Al-Qasr in the Dakhla Oasis was once a Roman fortress. "
"Agricultural accounts from the Roman town of Kellis, the site
of which lies between Al-Qasr and Mut, show records of
grain and wine being sent to a place named, in Greek, "Takastra".
Up to now no one has known where this might be, but now it
can be surmised that Takastra, "the camp" from the Latin castra
(military camp), later became Qasr, making its etymological link
with the Arabic qasr (fortified town) obscure."

Cool part:

It happens to most of us: the mislaid glasses you find have been wearing all along, the lost car keys which were under your nose. Like those keys, the evidence was right before his eyes. "Archaeologists had been walking past it all the time," Leemhuis said this week. "They just didn't notice it."

What caught his eye was an outcrop of what had always been thought -- if any thought was given to it at all -- to be an outcrop of dried mud beneath a disused mosque on the edge of the old town. One morning this February Leemhuis was walking past the "rock" when he noticed that the sun caught a distinct line that appeared to be a course of brickwork. He called in the project's chief restorer, Rizq Abdel-Hay Ahmed, and local inspector Affaf Saad Hussein, and together they examined it more closely. Under the veneer of sun-baked mud they could distinguish several such courses. Far from being hardened earth this was mud-brick, and, moreover, the size of the bricks -- each 8x16x33 cms -- corresponded exactly to bricks in other Roman fortresses in the Western Desert. Since then other experts, including Roger Bagnold of Columbia University -- who has also walked past it many times -- have agreed the wall is Roman.

On the ARTP site, five entries called "KV63 in context" (I to V)
have appeared this week:
They talk about the work done in "ARTP excavation area no. 1", i.e. the
area between KV62 / KV9 and KV56, so opposite to KV10 and KV11.
[Compare Gitta's photo at the EEFBBS, where you may also find the
Stanford scans: ]
Note that Part V has pictures of the ARTP radar survey in 2000,
showing the 'blip' that would much later prove to be KV63.

* "Rock the Oasis" - online interview with Salima Ikram,
co-director of the North Kharga Oasis Survey (NKOS), who
discusses ancient rock art discovered in the Western Desert:

Digitized book from the Oriental Institute Electronic Publications
-- John A. Larson, Lost Nubia: A Centennial Exhibit of Photographs from the
1905-1907 Egyptian Expedition of the University of Chicago, The Oriental
Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, 2006 (Oriental
Institute Museum Publications No. 24). xiv, 109 pp. - pdf-file (10.9 MB)
"In 1905, the Oriental Exploration Fund of the University of Chicago
sponsored an Egyptian Expedition under the direction of Professor James
Henry Breasted. During the winter season of 1905/1906 and again in
1906/1907, Breasted and his colleagues made two reconnaissance trips to
Nubia. Their photographic record comprises almost 1,200 original
black-and-white images ... A century later, the documentary photographs of
the Breasted Expedition are still important records of the land that is now
Lost Nubia."

The two articles on the Abydos cemeteries in the most recent
issue of Antiquity (see last EEFNEWS) may officially not be available
for free online (in PDF), but somehow they are floating around gratis
at the Antiquity website in HTML form (a cache thingie?; of course the
photographs are missing):
-- S.O.Y. Keita and A.J. Boyce, "Variation in porotic hyperostosis in the
Royal Cemetery complex at Abydos, Upper Egypt: a social interpretation",
-- Cheryl Ward, "Boat-building and its social context in early Egypt:
interpretations from the First Dynasty boat-grave cemetery at Abydos",
pp. 118-129:

[Submitted by Michael Tilgner]
* Online version of: Richard H. Wilkinson, The Tausert Temple Project: 2004
and 2005 Seasons, The Ostracon: Journal of the Egyptian Study Society, vol.
16, no.2 (Summer 2005), pp. 7-12 - pdf-file (855 KB)
"The unfinished Memorial Temple of Tausert is located on the west bank at
Luxor between the recently restored Temple of Merenptah and the small
Temple of Khonsuirdis, south of the Ramesseum.The site was briefly
examined by W.M. Flinders Petrie in 18961. For the past 100 years,
the site has been largely ignored ... The University of Arizona Egyptian
Expedition (UAEE) decided that a reexamination of the site - aimed
at clearing, recording, publishing, and conserving the temple remains -
might be of significant value. As a result, the Supreme Council of
Antiquities granted the UAEE permission to begin this project, and the
Expedition completed its first field season in May and June of 2004,
and a second season in May and June of 2005.3 This article
describes what has been accomplished during the first two seasons
of work on this long-overlooked yet fascinating site."

[ed. Okay then. . .] Two musicians with a love of ancient Egyptian mythology have
merged Jamaican reggae grooves with themes of the Heliopolitan
cosmology. Full versions of all 8 songs are available for listening
or free download at:

"Aigyptos - A Database for Egyptological Literature"
"The AIGYPTOS database was specifically created to enable the search for
Egyptological publications by means of an elaborate subject indexing. It was
developed at the Institute of Egyptology in Munich, Germany, and was
available only locally for a number of years - therefore the language used
for processing literature was German. An additional English version of
AIGYPTOS is now available. Its specific aim is to allow queries using
English keywords. Due to the limited time that was available for the
creation of the English version, it has not been possible to translate the
contents of all the searchfields into English, so that the entries in
several fields, e.g. 'place of publication', 'language', 'comment' et al.
are still in German."

End of EEF News

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"“Dogs cannot be slaves or children or royalty. They can only be dogs”

Paper I missed from a couple months ago in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Burying key evidence: the social bond between dogs and people (Volume 33, Issue 2 , February 2006, Pages 158-175), by Darcy F. Morey. Abstract:

People have been burying or otherwise ritually disposing of dead dogs for a long time. They sometimes treat other animals in such a fashion, but not nearly as often as dogs. This presentation documents the consistent and worldwide distribution of this practice over about the past 12,000–14,000 years. Such practices directly reflect the domestic relationship between people and dogs, and speak rather directly to the timing of canid domestication. In doing so, they contradict recent genetics-based inferences, thus calling into question the legitimacy of focusing mostly on genetic factors as opposed to other factors. This discussion seeks to work towards a sound framework for analyzing and thus understanding the social compatibility between people and dogs. That compatibility is directly signified by the burial of dogs, with people often responding to the deaths of individual dogs much as they usually respond to the death of a family member. Moreover, that special social relationship continues, as illustrated clearly by the establishment, maintenance, and ongoing use of several modern dog cemeteries, in different countries of the world.

It's basically a survey of dog burials throughout the world, which are surprisingly common. Morey notes that Ashkelon in modern Israel contained a separate cemetery wherein over a thousand dogs were buried. The paper carries some good insights into the motivations behind dog burials and what they mean. After the review of various dog burials, he gets down to some interpretations. First, that there is true friendship between the species which is indicated by the care with which dogs are usually buried. That is, they're not just tossed into a ditch, they're carfully placed -- posed, if you will -- into purposefully dug graves. He describes one case where the dog was very elderly and suffering from a range of maladies resulting from both injury and old age and therefore could not have survived as long as it did without intense human care.

Second, the quote above come from the section describing the special status of dogs as being something not quite on par with a human 'person', but not just a utilitarian 'beast' either. There are people, there are beasts, and there are dogs. (And some might argue, there are cats wryly observing all) As morey puts it:

Overall, in being granted ritualistic treatment at death, living dogs had a special status, well encapsulated by James Serpell who referred to them as “neither person nor beast” [144(p. 254)]. This compelling characterization was used by Radovanoviรง [132] as part of the title for her discussion of certain Mesolithic dog burials in Europe's Iron gates region (dating to ca. 9500–8500 B.P.). It would seem that to those people, people were people, beasts were beasts, and dogs were dogs, something qualitatively different from either people or beasts. Mark Derr, exploring the modern relationship between people and dogs, put the matter this way: “Dogs cannot be slaves or children or royalty. They can only be dogs”.

Obviously (?) the fact that these animals were interred in this way -- and often in the company of a person -- indicates that the people had some concept of a dog spirit that would carry on into the next world as well. This seems superficially similar to the Egyptian mode of burying people with foodstuffs, but in those cases it was usually only parts of various food animals, not the whole thing. Hence, while a mutton leg doesn't indicate any sort of continuing relationship beyond the grave, vis a vis the person and the sheep, dog burials suggest that some essence of the dog and its personality would, in fact, continue on and interact with its owner.

If you're a pet owner, you might be distressed to know that, apart from the rare occasions where some event sent the owner and dog into the afterlife together, the dog was no doubt killed outright in order to accompany the deceased. And you don't want to know how all those cats got mummified in Egypt either.

The remainder of the paper deals with the earliest indications of domestication and the sorts of utilitarian uses dogs might have been used for. Morey concludes:

People can and do bury their deceased dogs in cemetery areas, and they have done that for thousands of years. In doing so, they are burying key evidence concerning the development of the social relationship between dogs and people. But they are burying it in a way that allows us to find it and describe it. We may not fully understand its basis, but because it exists, we know we have bonded with the animals, and as a result of that relationship, we often treat dogs in death just as we treat people in death.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Breaking news Oldest wooden statues found in Egypt

Archeologists in Egypt have unearthed two 5,000-year-old wooden statues, complete with gold wrapping paper, believed to be the oldest such artefacts ever found, the team said.

The statues, which depict two nude men with precious stones around their eyes, were found by a Polish team in the northern Nile Delta region of Daqahliya, said a statement by chief archaeologist Krzysztof Cialowicz.

The effigies are believed to date from Egypt's predynastic era (3,700-3,200 BC), before Egypt started to unify under the pharaohs.
Whoops £500,000 statue in police 'fake' probe

A STATUE of an Egyptian princess which cost a Greater Manchester council almost £½m is at the centre of a Scotland Yard investigation after claims that it is a fake.

The 52cm-high "Amarna Princess" - said to be the sister of the boy Pharaoh Tutankhamun - was bought by Bolton council for £440,000 nearly three years ago for Bolton Museum and Art Gallery's Egyptology collection.

It has now been taken off display as the police probe continues.

Heh. Well maybe he did. . Archaeologist stunned by discovery

"Are you sure you didn't carve it yesterday?" That was a reporter's first question when Koichiro Shibata showed off a jaguar relief he had excavated to the local press in Peru.

The ancient Andean civilization relief is extremely well preserved, so much so that the local reporter voiced doubts about its authenticity and Shibata himself was shocked at the pristine condition it was in.

Shibata, 33, began excavating Peru's Huaca Partida ruins in November 2004 as a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science researcher.
Archaeology of a more recent vintage Workers discover Cold War-era stockpile of survival supplies

Workers inspecting the structural foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge have uncovered a Cold War-era trove of basic provisions that were stockpiled amid fears of a nuclear attack.

Water drums, medical supplies, paper blankets, drugs and canisters holding calorie-packed crackers were visible as city officials led a tour of the vault Monday, days after the stash was discovered under the main entrance ramp to the bridge.

The estimated 352,000 Civil Defense All-Purpose Survival Crackers are apparently still intact, said Joseph Vaccaro, a supervisor at the city Transportation Department. The metal water drums, each labeled "reuse as a commode," did not fare as well, and they are now empty.

Someone needs to investigate all of those fallout shelters scattered around the country. You see these signs all over the place:

I always thought they were actual sealed bomb shelters that no one ever went into, but I'm beginning to suspect that many are just the basements of certain buildings that could be sealed up in some way with their regular doors.

Interestingly, there's an old, specialy-built one near where I live and get on the freeway every morning.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fakes! Fake statues unmasked with X-rays

FRAUDSTERS beware: fake statues can now be unmasked using X-rays. The technique can also reveal information about how metal and ceramic artefacts were made, without harming them.

At present, distinguishing between genuine porcelain antiques and fakes means drilling into samples to test them (New Scientist, 26 September 2005, p 21). Museums and collectors are reluctant to do this as it risks damaging the pieces, says Franco Rustichelli, a materials scientist at the Polytechnic University of the Marche in Ancona, Italy. Conventional X-ray images can reveal the different materials inside an object, but do not provide much information about antiques made from a single substance, he says.

Hmmmmm. Fakes part: The technique can also be used to date artefacts, by comparing their diffraction patterns with those in a database of known artefacts. Such a database could also help reveal fakes. Would have been nice to know more about this process.
Coffin with scenes from Homer's epics found

A 2,500-year-old stone coffin with well-preserved color illustrations from Homer's epics has been discovered in western Cyprus, archaeologists said Monday.

"It is a very important find," said Pavlos Flourentzos, director of the island's antiquities department. "The style of the decoration is unique, not so much from an artistic point of view, but for the subject and the colors used."

Only two other similar sarcophagi have ever been discovered in Cyprus before. One is housed in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the other in the British Museum in London, but their color decoration is more faded, Flourentzos said.

Artists' conception of what Homer may have looked like:
Even the Romans had two-way city traffic

Two-way traffic is not a modern phenomenon in Chichester – the Romans had it nearly 2,000 years ago.

As a major archaeological dig continues on the former Shippam's factory site, it has emerged that a Roman road crossing the area – its existence was unknown until the excavation started – was no less than 10m wide, and two-way.
Cleopatra avoided bad hair days

Egyptian queen Cleopatra used her hairstyles to enhance her power and fame, says a professor of art history and classics.

Statues, coins and other existing depictions of the queen suggest Cleopatra (69-30 BC) wore at least three hairstyles, Professor Diana Kleiner of Yale University says in a new book.

The first, a "travelling" do that mimicked the hair of a Macedonian Greek queen, involved sectioning the hair into curls, which were then often pulled away from the face and gathered into a bun at the back.

The next was a coiffure resembling a melon, and the third was the regal Cleopatra in her royal Egyptian headdress, complete with a rearing cobra made of precious metal.
Mayan underworld proves researchers' dream

The ancient Maya once believed that Mexico's jungle sinkholes containing crystalline waters were the gateway to the underworld and the lair of a surly rain god who had to be appeased with human sacrifices.

Now, the "cenotes," deep sinkholes in limestone that have pools at the bottom, are yielding scientific discoveries including possible life-saving cancer treatments.

Divers are dipping into the cenotes, which stud the Yucatan peninsula, to explore a vast underground river system.

Not much archaeology in there, it mostly just talks about the underground cave system, its biota (in not much detail), and the possibility of pollution. Actually, not much on the whole cancer-fighting treatments either.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Reader Kevin B. emails on the recent story of a Bulgarian Archaeologist who argued for legalization of antiquities dealing:

I am puzzled, though by your attitude toward antiquities markets and the
attitudes of many prominent archaeologists, including Brian Rose, who
was a professor of mine as an undergrad. You ask:

>How can "the state" regulate trade in antiquities when they can't even
stop it now?

But that's just it. You can regulate an open market, but you cannot
kill the black market. Look at the liquor tax. Who bootlegs liquor now
that its legal? If every county in the word made antiquities trading
absolutely illegal (which is not going to happen), you would still have
looting in substantially the same amount. Black markets would support
the looting and the promise of "buried treasure" would still lure

Also this piece on the trade.

I admit that it's an 'attitude' because I have yet to reach any kind of conclusion on the idea. And I have a certain amount of sympathy for this market-based position. However, I hesitate to make too many easy analogies and am unsure as to whether booze is an appropriate one. Alcohol is a commodity that can be manufactured, and the more you manufacture, the lower the costs and the lower the prices. Consequently, people don't make their own booze (or cigarettes) because a corporation can make them cheaper than they can. And it's renewable. And people don't generally regard a case of Jack Daniels as their cultural patrimony.

Artifacts just aren't booze. There are tons of artifacts out there, but value is determined by rarity and whole, relatively unique artifacts really can't be mined or mass produced, unless you want to turn over entire regions to artifact mining companies -- which I doubt will ever occur, because we consider archaeological resources to be rather more significant than bushels of corn or bales of tobacco. The potential is still there for rare, valuable artifacts to be dug up over a weekend by some guys with shovels.

One would also think that if the floodgates were opened and prices did fall, there would still be pent-up demand for artifacts that would either drive prices back up (demand) or at least cause a wholesale rush to get product until the initial demand was satiated.

OTOH, who knows. I would have to be given a good example of a truly analogous resource that has been effectively managed. Gems? Fossils? The art market? Endangered species?

It's a horribly complex issue so the above should be read more as musings than a coherent position one way or the other.
Archaeologists: Parthenon Was Once a Riot of Color

If the ancient Greeks sold kitschy postcards to tourists 2,000 years ago, they would have depicted very different views of the popular sites that visitors flock to today.

Archaeologists say many of the stony ruins looked very different in their prime. Many were brightly painted in hues that have faded with time and, in some cases, were forcibly removed.

What? Not even an artists' conception of a painted Parthenon?
Proof you can find anything you want on the Internet There is actually a site devoted to the famous Exploding whale of Florence. A dead sperm whale had washed up on an Oregon beach and local officials decided that it was better to blow it up rather than try hauling it away. However, they used far too much TNT, and it really wouldn't have worked anyway -- they were more or less expecting it to be pulverized or, at minimum, have it blown back to sea. Basically, it just blew it into a lot of large chunks that few for 1500', one of them totalling a guy's car.

The video of it is at the site along with other weird whale news.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Evidence of human activity from 10,000 years ago found in Shaanxi

Chinese archaeologists have uncovered evidence of human activity dating back at least 10,000 years, in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

The site is located at Longwangchan village of Yichuan, a county in the north of the province. Archaeologists have unearthed more than 5,000 pieces of stone works and some animal skeletons.
Book review at A Century of Debate

Just how exciting can a book about the Antiquities Act of 1906 be? Probably more so than you would think--certainly it was for me. It's not the history of an obscure, 100-year-old law; this is the story of fundamental questions of importance to all Americans. It is the story of visionaries trying to preserve a heritage that, even then, was vanishing. It is the story of bruising political battles that continue even to today. It is the story of how public archaeology came into being in the United States. Ultimately, it is the story of how we decided to treasure our nation's cultural--and natural--heritage.

Couple of good links in there, too, especially the one to NPS's Antiquities Act Cntennial page.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Easter Island update Terry Hunt has posted a link to the recent paper in Science on their work at Easter Island (other stuff here.

Looks to be freely available. There's a couple of other links to articles as well.
Ancient carving throws more light on Roman religious beliefs

AN ANCIENT rock carving has been uncovered near Chesters Roman Fort.

The carving of a 40cm high figure, holding a shield in one hand and spear or sword in the other, was found at Carr Edge near the fort by a team of rock carving experts.

It was uncovered by a team of enthusiastic local volunteers looking for prehistoric rock art as part of the Northumberland and Durham rock art project – a scheme funded by English Heritage and run by Northumberland and Durham County Councils.
Ruins of 4,500-year-old cities discovered in Shaanxi

In a region known for its 2,000 year-old archeological treasures, Chinese archaeologists have now discovered the ruins of 29 hamlets and towns that date back more than 4,500 years ago.

Located in the northern part of Shaanxi, the ancient communities were built on hills and cover an area of between 100,000 sqm to 400,000 sq m.

The ruins show that people had mastered building techniques and had constructed houses and stone walls around their community, said Wang Weilin, a research fellow with Shaanxi Provincial Archaeological Research Institute.
Remote sensing update Investigating canals across time, from space

The view from space of an ancient canal network is recasting archaeologists' understanding of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and of the farming economy that supported it at its height of power almost 3,000 years ago.

The work of Assistant Anthropology Professor Jason Ur, detailed in the November/December issue of the archaeology journal Iraq, is casting doubt on the long-held belief that canals that brought water from springs and rivers far to Nineveh's north were mainly constructed to support the city's elaborate gardens.

Using declassified satellite photographs taken decades ago, Ur found what he believes is evidence of branches in the canals that indicate extensive agricultural irrigation in the lands north of Nineveh that scholars had thought dependent on rainfall for their annual production.

Another excellent article and a great example of what aerial/satellite photos can do. Read the whole thing.

But really, a guy named 'Ur' should be working at. . .you know. . . .
Anthropologists: Early Humans Probably Pretty Peaceful

Depending on which journals you've picked up in recent months, early humans were either peace-loving softies or war-mongering buffoons.

Which theory is to be believed?

A little bit of both, says one archaeologist, who warns against making generalizations when it comes to our long and varied prehistory.

Pretty good article actually. It mentions how some of these theories get popularized and spread among the general culture (Kubrick's Killer Apes). Even when there is legitimate evidence for that theory, it's not the whole story, but once something gets ingrained in the popular culture it's tough to dislodge it.

Golden idols!

Gold idols found in Tripura pond

Two gold idols have been recovered from a pond in Tripura, triggering a debate among experts that Buddhism and Hinduism co-existed in the state in ancient times.

The idols were found by labourers Wednesday at Bishramganj in west Tripura, about 35 km from here. One of the idols is a nine-inch Buddha flanked by two dancing girls while the other is an eight-inch image of Vishnu in a standing position.

India. Not too much in the story.

Friday, March 17, 2006

And we thought we had it bad in the field. . . . Man severs own penis, throws it at officers

Before cops threw the book at him, Jakub Fik threw something unusual at them -- his penis.

Fik, 33, cut off his own penis during a Northwest Side rampage Wednesday morning. When confronted by police, Fik hurled several knives and his severed organ at the officers, police said. Officers stunned him with a Taser and took him into custody.

"We took him out without any serious injury, with the exception of his own," said Chicago Police Sgt. Edward Dolan of the 16th District.

Mummies rising from the dead, booby traps, etc., excepted, of course.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

EEF news update Wasn't much in the EEF news this week that hasn't been posted before. Okay, a bunch of Sekhmet statues are certainly interesting, but it's not like none have ever been found. One link of note (especially for beer-guzzling archaeologists):

Hideto Ishida, "Two Different Brewing Processes Revealed from
Two Ancient Egyptian Mural Paintings", in: MBAA TQ [Master
Brewers Association of the Americas, Technical Quarterly], vol. 42,
no. 4 . 2005 . pp. 273-282. In PDF (799 kB):
"We attempted the faithful reproduction of the brewing processes
depicted on the mural paintings in the tombs of Niankhkhnum and
Khnumhotep of the Old Kingdom and in the tomb of Kenamun of the
New Kingdom of ancient Egypt using a common pathway. After multiple
reproductions, we succeeded in brewing stable beer using both of
the above processes. Surprisingly, the two processes were proven to be
completely different. We also attempted to analyze the manufacturing
processes depicted in the Kaemraef mural painting, as well as the Meketre
models, of the Middle Kingdom. It was evident that the manufacturing
process of the Kaemref mural painting belonged to the Niankhkhnum
type, while the Meketre models fell under the Kenamun process. These
results indicate that two ancient Egyptian beer-manufacturing processes
coexisted for a long period of time in Upper and Lower Egypt."

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New location for ArchaeoBlog alert! This thing might be moving in the near future, as I am toying with using WordPress on a DreamHost domain instead of Blogger. If any readers have any opinions either way, send 'em in.

Top Bulgarian Archaeologist Wants Trade in Antiquities Legal

Prominent Bulgarian archaeologist Professor Nikolay Ovcharov called for legalizing trade in antiquities in a bid to remove the strong incentives for the pillage of archaeological sites.

"Trade in antiquities should be strictly regulated by the state and should take place at auctions only," Professor Nikolay Ovcharov said at a press conference on Monday. He spoke of the huge interest that the ancient sanctuary of Perperikon, in the heart of the Rhodopes, and the tomb near the village of Tatul drew at the International Tourism Bourse in Berlin.


I have no comments.

Okay, maybe a few random musings. How can "the state" regulate trade in antiquities when they can't even stop it now?

Bangladesh discovers ancient fort city

Archaeologists in Bangladesh say they have uncovered part of a fortified citadel dating back to 450 B.C. that could have been a stopping off point along an ancient trade route.

So far, a moat round the citadel has been uncovered along with parts of an ancient road at Wari, 85 km (53 miles) northeast of the capital Dhaka.

"The citadel and a raft of artifacts may help redefine history of India," said Sufi Mostafizur Rahman, head of the department of archaeology at Jahangirnagar University, near Dhaka.

What, no 'Temple of Doom'? Archaeology film fest in Rome

Rome, March 15 - Europe's best ancient history documentaries are on show here this weekend at the debut edition of Rome's International Archaeology Cinema Festival .

The four-day event, which kicks off Friday at the city's posh new Auditorium Music Park, has a fascinating programme of film screenings, meetings with directors and debates .

"Paradoxically, our city has never had an archaeology cinema festival, though archaeology is an integral part of the territory," said Rome Culture Councillor Vincenzo Vita .

Aboriginal people built water tunnels

Indigenous Australians dug underground water reservoirs that helped them live on one of the world's driest continents for tens of thousands of years, new research shows.

The study, which is the first of its kind, indicates Aboriginal people had extensive knowledge of the groundwater system, says hydrogeologist Brad Moggridge, knowledge that is still held today.

Some 70% of the continent is covered by desert or semi-arid land, which meant its original inhabitants needed to know how to find and manage this resource if they were to survive.

This seems like something of a non-story for several reasons. First, the data for at least the tunnels idea comes from this: He based his work on oral histories, Dreamtime stories, rock art, artefacts and ceremonial body painting as well as written accounts by white missionaries, surveyors, settlers, anthropologists and explorers. So no actual tunnels or any other water feature seem to have been described. Okay, but where are the actual tunnels? It would be far more interesting if the actual nature of these things were described.

Second, is it really that unusual that non-agricultural people wouldn't use that much water? Throwing out 'sustainability' seems kind of trendy when it really just seems as if what has been discovered is carrying capacity.

The rest of the article seems rather unduly fascinated by the concept of people surviving in a marginal environment -- like we know from many other people from around the world.

But who knows, maybe it's more interesting than this summary makes it appear.

Facelift on the cards for Giza Sphinx

The Great Sphinx of Giza, one of the most famous monuments of Pharaonic Egypt, is to get a facelift, the Egyptian ministry of culture said on Tuesday.

Restoration work on the noseless creature undertaken by the High Council for Antiquities is to focus on the beast's neck and chest, rendered fragile by the erosion of desert winds.

Egyptian antiquities boss Zahi Hawas said the last restoration work on the half-man half-lion statue was carried out in 1996.
Reader Mark Walker emails on battlefield archaeology as a distinct discipline:

It's definitely a distinct field of study, and, if the definition of
a "real subdiscipline" is "really distinct methods," then I'd say it
qualifies as a subdiscipline as well.
Because of it's subject matter--generally short-term events over
large areas with few features (depending on the battle), it has pretty
distinctive methods--tend to be landscape-scale; lots of field survey,
metal detection, plus some unusual aspects like recording dip and strike
on artifacts (with regular archaeology that would be incredibly anal,
but with an expended bullet it shows direction). Also by using forensic
techniques such as rifling marks you can sometimes track individual
weapons across the battlefield (more or less).
The research questions (possibly another part of being a
subdiscipline) tend to be pretty distinctive too (as I am sure you can
imagine). As the ultimate in subdisciplinary validation it even has its
own journal-that-nobody-can-afford (Journal of Conflict Archaeology)

By golly: Journal of Conflict Archaeology

Lost civilization god. . .found Carving of 'northern god' found

A 2000-year-old carving of a so-called "northern god", adopted by the Romans for protection and good luck, has been uncovered in Northumberland.

The 40cm high figure, holding a shield in one hand and spear or sword in the other, was discovered near Chesters Fort on Hadrian's Wall.

Experts say the find is exciting as it helps shed light on how people used local idols for protection.

The carving is thought to be that of Cocidius, a Romano-British warrior god.

Indy Watch Ford eager to start new Indiana Jones film

Harrison Ford is ready to jump back into his favorite film role and begin shooting the fourth Indiana Jones movie soon, a German magazine quoted the Hollywood actor as saying on Wednesday.

"Steven Spielberg and I now have a script in hand that we both like. I believe that we can start with the filming soon," Ford was quoted as saying in an interview with German lifestyle and entertainment magazine Fit for Fun.

The third and last Indy film, 1989 hit "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," starred Ford as the whip-swinging archaeologist and Sean Connery as his bumbling father.

Ford, 63, was quoted as saying that he needed "to do a little practicing with the whip" to avoid injuries.

That's the whole thing.

I also self-censored any Calista Flockhart jokes that sprang to mind.

Evolution, genetics, culture The Twists and Turns of History, and of DNA

Trying to explain cultural traits is, of course, a sensitive issue. The descriptions of national character common in the works of 19th-century historians were based on little more than prejudice. Together with unfounded notions of racial superiority they lent support to disastrous policies.

But like phrenology, a wrong idea that held a basic truth (the brain's functions are indeed localized), the concept of national character could turn out to be not entirely baseless, at least when applied to societies shaped by specific evolutionary pressures.

In a study of East Asians, Europeans and Africans, Dr. Pritchard and his colleagues found 700 regions of the genome where genes appear to have been reshaped by natural selection in recent times. In East Asians, the average date of these selection events is 6,600 years ago.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Note also: It's Pi Day!

You know, go crazy with the mathemeticians you know.

Like, get really crazy and type 7734.40 into your calculator. . . .
KV-63 update -- WOW Egyptian ‘tomb’ was mummy workroom

A chamber discovered last month in the Valley of the Kings was a room used by the ancient Egyptians for mummifying pharaohs buried in the area, rather than a tomb, Egypt’s top archaeologist said Monday.

Zahi Hawass said five sarcophagi found in the chamber contained remnants of pottery, shrouds and materials used in mummification.

The American researchers from the University of Memphis who discovered the chamber had also opened 10 sealed jars found there to discover other materials used in mummification.

That's interesting, if in fact, the case. Only a couple of stories have this so far, and it's only Zahi saying it. More no doubt to come. . . .

Survival Dance: How Humans Waltzed Through the Ice Age

Some people are naturally graceful on the dance floor, while others seem burdened by two inept left feet. Blame it on the Ice Age.

According to new research, the ability to dance may have been a factor in survival for our prehistoric ancestors, who used their moves to bond and communicate with each other when times were tough.

A study published in a recent issue of the Public Library of Science's genetics journal, suggests that, as a result, today's creative dancers actually share two specific genes. Both genes are associated with a predisposition for being good social communicators.

Easter Island updates

This story seems to making quite a splash. Terry Hunt sent a PDF of the Science paper that I shall read today sometime (pre-print version which is due out Friday).

Easter Island Settled Later, Depleted Quicker Than Thought?

New archaeological evidence suggests that Easter Island, mysterious home of titanic stone heads, was first settled around A.D. 1200, much later than previously thought.

Once there, the colonizers quickly began erecting the famous statues for which the remote eastern South Pacific island (map) is famous. They also helped deplete the island's natural resources at a much faster rate than previously thought, the study says.

Research: Polynesian Islands Settled Later

I just read over the paper. It's primarily concerned with dating, but presenting the new dates and analyzing older ones that purported to show earlier colonization of Rapa Nui. Important point is that many of the former dates were rejected as being unreliable. For the latter, Hunt and Lipo were generally trying to avoid accepting false dates rather than rejecting true dates. Probably not terribly fascinating for lay-people (even for archaeologists dating issues aren't terribly exciting), but it is important. We tend to forget the importance of precise dating, especially when including older dates in our models. And this is generally the case when a particular overall chronology has some consensus reached about it; dates involving controversial (e.g., pre-Clovis) issues are generally scrutinized much more closely. Note that there is some criticism of the rejection of some of these early dates (no doubt disagreement of the criteria used for rejection), cited in an accompanying review article.

There's really not much discussion in the paper itself of the implications of the study other than to note that the impacts of human settlement were immediate. Terry is planning on posting the article on his own web site, so look for it in the near future.

[UPDATE] After reading it again. The interesting bit is in the final sentence of the paper: "Demographic and cultural collapse resulted from European contact beginning in 1722 A.D. with the devastating consequences of newly introduced Old World diseases to a nonimmune Polynesian population."

Two reasons this is of note:
1) It brings into question the whole idea of a pre-European collapse. If severe population disruptions of the aboriginals did not take place until European contact, that means that whatever the inhabitants did to their environment before that did not cause huge disruptions or at least that they had come to some sort of

2) That the original Dutch explorers who described the population as in such
dire straits were really not the first to visit the place and it had already
been devastated by European disease. This has some support in work done in North
America by Anne Ramenofsky (among others) whose archaeological work strongly
suggests that by the time European explorers described many indignenous
inhabitants, they had already undergone depopulation before the initial contact
with Europeans had occurred. This makes sense when one considers that disease
doesn't really need to travel *with* Euopeans; it just has to be introduced and
then it will travel through existing (aboriginal) populations on its own, and
very rapidly.

Some bio-anth stories

Why we differ from our primate cousins

The differences between humans and chimpanzees, which are genetically quite similar, may be down to the differences in the activity of individual genes in each species.

That was the theory, but until now little has been known about how gene activity differs in different primates. To find out, Yoav Gilad, a human geneticist now at the University of Chicago, US, and his colleagues prepared a "gene chip" (a large array of genes) containing the same 1056 genes from humans, chimps, orang-utans and rhesus macaques. The researchers used the chip to measure the activity level of each of those genes in the four species. Any given pair of species differed in activity levels for 12% to 19% of the 907 genes for which they had good data for all four species.

Separation of Man and Ape Down to Gene Expression
Study Tackles Human-Chimp Difference


Still Evolving, Human Genes Tell New Story

Providing the strongest evidence yet that humans are still evolving, researchers have detected some 700 regions of the human genome where genes appear to have been reshaped by natural selection, a principal force of evolution, within the last 5,000 to 15,000 years.

The genes that show this evolutionary change include some responsible for the senses of taste and smell, digestion, bone structure, skin color and brain function.

Hundreds of Human Genes Still Evolving

Human Genome Shows Proof of Recent Evolution, Survey Finds

Time Magazine articles now online free

Who Were The First Americans?
Who Should Own the Bones?
A Tale Told By Ancient Bones (Graphic showing the skeleton and someo of its features)

The second item notes that the addendum to NAGPRA -- the famous "or was" addition -- seems to have been killed.

Lost civilization tunnels. . .found Archaeologists find ancient tunnels

Underground chambers and tunnels used during a Jewish revolt against the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago have been uncovered in northern Israel, archaeologists said Monday.

The Jews laid in supplies and were preparing to hide from the Romans during their revolt in A.D. 66-70, the experts said. The pits, which are linked by short tunnels, would have served as a concealed subterranean home.

Yardenna Alexandre of the Israel Antiquities Authority said the find shows the ancient Jews planned and prepared for the uprising, contrary to the common perception that the revolt began spontaneously.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ev-psych and egalitarianism Is Egalitarianism Instinctual?

Is there an "egalitarian instinct" bred into us by millennia of hunter-gatherer living as my colleague Max Borders asserts? And is this instinct channeled by Marxists and other central planners in an attempt to create egalitarian socialist utopias?

"One of the most misunderstood words in evolutionary theory is 'egalitarian.' Nearly all hunting-gathering societies are described as egalitarian; so are most autonomous village societies. Ask ten archaeologists to define an egalitarian society, however, and five will reply, 'a society in which everyone is equal in prestige or status.' That answer is wrong, since there is no society in which everyone is equal in prestige or status."

So wrote archaeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent V. Flannery in their 1996 book Zapotec Civilization, about their work in Mexico's Oaxaca Valley.

The column links to another on the subject. Talk about a complicated subject. But the whole "definition of 'egalitarianism'" thing seems like yet another example of archae-/anthropolgists using a word for years that everybody knows what it means and then spending years arguing about what the term really means (see: "culture").

Artifacts reveal distant past

It's been 16 years since Frederica Dimmick, the National Park Service archaeologist at the Cape Cod National Seashore, first saw ''the little hearth area with blackness all around it.''

A big gale in the fall of 1990 had battered the coastline, eroding a small bluff just enough to reveal an American Indian cooking pit. When Dimmick arrived to help with an archaeological excavation, she saw a small circle of stones and wood burned by charcoal, right on the beach. It was as if the natives had put out the fire, and left the day before, not thousands of years ago.

Mummy exhibit opens six-month run in Mobile

An exhibition of Egyptian artifacts could draw 100,000 visitors during its six-month showing in Mobile, organizers say.

Called "Mummy: the inside story," the exhibition opened Thursday at the Gulf Coast Exploreum, showcasing more than 90 Egyptian funerary objects, including the coffin and mummy of Nesperennub.

"It was awesome!" said Daniel Zieman, a sixth-grader at Corpus Christi School in Mobile. He was among the first visitors Thursday.

Battlefield archaeology update Battlefield dectectives survey a battle for all ages

Doug Scott is on the heels of a bloodthirsty killer.

In Centralia on Friday, Scott, a former Department of the Interior archaeologist, swept the ground, metal detector in hand, and tramped over the wet morning grass in search of evidence of one of the Civil War's most notorious characters in his most famous battle: the Battle of Centralia.

Scott and his team are looking to get to know the man known as William "Bloody Bill" Anderson and the Union soldiers he slaughtered on a September afternoon 142 years ago.

I was thinking the whole 'battlefield archaeology' thing was kind of a gimmicky term but it seems to be used more and more. Maybe it's developing into a real subdiscipline, although it doesn't seem to use any really distinct methods. Feel free to comment or email if you think otherwise though.

There's money to be made Missoula man makes living sleuthing plundered, looted archaeological digs

A pitted and rusty Civil War bayonet and a finely hafted 800-year-old stone ax head lay on Martin McAllister's coffee table near a small pile of stone arrowheads.

"This ax was more than likely placed with a burial. You can see it's had very little wear," McAllister said, picking it up and turning it on his palm.

The array of objects had been seized from grave robbers and looters. The items themselves aren't worth all that much to collectors the stone ax might bring $800, the bayonet as much as $1,000.

But the damage done by those who plunder historic sites is far greater.

Assessing that damage as well as training law enforcement groups and federal agencies is McAllister's business. He owns Archaeological Resource Investigations, a one-man company ready to grow, he said.

Hadn't heard of this sort of work before, a CRM company involving itself in sort of an ancillary law-enforcement role (though frankly CRM is not my specialty). The income potential seems limited since it appears as if the work would be funded by government agencies rather than private forms looking at mitigation and/or identification. Website of ARI.

Heh. In 4,000 years what will archaeologists think of my LPs?

I found the "papyrus" in our attic by looking for the ice melter in our garage. It wasn't a perfect storm, but the sidewalk needed the crystals that must have been stored out of sight. I moved the canvas used to bundle fallen leaves. What was that clattering down from a dusty shelf?
It was a cassette tape of "Ben and Sweets," saxophonist Ben Webster and trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, dated 1987. Soon other cassettes cascaded from the old zippered case left over from some bygone car cleaning.

"Ben and Sweets" was from an album recorded long before, in 1962. Playing the tape again was like hitting rewind in my memory. Remember the theory that memory is like a recording? Everything is there, you just have to find the play button.


Future archaeologists will have a lot of musical papyrus to unearth.