Sunday, April 30, 2006

We owe relative ease of our lives today to families like the Hatts and Cooleys
Like war monuments that help remind us of those who gave their lives for our freedom, cemeteries are monuments to remind us of lives that once were like our own. Ones that should never be forgotten, or swept aside because of the passage of time. They created our towns. We have a duty to care for them.

We have a great place to live in this area not just because of the people who now reside here, but also because of the people who came before us and shaped it into what it is today. The most important of these are the very first settlers who had the courage to carve out of the wilderness a better place to live and to share with their fellow neighbours. Things it seems today most people take for granted.

This is opinion piece directed at a developer wishing to move a cemetery. This sort of controversy is likely to continue coming up more often as cemeteries that were once on the periphery are now in suburbs and exurbs. Sticky situation. In some cases, it might be a draw to hve a nice, quiet, neatly maintained cemetery nearby, but often it's on prime land. There is some point to developers' arguments that many of these cemeteries are largely forgotten and poorly maintained, especially small ones in rural areas. I'd like to hear more about what local people are doing about old cemeteries, so email or post a comment if you have anything to add.
Village to give up its secrets
THE buried past of a Fenland village is about to be unearthed with the help of an archaeologist from TV's Time Team programme.

Carenza Lewis will lead the big dig at Wisbech St Mary next week when at least 10 sites throughout the village will be excavated over two days.

Owners of land throughout the oldest part of the village have been asked to give permission for excavations to take place. The test pits of a square metre will also go down about one metre.
History Is Moved, One Skeleton at a Time
The dirt that was trowled out of the graves was put into buckets, which were emptied atop a chicken-wire screen and sifted. Each bone fragment and coffin nail was retrieved.

"We're going at a slower pace, just to try and get everything," said Charlie Rinehart , the senior archaeologist.

The conditions of the skeletons varied. A few had clumps of hair. Others were crumbling into dust. All of the people were buried so the tops of their heads pointed west. Their sightless eyes faced east and the rising sun.
Ajax's long-lost palace discovered on island
On a deserted green hill above the Aegean Sea, archaeologists have unearthed what may be the palace of Ajax, one of the greatest heroes in Greek mythology.

From a rocky outcrop among the tranquil ruins, it is easy to imagine the warrior-king of Homer's Iliad setting sail from the island for Troy more than 3 300 years ago, as crowds lined the pine-covered slopes to wave farewell.

The idyllic location on Salamina island perfectly matches historical references, a fact which led archaeologists to wonder whether the scattered stones here might have formed one the most famous kingdoms of pre-historic Greece.
Shifting Ground in the Holy Land
Clutching a Bible and a bag of oranges he picked at the kibbutz where he lives, Haifa University archaeologist Adam Zertal climbs into an armored van beside me. A vehicle full of soldiers is in front of us; two Israeli Army vans are behind us. The convoy sets off through the heavily guarded gates of the settlement of Karnei Shomron and onto a dusty mountain road in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Through bulletproof windows six inches thick, we soon see the Palestinian city of Nablus in the valley below. After ten minutes the convoy stops, and an officer from the lead vehicle, an Uzi automatic weapon slung over his shoulder, runs back to consult with Zertal’s driver in Hebrew. “We are waiting for clearance for this section of the road,” Zertal tells me. “There has been trouble here in the past.”

It's the full article so be sure to read it all if it's of interest.
Late Bronze Age in Aegean a Century Older, Study Says (Update1)

Radiocarbon dating pushes some events in the middle of the second millennium B.C. 100 years back into the past, possibly revising history in the Aegean Sea area near Greece and Turkey, a study in tomorrow's Science said.

``A new story may be written on the origins of early classical and Aegean civilization, which effectively becomes much of Western civilization,'' said Stuart Manning, a Cornell University professor of classics.

The findings concern a critical time for development of Late Bronze Age cultures in the Aegean, Cyprus, Anatolia and others and may change how cultural relations are viewed in the period, said Manning, the lead investigator, in a telephone interview from London. The conclusion solves one of the big challenges to archeologists in the past 30 years, he said.

More here.
Mark Rose at Archaeology.Com throws cold water on the Bosnian pyramids:

And there it is. A self-described archaeologist, who believes the Maya and others are descended from Atlanteans who came from the Pleiades, has been accepted as a legitimate researcher by many news outlets. His ideas of early pyramids in Bosnia, which is simply not possible, has been accepted as a major discovery. How could this happen?

If you want to categorize this farce, it seems a standard-issue "amateur/maverick confounds establishment with great discovery" story, which no doubt makes it appealing to uncritical reporters looking for a big story. This kind of tale is a staple of the pseudoarchaeology or fantastic archaeology genre. And the term "pyramidiot" has been applied to those obsessed with pyramids and who offer strange interpretations of them on websites and in books and televsion programs.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Donald Sensing says that single-author blogs are the wave of the past and that videoblogging is the wave of the future. Okay, so I can see if I were a young, attractive female, videoblogging might send my hit count up. Y'all can see that, right? Lounging on a couch, staring seductively into the webcam. . . ."Today from Mehr News we hear that the Burnt City has offerred up yet another treasure, this time a cache of red-burnished vases that appear to date 300 years earlier than archaeologists previously thought."

Yes, indeedy, 2,000-a-day right there.

And here I discover the occasional (prefectly integral to the story, of course) picture of Keira Knightley only fetches maybe 5-6 extra hits.

OTOH, if I could get Scarlett Johansson to do the videoblogging, I'd hit both up-and-coming trends at once and soar to altogether new heights of blogging success. . . .

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Let's hope so Czech archaeologists may uncover royal palace in Egypt
Czech archaeologists have a chance to uncover a royal palace and a royal government seat from the Pharaohs' era in Abusir, Egypt.

Miroslav Verner, long-term head of the Czech archaeological expedition in Egypt, told the Czech Archaeology Abroad conference that the royal buildings were probably situated at the border between the Nile valley and large burial grounds.

Czech archaeologists have also uncovered a number of shaft graves in Abusir dating back to 530-525 B.C.

One of the large tombs they have studied belonged to admiral Wedjahor-Resne, labelled as "the traitor of Egypt" over his collaboration with the Persians, said Czech Egyptologist Ladislav Bares.
Good question Archaeology: Digital digs: Archaeologists are bringing past worlds vividly to life on the computer screen. But are the high-tech graphics helping science, or are they just pretty pictures?
There's more than one way to sink a ship, as Donald Sanders knows. President of the Institute for the Visualization of History in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Sanders spends a lot of his time repeatedly sinking a vessel off the coast of Cyprus.

The ship isn't real — it's a computer model of a vessel that sank in the fourth century BC. Sanders is trying to recreate what happened when the ship went down, leaving nearly 500 intact amphorae, or storage vessels, to be found centuries later on the sea floor. By loading his ship with a virtual crew and cargo, then sinking it in a number of different potential disasters, Sanders hopes to find a sequence of events that closely matches the archaeological evidence, and so work out might have happened centuries ago.

That's a good article. One might add, however, that a lot of archaeologists are probably wary of this stuff because the actual explanatory power of it is . . .at best, unclear most of the time. Sure it looks nice, but most archaeologists are more interested in theoretical models of how people adapt, organize their societies, etc., rather than just recreating what it looked like. No doubt it can be useful and is appealing to the general public, but it's a lot of expensive work for returns that basicaly don't get you published in mainline journals. Very often.
Archaeologists seize unique opportunity to discover ancient secrets under Olympic site
Humans have exploited east London ever since hungry Mesolithic fishermen ventured down to the banks of its marshy pools in search of food.

The Romans drove a fast road through the land, only for the rebellious English queen Boudica to exploit it to wreak her violent revenge on the invaders.

In the Middle Ages it was the turn of the Knights Templar. Their water mills established a thriving industrial zone, paving the way for some of the most important technological developments of the Victorian age.

Now, in advance of the arrival of the world's athletes for the London Olympics in 2012, the Lower Lea Valley will finally give up the secrets of its history as it becomes the largest archaeological site ever excavated in Britain. Stretching across an area larger than the neighbouring City of London, experts have begun work to uncover evidence of human occupation dating back to 6000BC. It is a once in a millenia opportunity for the archaeologists who must complete their work before the developers' bulldozers turn this decaying corner of the capital into Europe's largest construction site, complete with an 80,000 seat stadium, a 17,000-bed athlete's village, a velo park and an aquatic centre.
Centuries-Old Temple Uncovered in Laos
The remains of a centuries-old temple, along with thousands of historical artifacts, have been uncovered in and around the Lao capital during excavations for the upgrade of a major road, a newspaper said Wednesday.

Lao archaeologists believe the temple Vat Yotkeo dates back to the 1548-1571 rule of King Sai Setthathirat, the Vientiane Times said. Fittingly, the ruins have been found on what is now called Setthathirat road. The temple was destroyed by the Thais, who burned and pillaged Vientiane in 1828.

In addition to the temple, archaeologists have also unearthed about 10,000 artifacts, including a stone ax that could be 4,000 years old, the paper said.
Probably no blogging today (except for this, of course). Too much work to get done.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

CSI: Orkney

Orkney's '2,000-year-old murder'

A body found in Orkney was likely to have been a murder victim dating back as far as 2,000 years, it has emerged.
The skeleton of the man was found during an Iron Age site excavation at Mine Howe, Tankerness.

Tests have now revealed that the body met with a violent death and had been dumped in a shallow grave.

Experts believe it dates from between 100 BC and 100 AD and now hope to establish more about where the man came from and what may have happened.
Egypt, Thousand-Year-Old Legacy Found

A discovery by a group of French and Egyptian archeologists Tuesday revealed that Egyptians enjoyed a public cooking service 3,200 years ago.

The traces of that ancient civilization were found in the city of Luxor, where Egyptians prepared meals for workers of the Pharaoh tombs, and where remains of a school for workers' children, a butcher and vegetable stores.
Surprise finds at school site dig

Several important finds have been made at an archaeological dig on the site of the proposed new school in Lockerbie.
It was decided to survey the area after information was received by the council suggesting it could be an area containing buried remains.

The dig unearthed a cremation urn from about 1900 BC and what is believed to be an early Bronze Age grave.
Archaeopodiatry update Cloud of scholarly dust rises over ancient footprints claim

Are the footprints of surprisingly ancient Americans preserved in 40,000-year-old volcanic ash in southern Mexico? In December, an article in the journal Science cast a cloud of doubt over that claim.

The authors, Michael Waters and Paul Renne, argue that the ash dated to 1.3 million years ago, much too old for humans on this continent, and that the so-called footprints were nothing more than marks made by the tools of modern workers quarrying the stone with crowbars.

Now, Silvia Gonzalez, an archaeologist from Liverpool John Moores University, and several members of her research team have published their data and interpretations in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews. Based on their results, the case is far from closed.
Archaeopolitics update Jerusalem's volatile archaeology
One of the most visited archaeological sites in Jerusalem is also charged with emotion that has erupted in riot and bloodshed.

Known as the Western Wall Tunnel it runs under the old walled city and along the length of the western wall of what was once the Temple of Jerusalem.

Built by Herod the Great in 20 BC, the Temple itself was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70.

All that survived was the rock platform - the Temple Mount - on which the Temple was built and the massive retaining wall that supported the foundations of the building.
Archaeologists dig Roman dogs

BONES of dozens of dogs offered to the gods in Roman times and unearthed in Ewell 30 years ago is an archeological find that has triggered further investigation.

Leading archaeologists are in the village recovering the secrets of lost Roman shrines.

The team of excavators, digging at Hatch Furlong on the Ewell bypass, is being led by Harvey Sheldon of Birkbeck College, University of London, and Jon Cotton of the Museum of London and president of the Epsom and Ewell Local History and Archaeology Society.

Not much about the dogs, actually.
Mummymania update Jasmine Day (The Ancient Egypt Society of Western Australia Inc.) sends along a list of readings on Egyptomania, etc:

Here's a list (to which I could add even more were there
time enough) of my top picks for Egyptomania and mummymania reading. The
public seem largely unaware of the work that has been done in this field,
and sorely need to read this material to understand the reasons for
Western interest in ancient Egypt, and the ways in which ancient Egypt is
at times distorted or exploited by vested interests.

My book, to start with:

* Day, J. (2006) The Mummy's Curse: Mummymania in the English-speaking
, Routledge (June 1, 2006).
It can already be ordered online in hardback or softcover
from Routledge or

The other books and articles. Note that Ucko ed. is actually an entire
series of books! Also, I don't have my copy of J. S. Curl to hand but
it's a major publication on Egyptomania.

* Curl, J. (republished 2005) The Egyptian Revival: a Recurring Theme
in the History of Taste.
* Frayling, C. (1992) The Face of Tutankhamun, London, Boston: Faber &
* Daly, N. (1994) ŒThat obscure object of desire: Victorian commodity
culture and fictions of the mummy¹, Novel: a forum on fiction
* Day, J. (2002) Œ³The curse² from an anthropological perspective, with
implications for its study using hard sciences¹, rapid response to M.
Nelson, One foot in the past: the mummy's curse: historical cohort
study, British Medical Journal 325(7378):1482­4. Online posting.
Available online:

(accessed 26 December 2002).
* Fisher, S. (2000a) ŒWhat is the Appeal of Ancient Egypt? Qualitative
Research with the Public¹, unpublished report for the Petrie Museum
of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London. Susie Fisher
* ‹‹ (2000b) ŒExploring Peoples¹ Relationships with Egypt: Qualitative
Research for the Petrie Museum¹, unpublished report for the Petrie
Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London. Susie
Fisher Group.
* Hope, C. (2000) ŒVictorian Australia and ancient Egypt¹, paper
presented at Encounters With Ancient Egypt conference, Institute of
Archaeology, University College London, December 16. Online.
Available HTTP:

(accessed 11 May 2001).
* Humbert, J., Pantazzi, M. and Ziegler, C. (1994) Egyptomania: Egypt
in Western art 1730 ‹ 1930 (English edition), Ottawa: National
Gallery of Canada.
* Johnson, C. (1991) ŒThe limbs of Osiris: Reed¹s Mumbo Jumbo and
Hollywood¹s The Mummy¹, MELUS: the journal of the Society for the
Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States
* Lupton, C. (2003) ŒŒMummymania¹ for the masses ‹ is Egyptology cursed
by the mummy¹s curse? ¹, in S. MacDonald and M. Rice (eds) Consuming
Ancient Egypt (Encounters With Ancient Egypt), London: UCL Press
* McAlister, M. (1996) Œ³The common heritage of mankind²: race, nation
and masculinity in the King Tut exhibit¹, Representations 54:80­103.
* MacDonald, S. (2003) ŒLost in time and space: ancient Egypt in
museums¹, in S. MacDonald and M. Rice (eds) Consuming Ancient Egypt
(Encounters With Ancient Egypt), London: UCL Press, pp.87­99.
* Merrillees, R. (1995) Egyptomania in Australia, Bulletin of the
Australian Centre for Egyptology 6, 77­87.
* Merrillees, R. et al. (1990) Living with Egypt¹s Past in Australia,
Melbourne: Museum of Victoria.
* Montserrat, D. (1998) ŒLouisa May Alcott and the mummy¹s curse¹, KMT:
a modern journal of ancient Egypt 9(2):70­5.
* ‹‹ (1999a) Œ³To make death beautiful²: the other life of the Fayum
portraits¹, Apollo: the international magazine of the arts
* ‹‹ (1999b) Review of ŒThe Mummy¹, Egyptian Archaeology 15:44.
* ‹‹ (2000) Ancient Egypt: digging for dreams, Glasgow: Glasgow City
Council, Cultural & Leisure Services.
* Shohat, E. (1997) ŒGender and culture of empire: toward a feminist
ethnography of the cinema¹, in M. Bernstein and G. Studlar (eds)
Visions of the East: Orientalism in film, New Brunswick, New Jersey:
Rutgers University Press, pp.19­66.
* Towers, D. and Wallace, D. (dirs) (1992) The Face of Tutankhamun, 5
episodes, 49 mins each, executive producer J. Bennett: BBC-TV and The
Arts & Entertainment Network.
* Trigger, B. (1995) ŒEgyptology, ancient Egypt, and the American
imagination¹, in N. Thomas et al. The American Discovery of Ancient
Egypt, vol. 1, New York: Harry N. Abrams, pp.21­35.
* Ucko, P. (series ed.) (2003) Encounters With Ancient Egypt (8 vols),
London: UCL Press.
Blog maintenance update A reader suggested allowing Anonymous comments. These were turned off a while back due to comment spam. Blogger has since implemented word verification that supposedly blocks comment spam. Hence, Anonymous comments are being allowed again, with word verification.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Missed rock carvings found in ancient 'stew-site'

Deep in the dark heart of a passage grave on Anglesey, archaeologists have discovered a decorated slab carved 4,500 years ago for the dead and their guardians, missed when the tomb was originally excavated over half a century ago.

The newly revealed carving at Barclodiad y Gawres, a chevron design pecked into the rock with a stone chisel, brings to six the number of decorated slabs with lozenges, cupmarks, concentric circles and spirals in a tomb already regarded as one of the most spectacularly decorated prehistoric burial monuments in Britain. It was spotted first by amateur archaeologists Maggie and Keith Davidson, and recorded earlier this month for the first time by a team of rock art experts. The carving is much fainter than on the other slabs, and was missed when the tomb was first excavated in the early 1950s.
Kennewick Man (pseudo) update Kennewick Man Skeletal Find May Revolutionalize Continent's History
A forensic anthropologist at Middle Tennessee State University is one of a select number of scientists to participate in the examination of a skeleton that could force historians to rewrite the story of the entire North American continent.

Dr. Hugh Berryman, research professor, was one of only 11 experts from across the United States to scrutinize the bones of Kennewick Man, a 9,300-year-old skeleton found 10 years ago along the Columbia River at Kennewick, Wash.

“It’s one of the oldest skeletons, one of the earliest individuals that populated this continent,” Berryman says. “And we have a chance to look at those remains and learn from them what they tell us about the past and who these people were.”

Nothing much new there.
Italy owes wine legacy to Celts, history buffs say
Wine conjures up the image of cultured drinkers sipping their way delicately through a full-bodied vintage.

But for two history buffs with a passion for the tipple, northern Italy has the barbarians to thank for its long wine-making tradition.

Luca Sormani, from Como, and Fulvio Pescarolo, from the tiny town of Robbio near Milan, have traced the region's wine culture all the way back to its Celtic roots and have started making it according to ancient methods.
BU archaeology team finds artifacts linked to prehistoric people
While taking steps toward the area's future, a Binghamton University archaeology team has found clues to its past.

The university's Public Archaeology Facility un-earthed artifacts last year they believe were used by the Haudenosaunee people in prehistoric times, Vice President for Research Gerald Sonnenfeld announced during a meeting of the Binghamton University Council on Friday. The discovery came during an excavation of the future Binghamton University Education and Community Development Center.

"We have an interesting situation downtown," said Nina Versaggi, director of BU's Public Archaeology Facility. "We have the beginnings of the historic city of Binghamton and we also have a time capsule of prehistory before Europeans came over."
Palestinian Archaeology Braces for a Storm
Six years ago, Hamdan Taha, director of the Palestinian Authority's Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, was struggling to make ends meet with a skeleton crew and a $500,000 budget (Science, 7 January 2000, p. 33). Then last December, his department got a windfall: The Palestinian Authority offered a $6 million budget boost. Much of the new money was to be for preservation, but some was tagged for the excavation of a freshly uncovered Bronze Age site called Tell Etell, a few kilometers outside Ramallah--the first archaeological project that would be fully Palestinian from start to finish.
Battlefield archaeology update Team to scour field of battle

Nearly 150 years after the Battle of Black Jack, the entire story about what happened in southern Douglas County between pro- and anti-slavery forces may still be untold.

That could change next month after a prominent battlefield archaeologist leads a team of sleuths, armed with sophisticated metal detectors and connected to global positioning satellites, scours fields, woods and ravines three miles east of Baldwin.

Called an archaeological survey, the searchers will use a procedure similar to detectives investigating a crime scene.
Archaeologists uncover Iberian shrine and necropolis near La Vila Joiosa
Archaeologists have found the remains of a 1st century BC Iberian shrine and necropolis on the outskirts of La Vila Joiosa.

The find is near the 19th century cliff-top Torreón Doctor José María Esquerdo, where a team of Spanish and French archaeologists are working together on the investigations. The dig is led by Pierre Ronillard, the director of the Maison René Gionouves Institute for Archaeological Investigation in France, and Jesús Moratalla, archaeology professor at Alicante University.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Construction season begins

No, not out along the roads, but in the ArchaeoBlog household. Thus beginneth a kitchen remodel, or at least a partial remodel. Specifically, the replacement of a countertop, sink, and various wall stuff. (Keep reading, there's archaeology to come)

The last time the place was re-done seems to have been the early-mid 1980s. The house was only purchased 3 years ago and the former owner is unavailable for comment. However, various neighborly informants have indicated that owner was here since around 1984 or so and that more or less jives with the decor, at least of the kitchen (the remainder was done in late-Hippy phase, complete with fugly macrame lamp shades). (No, I didn't make that up)

At any rate, this is a before shot:

The first phase that took place is removal of wallpaper applied two years ago, along with wallpaper glue that was not removed when that wallpaper was put up. The removal of those layers revealed this old paint:

Now for the archaeology part: A close-up of the paint reveals three layers of paint:

Which, in a sense, is a typical archaeological stratigraphy. The assumption that I've been going on is that the last layer of wallpaper was applied in the mid-1980s. The paint stratigraphy underneath seems to bear this out. The actual colors, in stratigraphic order seems to be (early ==> late):

-- Bright yellow
-- Overlain by a very light green
-- Both overlain by a peach/brown, which seems to be the last paint applied before the wallpaper

Obviously, this is only a relative chronology. Stylistically, all of these colors seem appropriate to the 1970s. Bright yellow, if memory serves, seems to have been perhaps a late 1960s or early 1970s sort of scheme (at least, my parents had bright yellow in the early 1970s). In fact, one of my strongest memories of youth is steaming off bright yellow paint from the kitchen in our ancestral home on July 4, 1976. I recall this rather vividly because it was the coolest thing to steam a wall and then pull paint off in big rubbery sheets, and because the Parade of Tall Ships was going on for the Bicentennial. Readers may want to contribute their ideas to establishing the possible stylistic correlations with the time period in question.

At any rate, the cat seemss to have approved of the work thus far:

(Yes, that's a Marshalltown on the windowsill)
Egypt and popular media Dr. Jasmine Day had this to say on the EEF lists regarding popular culture representations of Egyptian motifs:

Periodic innovations in the way that ancient Egyptian material culture is
depicted by influential popular sources, notably Hollywood, are quickly
imitated by subsequent productions. After the movie "Stargate", for
instance, futuristic Egyptianizing armour started appearing on Egyptian
characters elsewhere, such as the mummy superheroes in the cartoon series
"Mummies Alive!" (1998). It's worth noting that the Anubis and Horus guards
in "Stargate" also had prominent wadjet tattoos on their biceps. "The Mummy"
(Sommers dir. 1999) pioneered Egyptian "temporary tattoos" including gold
paint on shaven-headed priests and indigo or soot paint on the character

(Illustration added for clarity)

Consider how popular body painting has become in recent years,
with art books published on the subject; Hollywood borrows from the current
vernacular. So the likely source for the gold-painted priests in the TV
miniseries "The Ten Commandments" (2005) is the 1999 mummy film.

Gold body paint is of course a modern invention, but the 1999 film's
portrayal of dark-coloured body paint, applied on Anaksunamun to represent
clothing and jewellery patterns. . .

(Hmmmm, looks like we need another helpful illustration)

. . .got the late Dominic Montserrat to thinking
that perhaps Hollywood was actually onto something: did the Egyptians use
indigo or some other substance to paint themselves? I know of no
Egyptological evidence for this (perhaps other EEF members have some ideas),
but if you're interested to read Dominic's article, it was in EA:

Montserrat, D. (1999) Review of 'The Mummy', Egyptian Archaeology 15:44.

Interesting. One always thinks of academia pointing Hollywood in particular directions, but not vice-versa. At any rate, this is fascinating from a number of perspectives.
Relic Hunters update Kris over at has some comments on the relic hunters story from last week:

Diggin' in Virginia V: Unearthed War Relics See Battle Again. She notes:

If archaeologists are interested in preserving the past, and since legislation stopping the DIV and allied groups has failed and probably will continue to fail, we ought to be working with these perfectly legal relic hunters to improve their recording process, to teach them what archaeology can tell us of the Civil War and to instill an understanding of the preservation ethic. I realize that this will not be a widely accepted answer, and there are problems with finding funding, as Vergil Noble points out, but the educational and knowledge aspects of being able to conduct even a small targeted survey would be wonderful.

See further comments in Comments on original post.
Celebrity archaeology

No, not more pictures of Scarlett Johannsen (pity that), but a couple of actors in apparently new and exciting roles involving archaeology:

'Whoever would have thought that archives could be sexy?'

You might think that Tony Robinson, normally to be found scrutinising a dirty brown object that might be a shard of Roman pottery or a dried-out slug, would find the precise world of the National Archives rather dull.

The actor, unearthed first as Baldrick in Blackadder, but now best-known for popularising archaeology on programmes such as Time Team, seems to be more at home in the speculative habitat of the dig rather than the exact and certificated world of censuses and marriage registers.

Next, we have Peter Weller (Robocop!) who is apparently something of an expert on Roman archaeology:

just finished watching Engineering an Empire and it was fantastic.

As I was watching it a dude appeared on screen talking about the Romans, as you would expect, but it was Peter Weller. I thought to myself, it couldn't be the same Peter Weller that was Robocop, could it?

. . .

Then I thought, why the hell should I listen to Robocop tell me about the Roman Empire? Turns out that he has a Masters degree in Roman and Renaissance art and he is working on his PhD. He knows what he's talking about it seems.

I saw the same thing. The subtitle during Weller's speaking parts was 'Syracuse University' (see here). This rocks:

"It's a classics course posing as a film course," he says. "Eighty kids signed up thinking they'd get an easy A from RoboCop. When they saw the reader was 450 pages, including Homer and Suetonius, a quarter of the class dropped out. Those that stayed had a blast reading a portion of the reader, taking a quiz to be sure they'd read it."

It struck me because just the day before I'd watched a bit of Leviathan, a perfectly forgetful ripoff movie of Alien.
More On Blogging In relation to">this post this incident seems particularly appropos with regards to academic blogging and its dangers:

The Times suspended Hiltzik's blog on the paper's Web site last week after he admitted using one or more pseudonyms, in violation of the company's policy, to post derogatory comments on his and other people's blogs. The anonymous blasts by "Mikekoshi" were usually aimed at the same people he peppers on his Golden State blog, which is far more personal and inflammatory than his newspaper column on financial issues.

Kurtz nails the core problem here:

What exactly are the rules for print or television journalists blogging on company sites? Reporters are usually told not to take political stands or say anything they wouldn't say in print or on the air. But blogs by their nature are more personal, attitude-filled, sharp-edged or sarcastic--often dashed off within minutes--and that is the essence of their appeal. It can also be dangerous territory.

This seems a fairly similar situation, although this, in part, relates to doing it on company time and directly representing the entity. Newspaper reporters (and columnists to a lesser extent) are paid to do a certain kind of work, usually thought of as fair and analytical. Blogs can be anything but, and as Kurtz notes, that's their main appeal. But entering into that realm can cause crossover problems.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Graves of the Pacific's First Seafarers Revealed
Little is known about the Lapita peoples, the first settlers of the Western Pacific, other than their ubiquitous calling card: red pottery fragments with intricate designs. But in what's being hailed as one of the most dramatic finds in years, researchers at the meeting offered a glimpse of the first-known early Lapita cemetery. "This is the closest we're going to get to the first Polynesians," says archaeologist Matthew Spriggs of Australia National University (ANU) in Canberra, a member of the excavation team.

The graves on Efate, in the Vanuatu Islands, are estimated to be 3000 years old. That's around the time that the Lapita peoples began hopscotching across the Pacific from New Guinea's Bismarck Archipelago, fanning out as far as Samoa and Tonga. The site reveals unknown facets of their burial customs, and DNA from the bones may offer clues to their origins. "The find has opened a new window on the Lapita people as a biological population as well as an archaeological culture," says Lapita expert Patrick Kirch of the University of California, Berkeley.

These are more headles bodies, which seems to have been the custom (though my knowledge of Polynesian archaeology is limited). The article suggests that the skulls were removed after being buried and, presumably, defleshed, and replaced with shells. Odd that three skulls were found on one guy's chest though. Certainly appears to be warfare-related.
Java Man's First Tools
About 1.7 million years ago, a leggy human ancestor, Homo erectus, began prowling the steamy swamps and uplands of Java. That much is known from the bones of more than 100 individuals dug up on the Indonesian island since 1891. But the culture of early "Java Man" has been a mystery: No artifacts older than 1 million years had been found--until now.

At the meeting, archaeologist Harry Widianto of the National Research Centre of Archaeology in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, wowed colleagues with slides showing stone tools found in sediments that he says were laid down 1.2 million years ago and could be as old as 1.6 million years. The find, at a famous hominid site called Sangiran in the Solo Basin of Central Java, "opens up a whole new window into the lifeways of Java Man," says paleoanthropologist Russell L. Ciochon of the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

There's a point made near the bottom about these tools (flakes, really) being much smaller than similarly-aged tools in Africa because of a relative paucity of tool material. That's been a general theory about why microlithic tools developed: they're portable and make efficient use of limited raw materials.
Study of human migration over 60 000 years
A project investigating human migration over the last 60 000 years will be discussed at a conference in South Africa next month, organisers said on Thursday.

The Genographic Project will take DNA samples from 100 000 people belonging to indigenous populations around the world. The hope is to demonstrate the migration routes followed by anatomically modern humans as they moved out of Africa - the origin of all humans alive today - and spread across the world.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Thar's GOLD in them thar. . .square holes!"
Ancient gold cartouches unearthed in Egypt

A team of French and Egyptian archeologists have discovered two sets of nine solid gold cartouches bearing the name of Thotmusis III (who ruled from 1479-1425 BC) near the pharaoh's stepmother Queen Hatshepsut's temple in Luxor, 700 kilometres south of Cairo.

"These cartouches... which have the names of Hatshepsut and Thotmusis III have been found near Hatshepsut's obelisk which proves that the obelisk was erected by both rulers," said Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

This is the only mention of it so far. Via Gitta Warnemuende via EEF.
On blogging There are a bunch of preliminary papers up at the Social Science Research Network on "Bloggership: How Blogs Are Transforming Legal Scholarship". These are being prepared for a conference on blogs and legal scholarship. As the title suggests, it's centered around those in the legal/academic profession (Althouse, Instapundit), so only tangentially related to the humble archaeology blogworld.

The one I found most of interest was Blogging While Untenured and Other Extreme Sports by Christine Hurt and Tung Yin. It deals with the conundrum of being a junior faculty member and blogging. They quote Randy Barnett of the Volokh COnspiracy on the dangers of blogging while pretenured:

1) Potential negative reaction by tenured faculty to one's opinions. This is especially true of opinions to the left or right of the bulk of the faculty. 2) The risk of distraction from the long-term scholarship that leads to tenure and, more importantly, generates the knowledge that makes one a genuine scholar rather then solely a polemicist or pundit.

This seems quite like the usual criticism of those who engage in popular presentations of one's subject matter. Almost universally, those who popularize a discipline are generally assumed to be "not serious scholars". Rarely (Carl Sagan, Stephan Hawking, SJ Gould) those who popularize science are also thought well of in 'serious' circles.

Also (quoting Larry Solum):

If you say something intemperate, ill-informed, or offensive on a blog, it may create a lasting negative impression. This is not speculation. I know of more than one academic blogger -- both senior and junior -- who has prompted multiple negative remarks.

So there are two perceived risk factors: That blogging is unserious and takes away from time better spent pursuing purely academic writing, and that blogging may reveal personality traits or opinions that put you at odds with those in a position to grant tenure. A quote from Althouse also mentions the possibility of some jealousy on the part of senior colleagues who view the higher profile of bloggers as somehow threatening. They end up using a few more categories, namely: Time, Being Controversial, Being Wrong, Persona Questions, and Franchise Blog Vs. Entrepeneur Blog (this latter seems a bit off topic to me).

But they also highlight some possible positive outcomes, the most imprtant of which is being known outside of your small specialty area, especially if you are at a smaller school.

There's a ton of interesting commentary in that paper that I shan't comment upon further. Suffice it to say, however, that some of those negatives have occurred to Yours Truly at various times (okay, almost all the time). There are many controversial (both academic and social/political) aspects of archaeology/anthropology that can really get people's dander up. This is even more the case here in the US when dealing with Native American remains. Anthro faculty do indeed have an instututional bias on many issues and one goes against that at one's professional peril. And, going farther than the above paper, it can be risky from a standpoint of publishing and obtaining grant funding as well as hiring.

The blogosphere tends to be very rough and tumble and highly opinionated -- the latter being the main reason it's become so popular in the first place. Often, the civility (usually) inherent in scholarly writing, especially when critiquing the work of others, can be forgotten when just zipping off one's thoughts on a blog. It's much the same problem many people have in email communications generally: we often tend to think of email and posting as far more conversational than it really is. Thus, we type something and assume that the tone of voice in our heads is being automatically rendered on the page for all to see and understand, and later can't imagine how someone could possibly take offense at what we (thought we) said. Writing is an art and it takes time and effort to put down in text what it is you are really trying to convey. Emoticons took over somewhat for this non-textual conveyance of meaning, but in the end it's what you write, not the variety of emoticons you toss around that gets you noticed and understood.

ArchaeoBlog hasn't gotten much hate mail. Actually, only one and that was after an offhand comment of no particular consequence. With some exceptions, the degree of riled-ness tends to be in indirect proportion to the actual importance of the subject. Try to talk about genocide in Darfur and people yawn. But just mention American Idol once and you'll get a thousand emails questioning your immediate ancestry for being such a musical dunderhead.

So, y'ain't gonna get a whole lot of opinion here. Bias maybe, on what gets covered. But what ought to be done with Kennewick Man will be played out elsewhere, thankyouverymuch.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New Easter Island paper Look for it coming up in the Journal of Archaeological Science:

Ancient DNA of the Pacific rat (Rattus exulans) from Rapa Nui (Easter Island). SS Barnes, E. Matisoo-Smith, and T. Hunt.

We report analysis of ancient mitochondrial DNA sequences from nine archaeological specimens (8 femura and 1 incissor) of Rattus exulans excavated from Anakena Beach Dune on Rapa Nui. Sequence of a 239-base-pair fragment of the hypervariable mitochondrial control region reveals a single mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence of all samples corresponding to the R9 haplotype prevalent in East Polynesia. This suggests a single or very limited introduction of Rattus exulans to the island. Rapa Nui, like other remote islands of Polynesia, remained effectively isolated following colonization.

It's not published yet, but it's on the web site (link) as In Press. Because the same haplotype was found in the lowest/earliest levels of the site and also that there was little/no variation over time suggests a single introduction of the species, which points to a single set of human immigrants as well. As they not, this isn't conclusive since it's possible that people could have arrived without any more rats. This seems unlikely given other rat populations elsewhere have much more diversity.
Al Queda in China Beheaded skeletons replay war history

Chinese archaeologists have unearthed some 30 beheaded skeletons dating back more than 2,000 years in central China's Henan Province, a cradle of the Chinese civilization.

The skeletons were obviously warriors, the tallest of whom was at least 1.85 meters, said Sun Xinmin, head of the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archeology.

The human remains were found scattered in a pit in the city of Xinzheng, adjacent to a major battlefield where State Qin overthrew State Han toward the end of the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC), said Sun.
Diggers mum on latest downtown discovery
Archaeologists digging near Santa Fe’s City Hall have uncovered more of what is believed to be an ancient American Indian village, but they’re keeping the new finds under wraps.

Black plastic sheeting covers a round excavation that resembles a kiva — a underground structure used by Pueblo Indians for religious ceremonies.

Stephen Lentz, supervisory archaeologist for the dig, which began in 2004, said Wednesday he wasn’t at liberty to reveal what had been found. But he said the area appears to be the site of an ancient pueblo larger than those of the Galisteo Basin.
Remote sensing update Japanese researchers find new giant picture on Peru's Nazca Plateau
A new giant picture on the Nazca Plateau in Peru, which is famous for giant patterns that can be seen from the air, has been discovered by a team of Japanese researchers.

The image is 65 meters long, and appears to be an animal with horns. It is thought to have been drawn as a symbol of hopes for good crops, but there are no similar patterns elsewhere, and the type of the animal remains unclear.

The discovery marks the first time since the 1980s that a picture other than a geometrical pattern has been found on the Nazca Plateau.

Between the Internet and accessible hi-res satellite photos, you can expect an Army of archaeological Davids to be finding more of this stuff.
Now, this is semi-cool: Nile releases city's deep history
ALEXANDER wasn't quite so great after all. Sure, he conquered most of the world known to the ancient Greeks, but he didn't found the Egyptian city of Alexandria - he just rebranded it. It now seems that this part of the Nile has been settled for at least 4500 years, pre-dating Alexander's arrival by a good two millennia.

Alain Véron from the Paul Cézanne University in Aix-en-Provence, France, and colleagues made the discovery by measuring the variations in lead concentration in a mud core from Alexandria's ancient harbour. They determined how lead levels had changed over time by carbon-dating seashells found in the core.

Clear pulses of lead contamination occurred between 2686 and 2181 BC and then again from 1000 to 800 BC. The researchers conclude that these peaks were associated with human activities such as plumbing, fishing, building and ship-building. This is supported by ancient texts, which mention a settlement named Rhakotis (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2006GL025824).

Lead levels rocketed around 330 BC when Alexander the Great arrived, and got higher by the time of the Roman empire about 400 years later. The work should settle a long-running debate over the founding of the city based on literary evidence.

That's the whole thing. One wonders if the source is demonstrably from local activities and not farther upstream though.
Kv-63 update New images of the tomb contents are up now at Scroll down for pics of the coffins (April 2006 section).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Non-archaeological post du jour Kathy Sierra on being around happy people:

The notion of "Happy People" was tossed around in the Robert-Lost-His-Mind posts as something ridiculous at best, dangerous at worst. One blogger equated "happy people" with "vacuous". The idea seems to be that "happy people" implies those who are oblivious to the realities of life, in a fantasy of their own creation, and without the ability to think critically. The science, however, suggests just the opposite.

One of the best passages is on happy people as a force for change:

[O]ne of the world's leading experts in the art of happiness is the Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Just about everyone who hears him speak is struck by how, well, happy he is. How he can describe--with laughter--some of the most traumatizing events of his past. Talk about perspective...

But he is quite outspoken with his criticism of China. The thing is, he doesn't believe that criticism requires anger, or that being happy means you can't be a disruptive influence for good. On happiness, he has this to say:

"The fact that there is always a positive side to life is the one thing that gives me a lot of happiness. This world is not perfect. There are problems. But things like happiness and unhappiness are relative. Realizing this gives you hope."

Not an academic essay, but an interesting one. A few years ago, two of my professors (RC Dunnell and RJ Wenke) wrote a short article in American Antiquity, I believe (can't find it in JStor for some reason) decrying the increasingly hostile tone in many articles. Might have done some good because the rhetoric did, in my view, tone down somewhat after that. The blogosphere is replete with anger, especially among anonymous commenters, none of whom, happily comment or email to ArchaeoBlog. Well, maybe once, but seeing as I'm a big blogosphere star, it rolled right off my back.
(HT: Instapundit)
Two bits from the EEF lists One item discussed recently is the apparent dessication of Lake Moeris in the Fayum during Old Kingdom times, related, of course, to the severe drought that occurred at that time (see this post). Here's a freely accessible paper on the general chronology of climate change in Egypt and Northern Sudan:

Recent environmental change and prehistoric human activity in Egypt and Northern Sudan. Quarternary Science Reviews (QSR) 23 (2004) pp. 561-580. Oxford 2003. (HT Brigitte Goede)

Also, the KV63 diary has been updated.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Shetland's past comes to life amid the ruins
HIDDEN beneath the turf of a windswept part of Shetland's coast lies the impressive remains of one of the longest inhabited spots in Britain. No-one knows what the earliest name of this settlement was, but from the rubbish they left we can tell a lot about the people who lived there over the years.

The people of Jarlshof threw garbage into dumps from before 2500 BC but, although their waste was unwanted, their refuse has been anything but rubbish for archaeologists investigating their lives. We know that the Stone Age settlers lived in small circular stone houses, that they tilled crops, kept cattle and sheep, and harvested the sea for fish and whales, seals and shellfish. They also made tools - some finely decorated - from stone, pottery and bone.
Check for small wooden cups First Knights Templar are discovered
The first bodies of the Knights Templar, the mysterious religious order at the heart of The Da Vinci Code, have been found by archaeologists near the River Jordan in northern Israel.

British historian Tom Asbridge yesterday hailed the find as the first provable example of actual Knights Templar.

The remains were found beneath the ruined walls of Jacob's Ford, an overthrown castle dating back to the Crusades, which had been lost for centuries.

That was an Indiana Jones joke, btw.
Dig finds long-term use at Hell's Half Acre

A preliminary report on an archaeological dig says Hell's Half Acre, west of Casper, was home to prehistoric American Indians at least 1,200 years ago, and perhaps as long as 8,000 years ago.

John Albanese, chairman of the Natrona County Historic Preservation Society, told Natrona County commissioners on Thursday that archaeological evidence shows Indians were hunting bison at Hell's Half Acre between 1,200 and 3,000 years ago, and that some evidence appeared to be much older.

"There could be some older material," Albanese said. "We found a spear point about 8,000 years old."
Light-rail work reveals Hohokam remains
A 10-person team of archaeologists on Monday carefully unearthed part of a Hohokam village found by workers during light-rail construction in Tempe.

The scientists found an undisclosed number of human remains and the plaster floors of five dwellings. They also found signs of prehistoric domestic life: part of a woven mat, pottery shards, stone tools, beads and shell ornaments that were used for jewelry.

"These people were sedentary, like we are, and had miles and miles of canals," said Allan Schilz, principal investigator for Archaeological Consulting Services Ltd. advertisement

He said the site likely is part of a larger village that may have had up to 1,000 inhabitants at one time.

Construction season is gearing up so expect lots more of this.
Archaeology dig resumes on Arkansas River
Work on an archaeological dig at a Wichita Indian village southeast of Arkansas City will continue this summer under the leadership of college professors from Oklahoma.

Oklahoma University archaeology professor Susan Vehik will join several colleagues leading 30 students from OU and and Oklahoma State University in the month-long dig at the Bryson-Paddock site. She also led students on the most recent dig at the site two years ago.

Vehik spoke on the Wichita Indians and the upcoming dig at a free lecture Saturday at the Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum. About 20 people attended the lecture, one of four Saturday events celebrating Kansas Archaeology Month.

She refers to a climate change event:

Vehik said some argue that around 1420 an ice age began, and that led to a cooler, dryer climate in the Southern Plains.

"Between 900 and 1200 was a relatively peaceful period between Indian tribes," she said. "But after the climate change in the 1400s, people begin to fight over bison."

Probably a slight misquote on the part of the reporter, as this coincides with the start of the Little Ice Age. Interestingly, I'm reading Steven LeBlanc's Constant Battles and one of his main contentions is that under environmental stress -- which the LIA certainly caused over wide areas of the globe -- people tend to fight rather than cooperate. I'll post a review of the book when I'm finished with it.
Ancient seaside villa found near Rome
Workers digging a new sewage system for a coastal resort near Rome found the remains of a second-century villa belonging to two Roman senators.

Archaeologists say the villa in Torvaianica is important and imposing enough to become a tourist attraction once excavation is complete.
Large group of ancient tombs excavated in Henan
Chinese archaeologists have conducted excavation on a total of 415 ancient tombs dating back to the dynasties of the Han (206 BC-220 AD), Tang (618-906), Song (960-1279) and Qing (1644-1911) in central China's Henan Province.

The tombs were found in the northeastern suburbs of Sanmenxia City. There are 196 tombs from the Han Dynasty, 66 from the Tang Dynasty, 10 from the Song Dynasty and 145 from the Qing Dynasty.

The archaeologists have unearthed some 1,421 pieces of historical relics from the tombs.
Ethiopia: Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Relics, Four-Pillar Building
A team of Ethiopian Archaeologists has uncovered several ancient relics and building through excavations conducted at the ancient town of Axum.

Coordinator of the team Tekle Hagos told ENA Tuesday that the team has been carrying out excavations beginning from February 8, 2006 on the tombs of Izana and Remhai around the Statue of Queen of Sheba in Axum town.

Tekle said the team has uncovered claywares, several metallic and stone-made relics as well as a four-pillar building.
The Fall of the Egyptian Old Kingdom

Nothing prepared Egypt for the eclipse of royal power and poverty that came after Pepy II (Neferkare). He had ruled for more than 90 years (2246 - 2152 BC) as the fourth king of the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Within the span of 20 years, fragmentary records indicate that no less than 18 kings and possibly one queen ascended the throne with nominal control over the country. This was the entire length of the 7th and 8th Dynasties (2150 - 2134 BC). In the last few years of the 6th Dynasty, the erosion of power of the centralized state was offset by that of provincial governors and officials who became hereditary holders of their posts and treated their regions as their own property.

By Fekri Hassan. It's a fairly pursuasive case for a severe drought right around the time of the end of the Old Kingdom. Climate change from around this time is known elsehwere in the middle east and as Hassan points out, from several other places around the world:

In Iceland, researchers have detected a transition from birch and grassland vegetation to arctic conditions in about 2150 BC. This correlates with a shift to drier climate in south-eastern Europe c.2200 - 2100 BC. Also, the reappearance of oak at White Moss, UK, suggests fluctuating wetness in around 2190 - 1891 BC. In Italy, drier conditions are found around 2200-1900 BC in Lake Castglione. Dry spells have also been detected as far away as Western Tibet at Lake Sumxi.

The most tantalizing recent discovery, however, was made when scientists made a high-resolution study of dust deposition from Kajemarum Oasis in north-eastern Nigeria. The study conclusively revealed that a pronounced shift in atmospheric circulation occurred in around 2150 BC. This data indicates that an abrupt, short-lived event of cold climate led to less rainfall and a reduction of water flow in a vast area extending from Tibet to Italy. This had catastrophic effects on such early state societies as the Egyptian Old Kingdom.

He only notes this at the end of the article (and tangentially elsewhere) that the nature of kingship changed from the OK to the Middle. Earlier, the king had been much more clearly divine with direct control over everything in Egypt. Later, his status had diminished somewhat with his primary duty as that of maintaining the balance and eventually gaining access to divinity in the afterlife. Being divine and having a horrendous drought ruin the country might tend to make one's followers a tad bit suspicious.

Hassan also deals with some of the hypotheses that have cropped up over the years related to the collapse of the Old Kingdom. For example, the idea that nobles had gradually increased their power and authority and asserted their power to the detriment of the ruling family. This has always been controversial and, as Hassan notes, there is little evidence of this supposed power outside of increases in tomb richness around Giza and elsewhere.

Good article and, as they say, read the whole thing.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Antiquities Market Update Unearthed War Relics See Battle Again (via Althouse)
"You pull a Minie ball out of the ground, and the first thing that strikes you: The last hands that touched this were the hands of a Civil War soldier," dig participant Steve Silvia said of a Civil War-era bullet. "It's about as close as you can get to stepping back in time."

But to alarmed archaeologists, these "safari" digs -- though perfectly legal -- represent the wholesale destruction of the past. Stripping sites of their artifacts also strips the ability to learn what stories they could tell.

"These digs are like reading a book, ripping the pages out as you read and setting them on fire," said Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the state's Department of Historic Resources. "It's an outrage."

The perspective of the article is definitely an anti-looting one. It does mostly touch on the core issues, but the basic point of the article will probably never go anywhere: That is, these people are digging on private property and therefore will never (in our lifetimes) be regulated. Private property is one of those sacrosanct aspects of American culture (and law). I can't see this changing anytime soon.

The article brings up two related aspects of this: The fact that archaeologists aren't digging any of this stuff up, and these things will be lost if not for the relic hunters. The first part is true enough; it's expensive and time consuming to properly excavate a site. Most archaeologists can spend most of their professional careers on only a handful of sites, and those aren't even generally fully excavated. The second part is debatable in many cases. Certainly there's a time dimension operating with certain types of artifacts. Various materials will decay at different rates depending on time and also sediment chemistry, mechanical disturbance, etc. Point being, it's not "lost forever" if it's left in the ground. In fact, any artifact that has survived more than a couple of hundred years is probably safer in the ground than anywhere else. We may not get to see it, but someone eventually will and they may be able to get more information from it than we can.

The upshot is, the archaeologists in question probably won't be able to take any legal action for material on private property, so the only way they can influence this behavior is by changing the culture, either through "shame" or by encouraging a sense of shared cultural responsibility.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Treasure myth inspires Cypriots to dig into past
Residents of a Cypriot village, intrigued for decades by a tale of buried treasure and an underground flight of steps leading nowhere, have decided to get to the bottom of the mystery.

More than half a century after British colonial rulers forced them to abandon their last attempt to explore the site, residents of Tseri village in central Cyprus have begun excavating the 1,500-year-old tunnel and stairway.

Antiquities officials say the stone structure is part of an ancient irrigation network.

That should be a disappointment.
Two from Greece <

Experts in awe of antiquity stash

The massive collection of illegal antiquities uncovered by authorities on the tiny Aegean island of Schinoussa is unique and probably the largest ever seen in Greece, police told Kathimerini yesterday.

Policemen and archaeologists were still combing through artifacts at the villa of an unnamed woman from a wealthy shipping family. The raid came after a search of her home in Athens, where more antiquities were found.

This: Among the most impressive items found on Schinoussa, south of Naxos, was a completely rebuilt ancient temple. The temple, made using artifacts from various eras, covers an area of some 30 square meters.


Bringing the secrets of Antigoneia to light
Though Greece and Albania have much in common, Greece has not been officially involved in the burgeoning archaeological excavations and the activities of foreign archaeology schools in Albania in recent years.

But the cooperation memorandum signed last year by the Greek Culture Ministry and the Archaeological Institute of the Tirana Academy of Sciences has paved the way.

Joint research is being carried out at ancient Antigoneia under the supervision of the institute, headed by Muzafer Korkuti, and the 12th Ephorate, headed by Constantinos Zachos.
Experts hope the discovery of more than 1,000 skeletons could throw new light on the lives and deaths of medieval children.

In one of the UK's largest finds of its kind, archaeologists unearthed 1,340 bodies at a site in the city centre.

Now it has emerged that more than a third of the bodies were those of infants and children.

This ought to be a fascinating project.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Archaeologists make unique findings in Prague centre
The thorough archaeological research on Republic Square in Prague centre, where a new commercial building is under construction, has resulted in some unique findings from Prague's early history, including the basement of a Romanesque palace, Petr Jurina from the Archaia archaeological company that headed the research told reporters today.

Archaeologists also uncovered a ring that is the oldest item to prove the presence of Jews in Prague settlement, as well as the foundations of several splendour houses built of other material but stone, and few potter's kilns.
An open- door policy
Last month's official opening in Room No 44 of the Egyptian Museum of an exhibition of American discoveries in Egypt was a high-profile event. It was launched by Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and attended by Frank Ricciardone, the American ambassador in Egypt -- who is showing more interest in Egyptian culture than did his predecessors -- as well as Gerry Scott, director of the American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE), who demonstrates a more amicable attitude to the press, and Wafaa El-Saddik, director of the museum. The objects on display included pieces chosen from the permanent collection of the museum as well as some recent and impressive discoveries.

Another fine article by Jill Kamil. Read it all.
Archaeologist recommends graves be moved
Archaeologist Mike Henry says the best solution to the Cooley-Hatt cemetery controversy is to move the graves blocking the construction of a proposed road.

"The question is how much do we owe the past and what's best for the community's future," said Mr. Henry.

Mr. Henry, who was hired by developers to conduct an archaeological assessment in November 2004, visited Old Town Hall to speak about the Cooley-Hatt Cemetery last Friday.
Ancient tombs discovered in Sichuan
Chinese archaeologist have discovered a group of 24 ancient tombs dating back to the dynasties of Eastern Han (A.D.25-220), Tang (618-906) and Song (960-1279) in Chengdu, capital of southwes t China's Sichuan Province.

The tombs were found at a 3,000-square meter construction site in Shuangliu County.

Sixteen of the tombs were from the Eastern Han Dynasty and the earliest one was believed to be built in A.D. 74 as indicated by the date on the bricks. The other Han tombs were built in the following 200 years. Nine of the tombs were built in the Tang and Song dynasties.
Lost civilization village. . .found proved Archaeologist proves legend of lost village
A young archaeology enthusiast told today how he spent £32,000 on a plot of land to discover if local legend was true and a medieval village lay underneath.

Stuart Wilson had to dig deep and borrow most of the money to buy the four acres in Monmouthshire, south Wales.

So the 27-year-old archaeology graduate was delighted when his suspicions were confirmed with the discovery of four significant buildings and the promise of many more finds to come.
Lost civilization village. . .found proved Archaeologist proves legend of lost village
A young archaeology enthusiast told today how he spent £32,000 on a plot of land to discover if local legend was true and a medieval village lay underneath.

Stuart Wilson had to dig deep and borrow most of the money to buy the four acres in Monmouthshire, south Wales.

So the 27-year-old archaeology graduate was delighted when his suspicions were confirmed with the discovery of four significant buildings and the promise of many more finds to come.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Rare Roman burial urns unearthed
Two Roman burial urns have been found on the grounds of a retirement village being built in Tregony, Cornwall.
The 1st century AD pottery urns were found by a Cornwall County Council archaeologist in a pre-construction check at the Roseland Parc development.

Experts believe the urns were recovered from a shrine that overlooked Fal River. They are to go on show at the Truro Museum after analysis.
Afar just keeps givin' 'em up New Fossils Add Link to the Chain of the Evolution of Humans
In following the fossil tracks of human evolution, scientists have for years searched for links between Australopithecus, the kin of the famous "Lucy" skeleton, and even earlier possible ancestors. Now, they think they have found some connections in Ethiopia.

An international team of paleontologists is reporting the discovery of transitional species superimposed in sediments in the neighborhood of a single site. The findings appear today in the journal Nature.

Tim D. White, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was a team leader, and his colleagues said the 4.1-million-year-old fossils were anatomically intermediate between the earlier species Ardipithecus ramidus and the later species Australopithecus afarensis, the Lucy family. The newfound bones and teeth are the earliest remains of the most primitive Australopithecus, known as anamensis.

Great. Just what was predicted and when. And yet another one of those transitional fossils that supposedly don't exist. . . .

UPDATE: John Hawks has more.
Repatriation update Easter Island statue heads home
The huge stone head is framed by a wooden crate that casts shadows across its vacant eyes and elongated nose. After an odyssey of more than 80 years, the sculpture is set for what should be its final journey — home to Easter Island.
The 7-foot Moai, carved from compressed volcanic ash and decked in a red-rock headdress called a Pukau, is one of almost 900 ancestral statues crafted centuries ago on the remote Pacific island, annexed by Chile in 1888.

It was taken from the island in 1929 and spent some 40 years in the Chilean capital of Santiago before traveling to Argentina and making a quick round-trip visit to the Netherlands.

"Today is the end of a long exile for this Moai," Chilean Ambassador Luis Maira said at a ceremony Tuesday in Buenos Aires. "Today it is being returned to the place where it belongs, where the people are affectionately waiting for it."

He looks happy.
Applied archaeology? Researchers trawl the origins of sea fishing in Northern Europe
For decades the study of fish bones was considered one of the most esoteric branches of archaeology, but now it is helping to reveal the massive significance of the fishing trade in the Middle Ages.
New research co-ordinated by archaeologists at the University of York will spotlight the earliest development of Europe's sea fisheries and, given the continuous expansion of sea fishing since the Middle Ages, the ultimate origin of today's fishing crisis.

The three-year project, financed by the Leverhulme Trust and also supported by HMAP, the historical branch of the Census of Marine Life, will involve researchers across Northern Europe.

It builds on earlier research by the project team which discovered that extensive sea fishing began in Europe 1,000 years ago. A major shift from freshwater to sea fishing was due to a combination of climate, population growth and religion.

UPDATE: More here.
How the Gospel of Judas Emerged
When the National Geographic Society announced to great fanfare last week that it had gained access to a 1,700-year-old document known as the Gospel of Judas, it described how a deteriorating manuscript, unearthed in Egypt three decades ago, had made its way through the shady alleys of the antiquities market to a safe-deposit box on Long Island and eventually to a Swiss art dealer who "rescued" it from obscurity.

But there is even more to the story.

The art dealer was detained several years ago in an unrelated Italian antiquities smuggling investigation. And after she failed to profit from the sale of the gospel in the private market, she struck a deal with a foundation run by her lawyer that would let her make about as much as she would have made on that sale, or more.

Meanwhile John J. Miller comments:

This is ridiculous. It may very well be that the artifact exists because the people holding it were concerned with making money. They had a financial incentive to protect it. Waldbaum's comment is part and parcel with the academic war on the private antiquities market. A lot of scholars simply can't stand the fact that ancient items might lie in private collections rather than in their own university warehouses, and so they scorn discoveries such as this one.

I'm still dubious about, though open to, the idea that this would work. Museums and archaeologists did engage in for-profit archaeology early in the last century and before and it basically resulted in literally tons of no-value artifacts being plowed up and discarded in the search for the big-money items that wealthy collectors and museums paid them for. Then, what paid was individual objects, not context and association and consequently context and association was largely ignored; what pays now is context and association (in the form of grants and professional prestige). It's difficult to see what a market in individual objects would do to encourage the detailed excavations required for scientific archaeology.

BTW, the reason scholars tend not to like items being in private collections is because they are inaccessible for study. It's what we do. Which is precisely why collectors don't like them sitting in a university warehouse -- they can't look at them.

Eh, I'm devil's advocate for academic archaeologists today. It changes.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

ID and archaeology, continued The latest issue of SAA's Archaeological Record is out (sub only at this point) and it contains three articles on the current (well, ongoing) ID controversy. All three argue that archaeology is somewhat tangential to the whole issue because, even though anthropology generally (through the study of hominid evolution) deals directly with Darwinism, most archaeologists don't have much to do with biological evolution. All three also argue that we probably ought to do more.

But, alas, ArchaeoBlog will not delve deeply into that debate. What is interesting though, is the first paper in the sequence by Peter Bleed titled "Archaeology and Intelligent Design". In it, he makes this interesting claim:

Darwinian thought is at the center of one of the hottest debates in modern AMericanist archaeology. In fact, if Darwinism has an organized opposition anywhere in the sciences, it consists of archaeologists who reject its utility for the interpretation of archaeologiocal phenomena. . . While several of us see utility in applying standards of selection and adaptation to the things we study, many others either find this topic uninteresting or deny the utility of those concepts to any form of reproduction that does not involve genes.

True enough, though of course that doesn't imply a rejection of Darwinian evolution generally, just as it applies to artifacts.

The ID lobby insists that there is some intentionality of design behind the biological structures we see in nature, an intentionality which implies some sort of being(s) -- ID people insist it could be anything, from God to little green aliens, but we know they mean God. Since God is supernatural, it follows that naturalistic explanations cannot be applied; God does what God does and his "intentions" for doing so are arbitrary and therefore not amenable to empirical testing. We have no direct access to God's thoughts, so we are unable to formulate any sort of predictive theory based on them

But what about archaeology?:

TO be sure, no establishment archaeologists see the hand of a supernatural designer in the archaeological record, but to take explanations of agriculture as an example, there is diversity of opionion and ample inconsistency in how archaeologists virw the role of human intelligence.

Which is, in a nutshell, a significant dilemma facing Darwinian archaeology and its critics. In our case, we know who the designer was, and we generally tend to gravitate towards explanations appealing to our common notion of what makes people tick. And, as Bleed notes, this often gets inserted into supposedly naturalistic explanations (again, using agriculture as an example):

Ecologically based discussions of agricultural origins regularly speak in terms of human choices, decisions, and desires. . .[For example] observed changes in domesticates are simply assumed to be the result of conscious human selection even when we have no way of demonstrating human intentionality.

In other words, we have a heck of a time giving up human thought and creativity as an explanatory mechanism for certain phenomena. This has been a crux of the critique of Darwinian archaeology from the beginning: "What about free will?" Of course, supporters reply that we don't ask about squirrel free will or sea slug free will in explanations about certain behaviors they engage in to survive and reproduce, since we can't talk to them and find out what sort of thoughts they may be thinking.

(Me, I think human intention ought to be treated as a source of variation and nothing more. But that's a bit far afield for one post. . .)

So, the issue of an "intelligent" designer ought to feel familiar to archaeologists and anthropologists generally and studying the current controversy can assist in our own work:

From a scientific perspective, the main failing of ID is that it offers no means of predicting how, why, or when supernatural innovations appear. They just happen, so ID adherents are free to call them up when they cannot think of, or have not looked for, alternative explanations. Archaeologists who treat human intelligence the same way replicate the essential flaw of ID. Human creativity and intellectual breakthroughs are, of course, real and very different from supernatural innovation. . .They certainly can be used in formulations of the past, but in doing that archaeologists should avoid the scholarly mistake made by proponents of the other kind of intelligent design. If our explanation of change depends on the intelligence of human designers, in addition to presenting evidence that the intelligence existed and that it was causative, we have to document the contextual conditions that made it effective.

I'm still not sure how intelligence can be made a 'causative' factor anymore than muscle is a causative factor in, say, wing design, but the point is a good one: you can't just fall back on the old "Necessity is the mother of invention" cliché.
Warning: Naked man ahead Pottery work bearing image of a man discovered at 5000-year-old Espidej cemetery
A team of Iranian archaeologists recently discovered a pottery work bearing an engraved image of a naked man at the 5000-year-old Espidej cemetery, the Persian service of CHN reported on Sunday.

“The pottery work was made of red earth, and the potter engraved the shape with a tool similar to a thin reed while it was still wet,” said Mohammad Heydari, the director of the team working at the site.

This is the second time that archaeologists working at the site have discovered an artifact bearing a human motif. The first one was a bas-relief of a dancing man and woman unearthed in 2003. All of the other artifacts found at the site bear animal or geometrical shapes.

Sorry, no pictures.

And I will NOT provide an artist's conception on this one.
Treasure! Buried treasure
Using the word centennial in the same sentence as Mesa Verde seems to miss the concept of 1,500 years.

But the yearlong celebration now under way does suit the national park there, which was designated in 1906 to manage and preserve an array of cliff dwellings and kivas that once supported a bustling culture. It now lures visitors charmed by the architecture and lore of a moment frozen in time.

Or perhaps not so frozen: For more than a century, much of the viewing of Mesa Verde has come via photography, an art form that grew up alongside the science of archaeology, compliments of those who wielded cameras along with shovels.

Okay, not treasure. It's an exhibition on photography of the Mesa Verde area.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The plot thickens. . . . Iraq Antiquities Find Sparks Controversy
Italian researchers in Iraq claim to have stumbled upon an important cache of ancient clay tablets in one of the world's oldest cities. But others dispute the claim, and Iraqi authorities say the scientists have been acting illegally.

No archaeologist has been given permission to do excavations since the U.S. invasion in March 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein. But last month, Italy's National Research Council announced that it had discovered some 500 rare tablets on the surface of Eridu, a desert site in southern Iraq. The team was reconnoitering artifacts and architecture for an online virtual museum project.
Video! Video: Decoding Ancient Scrolls From Volcanic "Tomb"
Scientists have started to decode some mysterious scrolls found centuries ago in the ancient Roman village of Herculaneum. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 entombed the town in lava and ash, but the blackened papyruses survived—barely.

Join the scientists as they use new technology to reveal the scrolls' hidden words and become the first people in nearly 2,000 years to read the documents.

Kind of an old story, but in video form this time.

Update: More video from The Archaeology Channel on The Grewe site in Arizona.
Neanderthal update Neanderthals were not stupid, just a bit anti-social

"CRUDE, boorish and slow- witted" - even dictionaries give Neanderthals a hard time. But our prehistoric cousins were in reality just as smart as we are and did not die out as a result of a lack of brain power, according to a new archaeological study.

Until now, the leading theory of why the Neanderthals disappeared has been that a lack of intelligence meant they were less efficient hunters.

But a team of US archaeologists believe they met their evolutionary end because of a failure to maintain social links with other groups, unlike modern humans, who travelled widely, making the friends who would help them during hard times.

That makes some sense. Not sure of what's been done on the question of language among Neander's, but the ability to speak in a complex language and combine that sort of symbolic communication to create group identity and facilitate social relations among different groups seems like a sensible explanation. Kind of hard to demonstrte though.
Medieval cemetery update Burial find reveals ancient lives
They are dust and dry bones. Hundreds of people, generation upon generation, reduced to neatly boxed scraps and splinters.

But a team from the University of Leicester archaeology unit has a rare opportunity to tell us about the lives these people led.

Work on the extension to a shopping centre in Leicester city centre unearthed the largest medieval parish cemetery outside London, containing more than 1,300 skeletons.

A couple of tidbits of information, but not a whole lot.
And yet another article on looting: The Pillage Of History
The economy in this small, nondescript pocket of rural Bengal is booming. And not due to a miraculous leap in agricultural yield but the highly lucrative business of smuggling priceless antiques, including ivory and gold objects, and exquisite terracotta art, out of the country.

Located 40 kilometres northwest of Calcutta and spread over about four square miles, Chandraketugarh is a treasure trove of antiques, some dating back to 650 BC. These are being dug up by avaricious locals who form the first link in international gangs of smugglers. There has been little effort to prevent the looting of this rich archaeological site, which has been going on for at least two decades now.
More on the Polish expedition's discoveries here.
Artifacts in Ancient Chinese City Reveal Superb Technology

In Lingjiatan, Hanshan County of Anhui Province in China, archaeologists have discovered a primitive tribal site that was inhabited 5,000 years ago. Superb drilling technology and the world's earliest stone drill bits were found at the site. Archaeology professor Zhang Jingguo said there are still many mysteries in the Lingjiatan ruins waiting to be solved.

The Lingjiatan ruins are located in Lingjiatan Village, Tongzha Township of Hanshan County in Chaohu City, Anhui Province, covering about 1.5 million square meters. Archaeologists say the 5,000 year old city was probably a prosperous city with developed construction, animal husbandry and handicrafts.
Peking Man update Unearthing the lost Peking Man
After years of searching, a new initiative aims to trace these historic missing fossils, says Ching-Ching Ni

It's a mystery that has baffled the world for more than half a century. Whatever happened to the fossils of the prehistoric human ancestor known as Peking Man?

Their discovery in the late 1920s and 1930s in limestone caves on the outskirts of Beijing, then called Peking in the West, was one of the 20th century's greatest paleontological finds. The discovery was not the first of its kind, but it was the first and largest group of fossils of this ancient human found in China and established the hominid as a step in evolutionary history.

Hey, now we know what the next Indiana Jones movie will be about. . . .
I usually just find stuff the local cats bury Roman settlement unearthed in back garden
A Roman rubbish tip has been found - in a suburban back garden.

Garden landscaping work at a family home in Pentrebane, Cardiff, has turned up the remnants of a former drainage site nearly 2,000 years old.

The delighted owner, who asked not to be named, dubbed it 'a glorified Lamby Way' where people dumped their rubbish.

A team of local archaeologists has now dug up 300 shards of pottery of more than five types, hob nails from scandals and old building nails.
Hatchepsut update This regards an earlier story on Zahi Hawass announcing he'd found the long-lost mummy of Hatchepsut in the basement of the Egyptian Museum. The only other claim to this person has been the mummy found in KV-60.

Marianne Luban sent a post to the EEF lists regarding the possible reason why this new mummy is being touted as Hatchepsut, quoting part of an article in the Fall 2005 KMT magazine by Dennis Forbes on this mummy:

"It has recently been suggested to this writer that the elderly female [the
one found lying on the floor of KV60 by Don Ryan] is, in fact, that of
In-Sitre herself, and that the coffined mummy removed to the Egyptian
Museum (and stored there today), very well may be Hatshepsut--this
because the latter mummy purportedly has both arms folded across its
chest (the so-called "king's pose"); and also because the advanced age
and pendulous breasts of the uncoffined mummy are characteristics
one would expect of a wet nurse."

The mummy sitting in KV-60 right now has only one arm crossed. That seems to be the only real evidence thus far.

And. . .this story on Hatchepsut from Newsweek:

Hatshepsut's rule was peaceful, except for an early military expedition against invaders that she herself led. It was also prosperous—under her, Egypt traded with its neighbors—and has been compared to that of England's Queen Elizabeth I and Russia's Catherine the Great. Like them, she became a patron of art and architecture: by encouraging the creation of some of Egypt's finest sculptures, monumental statues, magnificent temples and stunning jewelry, she launched an artistic renaissance that would influence ancient Egyptian design and culture for centuries.

And more! National Geographic: Egyptian "Female King" Gets Royal Treatment