Wednesday, May 31, 2006

NOTE: Blogger is being wonky today so a bunch of articles are being linked within one post.

Someone named "Petty Piper" has a blog post comparing Looting and Archaeology (no copying of text seems to be allowed, so this is a transcript):

Archaeologists are paid just like looters. The only difference is what each sect prioritizes. Archaeolgists prioritize the history behind the artifacts, while looters value the sale price. The end result is the same, though; this item is taken from it's (sic) home to sit on a shelf somewhere else.

There's a grain of truth in the post, obviously, but as About.Com's Kris Hirst puts it in the Comments, the end result is not the same, except in a very limited sense.

Researchers find ancient pottery operation at Angel Mounds
An archaeological dig at southern Indiana's Angel Mounds complex has uncovered a pottery-making operation that reveals the artistic skills of the Indians who lived there hundreds of years ago.

Indiana University researchers believe they've uncovered remains of a potter's house once used by the Indians who inhabited the area overlooking the Ohio River from 1100 to 1450 A.D.

Excavations have revealed pottery tools and masses of prepared but unfired clay awaiting shaping into bowls, jars or figures which suggest that the structure that once stood there was used to make the pottery now found in shards across the site.

Seems like a great site. It's being dug as a field school.

Use of dumb archaeological pun #144,397 Can you dig it?
IT is hard to imagine the job of an archaeologist being a money-spinning one.
But surprisingly much of Rachel Grahame's work as a projects officer at Hartlepool-based Tees Archaeology is commercial.
Rachel said: "Some of the things we do are community excavations like the one at Catcote. But 90 per cent of what we do is commercial.
"If somebody's building something then they quite often have to pay for archaeologists as part of their planning consent.
"So if you're building a housing estate on top of a Roman Villa you have to pay to have it excavated first."

It's mostly an interview of this one person.

We do that Archaeologists seek to plumb mysteries of ancient tribe

Archaeologists are seeking funding to learn more about the Saponi Indians, a little-known tribe that centuries ago lived at what is now the site of the Smith Mountain Dam.

Howard MacCord, chairman of the research projects committee for the Archaeological Society of Virginia, said the society wants to complete the work of Carl F. Miller. The archaeologist collected artifacts in 1963 and 1964 during construction of the Smith Mountain Dam.

``It was the site of an Indian village and it is all under water now,'' he said. ``It is important that this be done some day. It has been over 40 years.''

Couple of items from last week's news from the EEF:

Press report: "The mummy of Queen Hatshepsut arrived at Cairo Airport yesterday."
[Uhh... the so-called (putative; not a fact) mummy of
Hatsheput was already in the Egyptian Museum (see; does the above mean that the
_other_ mummy from KV60 has also been transported
from Luxor to Cairo??]

(that was a comment from Aayko, btw)

Press report: "Mummy Mystery. It's the oldest of cold cases: A
girl's death 2,200 years ago. Can modern technology explain it?"
About the CAT scanning of a girl's mummy in the Philadelphia's
Academy of Natural Sciences, as part of the work of the Akhmim
Mummy Studies Consortium (see below, section VIII).

R. Krivánek, M. Bárta, Geophysical Prospection in South Abusir, Egypt,
2002, Paper presented at the CIPA 2003 XIXth International Symposium "New
Perspectives to Save Cultural Heritage", 30 September - 04 October, 2003,
Antalya, Turkey - 3 pp., pdf-file (150 KB)
"Non-destructive geophysical prospection of large areas choosen by
egyptologists outside of previous and present archaeological excavations
brought a new view on extent and quantity of archaeological remains
(cemetery) beneath the sand and also practical experience (limits and
possibilities of applied geophysical methods) in various terrain desert

End of EEF news

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Magnetic Attraction
A slice of Hawkins Preserve became a study area last week for students from a Fort Lewis College archaeology field class.

Using a magnetometer and an electrical resistance meter Thursday, about half a dozen students split into two groups to assess a block of the preserve for artifacts and other evidence of Ancestral Puebloan culture.

Paid for by a $10,000 grant from the Colorado Historical Society, the assessment was a chance for archaeology students and teachers alike to get outdoors and explore the subject. Fort Lewis College field archaeologist Mona Charles led the students, while retired U.S. Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Dale Davidson conducted the assessment.
Lake Travis archaeological sites apparently looted
Thousands of years ago, drawn by rich hunting grounds, prehistoric people settled by the banks of the Colorado River. These early campers left behind cooking and hunting tools, and over time, the implements and their users' bodies were buried by what are now the Highland Lakes.

Now, declining lake levels have left land exposed, leading to a rash of digs by amateur archaeologists — authorities refer to them less generously as looters — that have left the banks of Lake Travis gouged with holes.

Good long article on the problem in Texas.
Missed it On the tube

“The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb,” 8 p.m. on Hallmark. Archaeologist Danny Freemont (Casper Van Dien, “Starship Troopers”) is infamous for his outlandish theories about the pyramids and the Egyptian Book of the Dead. It’s 1922, and Freemont is certain that the “Emerald Tablet” — rumored to be buried in King Tut’s tomb — holds the power to control the world.

Unfortunately, the only one who believes Freemont is nefarious fellow archaeologist Morgan Sinclair (Jonathan Hyde). Naturally, Sinclair wants the tablet to harness evil — and he’s prepared to follow Freemont to the ends of the Earth to get it. With the help of a ragtag team, Freemont ventures to the Valley of the Kings; can he find the tablet before Sinclair does?

Article was from last Saturday. But it's on again on June 17! Mark it on your calendars.
Archaeologist begins excavating Pelican Island Refuge site
Federal archaeologist Rick Kanaski looked over the ridged, bony fragment that stood out last week from the surrounding crushed shell that was left from a sifted pile of soil at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.
"Oh, it's a tooth," he exclaimed, prompting volunteers Cheryl Cummins and Mary Fredell to pause in the sifting.

It was ridged for grinding, he said. But was it from a horse? Or may some prehistoric plant-eater?

Kind of neat. You hardly ever hear about shovel testing for sites.
500 year-old human remains are discovered in Bawtry
ARCHAEOLOGISTS have descended on a Bawtry building site – after human remains were found by surprised workmen.
Last Wednesday police cordened off the site believing it could be a crime scene, but visiting history experts confirmed the bones were 500 years old.

It is thought the skull and bones belong to a small adult or child, but the gender has not yet been determined.
It's been a while but. . .NEWS FROM MEHR! Skeletons of Bakun era mother, child resurrected in Bolaghi Valley
The skeleton of a woman hugging a child has been unearthed in the Bolaghi Valley by the joint German-Iranian archaeological team working at the site in Fars Province, the Persian service of CHN reported on Thursday.

The archaeologists believe that the woman is the mother of the child.

“The skeletons date back to the Bakun period (late 5th to early 4th millennium BC) and were discovered in the residential area of the people living during the era,” the head of the Iranian team said.
Second Temple model to link history, archaeology

On a crest of Jerusalem's Hill of Tranquility overlooking the Valley of the Cross, the Knesset, the Supreme Court, Hebrew University's Givat Ram campus and the National Library, a model of the Second Temple has been relocated adjacent to the Shrine of the Book on the campus of the Israel Museum, in a spot where history and archeology intersect.

The Second Temple Model, which was located for the last four decades since its construction in the mid-1960's on the grounds of Jerusalem's Holyland Hotel, was moved to the Israel Museum this winter due to the construction of a new residential complex on the slopes of the Holyland hill.

The model, an exceptional cultural artifact depicting the Jerusalem of two millennia ago, was created before the reunification of the city at a time when Jews could not go to the Old City or the Temple Mount.
Nick's past perfect
Identity theft - and the sale of paper shredders - is a big issue these days. And archaeologists practise a form of identity theft, sifting through the rubbish heaps of the past to reconstruct the lives of our ancestors.

During my career I've often been asked: "What's the most valuable thing you've ever found?"

While we might all marvel at the latest discovery of a gold amulet or a religious icon, pulled from the earth, my answer is usually: "Give me your wallet or purse and I can tell you how much you're worth. But give me your wheelie bin and I can tell you how you live!"

. . .

Earthworks examines our past, looks at the everyday work of archaeologists and seeks to find the 'people' behind the millennia-old heritage of this part of Ireland. During the series it reports on recent finds, re-examines earlier discoveries and visits sites you may never have heard of.

Just like ArchaeoBlog!
Is Boudicca buried in Birmingham?
The burial ground of Queen Boudicca could be next to a burger restaurant in Birmingham, it has been claimed.
An excavation is to take place at the site in Kings Norton after evidence it has Roman remains buried there.

Queen Boudicca, who led ancient tribes in battle against the Romans, died in 62 AD, possibly in the Midlands.

It would be a "world-shattering" find, said Councillor Peter Douglas Osborn. But experts warned there is no evidence the site is linked to Boudicca.

Probably an important story, but those first few lines are hil-arious.
Note: Not Roswell Archaeologists to discuss Rosewell excavations
Some of Virginia's most prominent archaeologists will gather at the Rosewell Mansion Visitor Center on Thursday to discuss more than 50 years of excavations at the site of the historic 18th-century structure.

The panel includes Ivor Noel Hume, the pioneering Colonial Williamsburg scientist who conducted the first digs at Rosewell during the 1950s, and Nicholas Luccketti, co-discoverer of the lost site of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, who explored the remains of a 17th-century house found under the mansion's ruins.

"Nothing to see here, move along. . . ."
State Archaeologist Gives Life to Spear-Point People
Spear points were found in Jefferson, at the north end of Damariscotta Lake, back in the early 1970s. The discoverers, Dara and John Carberg, donated them to the Jefferson Historical Society, where they sat in a drawer until recently, except for identification by Deborah Wilson, archaeologist, who said they came from 4000 to 7000 years ago. On May 23, Dr. Arthur Spiess, Senior Archaeologist with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, gave a slide talk for the historical society, in the Ladies’ Aid Hall at Bunker Hill, Jefferson, about some of the early history of the area, as well as those particular spear points.

It's actually a pretty good article if you make it past the "Spear People" idea.
Archeologists to Search for Lost Mission
Amateur archeologists will get a chance to search this summer for the lost mission of Santa Isabel de Utinahica, built in the wilderness in the 1600s for a lone friar who was dispatched to evangelize among the Indians on the edge of Spain's colonial empire.

"This was on the frontier," said Dennis Blanton, curator of native American archaeology at Atlanta's Fernbank Museum of Natural History. "It was perched on the edge of the known world in this hemisphere. A barefoot Franciscan was dropped alone into alien territory and given his marching orders to convert these Indians and probably gather a certain amount of intelligence."

Bones found in WDM belong to pioneers
West Des Moines last week.

The state archaeologist's office says it was a pioneer grave site where one person was buried.

Crews found the human skeletal remains Thursday at a site called Tallyn's Ranch in Dallas county.

Not much more there.
Skull found in ceiling may have been used in rituals
A human skull found in an old Goshen home may have been used by a men's group for ritualistic initiations of new members during the 19th century.

The University of Indianapolis Archaeology and Forensics Laboratory analyzed the skull, which fell during January renovation work from the ceiling of a home built about 1840.

The lab's report said the skull showed signs that it had been burned on the bottom, suggesting that it was used near candles and in rituals. The report said the skull may have been used as a teaching or museum specimen for many decades, or have been part of a personal collection.

It is believed to have been that of a woman older than 50 of Siberian, Polynesian or Native American descent.
Finish the headline! Archaeologists to. . .
MILWAUKEE Archaeologists plan to dig at a road construction site in Milwaukee where the remains of three humans have been found.

A contractor working with the Department of Public Works found skulls and rib bones about six feet underground while digging a new trench for a water main downtown.

Archaeologists from U-W Milwaukee say they don't know whether the remains are a couple hundred years old or a couple decades old.

The area could possibly be an Indian burial ground.

Whole thing.
Show us the $$$$ Novelist Donates $500,000 To Historic Jamestowne
Crime novelist Patricia Cornwell says she's pledging a half (m) million dollars toward the excavation of the Historic Jamestowne archaeological site.

Cornwell yesterday was at the site with forensic science experts, demonstrating laser-mapping equipment that can show locations of the artifacts and layers of history of James Fort, which was built in 1607.

Jamestown archaeologists don't use the robotic equipment now, but Cornwell says the project may be getting it from her as a "Christmas present."

That's the whole thing. Unclear what this "laser-mapping equipment" is. Total station? Laser ranging scanner?

Update: Much more here but we still don't know what this device is.
Ancient city reveals life in desert 2,200 years ago

Chinese and French archaeologists claim to have discovered the ruins of an ancient city which disappeared in the desert in Northwest China more than 2,200 years ago.

The ancient city, shaped like a peach, is located in the center of the Taklimakan Desert, the second largest shifting desert in the world, covering a total area of 337,600 square kilometers, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The perimeter of the city walls is 995 meters, with the height ranging from three meters to 11 meters. Archaeologists found traces of city gates and passages at the southern and eastern walls.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Back from statistical hell

Actually, not hell. It was a fascinating two days of devling into the intricacies of logistic regression. This technique doesn't seem to be used very much in archaeology, but it's used a lot in both clinical and marketing/consumer research. It gets most of its use where there are two outcomes that need to be tested -- say, whether a medical treatment cures or does nothing, or whether a customer responds to a sales offer or not. You basically take as many variables as you can and try to build a mathematical model that predicts what cases will respond and which won't; the method also tells you the degree to which each variable drives the response. It's also used in predicting who will get a particular disease condition, and probably where most people come across it. This is where you read in medical news that such and such a factor -- obesity, drinking, etc. -- increases your risk of getting heart disease, cancer, whatever.

It's not used that much in archaeology because we're not usually concerned with outcomes, although it can be used to differentiate two different groups. For example, I have a bunch of data on lithic (stone tool) debitage (debris from the production of the tools) from Egypt's Fayum Depression and it's from two periods, what's called the Epipaleolithic -- basically Mesolithic everywhere else -- (ca. 6000+ BC and Neolithic (5200-4000 BC). The tools themselves are really distinctive, but there's a question of whether the latter was in some way derived from the former, since there's a gap of a thousand years or more. One might expect that if the same people were making both sets of tools their techniques might be similar, just with different outcomes and this might be reflected in the debitage. I also want to see if they use the small "waste" flakes simiarly or differently in either time.

I've had a go at differentiating them using discriminant function analysis -- a similar method -- but have not found them to be significantly different when using several variables. Which is, in itself, interesting. Logistic regression seems to provide a better way of interpreting the results so I'm hoping to get a bit finer of an analysis on it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Blogging update Little or no blogging today and tomorrow as I am in training both days. The wonders of Logistic Regression! I've used it before, but in kind of a by-guess and by-gosh way. Should be fun.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Badger archaeology Ancient remains uncovered in Wisconsin

A Wisconsin historian says the human remains found by a public works crew in Milwaukee may be those of an early settler or Native American.
John Richards, a professor of anthropology and director of historic resource management services at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said several rib fragments and pieces of a skull were found at the site where a trench was being dug, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.
Egypt to excavate Roman city submerged in sea

The Egyptian authorities have given the go ahead for the underwater exploration of what appears to be a Roman city submerged in the Mediterranean, Egypt's top archaeologist said on Monday.

Zahi Hawass said in a statement that an excavation team had found the ruins of the Roman city 35 km (20 miles) east of the Suez Canal on Egypt's north coast.

Archaeologists had found buildings, bathrooms, ruins of a Roman fortress, ancient coins, bronze vases and pieces of pottery that all date back to the Roman era, the statement said. Egypt's Roman era lasted from 30 BC to 337 AD.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ancient Etruscans are unlikely the ancestors of modern Tuscans, study finds
"The Etruscans seem to be quite different in many ways from other ancient Italians, and archaeological evidence indicates that they spoke a non-Indo-European language," Mountain said. "Because of the cultural and linguistic shifts, scholars see the Etruscans as an enigma."

The Etruscans are the only preclassical European population to date that has been genetically analyzed, Mountain said. Two years ago, Italian geneticists extracted maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA from the bones of 27 people called Etruscans found in six different necropolises (burial sites) in Tuscany. The female lineage was investigated because, unlike the male Y chromosome, many copies of mitochondrial DNA are found in each cell and thus are easier to extract, Mountain explained. The data represent one of the best collections of ancient human DNA in existence. "If you get DNA out of one bone, you can try to say something about the past," Mountain said. "But they managed to get DNA out of quite a few bones." The DNA of 49 people living in the region today was also sampled. Although data from the two groups revealed several differences, Mountain said, the researchers could not interpret if these were meaningful or significant. "What we did was address the question: Do the present-day people look like they could be descendents of the Etruscan population?"

Now this is interesing. The article mentions how archaeologists and others often assume that the people living in an area today are the decendents of any ancient populations hat were around, at least back a few hundred/couple thousand years. Ferinstance, a while back Oxford researchers compared the genetics of an ancient skeleton -- Cheddar man -- with modern people living in the area and found at least one person who shared a direct ancestor. That was 9,000 years and in a way comparable to the problem of Kennewick Man who is from around the same time; but no genetic links have been established in his case with any modern inhabitants.

They raise the possibility that "The Etruscans" were not a large population, but perhaps a small elite subset that we only see archaeologically because of their tombs and temples which of course is simply another problem of relying on a certain class of artifact -- elite goods -- for information on an entire society.
Tlingit vs. Russians update Dig unearths shot, cannonballs at Sitka glade
Signs of struggle lie buried under a grassy opening in a mist-shrouded forest of hemlock and spruce.

Archaeologists at the Sitka National Historical Park recently unearthed musket shot and cannonballs in this quiet glade where they believe a clan of Tlingit Indians, called the Kiks.Dadi, built a wooden palisade fort and held off Russian attackers for six days in October 1804 until their ammunition was spent.

On the sixth night, as the story goes, the Russians on the gunboat Neva heard a mournful ceremonial song rising from the fort. By morning, some 800 women, children, elders and warriors were gone, bound for the far side of their island home and to an island beyond.
Ancient city reveals life in desert 2,200 years ago
Chinese and French archaeologists claim to have discovered the ruins of an ancient city which disappeared in the desert in Northwest China more than 2,200 years ago.

The ancient city, shaped like a peach, is located in the center of the Taklimakan Desert, the second largest shifting desert in the world, covering a total area of 337,600 square kilometers, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The perimeter of the city walls is 995 meters, with the height ranging from three meters to 11 meters. Archaeologists found traces of city gates and passages at the southern and eastern walls.
KV-63 update

This just came across the EEF list, an email from Mark Rose at

CONTACT: Elizabeth Hillman, 240.662.2664,
-or- Joshua Weinberg, 240.662.5274,



-- A Discovery Quest Expedition Tracks Moment-By-Moment Tension And
Heart-Racing Exhilaration of this History-Making Event --


(Silver Spring, Md.) - For the first time ever audiences will descend down
a narrow shaft beneath desert sands to enter a world untouched, and watch
as Discovery Channel exclusively reveals the most significant find
discovered in the Valley of the Kings in more than 80 years. Located less
than 50 feet from the tomb of King Tutankhamun (KV62), the Discovery Quest
expedition team of world-renowned archaeologists excavate and explore this
new cache (KV63), unearthing coffins and delicate artifacts, sifting
through intricate inscriptions and discovering unprecedented treasures when
EGYPT'S NEW TOMB REVEALED premieres on Sunday, June 4 at 9 PM ET/PT.

Why is this tomb of painted coffins hidden in a chamber of solid rock in
the Valley of the Kings? There are clues that it was used for embalming
and it shares more than common real estate with that of the famed
Tutankhamun. A seal with a faint inscription carries the word PA-ATEN,
which an Egyptian expert believes is part of the former name given to
Ankhesenamun, wife of Tutankhamun. Pieces of pottery found in the tomb
match pottery in Tutankhamun's tomb. The painted facemasks on the coffins
have also been dated to this period. This past February, KV63 was first
discovered, sending shockwaves through the archaeological and scientific

Science will tell us the true identities of who is buried in the coffins.
Only Discovery Channel provides exclusive first-time access to the
unearthing of an Egyptian tomb, step by step from exploration to

EGYPT'S NEW TOMB REVEALED is the first Discovery Quest project
of 2006. As the premier provider of the highest-quality factual programming
in the world, the Discovery Quest fund reaffirms Discovery Channel's
commitment to support groundbreaking research and inventions that change
our world. As part of this network initiative to support the scientific
community's work, The Supreme Council of Antiquities has enabled
Discovery to follow the University of Memphis' excavation.

"Discovery Channel continues to be on the forefront of the world's ultimate
discoveries and this newest Discovery Quest endeavor will bring us new and
fascinating knowledge about an incredible period in history," said Jane
Root, executive vice president and general manager, Discovery Channel, The
Science Channel and Military Channel, U.S. "The results of this dig will
be mesmerizing and have viewers feeling as if they too are wiping the dust
from their hands as unimaginable treasures emerge from the tomb."

For the first time ever, cameras have been allowed to follow the excavation
of a discovery in the Valley of the Kings. Viewers will participate as
detectives themselves -- witnessing each new item, as it is uncovered layer
by layer. The tomb has sat vacuum-packed for more than 3,000 years. Now
open, it is a race against time as exposure to the elements threatens to
endanger its treasure trove of antiquities.

EGYPT'S NEW TOMB REVEALED is produced for Discovery Channel by Atlantic
Productions. For Discovery Channel, Jack Smith is the executive producer.
For Atlantic Productions, Anthony Geffen is the executive producer.
I know, I know, no blogging all weekend. ANd a bunch of news items popped up. I shall now revert to my previous method of linking to various items in one long post just to get them all out there in one bunch.

Experts: More American Indian Burial Mounds Found
St. Paul Archaeological experts say more Minnesota landowners are finding American Indian burial mounds on their property.

The burial sites are being discovered as more land is developed -- especially around the state's lakes.

State archaeologist Scott Anfinson says he gets at least two calls a day from landowners or developers dealing with the issue.

Neither the state nor Indian tribes take control of land when ancient human remains are found. But both try to work with landowners to make sure their development plans don't disturb a burial site.

Occasionally, remains are removed from a site and buried elsewhere. It's a felony in Minnesota to knowingly disturb a burial mound.

That's the whole thing. What's the difference between those last two paragraphs? You find stuff on your land, the State or tribes can't "take control of [your] land", but it's a felony to futz with them?

Iron Age remains uncovered by archaeologists
ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Malmesbury have uncovered evidence of a former ancient settlement.

Last November, North Wiltshire District Council commissioned Nimbus Conservation to undertake a programme of repair and reconstruction of the historic town wall adjoining the site of the former West Gate.

The archaeologists have now excavated a further trench outside the line of the town wall and uncovered a previously unknown, substantial stone-fronted defensive rampart and a deep ditch outside the line of the known town defences.

Bones discovered at suburban construction site
The state archeologist's office is investigating the discovery of human bones at the site of a new retirement community.

Construction workers discovered the remains on Thursday while digging near Jordan Creek Mall.

Once the bones were found, crews stopped digging and called police, authorities said.

"There's no coffins. There's some materials around the bones that could be wood. That's yet to be determined," said West Des Moines police Lt. Jeff Miller.

Police called the state archaeologist office and the state medical examiner's office.

"They'll be looking into whether this could be a Native American burial site or early pioneer settlements as well," said John Kraemer of the medical examiner's office.

Whole thing again.

Archaeology Project
A former Kendal Museum employee is poised to start unlocking the Lake District ’s vast heritage where over 6,500 sites make it one of the north’s top areas for archaeology.

Thanks to a £171,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant, Lisa Keys is spearheading work to roll out the relics of history to new and expanding audiences in a project she says ‘couldn’t be more exciting’.

A summary of the Lake District Historical Environmental Record will be listed on a website revealing a wealth of information, including prehistoric landscapes, medieval monastic sites and extensive industrial remains.

To find out more go to

That's the whole thing, but there's more on the actual story at the web site linked in the article, under 'Archaeology News' in the left sidebar.

Farm trash is archaeologist's treasure
Farm 'graveyards', those piles of abandoned vehicles and rusty machinery that dot rural landscapes, are like cherished living photo albums and family heirlooms.

That's the conclusion of Di Smith, a PhD candidate at Flinders University of South Australia, after studying the archaeology of farm graveyards.

Her study, believed to be the first of its type in Australia and possibly the world, found these graveyards, are part of our cultural heritage and of great archaeological value.

"I was looking for the answer to my questions of why do farmers keep all these abandoned vehicles and machinery on their property, why do they keep them for so long, and what do they do with them?" Smith says.

Not really an 'archaeology' study, but kind of interesting.

Battlefield archaeology Archaeologists hunt for battle site
Signs of struggle lie buried under a grassy opening in a mist-shrouded forest of hemlock and spruce.

Archaeologists at the Sitka National Historical Park recently unearthed musket shot and cannonballs in this quiet glade where they believe a clan of Tlingit Indians, called the Kiks.ádi, built a wooden palisade fort and held off Russian attackers for six days in October 1804 until their ammunition was spent.

There was a program on this event a couple of years ago on some Discovery Channel channel. Don't remember too much about it though, and a search of produced nothing.

"Tooooo-ga! Toooo-ga! Bones in togas puzzle Vatican archaeologists

Archaeologists exploring one of Rome's oldest catacombs are baffled by neat piles of more than 1,000 skeletons dressed in elegant togas.

The macabre find emerged as teams of historians slowly picked their way through the complex network of underground burial chambers, which stretch for miles under the city.

They say the tomb, which has been dated to the first century AD, is the first known example of a "mass burial".

That actually sounds quite interesting.

We do that Archaeologists uncover lost era

Archaeologists scouring the historic John Marsh House-Cowell Ranch site in Brentwood say there are American Indian artifacts and bones buried within the soil, some dating back as far as 9,000 years to the "Paleo-Indian" era.

"What we've found out there is extremely rare," said archaeologist Miley Holman, who is working with Shea Homes to study land associated with a residential development project next to the Cowell Ranch state park site.

The village, he said, covers both the Marsh-Cowell property and a Shea-backed project called Vineyards at Marsh Creek. Both projects are in the planning stages.

Relic hunters update Virginia archaeologists protest history buffs' digs
The buzz began in the chow line. "Did you hear?" asked one relic hunter.

"Yeah. A Mississippi plate," said another. "Absolutely perfect."

The proud new owner of the Confederate belt plate embossed with an eagle held out his treasure on his dirt-caked palm.

A man with a long beard and flannel shirt whistled low. "That's $12,000 right there."

It was the prize find of a three-day relic hunt called Diggin' in Virginia, one of a new breed of organized digs in the history-rich state.

Looks to be the same old story posted here a few times.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Whoops Scientists scuttle claims that 'Hobbit' fossil from Flores, Indonesia, is a new hominid
New evidence highlights failure to respect good scientific practice

When scientists found 18,000-year-old bones of a small, humanlike creature on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, they concluded that the bones represented a new species in the human family tree that they named Homo floresiensis. Their interpretation was widely accepted by the scientific community and heralded by the popular press around the world. Because of its very short stature, H. floresiensis was soon dubbed the "Hobbit."

Increasingly, however, this controversial conclusion is being questioned. In a Technical Comment to be published in the May 19, 2006, issue of Science magazine, scientists led by Robert D. Martin, PhD, Field Museum Provost and world-class primatologist, say that the bones in question do not represent a new species at all. A far more likely explanation is that the bones belonged to a modern human who suffered from microcephaly, a pathological condition that causes small brain size, often associated with short stature.

Keys: -- "Body size can shrink considerably, but brain size always shrinks moderately. At 400 cubic centimeters LB1's brain is simply too small to follow this universal law. In fact, for LB1 to be a dwarfed form of H. erectus, it would have to have been just one foot tall with a body weight of only four pounds to explain such a diminutive brain."

-- Based on their size, style, and workmanship, these tools [found with the remains] belong to types that are consistently associated with modern humans, or Homo sapiens, according to James Phillips, PhD, Adjunct Curator of Anthropology at The Field Museum, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and co-author of the Technical Comment. Such tools have never been associated with H. erectus or any other early hominid, he says. "These tools are so advanced that there is no way they were made by anyone other than Homo sapiens."

-- In research published last year that attempted to exclude this possibility, a team led by Dean Falk, PhD, studied a virtual brain cast from a single microcephalic skull – even though microcephaly can take dozens of different forms.

Furthermore, the skull from which the brain cast was made was that of a 10-year-old child, whereas LB1 was an adult and should have been compared with human microcephalics with a relatively mild condition that would have permitted survival into adulthood. Finally, the skull from which the virtual brain cast was generated is a poor-quality, plaster copy comprised of two parts that do not match up!

Not lookin' good for Homo hobbitus.

Update: John Hawks has more here and here.
Brian Hunt on the EEF lists sends along this alert on two articles on Lehner's Giza project:

There is a new article on the AERA web site about the conservation
project undertaken at Giza by Mark Lehner's organization.

There is also a previously-posted article about the archaeozoology at

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A few items from this week's news from the EEF:

Press report: "Key archaeological finds in Sinai"
"An archaeological mission belonging to the SCA announced
the discovery of 36 tombs dating back to the pre-history era
(..) during an archaeological survey in Ain Hadra and Abul Rdeis."

Press report "Tutankhamun's mysteries to be put online",,1774854,00.html
Short update report on the Griffith Institute's project
"Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation" (URL of the project: )

Preliminary Report 2006 of the sixth season of work at Tell el-Borg:

"Joint Archaeological Expedition at Mersa/Wadi Gawasis
(Red Sea, Egypt) of the University of Naples 'l'Orientale'
(Naples, Italy), Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Rome,
Italy), and Boston University (Boston, USA) - 2005-2006
Field Season"

"In December 2005-January 2006 the Archaeological Expedition of the
University of Naples 'l'Orientale' (UNO), Naples, and the Italian Institute
for Africa and the Orient (IsIAO), Rome, in collaboration with Boston
University (BU), Boston (USA), conducted the fifth field season at the site
of Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, Egypt, under the direction of Prof. Rodolfo Fattovich
(UNO/IsIAO), and Prof. Kathryn Bard (BU) ... In 2005-06 excavations were
conducted on the eastern terrace near the seashore and along the western and
southern slopes of the coral terrace."

BMCR online book review of:
Richard Jasnow, Karl-Th. Zauzich, The Ancient Egyptian Book of
Thoth: A Demotic Discourse on Knowledge and Pendant to the
Classical Hermetica. Volume 1: Text. Volume 2: Plates. Wiesbaden:
Harrassowitz, 2005. Pp. xx, 581; x, pls. 67. ISBN 3-447-05082-9.

Online review of:
Arthur Verhoogt: Regaling Officials in Ptolemaic Egypt. A Dramatic
Reading of Official Accounts from the Menches Papers, Leiden /
Boston / Tokyo: Brill Academic Publishers 2005
in: Sehepunkte 6 (2006), Nr. 2
And now some of the most important archaeological news of the day George Lucas Says Indiana's Next Crack Of The Whip Will Be Tamer

George Lucas is looking for a lot more than just fortune and glory these days.

Contrary to how Hollywood usually hypes its blockbusters, the writer/producer says Indiana Jones' next adventure actually won't be any louder, bigger or faster than his last one. In fact, if Lucas gets his way (hint: he usually does), the Jones sequel will prize dialogue over decibels.

. . .

"We're working on it, we're working on it," Lucas said. "We've been working on it for 10 years. I think it'll be a great film, but it's completely different. It's still got a lot of action, and it's still very funny. I think it works like crazy."

Suppose it's got to be a little tamer given that Harrison Ford is well into his AARP years these days. They probably have to set it later than the 1930s as well. What will he go after this time? The Sphinx's nose?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Port Angeles graving yard update If you recall, this was a bridge project that ended up being halted when a major site was found. A short news account of the findings of the DOT is here and the report in full is here. Chapter 4 describes the original archaeological survey and the reasons why it failed to find the large site:

Why was not the cultural resource significance of the graving dock site successfully identified in the Cultural Resources Survey?

The question is underscored by the fact that the background investigation conducted as part of the Cultural Resources Survey clearly recognized the existence somewhere in the feneral area of Tse-whit-zen village and strongly suggested the possible existence and significance of its cemetery.

One bad thing for the archaeologists involved, seen on p. 46 is the seeming inability of the field investigator to state whether or how much of the materials obtained through augering and trenching were actually screened. That seems a bit sloppy. The principal investigator also did not visit the site at all, though the report doesn't state whether the presence of a "more experienced archaeologist than the assigned field investigator" had any effect on the results. It also notes that in many cases where augering was attempted, subsurface concrete from historic constructions hindered collecting anything underneath.

The basic conclusion (p. 53-54) kind of equivocates:

WSDOT believes that the Section 106 assessment, while procedurally in order and on its face in accordance with regulatory requirements, was not onducted with the thoroughness, care or insight that it should have received in light of the information available about the site.

They cite four basic failures:
-- Inadequate background research and field procedures by the consultants (1)
-- Lack of resources on both the WSDOT and Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to monitor the consultant's work (2 and 3)
-- Failure on the Tribe's part (they word it as "failure of the consultation process with the Tribe") to provide information about the site that they knew (4)

That latter will surely draw a response from the tribes.

They also go into the post-prehistoric uses of the site for construction also interfering with access and visibility of the stratigraphically lower deposits, which seems to me to be the biggest contributor.

But read the whole thing, it's fascinating.
Climate change may be key to 10,000-year-old mystery
Today, the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) announced an investment of $2.5 million in
a research project that will investigate the link between climate change,
human genetics and the disappearance of an entire culture from the Boreal
forest region of Siberia between 7,000 and 6,000 BC.
With the help of DNA analysis, radiocarbon dating and climate modeling,
University of Alberta professor Andrzej Weber will lead an international team
of scholars in examining 10,000 to 5000-year-old human remains from ancient
cemeteries in the Lake Baikal region of Russia. The group will then use this
evidence to reconstruct the daily lives, cultural traditions and local
environment of the hunter-gatherers who once lived there.

There's also a new paper in this quarter's American Antiquity that I was going to get around to posting about eventually: Climate change and the Archaic to Woodland transition (3000-2500 cal B.P.) in the Mississippi River basin by Tristram R. Kidder (American Antiquity, April 2006 v71 i22 p195(37)). Abstract:

Archaeologists frequently assume the cultural transition from Archaic to Woodland (ca. 3000-2500 cal B.P) in the Mississippi River basin is a gradual process. In the lower Mississippi Valley, however, tbere is an abrupt gap in the archaeological sequence at this time and pronounced differences between Late Archaic and Early Woodland archaeological remains. Elsewhere in the basin, this transition is marked by an occupation hiatus or decline and is accompanied by significant changes in settlement and material culture organization. In most parts of the floodplain of the Mississippi River and its tributaries there are few sites dating to this interval suggesting the river bottom was abandoned for several hundred years as a location for sustained habitation. High-resolution climate data demonstrates an episode of rapid global climate change involving significant alterations in temperature and precipitation in the period ca. 3000-2600 cal B.P. The proximate cause of this global climate occurrence is change in galactic cosmic ray intensity and solar irradiation possibly amplified by variations in the earth's geomagnetic field. Global climate changes led to greatly increased flood frequencies and magnitudes in the Mississippi River watershed during the shift from Late Archaic to Early Woodland. In northeast Louisiana, increased flooding led to major fluvial reorganization that caused settlement abandonment and is associated with the demise of Poverty Point culture. Climate change and associated flooding is implicated as one cause of major cultural reorganization at the end of the Archaic throughout much of eastern North America.
And speaking of privately funded excavations. . . On Ancient Walls, a New Maya Epoch
On the sacred walls and inside the dark passageways of ancient ruins in Guatemala, archaeologists are making discoveries that open expanded vistas of the vibrant Maya civilization in its formative period, a time reaching back more than 1,000 years before its celebrated Classic epoch.

The intriguing finds, including art masterpieces and the earliest known Maya writing, are overturning old ideas of the Preclassic period. It was not a kind of dark age, as once thought, of a culture that emerged and bloomed in Classic times, at places like the spectacular royal ruin at Palenque beginning about A.D. 250 and extending to its mysterious collapse around 900.

. . .

News of the discoveries, announced in the last six months by an American-Guatemalan team led by William A. Saturno of the University of New Hampshire, is reverberating through the small community of Mayanists.

This is one of the projects funded by the Reinhart Foundation, and mentioned specifically in the WSJ article posted about here.
Ancient tomb sheds new light on Egyptian colonialism
In approximately 1550 B.C., Egypt conquered its southern neighbor, ancient Nubia, and secured control of valuable trade routes. But rather than excluding the colonized people from management of the region, new evidence from an archaeological site on the Nile reveals that Egyptian immigrants shared administrative responsibilities for ruling this large province with native Nubians.
"The study of culture contact in the past has conventionally used ideas of unidirectional change and modification of a subordinate population by a socially dominant group. The idea that authoritarian European powers forced changes in submissive native cultures dominated this work," explains Michele R. Buzon (University of Alberta). "However, more recent research has reevaluated these traditional notions and suggests that this model might not be appropriate for all situations of culture contact."
Breaking news Tattooed mummy unlocks Peru's Moche culture
Archaeologists probing Peru's lifeless northern desert discovered a 1,500-year-old mummy that may unlock secrets of the Moche, one of the mysterious civilizations that once ruled the Andean nation.

Baptized the Lady of Cao by researchers after it was found by a ceremonial pyramid near the Pacific Ocean, the tattooed mummy is the first female Moche leader ever discovered. It could debunk theories that the culture, known for its pottery and human sacrifices, was governed only by men.

. . .

The Lady of Cao was found with two ceremonial war clubs and 23 spear throwers -- sticks that propel spears -- puzzling archeologists who say such items have previously only been found in male Moche graves.

Certainly seems odd, being buried with that kind of material usually found with males.

Artists' conception of what the Lady of Cao may have looked like:

Update: More at NGS.
WSJ story update A reader was kind enough to send a temporary link to this article so we were able to read the whole thing. A few tidbits:

In the past, some of these donors have also collected antiquities, fueling concerns about looting. Mr. Reinhart and many of the new private backers do not collect. In many cases, they say their interest extends beyond archaeology to improving living conditions in the countries where they're digging. Even as they fund excavations, they're also paying to build schools and support agricultural projects.

My first thought as well on reading the introduction was that it sounded a lot like earlier days when museums and wealthy individuals sponsored excavations, primarily for the prestige and objects brought back for collections.

Mr. Reinhart sees a tie-in between his work with the ancient and the living Maya. "Excavating and restoring Mayan archaeological sites like San Bartolo can be used to show the living Maya what a rich and regal heritage they came from, and they can be proud of who they are," says Mr. Reinhart. "And since the Maya who built the ancient civilizations are still here, people and organizations who have the financial capacity can see that there is a great opportunity to bring these people out of their poverty."

The article also makes the tie-in with current trends in many countries of keeping their antiquities within the country and developing home-grown archaeological programs. I've blogged on this several times, notably with respect to Egypt, not only with its attempts to bring back objects taken out decades ago, but their increasing control over what excavations take place and where the excavated material goes to (this started a while ago, but Zahi Hawass has really been pushing it lately).

A bit of searching revealed that the Reinhart Foundation is administered through something called the International Community Foundation.

Don't have too much else to say as this is the first time I've heard of this sort of philanthropic behavior.

UPDATE: Okay, thinking about this a bit more. . . .in fact, this is fairly common practice, at least in parts of the world, especially Egypt and Israel. I did two seasons of work in the Valley of the Kings on strictly private money, and the recent tomb discovery by Otto Schaden there was also, I believe, funded privately. The article in WSJ states that private funding is becoming more common, so one wonders whether this is really the case or if it's just expanding out of the usual Old World context of classical civilizations and into other areas not generally connected with Western history. The added funding of local infrastructure could also be a new twist; not sure what other projects do, but those I'm familiar with in Egypt don't seem to do much more than pay for the excavation and some immediately ancillary work.

So who knows, maybe this is something different.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

NY Times weighs in on the Bosnian pyramid Some See a 'Pyramid' to Hone Bosnia's Image. Others See a Big Hill.
"It's not just any pyramid," he said from beneath his flat-crowned Navajo hat, which has led the local press to liken him to Indiana Jones. "It's the biggest pyramid in the world."

Archaeologists and historians inside and outside Bosnia are appalled, insisting it is simply a peculiarly symmetrical bit of geology. But pyramid fever is spreading through the country. Largely uncritical television and newspaper reports have made the photogenic Mr. Osmanagic a national celebrity, and volunteers are flocking to Visoko hoping to help uncover the Pyramid of the Sun, a prehistoric edifice that will redeem the country by giving it a glorious and important past. "After all the blood and mass graves, this gives people something positive to talk about," said Zlatko Bekbic, who came from the northeastern town of Tuzla to see the supposed pyramid.

Looking more and more like this is just a big hill. There's really not much in the way of contrary analysis in the article though. The picture of the supposed man-made blocks don't look particularly hewn. But if he's really claiming that the thing was made 12k years ago, it's probably safe to rule him out as a serious scholar.
Archaeologists Document Grave Markers Near LA Crematorium

Archaeologists on Monday began working to document ancient Chinese grave markers near the Los Angeles County crematorium, which were moved from their original locations more than 85 years ago.

The Health Department hired an archeology firm to work with county staffers and the historical society to catalogue and document the markers prior to removing them and relocating them to an appropriate place.

Crews working on the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension project discovered human remains last summer as they built a retaining wall at First and Lorena streets in Boyle Heights. The remains were discovered near the Evergreen Cemetery and Los Angeles County Crematorium.
OU professor defies preconceptions of stodgy archaeologist
Dangerous and adventurous to some, boring and old-fashioned to others, archaeology can be perceived in numerous lights. "Fun and witty" is seldom one of them, unless, that is, you learn about the field under professor Elliot Abrams.

The 52-year-old Ohio University professor of anthropology said he has traveled the world searching for clues as to how cultures have evolved, exploring modern day Honduras, central Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, the United States, and even southern Ohio.

"This is the story of humankind," Abrams said. "It tells us how we got to be where we are today."

Heh: "Dr. Abrams is not the stereotypical archaeologist," Snedaker said. "But he does have the stereotypical archaeologist beard."

Clean-shaven archaeologists are hard to come by. I can think of one offhand, Mark Lehner. Besides yours truly, of course.
More on the Andean observatory here.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The perfect dig shoe?

Really, not kidding. There seems to be no real standard for footwear to utilize while excavating. Certain conditions require fairly specific shoes, such as very wet sites where either rubber boots or no shoes at all are required. Indeed, I recall reading that at certain cave sites (or maybe just one) in France, workers are not allowed on the excavation surface at all, but do all their trowelling from boards suspended above the ground. Obviously the problem that one faces is that one is stepping on the very material one is trying to excavate, and that this can cause damage to the artifacts one is trying to recover. My first excavation was in a shell midden where this problem was especially acute given the methodological aims of the research, one of which was to determine the average size of shells within different strata. Needless to say, stepping all over fragile shells will crush, and therefore diminish in size, the uppermost surface shells.

In part, this is mitigated by the protective properties of the ground itself. You're only really stepping on the surface material, while the artifacts a couple of centimeters down are still safe in their coccoon of sediment.

Nevertheless, it's probably something to think about. Heavy boots with knobby soles presumably do much more damage than a softer, flatter sole. Hence, the idea that the above Chucky D's might represent a good all-purpose excavation shoe, which was originally suggested to me by a senior colleague many years ago. They have a fairly flat sole (especially after having been worn for a while), the sole itself is not very thick or rigid so it conforms to one's foot a bit more, and they're high-tops so there's some protection from both dirt and creepy crawlies sneaking in while you're working. Technically, an ideal might be something like a sock with a strong but soft fabric sole but this seems to be pretty close to that already.
Sub only but sounds interesting The Rich Dig Deep: Archaeology's New Players

Aboard a small helicopter crossing a seemingly endless rainforest, Leon Reinhart is describing our destination, the San Bartolo archaeological site. "We are uncovering the oldest-known Maya murals and the oldest writing anyone has ever found in the Americas," he says.
Mr. Reinhart isn't an archaeologist. He isn't an academic. He is a retired banker.

In providing funding for the excavation at San Bartolo, Mr. Reinhart is one of a growing number of bankers, entrepreneurs and philanthropists who are playing a crucial role in archaeology. They are providing millions of dollars to study and preserve the relics of ...

It looks like an interesting sort of article, but it's subscription-only and we here are ArchaeoBlog are notoriously cheap when it comes to subscriptions. And I am being thwarted from finding it through the university subscription. Well, if anyone has a back-door approach, post a comment.
This is your brain. . . .this is your brain on archaeology. . . Stoned on archaeology
"I think," he says, "that the whole of Europe, indeed the whole of Indo-Europe, is based on latitude. That's the reason white-Anglo-Saxon Protestants are in charge of the world, it's a latitudinal thing. But it's practical to have a Scando-Germanic domination and I use that term really specifically. Are you with me?"

Not really. Not at all, in fact. Cope - who's performing at Scotland's annual Burns an' a' That! festival, hence my question - has reached over and grabbed the wheel of this interview and I don't know where it's headed.

You could blame it on the drugs. Cope used to take a lot of LSD (and he's recently embarked on more "experimentation", for research purposes, of which more later). But if his brain was so fried, then how has he managed to write two acclaimed books on prehistoric sites?

Never heard of him.
Celestial Find at Ancient Andes Site

Archeologists working high in the Peruvian Andes have discovered the oldest known celestial observatory in the Americas — a 4,200-year-old structure marking the summer and winter solstices that is as old as the stone pillars of Stonehenge.

The observatory was built on the top of a 33-foot-tall pyramid with precise alignments and sightlines that provide an astronomical calendar for agriculture, archeologist Robert Benfer of the University of Missouri said.

The people who built the observatory — three millenniums before the emergence of the Incas — are a mystery, but they achieved a level of art and science that archeologists say they did not know existed in the region until at least 800 years later.

Huh. This is Peru. Apparently not the same as the Brazillian Stonehenge from last week.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Brazillian Stonehenge 'Brazilian Stonehenge' discovered
Brazilian archaeologists have found an ancient stone structure in a remote corner of the Amazon that may cast new light on the region's past.

The site, thought to be an observatory or place of worship, pre-dates European colonisation and is said to suggest a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy.

Its appearance is being compared to the English site of Stonehenge.

Of course, instead of long white robes, neo-Druids will be flocking to this stonehenge on the soltices in bikinis and outlandish costumes.

We are so there.

Via Althouse.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Update on the megafauna extinctions update The Guthrie paper mentioned earlier is up! Sub only though. New carbon dates link climatic change with human colonization and Pleistocene extinctions (Nature 441, 207-209 (11 May 2006))

Drastic ecological restructuring, species redistribution and extinctions mark the Pleistocene–Holocene transition, but an insufficiency of numbers of well-dated large mammal fossils from this transition have impeded progress in understanding the various causative links1. Here I add many new radiocarbon dates to those already published on late Pleistocene fossils from Alaska and the Yukon Territory (AK–YT) and show previously unrecognized patterns. Species that survived the Pleistocene, for example, bison (Bison priscus, which evolved into Bison bison), wapiti (Cervus canadensis) and, to a smaller degree, moose (Alces alces), began to increase in numbers and continued to do so before and during human colonization and before the regional extinction of horse (Equus ferus) and mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius). These patterns allow us to reject, at least in AK–YT, some hypotheses of late Pleistocene extinction: 'Blitzkrieg' version of simultaneous human overkill2, 'keystone' removal3, and 'palaeo-disease'4. Hypotheses of a subtler human impact and/or ecological replacement or displacement are more consistent with the data. The new patterns of dates indicate a radical ecological sorting during a uniquely forage-rich transitional period, affecting all large mammals, including humans.

There's one figure that would make all clear, but violating copyright laws ain't my bag, baby, so a description will have to suffice. He took several hundred C14 dates for five species (some new, some published) -- mammoth (Mammuthus), horse (Equus), bison (Bison), wapiti (Cervus), and moose (Alces) -- from the Alaska/Yukon Territory and compared them to dates for human materials in the same area. The results showed no wapiti or moose in the area until after 13k BP, very few bison until around 13.5k BP, whereas horse and mammoth were both common up until ca. 12.5k BP and 11.5k bp, respectively. The first human remains show up at a little before 12k BP.

Three hypotheses he examined were:
1) Disease: Ruled out because the extinctions were not synchronous.
2) Keystone:

Nor do these dates lend support to the 'keystone' hypothesis3, which proposes that the removal of mammoths by humans led to vegetational transformation, which in turn led to a secondary set of extinctions. In this AK–YT chronology, horse extinction seems to have preceded the demise of the proposed keystone species, woolly mammoth, by a calendar millennium.

This was also addressed in another paper (could've sworn I linked to it. . . .) on the dating of horses in Alaska that concluded (via statistical techniques anyway) that the likely latest horse remains were much closer to the latest mammoth remains.

3) Blitzkrieg:

The millennium-wide disjunction of first human dates and terminal mammoth dates indicates that humans could well have had a hand in the gradual extinction of mammoths, but not as in a century-scale 'Blitzkrieg' overkill2 in which a newly arriving wave of super-efficient human hunters broadly and abruptly devastated local megafaunas.

Basically, the dates for the earliest humans (ca. 12,300 BP) and the latest terminal date for mammoth (ca. 11,500 BP) overlap so much that the Blitzkrieg model -- positing a very rapid extinction shortly after the arrival of humans -- should not apply. Further, he notes that numerous other extinct species (camels, giant beaver, ground sloth) have terminal dates in this area well before initial human colonization (ca. 18k BP) which does not implicate them either. Also noted is that while there is abundant evidence for hunting of some non-extinct species in the area (bison and wapiti), there is not for the extinct horse; this odd pattern has been noted by Grayson and Meltzer as well for other species in North America.

The other question besides extinction is why the other species became so abundant at the same time:

Why were the two grazing specialists, bison and wapiti, absent or rare in AK–YT for five millennia before the transitional period, and how are we to understand their later remarkable boom? We know that conditions in this part of the mammoth steppe during the LGM were extreme. Dune fields, thick loess deposits and the virtual absence of lake sediments indicate arid and windy conditions with a largely treeless, short-grass–sedge–sage sward5, 16. These conditions of sparse forage and lack of riparian cover and alternate forage might account for the gap in bison and wapiti dates, but I suspect that the competitive advantage of the two caecalid grazing specialists, mammoth and horse, also had a role.

He goes on to argue that those species most adapted to the Pleistocene steppe environment -- the "caecalids" -- are the ones that went extinct and that the change in climate and vegetation that took place at the beginning of the Holocene strongly favored those species indicated as increasing. He also argues that many of the same environmental changes also favored human expansion into the area.

He's careful not to state that humans had no role in the observed extinctions, in AK/Yukon or elsewhere. Still, it does tend to put the kibosh on at least the Blitzkrieg model.
Well, now we have it then Archaeology Validates the Bible!
As the Bible continues to be validated by new archaeological evidence, one would expect the public to take note with wonder.

Consider the 1983 discovery by Israeli scholar Adam Zertal, who unearthed a huge sacrificial altar on Mount Ebal, north of Jericho. Its construction perfectly matches the specifications described in Deuteronomy 27:4-8, which was later built by Joshua (Josh. 8:30-35).

Yet, as amazing as Dr. Zertal’s discovery was, it received a less than enthusiastic response from his academic colleagues. They claimed that he was probably politically motivated, linking his finding to the support of Jewish settlements in the region of Nablus (ancient Shechem), where Mount Ebal is located.

Don't have much to say on this one, but I thought I ought to pass it along anyhow. Obviously a tad on the hyperbolic side, but, eh.
2,400-year-old salt filter unearthed in Hebei
Archaeologists have discovered a 2,400-year-old filter that was used to extract salt from seawater in North China.

Ancient Chinese in coastal areas used to extract salt from seawater, by using a filter that would be placed under a caldron containing seawater blended with plant ash, said Wang Lingfeng, director of the office for protection of cultural relics in Haixing County, Cangzhou City of Hebei Province.

The filter is believed to be from the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC) and was in good condition when it was found in Haixing County, Wang said.

This sounds really neat, but there are no pictures.
Jamestown artifacts go on display in roomy new home

Archaeologists have unearthed more than a million artifacts since they found the long-lost remains of the triangular fort at America's first permanent English settlement in the mid-90s. But until now they haven't had an exhibit space to show them off.

The best 1,000 or so of the artifacts will be presented to the public for the first time when a $4.9 million museum within view of the fort site on the James River opens Saturday, the 399th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine was to speak at a media preview on Thursday.
More on the latest Donner Dig here. Apparently, this is one of the larger excavations that's been done.
Treasure! Exquisite treasures of Roman York unearthed
ROMAN treasures are among the latest finds unearthed by archaeologists in York.
A gold ring and a carved jet pendant were found together as staff from York Archaeological Trust investigated a city centre site before it was redeveloped.
Both are thought to date from the fourth century and archaeologists were delighted to find two such pieces in the same place.

Looks like real "treasure", too.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Breaking (head) news Brutal lives of Stone Age Britons
A survey of British skulls from the early part of the New Stone Age, or Neolithic, shows societies then were more violent than was supposed.

Early Neolithic Britons had a one in 20 chance of suffering a skull fracture at the hands of someone else and a one in 50 chance of dying from their injuries.

Details were presented at a meeting of the Society for American Archaeology and reported in New Scientist magazine.

Still reading Leblanc's Constant Battles so this jumped out. It doesn't really seem surprising in that light.
Megafauna extinctions update Climate, not humans, said to have killed off mammoths
Climate shifts were probably responsible for the extinction of the mammoth and other species more than 10,000 years ago, not over-hunting by humans, according to new research published on Wednesday.

Radiocarbon dating of 600 bones of bison, moose and humans that survived the mass extinction and remains of the mammoth and wild horse which did not, suggests humans were not responsible.

"That is what this new data points out," said Dr Dale Guthrie of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

Hmmm. Infuriatingly short on what the paper actually says and I can't find it on Nature's site. But there's this:
"But contrary to that theory, my dates show numbers of bison and wapiti (elk) were expanding both before and during human colonisation," Guthrie explained.

His radiocarbon research, reported in the journal Nature, shows there was a 1,000-year different between the demise of the wild horse and the woolly mammoth which Guthrie said is inconsistent with other theories.

So it appears that some critter populations were expanding at the time of colonization -- which one wouldn't expect if gangs of ravenous hunters were wiping out everything in sight -- and that they weren't doing it all at once, which is what the Blitzkrieg hypothesis says. The Overkill proponents will, of course, counter that this doesn't absolve humans, they just did in different species at different rates, some not at all. But any really good set of dates is A Good Thing.

Will certainly be getting more play, so stay tuned. . . .

Update: And there's more here:

His results, published today in Nature, found no evidence to support the proposed explanations for the extinction. A disease would imply that many animals died off at once, which the fossil evidence does not show. Dr Guthrie also dismisses the other explanations. "Contrary to [the blitzkrieg] theory my dates show numbers of bison and wapiti were expanding both before and during human colonisation. So we know this was not a simple sequence of bison and wapiti replacing the extinct mammoth and horse," he said.

Instead, the researchers found that the change in climate 13,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, meant the food available to mammals gradually changed. The increase in temperatures and moisture at the start of the present Holocene epoch encouraged plants unpalatable to horses and mammoths. "These new data show that while humans could have contributed to the Pleistocene extinctions of mammoth and horse, these two species and others were apparently less well adapted to the rise of northern Holocene ecological conditions, favouring to some degree the modern grazing species," said Dr Guthrie.

So he didn't really rue out humans at all, but at least the blitzkrieg model.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

North American Solutrean update Archaeologist says Va. bolsters claim on how people got to America
The Smithsonian archaeologist pursuing the contentious claim that ancient Europeans fleeing the Ice Age settled in America says artifacts unearthed in the Chesapeake Bay region support his theory.

Smithsonian Institution curator of archaeology Dennis Stanford argues that about 18,000 years ago, Solutrean hunters from the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal followed seals and other marine mammals for their fur, food and fuel across a partially frozen north Atlantic Ocean to the New World.

"Through such activities they ended up . . . along the exposed continental shelf of North America discovering a new land," he and colleague Bruce Bradley write.

Good long article on the subject, but nothing much new that hasn't been posted before.
Donner Lake archaeology dig to begin
Under a plot of land that may soon house the newest museum honoring the Donner Party’s tragic journey over the Sierra Nevada, sit pieces of history dating back almost 9,000 years.

These artifacts — whether they be musket balls, earrings, or Washoe cooking ovens — will come out of the ground this summer, as a team of archaeologists descends on Donner Memorial State Park to dig, catalogue and analyze the earth.

The archaeological investigation will be only the second dig of its magnitude at the lakeside location where dozens of the Donner Party died of starvation, said Susan Lindström, a local archaeologist who has studied the Donner Party for 30 years.
A deep subject Interesting Items Found In Jamestown Well
rchaeologists digging in a well found at the original fort at Historic Jamestowne say they've found seeds, insects, bones and artifacts from early Virginia settlers.

The well's contents might shed light on the environmental conditions and the culture of the people who came to Virginia 400 years ago.

The well was found last fall in a corner of the site of the original Jamestowne fort. After the colonists stopped getting water from it, they filled the hole with trash and built the governor's house on top.

The well will be excavated weekly, and visitors can watch as items are brought up. Video monitors also will allow visitors to look inside the well.

That's the whole thing.

Update: Way more here.
Whoops Prehistoric 'Sistine Chapel' under threat from fungus

A pernicious white fungus has spread "like snow" in the caves of Lascaux in France where the fabulous rock art has been described as the "Sistine Chapel of prehistory".

The fungus is believed to have been introduced after contractors began to install a new air conditioning system that was meant to preserve the precious 17,000-year-old cave paintings from the heat and humidity generated by their many visitors.

The historical importance of Lascaux is immeasurable and any damage to its art would have serious repercussions given the cave's status as an evolutionary icon for the development of human art and consciousness.

Close it up and let it be.

After getting rid of the fungus.
Augustan head found at new villa
A marble head of the Emperor Augustus has been found at a large and well-appointed Roman villa just discovered outside the capital .

The head, practically a bas-relief, shows the emperor in profile in his middle years .

It will shortly be taken to the newly refurbished Roman Antiquities Museum at Palazzo Massimo near Termini Station to be shown to the public .
Battlefield archaeology update World’s first battlefield archaeology centre
The world's first centre for battlefield archaeology, headed by the star of BBC's Two Men in a Trench series, has been established at Glasgow University.

Dr Tony Pollard, who co-presented the archaeology show, heads the groundbreaking unit which will work on a number of projects including the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879 in South Africa, the Jacobite rebellions in Scotland and an archaeological evaluation of British battlefields.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Repatriation update Ancient Puebloans reburied at park
"A wrong has been righted," a New Mexico tribal leader said Thursday of the recent reburial in Mesa Verde National Park of the remains of more than 1,500 Ancestral Puebloans.
The prehistoric corn, squash and bean farmers had been unearthed in archaeological excavations spanning more than a century.

"Finally they have been reburied so they can continue to make their journey," said Peter Pino, tribal administrator for the Zia Pueblo in north-central New Mexico.

New Mexico's Zia, Acoma and Zuni pueblos and Arizona's Hopi tribe worked with park officials to finalize a repatriation agreement signed in December.
Priceless Maya Stone Vessel Looted in Guatemala

Just days after the rare discovery of an untouched royal Maya tomb in Guatemala comes news of plundered Maya treasure in that same Central American country.

Looters have stolen a rare and exquisitely carved 1,500-year-old stone box from a cave near the city of Cancuén, experts told the National Geographic Society this week. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geography Society.)
Prehistoric site found in Jerusalem
Jerusalem, it appears, was a popular place even during prehistoric times.

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a large concentration of stone utensils on the southeastern rim of the city which were used by prehistoric man hundreds of thousands of years ago, Israel's Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.

The antiquities were uncovered during a routine archaeological supervision at a building site near Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.
The Archaeology Channel has a new video up on the site of Atapuerca.
Mexico monolith may cast new light on Mesoamerica
A carved monolith unearthed in Mexico may show that the Olmec civilization, one of the oldest in the Americas, was more widespread than thought or that another culture thrived alongside it 3,000 years ago.

Findings at the newly excavated Tamtoc archeological site in the north-central state of San Luis Potosi may prompt scholars to rethink a view of Mesoamerican history which holds that its earliest peoples were based in the south of Mexico.

"It is a very relevant indicator of an Olmec penetration far to the north, or of the presence of a new group co-existing with the Olmecs," said archeologist Guillermo Ahuja, who led a government team excavating the site for the past five years.
The big one that didn't get away Fisherman Nets Ancient Statue in Greece
A Greek fisherman has handed over to authorities a large section of an ancient bronze statue brought up in his nets in the Aegean Sea, officials said on Monday.

The male torso was located last week near the eastern Aegean island of Kalymnos, the Culture Ministry said in an announcement.

The one-meter (3-foot) high find belonged to a statue of a horseback soldier, and would have been part of the cargo of an ancient ship that sank in the area. It was taken to Athens to be cleaned and dated.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Evolutionary Back Story: Thoroughly modern spine supported human ancestor

Bones from a spinal column discovered at a nearly 1.8-million-year-old site in central Asia support the controversial possibility that ancient human ancestors spoke to one another.

Excavations in 2005 at Dmanisi, Georgia, yielded five vertebrae from a Homo erectus individual, says anthropologist Marc R. Meyer of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The finds occurred in previously dated sediment that has yielded several skulls now attributed to H. erectus (SN: 5/13/00, p. 308: Available to subscribers at
Blog entry makes news Neanderthals and Humans: Perhaps They Never Met

The number of years that modern humans are thought to have overlapped with Neanderthals in Europe is shrinking fast, and some scientists now say that figure could drop to zero.

Neanderthals lived in Europe and western Asia from 230,000 to 29,000 years ago, petering out soon after the arrival of modern humans from Africa.

There is much debate on exactly how Neanderthals went extinct. Theories include climate change and inferior tools compared to those made by modern humans. Anthropologists also disagree on whether modern humans and Neanderthals are the same species and interbred.

Actually, the bigger part of the article is on some other work by Paul Mellars, but it refers to Hawks' blog where he comments on it (note to LiveScience: Make a link to the exact post!).
State archaeologist wants to return Indian remains to tribes

Federal red tape is blocking the return of the remains of hundreds of American Indians to tribes for reburial.

State archaeologist Jon Leader is caretaker for about 300 Native American remains that he wants returned to tribes for reburial.

Harold "Buster" Hatcher, chief of the Waccamaw tribe in Horry County, wants remains of tribal members returned for reburial.

But here's the catch. Hatcher's tribe is not federally recognized. And federal law restricts the return of remains only to those tribes that have federal recognition.
Army of Archaeological Davids update Archaeologists seek rock-art images

Outdoor enthusiasts can help two archaeologists document prehistoric petroglyphs and pictographs in Oregon this summer.

Archaeologists D. Russel Micnhimer and LeeAnn Johnston received a grant from the Oregon Archaeological Society to photograph prehistoric petroglyphs and pictographs.

They have visited more than 50 sites, and they are seeking information about others -- no matter how vague or dated.

Vandalism, land development and weathering contribute to the degradation of rock art images, some of which are several thousand years old, the archaeologists said. Their work can help preserve many of these images for further study.

Another good way to use amateurs to get worthwhile data. (That's almost the whole thing; couple of links not posted)
Taking a dig at archaeology
Messages from the past are important to contemporary society, but scientists who work with those messages seem unable to make their work appear relevant to the public, archaeologist Jim Judge said Friday.

Judge closed a three-day symposium celebrating 100 years of research at Mesa Verde National Park. He called for some second thoughts about why archaeologists work and how they are allowed to work.

Kind of a confusing article. Most of the quotes seem to be supportive of Judge, though maybe a bit less stridently expressed. As regular readers know, I tend on the conserve-as-much-as-possible side of that argument, but apart from aboriginal concerns, there doesn't seem to be much standing in the way of research into materials on public lands. Still, excavation ought to be a last resort for gathering info, I think.
Archaeologists solve the ultimate puzzle
Archaeologists working at the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia have nearly completed what has been hailed as the world's largest and most complicated jigsaw puzzle.

The Baphuon, one of the most ancient temples at the complex, was this week unveiled to the public after decades spent in hundreds of thousands of fragments, which had stumped French and Cambodian scientists.
Battlefield archaeology updateSearch begins for artifacts from Black Jack
Pieces of aluminum from foil, beer and soda cans, wire and nails were the only discoveries Thursday afternoon as searchers armed with metal detectors began scouring the historic Black Jack Battlefield east of Baldwin.

“We’re literally just getting started,” said Douglas Scott, a battlefield archaeologist from Lincoln, Neb. “Today is to get everybody tuned up and working together.”

Scott, an adjunct anthropology professor with the University of Nebraska, is leading an archaeological survey of the battlefield where forces under abolitionist John Brown clashed with pro-slavery forces under Henry Clay Pate the night of June 2, 1856. Many consider it to be the first armed conflict of the Civil War.

Well, maybe they didn't find anything after all.

Friday, May 05, 2006

UK/Detectorists update Watching the detectorists
Many archaeologists believe they are a vital part of their work, while some dismiss them as mere treasure hunters. Now a new code of conduct is recognising the role of metal detector enthusiasts in mapping the UK's history.

For anybody who encountered one in childhood, the strange whistles and beeps of a metal detector conjured up a special kind of magic.

Each noise from the contraption would generate a wave of excitement that would subside only when one realised that the unearthing of a rusty horseshoe or drinks can would not lead to a call to be the next Indiana Jones.

This is a far more detailed article on the agreement and history than an earlier one posted here. Note the following:

Since 1996, the legal position has been easier for detectorists. That year's Treasure Act makes the process for gold and silver finds over 300 years old absolutely clear.

The finders and landowners can expect to be paid market value for their discovery - after an inquest and valuation - which has led to some big rewards and given a great incentive for the most valuable finds to be reported.

Don't know who is doing the paying, presumably the gov't.

But for most the pleasure of finding something historic is all they need. Mr Baldock says his favourite item was a Bronze Age axe head.

"It was 4,000 years old, and finding it was a great thrill. There is no [cash] value in the item, except it is one of the oldest metal items around.

Earlier, the article refers to potential benefits of having an Army of Archaeological Davids (that phrase is going to get old so fast):

Finds as spectacular as the Ringlemere Cup are vanishingly rare, but thousands of items, many mundane, and many not metal, are reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme - based at the British Museum - every year.

Archaeologists, except for specific cases of survey research and CRM work, don't generally go out looking for isolated finds and that can skew one's view of overall landscape use.

This could well appeal to a large number of amateurs in the US as well. Unclear what percentage of relic hunters are strictly into it for the profit (true looters) and how many are okay with the money and/or having a cool old artifact to put on their mantle. I suspect most of the latter would probably be anal-retentive enough to report and record the items they find since it's kind of an odd person who would spend that amount of time poking around looking for stuff in any weather anyway.

So maybe this might be a good model to use in formulating a policy in the US. It's sure to draw fire, especially the part about who is going to pay for items. But, as commenters and correspondents have noted, perhaps the regular market could take care of that.