Monday, July 31, 2006

Breaking news Another new tomb in the Valley of the Kings: ‘KV64’ - II

ARTP first encountered evidence of a second anomaly in the central area of the Valley of the Kings in the autumn of 2000, located at a point close to the southeast corner of the modern flood-prevention wall around the Tutankhamun-tomb entrance and a short distance to the north of KV63 (see Fig. 6). The radar readings generated by our equipment were uniformly strong and impressive (Fig. 5) - even more so than the data which in 2000 first alerted ARTP to the existence of KV63 (Fig. 4). As analysed by our radar specialist Hirokatsu Watanabe it seems all but certain (on analogy with the KV63 radar evidence) that the new data identify the presence of another tomb at some considerable depth - ‘KV64’.

This is a general link, so the contents will change in the future. This one is dated 28 and 31 July. This is a good observation:
Why this fear of a new gold rush? Because despite current media disappointment at the absence of bodies it will soon become apparent that KV63 is in fact a discovery of the most extraordinary significance - not for what the single chamber actually holds but for what it clearly signals, which is the definite presence in the Valley of at least one further tomb. The situation is this: as a chamber full of embalmers’ refuse KV63 stands in relation to a future burial as the KV54 embalming-cache in 1907 stood to the tomb of Tutankhamun. It represents without question an augury of further, significant discoveries to come.
Reader Luis Aldamiz sends these comments on the Anglo-Saxon apartheid story from a couple of weeks ago:

I read the same story in BBC and left me flippant. The premise is that
Anglo-Saxon male lineages outbred the previous ones but that's not the
truth. In fact Britons, even those of the regions more affected by
Anglo-Saxon and Viking (Danish) invasions (Yorkshire and Norfolk) are
still more "Basque" (Atlantic) than anything else. Only the people of
Orkney and Shetland seem to show about 50% of Norwegian male lineages.

Check this paper carefully and compare with the far-fetched ideas published recently in those articles.

Actually based on that paper and its graphics I found rather that the
rank of male "Basque" (Atlantic) lineages range from c. 100% in some
areas of Ireland and Wales to c. 60% in the regions apparently most
affected by Anglo-Saxon and Danish (Viking) invasions (their genome is
so simmilar, unlike Norwegian, that you can't take them apart). Britons
are still more Atlantic/Western than Nordic, at least via male genetic

Curiously female MtDNA lineages seem closer to those of Friesland and
other North European regions (sorry, I don't have any link for that
right now). This was a puzzle for me initially but my conclussion is
that the British Islands were probably populated mostly from the Rhin
region (Belgium and surroundings) and that it is in that region where
there's been a male "outbreeding" in the continent rather than in the
islands. Female lineages are much more homogeneous throught most of
Europe than male ones, what seems to show, in my understanding, a
relative "outbreed" (to continue with the euphemistic term) by
Indo-European male invaders in the Metallic Ages, much less intense west
of the Rhin, as it served as rather stable border between IEs and
Western pre-IEs for c. 1000 years (between c. 2400 and 1300 BCE),
according to what I know of European late pre-History.
So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You
New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled. Over the past 100 years, says one researcher, Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, humans in the industrialized world have undergone “a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique among the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have ever inhabited the earth.”

The difference does not involve changes in genes, as far as is known, but changes in the human form. It shows up in several ways, from those that are well known and almost taken for granted, like greater heights and longer lives, to ones that are emerging only from comparisons of health records.

The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to. There is also less disability among older people today, according to a federal study that directly measures it. And that is not just because medical treatments like cataract surgery keep people functioning. Human bodies are simply not breaking down the way they did before.

Apparently, the root causes are still unknown in their particulars. The article centers around a particular hypothesis that much of this is a function of fetal and infant health:

“Why do some people get heart disease and strokes and others don’t?” he said. “It’s very clear that current ideas about adult lifestyles go only a small way toward explaining this. You can say that it’s genes if you want to cease thinking about it. Or you can say, When do people become vulnerable during development? Once you have that thought, it opens up a whole new world.”

It is a world that obsesses Dr. Barker. Animal studies and data that he and others have been gathering have convinced him that health in middle age can be determined in fetal life and in the first two years after birth.

Read the whole thing.

Update: Hawks thought it was pretty good, too.
Web site alert Just found this one via a message that came across the EEF lists: The Egyptian Study Society. They have a periodical -- The Ostracon -- with articles/papers by a variety of authors, both professional Egyptologists and enthusiasts. And a page with gobs and gobs of links to other Egypt-o-Sites. It's added to the list at left.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Controversy Archaeologists unearth tomb, seeking clues about Venture Smith
Efforts to unearth the truth behind the legend of freed slave, Venture Smith, are in jeopardy. A lawyer with no connection to the family has filed a lawsuit to stop the excavation.

It does not appear that a decision on this injunction will be made until early next week.

At issue now is whether or not this request can even go forward because the defense says the state archaeologist who is named in the suit does not have the authority to stop the dig - even if the injunction is against him is granted.
Archaeologists in Guatemala discover Mayan king’s tomb
Looters who tunneled for decades looking for treasure deep underneath Guatemala's Mayan pyramids were outsmarted by archaeologists who earlier month discovered two major royal tombs.

Guatemalan Minister for Culture Manuel Salazar, one of the first to arrive on the scene after the discovery was made, prayed and played the flute at the entrance of one of the tombs. The body of a king adorned jewels was uncovered at the site in Laguna del Tigre National Park and is thought to have been buried more than 1,500 years ago.

This could turn out to be a very important discovery so stay tuned.
Cemetery archaeology update Old cemetery found at CVG airport
A family cemetery found at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is going to be moved.

Tombstones belonging to the Popham family were found last year when survey work was being done for a road, according to Bill Martin, the airport's senior director of planning and development.

The cemetery is southeast of the airport's middle north-south runway and west of DHL's facility. It has 15 graves.
Pipe-layers unearth bit of history
Contractors have found the remains a 2,000-year-old village near Thornholme, including children's and animals' bones, British and foreign pottery, coins and the outline of a roundhouse.

Archaeologists have des-cribed the find as significant and teams are now sifting through a field off the A614 looking for more artefacts.
Site manager Ben West-wood, from Northern Archae-ological Associates, said: "The earliest pottery we have so far had dated for the site indicates that it is from the second century. The latest is a coin from the late third or maybe fourth century.
Pyramid pioneers were spot on
Archaeologists who measured the Egyptian pyramids at Giza more than 100 years ago were surprisingly accurate, a review of historical surveys has shown.

The paper, posted online by Australia's Queensland University of Technology, reviews the major surveying projects of the pyramids Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus, built around 2600 BC south of what's now Cairo.

"They weren't that far out; their surveys were quite diligent and systematic and we're getting fairly good agreement using modern technology," says the paper's co-author Robert Webb, a lecturer in surveying in the school of urban development.

Friday, July 28, 2006

DVD Review

Okay, somewhat off the beaten path of archaeology, but there is some in here. I just got a copy of the DVDs for the old TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. It was kind of a cult hit in 1974-75 and only lasted one season. The set itself doesn't have a lot of production quality to it -- there are no extras like a "making of" minidocumentary, no interviews, etc., and the disks themselves have no graphics at all, just off-the-shelf burned DVDs. The set also doesn't contain either of the pilot movies (The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler) which is a pity because both of those were excellent TV movies.

It's well-known that Chris Carter drew much inspiration for The X-Files from this series and its monster-of-the-week formula. Anyone who was around during the 70s and earlier will also reconigze a lot of actors from back then making guest appearances: Keenan Wynn, Scatman Crothers, Phill Silvers, etc. Some episodes were markedly better than others; when they concentrated on suspense and worked around a limited monster budget, it worked very well. Other times, not so good. One of the last episodes, about a giant lizard terrorizing an underground complex, was rather embarrasingly obvious as a man in a lizard suit.

A great deal of its appeal was McGavin, of course, who recently passed away. He was sort of an anti-hero -- no gun, no special abilities, no badge, no immense resources -- which made his exploits seem close to us normal folk. Would any of us sneak into an abandoned car and try to sew the lips of a zombie shut? Sheesh. He rushed sort of headlong into things and that was what made it click, along with McGavin's humorous portrayal.

Archaeologically, they worked some things into it. One of my first archy-memories is of the Demon in Lace episode which involved a succubus who was associated with a Mesopotamian (?) tablet, which Kolchak had to destroy to get rid of the demon. The ep creeped me out something awful. There was also one where modern-day Aztec cultists commit a series of sacrifices, and works the 52-year cycle of time used in that calendrical system.

The two pilot movies are sold separately. Interestingly, The Night Strangler is set in Seattle where I attended graduate school. This was the first time I'd ever heard of "Seattle" and was rather disappointed when I actually got here and found out that the really cool "Seattle Underground" wasn't a bunch of full-size buildings underground complete with working streetlights. Bummer. Still had the serial killers though.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ancient Human Footprints Uncovered in Australia
About 20,000 years ago, humans trekked along the margins of a shallow lake in Australia, leaving behind records of their passage in the soft, wet sand.

In 2003, an aboriginal woman who is likely a descendant of those early Australians stumbled across dozens of timeworn footprints in the same area. Excavations of the site have since uncovered hundreds more.

The discovery, detailed in a recent issue of the Journal of Human Evolution, represents the largest collection of Pleistocene human footprints in the world, and the only footprints from that era ever found in Australia. In total, 457 footprints have now been uncovered.
Archaeologists 'excavate' old van
Project leader Cassie Newland says it is an exercise in methodology
Archaeologists are "excavating" an old transit van to help refine techniques used in studying modern artefacts.
The team at Bristol University is examining the van's contents, bodywork and engine and recording an oral history of the people who have used it.

A forensic scientist is also taking part in the "van dig". Police are increasingly using archaeological techniques for forensic investigations.
"I'm having very little fun" A Mystery Fit For A Pharaoh
Nervous about bumping into someone—or worse, something—I make my way back out to the narrow shaft and climb to the surface with Otto Schaden, the dig's director. Until this past February, he had worked in obscurity, splitting his time between studying a minor Pharaoh's tomb nearby and playing bass fluegelhorn in a Chicago band. Back up amid the heat and tourists, the 68-year-old archaeologist pulls out tobacco and bread crumbs, thrusting the first into a pipe and flinging the second onto the ground for some twittering finches. Just yards away, visitors in shorts and hats are lining up to get into King Tut's cramped tomb, named KV-62 because it was the 62nd tomb found in the Valley of the Kings.

Nice long article on KV-63. Gives more history on what Otto'd been doing in the past and more of a timeline for the discovery of KV-63. I didn't know there was any controversy about it amongst his "colleagues", though it does sort of paint Otto the way I know him: fairly quiet and methodical.
This Old House
Every summer since 1993 I have returned to central Turkey to work on the archaeological excavation of a mound nearly seventy feet high. As I tread over its soil, I feel a tingling in my feet, knowing that buried beneath me are the abundant remains of a town inhabited from 9,400 until 8,000 years ago. Rising just 500 feet to my west is a second, smaller mound, which was occupied from about 8,000 until 7,700 years ago. The archaeological site made up of the two mounds is still no more than 5 percent exposed. Until the digs began, an old footpath made a fork at the mounds, and so the larger one became known locally as Çatalhöyük (pronounced approximately cha-tal-HU-yuk), which means “fork mound.” The archaeological site has adopted that name.

Entire article from Natural History.
Book post Don't know if this was linked to or not: The Old New World
It is a rare textbook on world history that does not begin its account of the past in the Western Hemisphere with the European invasion that took place soon after the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Almost all of the achievements of Pre-Columbian cultures and civilizations have been systematically neglected or depreciated by most Western-oriented scholars. How was it that small bands of gold-hungry conquistadores could have defeated the armies of empires with populations that numbered in the millions? Was much of North America an almost empty land waiting to be developed by more advanced colonists?

In his ambitious new book, 1491, accomplished science writer Charles C. Mann provides answers to such questions and poses many more that have been raised by recent anthropological and archaeological research. He concludes that in 1491 the Western Hemisphere was (as it had been throughout much of its long history) "a thriving, stunningly diverse place, a tumult of languages, trade, and culture, a region where tens of millions of people loved and hated and worshipped as people do everywhere."

Review by Michael Coe. This book seems generally pretty good although I haven't read it yet (just a few perusals at local bookstores) and Coe gives it a thumbs-up. Unrelated to the book itself (mostly), I noticed this: In an interesting appendix, he explains why he uses the word "Indian" to describe the hemisphere's indigenous peoples, a choice that fits with my own observation that American Indian friends of mine prefer "Indian" or "Indian people" to "Native American," which to them smacks of white paternalism and political correctness.

Don't know how widespread this sentiment is, but. . . .and here, for perhaps the first time in the history of ArchaeoBlog. . . .an explicit opinion on a controversial (kind of) subject: We should all call them 'Amerindians'. There. I did it! 'Aboriginal Americans' is probably more precise, but too much of a mouthfull to use (and type) regularly.
Antiquities Market update II Dutch authorities return looted clay tablets
The Dutch police have returned three clay tablets, believed to have been looted from the Iraqi National Museum in 2003, to the Iraqi embassy in The Hague, ambassador Siamand Banaa said on Wednesday.

"Symbolically this is very important to us, this is the first time a police force has handed back looted items to the Iraqi authorities .... finding looted art is not a priority for most police forces," the ambassador said.
88 cuneiform inscriptions discovered at Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat
Eighty-eight brick inscriptions were recently discovered at the 3250-year-old Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat in southwestern Iran’s Khuzestan Province, the Persian service of CHN reported on Wednesday.

A team of experts restoring the middle section of the ziggurat discovered the cuneiform inscriptions on the northeastern and southeastern walls.

“Only a few of the inscriptions are intact. The inscriptions were discovered when the workers were removing rubble from the bases of the walls,” team director Bijan Heidarizadeh said.
Antiquities Market update I Ancient statue looted in Iraq is returned
A prized statue of an ancient king that was stolen during widespread looting in Iraq following the U.S. invasion three years ago has been returned to the country's government, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki held a ceremony Tuesday in Washington, D.C., to repatriate the 4,000-year-old statue.
All over the news and blogs Medieval book of psalms unearthed
Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog.

The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.

Important: Crucially, he said, the bog owner covered up the book with damp soil. Had it been left exposed overnight, he said, "it could have dried out and just vanished, blown away."

Apparently, the owner of the bog has dealt with archaeologists before so he knew that he had to keep the book in close to its original conditions.

A few bloggers have been noting the fact that the pages it was opened to talk about conflict in Israel. That's certainly unusual.

Um, that was sarcasm, by the way.

More here.
"One of the great risks of archaeology. . ." Western U.S. forests turning a bit too wild
For Dave Leveille, patrolling the biggest national forest in the contiguous United States has nothing to do with examining tree rings or dispensing hiking tips. He is a forest ranger with a badge and a 16-round sidearm, and every day brings new examples of the kind of unnatural things that people do in nature.

Leveille has been spat on, kicked, chased by snowmobilers and other off- road-vehicle riders. At least once a week, somebody calls him the kind of name that would bring a blush to the face of Smokey Bear, the Forest Service's mascot. And what happens in Las Vegas or Reno does not stay there; often it ends up in the neighboring Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Leveille's six-million-acre, or 2.4-million- hectare, beat.
OLD TOWN, 200 B.C.
Archaeologists believe they have uncovered evidence of an ancient village, dating to the time of Christ, that once thrived along the shores of this bay town.

Some of the recently unearthed artifacts found in random spots near the beachfront suggest a prehistoric village occupied about a half-mile stretch between Bayview Court and the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club.

City leaders are working with state and federal transportation officials to cut a temporary beach road, while several agencies work to rebuild the 30-foot bluff and the bay bridge.
Who owns the marine archaeology ‘Holy Grail’?
They may, or may not, have found the wreck of the Griffon. But even before the discovery has been confirmed in the waters of north-eastern Lake Michigan, a dispute has broken out over who would own what remains of the 17th century French vessel that experts have described as a “Holy Grail” of North American marine archaeology. The Griffon vanished ~ almost certainly in a storm ~ shortly after it had set out in early autumn 1679 on the return leg of its maiden voyage from Niagara at the eastern end of Lake Erie, to Green Bay on Lake Michigan.
Probably not archaeology BCC to accept donation of specimens from old Graves Museum
At their meeting today, the Broward Community College Trustees are expected to accept a donation from Florida Atlantic University of specimens previously housed in the now defunct Dania Beach landmark, the former Graves Museum of Archaeology and Natural History.

The collection, previously loaned to the former Graves Museum, will contain fossil artifacts that may be assembled and displayed under the direction of BCC's geology faculty.

The trustees have established an agreement to display artifacts and specimens at the Museum of Discovery and Science from the BCC Graves Museum Collection.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cache of Artifacts Found in Jamestown Well
Sometime around 1610, archaeologists figure, a thirsty colonist in Jamestown set his brass pistol on the side of a well as he pulled up some water and accidentally knocked the weapon in.

It's one explanation for a cache of rare finds the archaeologists fished up Tuesday from the bottom of a 400-year-old well at an overlooked corner of Historic Jamestowne, a national park.

The items found at the site of America's first permanent English settlement included the Scottish pistol, a man's leather shoe and a small lead plaque reading "James Towne" - the equivalent of a Colonial luggage tag.
Ancient artifacts discovered in rebuilding of Gulf Coast area
Archaeologists believe they have uncovered evidence of an ancient village, possibly dating back to the time of Christ, that once thrived along the shores of this Gulf Coast community.

The artifacts were unearthed during recent efforts to rebuild a thoroughfare and major bridge heavily damaged last year by Hurricane Katrina.

Marco Giardino, an archaeologist acting as the city's liaison on a dig to preserve the ancient remains, said as many as 400 people may have lived in the village.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

AND IMAGINE WHAT SNAKES ON A PLANE WILL DO Fear of Snakes Drove Primate Evolution, Scientist Says
An evolutionary arms race between early snakes and mammals triggered the development of improved vision and large brains in primates, a radical new theory suggests.

The idea, proposed by Lynne Isbell, an anthropologist at the University of California, Davis, suggests that snakes and primates share a long and intimate history, one that forced both groups to evolve new strategies as each attempted to gain the upper hand.

To avoid becoming snake food, early mammals had to develop ways to detect and avoid the reptiles before they could strike. Some animals evolved better snake sniffers, while others developed immunities to serpent venom when it evolved. Early primates developed a better eye for color, detail and movement and the ability to see in three dimensions—traits that are important for detecting threats at close range.

First footsteps of Polynesians' ancestors tracked
Bishop Museum chairman of anthropology Tianlong Jiao has returned from China with solid evidence that the first voyages of the ancestors of Polynesians were made between the South China Coast across open ocean to the Penghu Islands, 100 miles away in the Strait of Taiwan.

It is the first direct archaeological link established for the beginning of the epic saga of prehistoric Pacific Ocean voyaging.

The people who made the voyages were early Austronesians, ancestors of Polynesians, and the evidence is stone tools excavated at a site called Damaoshan on the small, offshore island of Dongshan on the South China Coast.

"We compared stone tools with local materials," Tianlong said. "Lab analysis indicated that none of the stone tools was made of local materials. This means they must have been imported."
And the Evolutionary Beat Goes On . . .
To spot natural selection at work, Pritchard and Bruce Lahn, also a geneticist at the University of Chicago who has conducted independent research in the same area, first look for places along the human genome to identify sites that show changes in some people but not in others. Then they look at the genetic material surrounding the changed part.

If the surrounding area looks very different from one person to the next, the particular change probably occurred a long time ago, because the general area has had time to accumulate other changes in the DNA. If there are not many differences in the surrounding genetic sequence, that indicates the particular change is relatively new.

Then scientists figure out how widespread that particular change is in large populations. Changes that are both new and widespread reveal the hand of natural selection -- since advantageous genetic changes will quickly spread through the population.

Almost worth visiting for the graphic. Actually, it's kind of cheesy. But go look anyway.
Ramses statue finds serene home in Cairo
The giant statue of Pharaoh Ramses II will be moved next month from a congested downtown square to a more serene home near the Great Pyramids, in a bid to save it from damaging pollution and traffic gridlock, Egypt's antiquities chief said on Monday.

Exhaust fumes from trains, cars and buses and subway vibrations are eating away at the more than 3 200-year-old granite statue at Ramses Square, its home since the early 1950s when it was taken from a temple at the site of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.

To try to prevent further deterioration, the 125 ton statue - a popular feature on postcards and guide books - will be part of the new Grand Museum of Egypt, to be located about two kilometres from the pyramids, Hawass said.
Eunuchs update Ancient eunuchs found buried in China
Tombs of eunuchs believed to be around 500 years old have been discovered during construction at a venue for the Beijing Olympics, an official said on Tuesday.

The graveyard was discovered in April and, after an extensive dig by cultural relics authorities, construction was only recently restarted, an official surnamed Zheng at China's Shooting Administration Centre said.

"The ancient graves were located on part of a field to be used for trap shooting," said Zheng.

Hmmmmmm. No reason given for why exactly these are identified as eunuchs.
Treasure! Archaeologists unearth 'treasure' at Dunbar Castle
ANIMAL bones, a whale bone and some medieval pottery have been unearthed by volunteer archaeologists searching a Lothians castle.

The treasures were found during a hunt through the Dunbar Castle Vaults.
Scientists study Ariz. Hohokam era site
An archaeological site containing the remains of a Hohokam settlement dates back to a rarely explored Hohokam era, according to recent dating.

The settlement in Queen Creek, just southeast of Phoenix, has preliminarily been dated between 1400 and 1450, which could make it one of the latest settlements of the mysterious desert dwellers ever identified.

Hohokams are believed to have inhabited the Sonoran Desert between 500 and 1450 before they abruptly disappeared.

But while scholars believe the population of Hohokam declined after 1350 or so, "we seem to have a pretty thriving location" in Queen Creek, said Banks Leonard, senior project director for Soil Systems Inc., a Phoenix archaeology company. "Nonetheless, it was abandoned, too, eventually."

Archaeology students seek 19th-century well

The busted-up 1891 toilet let them know they were on the right track.

Students in the field school at Fort Vancouver found the porcelain toilet last year while digging in chief factor John McLoughlin's garden outside the northwest wall.

They're in search this summer of the well that watered his garden. A ground radar scan 15 years ago year showed a shaft at the site, so they felt confident they were in the right spot.

It sounded kinda dumb when I first read the headline, too. But it's more important than it sounds. Seems to have been common, as there was also a formal garden at San Juan Island's English Camp.
Bulgaria uncovers 2,000-year-old temple
Archaeologists have uncovered a Bronze Age temple thousands of years old in southern Bulgaria, news reports said Monday.

The site, near Perperikon, covers 2.9 square miles, and is reportedly five times larger than the Acropolis in Athens, the Bulgarian news agency BTA said.

Workshops for metallurgy, awls and molds for axes were found at the temple, which archaeologists described as the first of its kind in the Balkan Peninsula, RTS Serbian radio-television said.
Remember it! Students digging for artifacts at the Alamo
Archaeology students are sifting through dirt at the Alamo in search of artifacts that could shed light on the history of the Texas Revolution battle site.

The project by University of Texas at San Antonio students is the first excavation at the former mission in more than 10 years. The students are digging in an area near the Long Barrack that is believed to be unexplored.

"To me this is amazing, to be able to dig at the Alamo," said Kristi Ulrich, project archaeologist from the school. "It doesn't happen that often."
Old news. No, really. Archaeologist: Cattle first kept in Sahara
An archaeologist who has spent decades studying sites in the Sahara says nomads who roamed the area millennia ago were the first to domesticate cattle.

At the time, what is now desert was a vast savannah with a humid climate, Dr. Stefan Kropelin of the University of Cologne told the BBC. When the climate changed and the area became one of the driest places on Earth, its inhabitants moved into the Nile Valley.

Still not sure what is "new" here, since Wendorf et al. have been arguing this for quite a while now, based in part on cattle remains found around desert playa lakes. They based this on several pieces of evidence, notably that cattle (Bos) bones were smaller than their wild counterparts and that the playa environment could not support cattle without the assistance of humans. This hasn't been universally accepted but it's been out there since the early 90s. For a mini-review and references see this paper by M. Brass, Tracing the origins of the Ancient Egyptian cattle cult:

Taken together, the two indications above suggest that the population which arrives in Nabta after 5,500 BC -- apparently pastoralists from the Sahara with a new and higher level of organizations -- influenced the developments in the nearby Nile Valley. Wendorf & Schild (1998:114) also hypothesize that the primary external stimulus for the rise of social complexity in Upper Egypt was contact with pastoralists of the Western Desert. (p.102)

Contrary to press reports, this newer work seems to be a refinement of the chronologies, rather than a brand new theory.

Wendorf, F. and R. Schild. Are the Early Holocene Cattle in the Eastern Sahara domestic or wild? Evolutionary Anthropology 3(4): 118-128
Controversy at Stonehenge. Again. Leave our glimpse of Stonehenge alone
Stonehenge lies between two roads, the busy A303 and the A344, a more ancient route to the north. For almost as long as anyone can remember, there has been controversy over what, if anything, should be done to remove these roads both to ease the summer congestion and to allow the monument to stand in glorious isolation, to be gawped at by thousands of tourists without traffic in the background. We are, supposedly, approaching the moment of truth when the Government will make a decision after decades of dithering. Those who have followed this saga will believe it when they see it.

It's an opinion piece. Upshot: He says that the A303 ought to be kept where it is to allow motorists to see Stonehenge as they drive by, rather than either get rid of the road altogether or put it in a tunnel to make the henge appear in a roadless landscape.
Underwater archaeology update Looking a little deeper
Joe Zarzynski is an underwater archaeologist — a combination of Jacques Cousteau and Indiana Jones.

The executive director of the Bateaux Below — a group dedicated to identifying, protecting and publicizing the hidden historic wonders at the bottom of Lake George — Zarzynski, a 6-foot-5 athletic scholar with the smile of an excited child, has both Cousteau’s passion for conservation and education, and Jones’s hunger for discovery and adventure.

“The end result of all archaeology should be to get the information out to the public and to researchers and academics,” Zarzynski said. “We have a motto: A story is not a story until a story is told.”
Climate change could have killed ancient city
A Sydney conference has heard that climate change led to the fall of the ancient Cambodian city of Angkor.

The theory has been presented to an international gathering under the patronage of UNESCO.

Sydney University's Roland Fletcher says the famous temples were the medium-size constructions of Angkor.

From the 8th century 1,000 square kilometres of rainforest made way for the low density city.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Timbers unearthed during flood defence work on the Norfolk-Suffolk border have been dated to between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago, archaeologists have revealed.

The very well preserved finds are the first of their kind in the region – it is thought they may have belonged to a walkway across the marshland in the Iron Age.

“This is the first such structure to have been discovered within Suffolk and is one of only a few in Britain,” said Jane Sidell, English Heritage Archaeological Science Advisor, “and as such is a nationally important find.”
Slavery archaeology update* Unearthing Slavery, Finding Peace
Mary Tilghman watches from her window as archaeologists sift the earth of Wye House Farm, her Eastern Shore property. Buttons and an iron ring, pig bones and a broken spoon: Over three centuries, her family helped the growth of a new American economy and, on this plantation, built an empire on the backs of slaves.

This is where the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass lived for a couple of years, as a child slave of about 7. The work confirms his descriptions of the physical place to a fault, animating the landscape with his words: "Though crimes, high-handed and atrocious, may there be committed . . . it is, nevertheless . . . a most strikingly interesting place, full of life."

Tilghman welcomed this search of her land and family records. Now 87, the 11th-generation heir to Wye House has "always been interested in the history of this place," she said. But until now, the stories of hundreds of people who lived steps from her front door have lain under a carpet of emerald turf, their names stowed in boxes of family ledgers, with notes gauging their fitness for work.

Good article. They're combining the archaeology with written records -- 400 boxes of it!

* Can't help thinking about poor undergraduates sweating in the bottom of a hole in the ground whenever I use that title.
Exodus From Drying Sahara Gave Rise to Pharaohs, Study Says
he pharaohs of ancient Egypt owed their existence to prehistoric climate change in the eastern Sahara, according to an exhaustive study of archaeological data that bolsters this theory.

Starting at about 8500 B.C., researchers say, broad swaths of what are now Egypt, Chad, Libya, and Sudan experienced a "sudden onset of humid conditions."

. . .

But around 5300 B.C. this climate-driven environmental abundance started to decline, and most humans began leaving the increasingly arid region.

"Around 5,500 to 6,000 years ago the Egyptian Sahara became so dry that nobody could survive there," said Stefan Kröpelin, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Cologne in Germany and study co-author.

This has been kicking around for some time, largely due to many similarities between early Valley artifacts and those in the Sahara (see here for a couple references). I think it was either Fekri Hassan or Karl Butzer (probably the latter) who really pushed this idea of Western desert proto-agriculturalists moving into the Valley during a time of increased aridity, adopting some newly introduced domesticates from SW Asia and eventually producing the Neolithic/Predynastic. See also work by Angela Close and Fred Wendorf as well.
Scientists seek the secret of our success from Neanderthal DNA
Scientists are to decipher the genetic code of our closest relative, the barrel-chested, long-faced Neanderthal, in the hope that it will reveal how modern humans developed the formidable cognitive power to dominate the world.

With fragments of DNA from bones found in ancient caves, researchers will piece together the Neanderthal's genome, and compare it with those already sequenced for humans and chimpanzees.

Modern humans and Neanderthals split from a common ancestor nearly 500,000 years ago, as primitive humans first harnessed the power of fire. From a foothold north of the Mediterranean, Homo heidelbergensis steadily evolved into the Neanderthals, while in Africa, the same species embarked on a different evolutionary path, one that ultimately gave rise to Homo sapiens.

This has been all over the news, with some suggestions about reconstructing the genome and placing it in a human egg for eventual breeding. Hawks has more.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"Feebleminded, cowardly, defenseless dwarfs"
"Mountain Spirit" endeavors to recreate the Sheep Eater way of life before they were scattered on reservations.

The Sheep Eaters were a group of people who lived in the higher altitudes of the Greater Yellowstone region in the pre-park era and are tragically "maligned and misrepresented" in Wyoming's literature and beyond, Loendorf said in a recent interview.

Along with co-author Nancy Medaris Stone, Loendorf reveals how the Sheep Eaters' reputation of being "feebleminded, cowardly, defenseless dwarfs" has been perpetuated by numerous sources, some of which are outright lies, say the authors.

In fact, they were advanced peoples who had a very functional mountain life, posits Loendorf, a professor at New Mexico State University whose research focuses on the Great Plains, U.S. Southwest ethnography and rock art.
Dumb archaeology joke #13,432 Do you dig archaeology?
KEITH Fitzpatrick-Matthews has a message for anyone who thinks that archaeology is boring - it is actually about what makes us human.

"It's about the things we do with the world around us and what it also shows is that all human beings, no matter where they come from and where they lived, are basically the same. It's about the traces you leave behind as you go through your daily lives," said Keith, (pictured right) who works at North Hertfordshire District Council as archaeology development officer.

This week is National Archaeology Week and Letchworth Museum has an ambitious project to rebuild the replica Iron Age round house that burned down there three years ago.
Digging into foreign cultures by studying their archaeology
What could be more thrilling than discovering an ancient ruin, a hidden city or even a lost tribe -- the buried treasure of humankind itself?

In "From Stonehenge to Samarkand: An Anthology of Archaeological Travel Writing" (Oxford University Press; $35; 291 pages), editor and author Brian Fagan makes his own Grand Tour of archaeological adventurers. His subjects range from the antiquarian collectors of the 16th century through the 19th century excavators of Middle Eastern, Mayan and American Indian sites, from renowned tourists such as Thomas Cook and Mark Twain to modern observers such as Paul Theroux and Karin Muller, traveling at a time when places such as Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu are wrapped in a suffocating embrace.
And now. . . .the news from the EEF Lots of good stuff in this week's installment. Check especially the online papers.

Press report: "Modern technology uncovers the glory of ancient Egypt"
Report on a lecture by Kathleen Stewart Howe entitled, "Egypt
Recovered: Early Photographic Surveys and the Development of Egyptology."

Press report: "Mummies on the move"
The Hancock Museum in Newcastle closed in April for a
major renovation, to be "converted into a Great North
Museum ... [which] will bring together four existing museums
under one roof.... It is due to open in 2009."
--Another press report on this:

Online version of: Amanda-Alice Maravelia, The Stellar Horizon of Khufu:
Archaeoastronomy, Egyptology … and Some Imaginary Scenaria, in: Susanne
Bickel, Antonio Loprieno (eds), Basel Egyptology Prize 1: Junior Research
in Egyptian History, Archaeology, and Philology, Schwabe & Co Verlag, Basel,
2003, pp. 55-74
"In the present article we present a brief introduction relative to the
interactions and feedback of Archaeology and Astronomy ... Such a fictitious
theory with many weak points and erroneous assumptions is the theory
proposed by Dr Kate Spence, in order to explain the precise orientation of
the Great Pyramids. This is examined critically in our article. We give
twelve arguments against this theory (simul­taneous transit) in the form of
questions, in order to prove that it was neither reasonable nor applicable."

Online version of: Francesco Raffaele, Stone Vessels in Early Dynastic
Egypt, in: Cahiers Caribéens d’Egyptologie, no. 7-8 (2005)
"As early as the Badarian and Naqada I cultures of Middle and Upper Egypt
(and the one of Merimde in Lower Egypt), stone vessels started to be
deposited in certain tombs, constituting one of the most valuable elements
of the funerary equipment. ..."

Andrew Monson, An Early Ptolemaic Land Survey in Demotic: P. Cair. II
31073 (Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics) - 81 pp., pdf-file
(7 MB)
"This paper provides a preliminary edition of an early Ptolemaic land survey
from the southern Fayyum and related accounts. Although photographs and a
brief description were included in the Cairo catalogue of Demotic papyri in
1908, it has never been edited or fully discussed. The text furnishes
valuable data about land tenure, agriculture, and taxation, especially on
royal land. This version is meant to provide a basis for further discussion
until the edition is complete."

Online version of: "Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian
Antiquities" (JSSEA), vol. 30 (2003) - pdf-files
"As part of an effort to streamline and speed up the publication process of
the JSSEA, we have decided to publish to the web all of the articles for the
following issues of the journal. This is an experiment by the editor and we
wish to see how this aids in the dissemination of the information in the
articles ... The files will normally appear here only until the hard copy
version of the journal appears."
-- Arthur C. Aufderheide, Larry L. Cartmell, Michael Zlonis, Patrick Horne,
Chemical Dietary Reconstruction of Greco-Roman Mummies at Egypt's Dakhleh
Oasis, pp. 1-10
-- Sanaa Abd El Azim El-Adly, Die Eingeweidekrüge oder Krüge des
Lebenskeimens!, pp. 11-14
-- Corey J. Chimko, Foreign Pharaohs: Self-Legitizimation and Indigenous
Reaction in Art and Literature, pp. 15-57
-- Heather Lee McCarthy, The Function of "Emblematic" Scenes of the King's
Domination of Foreign Enemies and Narrative Battle Scenes in Ramesses II's
Nubian Temples, pp. 59-90
-- Peter A. Piccione, The Women of Thutmose III in the Stelae of the
Egyptian Museum, pp. 91-102
-- Alicia D. de Rodrigo, Black Ware in Tell er Rub'a (Mendes), pp. 103-111
-- C. Spieser, Réflexions sur quelques scènes d'offrande du nom du roi, pp.
-- Johanna H. Stuckey, The Great Goddesses of the Levant, pp. 127-157
-- Sally Swain, Pottery from the Predynastic Settlement at Halfia Gibli
(Diospolis Parva), pp. 159-182
-- Book Reviews, pp. 183-186

Online review of
W. Scheidel, Measuring Sex, Age and Death in the Roman empire:
Explorations in Ancient Demography.
[The book includes an article on reported ages in Roman Egypt.]

End of EEF News
Good idea Hands off ancient tombs: experts
Many experts have confirmed that the Qianling Mausoleum is truly one of China's most outstanding examples of an imperial tomb.

It is so special because it was carved out of a mountainside, and is estimated to contain about 500 tons of cultural relics including jewels, calligraphy, paintings, silk and ceramics. And it is virtually unique because it has never been robbed.

Given its virtually incomparable nature, any proposal to excavate the site is bound to spark controversy.

With their plan to investigate the site, archaeologists from Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, where the mausoleum is located, have kick-started the latest debate on this thorny issue.

This is sort of an opinion piece. It's the eternal dilemma. The issue highlighted in the article is whether or not certain organic items can be preserved once they are unearthed:

Many archaeologists insist that the conditions within the tombs are usually much more stable, pointing out that the relics will be better preserved if they stay in the tomb.

Remember a couple of years ago when a big television event opened a sarcophagus in Egypt? Within minutes and on camera the mummy inside literally turned to dust. All so a bunch of us could gawk at it for a couple of minutes.

They don't mention whether or not looting would be a problem if it were left as-is. One would think not if it's still sitting there known as such.
Carved stone still mystifies scholars
In 1872, so the story goes, workers digging a hole for a fence post near Lake Winnipesaukee in the central part of this New England state found a lump of clay that seemed out of place.

There was something inside -- a dark, odd-looking, egg-shaped stone with a variety of carvings, including a face, teepee, ear of corn and starlike circles.

And there were many questions: Who made the stone and why? How old was it? How was it carved?

To date, no one has been able to say for sure, and the item has come to be known as the "Mystery Stone." Seneca Ladd, a local businessman who hired the workers, was credited with the discovery.
Lost civilization birthplace. . . .found Archaeologists find birthplace of Rome's first emperor
A team of archaeologists say they have uncovered part of what they believe is the birthplace of Rome's first emperor Augustus.

Leading archaeologist Clementina Panella said the team has dug up part of a corridor and other fragments under Rome's Palatine Hill, which she described today as "a very ancient aristocratic house."

Panella said that she could not yet be certain that the house was where Augustus was born in 63 BC, but added that historical cross-checks and other findings nearby have shown that the emperor was particularly fond of the area, she said.

More here from The Scotsman.
Lost civilization birthplace. . . .found Archaeologists find birthplace of Rome's first emperor
A team of archaeologists say they have uncovered part of what they believe is the birthplace of Rome's first emperor Augustus.

Leading archaeologist Clementina Panella said the team has dug up part of a corridor and other fragments under Rome's Palatine Hill, which she described today as "a very ancient aristocratic house."

Panella said that she could not yet be certain that the house was where Augustus was born in 63 BC, but added that historical cross-checks and other findings nearby have shown that the emperor was particularly fond of the area, she said.

More here from The Scotsman.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NAGPRA update The latest issue of the SAA Archaeological record has an article in it by Elizabeth Weiss of SJ State university, on the effects that NAGPRA and repatriation generally have had on osteological research. Happily, I found a copy online (looks to be a more detailed article actually) with non-sub access: NAGPRA Before and After.

Weiss argues from an analysis of publications in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology from before and after NAGPRA was enacted that fewer osteological studies were done, fewer sites were used, and fewer geographic locations were examined (all p<0.01). She also says that much research has switched to Central and South America from North America.

Weiss also has some comments on an extension of NAGPRA that California enacted that is much less restrictive about claims to remains than the Federal law. This, I know not much about. I'll try to get some more info from Weiss and elsewhere.

Here's Weiss's web page with lots of links to papers she's authored.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Truth is Out There! Althouse has a couple of posts on a 9-11 conspiracist who is teaching a course on Islam at the U-Wisconsin, Madison. Basically, it's the same thing some were saying in the 1990s about the Murrah Federal Building bombing: It was an inside job, obviously brought down by demolitions explosives, etc. Much of the commentary has revolved around whether or not either the home department or the engineering department needs to be saying more about the Controlled Demolition Hypothesis.

I linked it because it reminded me of a situation at the University of mumble mumble a few years ago wherein a graduate student was teaching a class and imparting what most would call pseudoscience at them. The bit I heard about was how Homo erectus had domesticated the cheetah for use in hunting. Anyway, I believe he was finally relieved of duty, though obviously it didn't grab headlines like this.

Be that as it may, I have now decided to drop the veil and finally tell The Truth about archaeology: Yes, it's a major conspiracy we've been maintaining for thousands of years. We're all members of the Illuminati and have been concealing the truth about human history from the good people of the earth. Plato tried to ruin it by publishing all that stuff about Atlantis, but we've managed -- through the careful insertion of various cranks and poseurs who constantly claim to have found material evidence of the Lost Continent in just about every habitat on the planet -- to discredit those legitimate researchers who have stumbled on actual evidence. Really, it's all just a covert intelligence operation designed to flood the press with bad research in order to cover up the good.

So yeah: Bimini? It's a road designed for 10,00-year old hover craft. How do I know? Because we found one in the secret chamber beneath the Great Pyramid. And it uses the same anti-gravity technology used to build the pyramid. We were clued into it from reading the microfilm libraries in the secret chamber accessed between the front legs of the Sphinx.

Bigfoot? Genetic experiments by the ancient Atlanteans gone horribly awry.

And this really is a helicopter:

I'm sure I'll get in trouble for this but. . . Hey! Who're you?! What are you. . . .mmppphh. . .



Where isn't it? Archaeologists: artifact looting a problem in Wyoming
Trafficking in illegal antiquities ranks alongside gun and drug trafficking in terms of profitability, and archaeologists say Wyoming's wealth of American Indian and frontier-era artifacts can make the state an antiquities gold mine.

"The thing about illegal activity on archaeological sites is so many of them are in remote, rural locations, it's hard to quantify what goes on out there because you're not out there a lot," said State Archaeologist Mark Miller.

Julie Francis, an archaeologist at the Wyoming Department of Transportation, said collectors provide a market for illegal antiquities and the Internet has worsened the problem.
So that's how they did it British outbred by Anglo-Saxon 'apartheid'
The Anglo-Saxons who conquered England in the fifth century set up a system of apartheid that enabled them to master and outbreed the native British majority, according to gene research published on Wednesday.

In less than 15 generations, more than half of the population in England had the genes of the invaders, investigators say.

"The native Britons were genetically and culturally absorbed by the Anglo-Saxons over a period of as little as a few hundred years," said Mark Thomas, a University College London biologist.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Shaveblogging update

As I feel relatively certain that regular ArchaeoBlog readers are utterly fascinated with my grooming habits, I thought I'd update the shaveblogging saga.

I have discovered, through semi-rigorous, non-double-blind, fairly uncontrolled clinical trials, that standard shaving cream from a can does not work well with an old-timey double edged safety razor. They probably were designed with the much less copious soaps and creams-from-a-tube of days gone by. Thus far, without resorting to the true anachronism of actually using a brush and soap, I have determined that the best modern option seems to be a gel such as Edge. My guess is that one generally applies a much lighter coating that doesn't clog up the blade -- modern multi-blades seem to have a more open design that allows all that junk to pass through the blades and not interfere.

Much to my dismay, however, I also discovered that Edge doesn't apparently make the kind that has the menthol in it. The stuff feels darn good, tellyawhat. And yes, I did spend several minutes examining the ingredients on every.single.colored.can. Happily, however, Barbasol makes a gel with menthol. Interestingly, they also make a brushless cream from a tube.

I suppose I could continue on here with an extended discussion of how this illustrates the vital archaeological principle of how one must consider whole suites of artifact traits when assessing the meaning of differential variation persisting through time, but as a concerned and considerate blogger, I shall spare you.
Fighting to save fragments of history
When wildfires put prehistoric sites at risk, archaeologists work with crews to help protect centuries of California's heritage

As nearby hillsides were covered with orange flames and thick black smoke, two archaeologists stared with wonder -- not up at the raging forest fire but down at three prehistoric stone grinding tools they had just discovered on the ground.

"Look at these artifacts -- they are as well preserved as anything you could ever find," archaeologist Richard Jenkins said as he examined a mortar stone with a perfectly rounded indentation. "This whole settlement is in great shape. It's survived for hundreds of years. Hopefully it will make it through this fire without major damage."

Good article.
Homo hobbitus update The hullabaloo about hobbits
First reported in the journal Nature, the vituperation among paleontologists surrounding the hobbit discovery has been almost as remarkable as the hobbits themselves. For example, a competing archaeologist ran off with LB1, the fossil hobbit described in the Nature report and bones from another, returning them only after making damaging molds of the soft bones. (LB1 is the "holotype" for the new species, sort of the gold standard by which a species is recorded, making the damage more troubling.) Whether the hobbits are offshoots of humanity or just brain-damaged pygmies has become a new scholarly debate in the field of human origins.
Men, cross your legs Italian scientists exhume body of castrato
Scientists have exhumed the body of the legendary 18th-century opera singer Farinelli to learn more about the castrati, male singers neutered in childhood to preserve their high-pitched voices.

Farinelli was the most popular and best-paid opera singer in Europe before his death in 1782. His remains were exhumed Wednesday from the historic Certosa cemetery in Bologna, said musicologist Carlo Vitali, a founder of the Farinelli Studies Center.

Eh, not much else than the last thing posted on this. This article seems to indicate the remains are just bones, so who knows what they can get out of them as far as determining what castration did to them. Er, besides the obvious of course.
Nearly a third of ancient Egypt still uncovered
Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo, says many ancient cities are buried under modern ones. Some prominent ancient Egyptians, including the "most beautiful, famous queen," Nefertiti, probably were buried in the Valley of the Kings, but their tombs have never been found, he says.

Since King Tutankhamen's gold-laden tomb was discovered 83 years ago, some experts have believed that the ancient burial grounds have yielded their major archaeological treasures.

But Hawass announced last month that he believes the first tomb uncovered in the Valley of the Kings in more than eight decades might have once contained the remains of Queen Kiya, Tutankhamen's mother.

Actually, it doesn't say much about what monuments, where they might be, etc. Hawass seems to be referring only to VoK stuff? Maybe. There is no doubt far more than 30% of archaeological material left to be uncovered since the vast majority of work done there has been on the Three T's: Tombs, Temples, and Texts. Relatively little on settlements and even less on prehistoric stuff. Plus, there is no doubt gobs of stuff buried under several meters of alluvium that will be unreachable unless the Nile dries up or begins a period of downcutting.

But, it's fun to speculate on what else might be there.
Excavations unearth historic Hudson Valley site
A team of archaeologists has been working with an upstate organization to uncover a 19th-century industrial site which produced some of the big guns that helped win the Civil War.

Michigan Technological University is into its fifth year of digging at the site of the West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, in Putnam County across the Hudson River from the U-S Military Academy.

The 87-acre site is owned by Poughkeepsie-based Scenic Hudson, which hopes to reopen the site to the public next year.
Amateur Archaeologists Get the Dirt on the Past
We were at Tel Maresha, in the 1,250-acre Beit Guvrin National Park, which lies in the Judean plain an hour southwest of Jerusalem. Everyone in the group had signed on to become an archaeological excavator in the three-hour Dig for a Day program, run by Archeological Seminars (972-2-586-2011;; $25; $20 for ages 5 to 14), a company started 25 years ago by Bernie and Fran Alpert, archaeologists and Chicago natives.

. . .

There are three phases of an Archeological Seminars dig. Typically, a guide will first take a group of as many as 20 people down into a cave, where they will participate in an excavation. With shovel in hand, they spend the next 45 minutes digging through the dirt (remember to wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty), searching for pottery shards, bones, glass and the occasional piece of metal, often coins.

That just seems kind of weird. Digging for 45 minutes? How do you maintain any continuity? Maybe in that particular context, it might work.

OTOH, in the latest SAA Archaeological Record (March 2006) there is an article by Lawrence Moore arguing specifically for this sort of archaeological tourism (among other things; that issue is not yet available to non-subs), so this may be the shape of things to come.

BTW, the January issue is now non-sub accessible, so go forth and read it.
Archaeologists discovered an ancient theatre lying beneath the remains of the Serdika amphitheatre in Sofia's centre.

Archaeologist Borislav Borislavov described the site, discovered by his colleague Zharin Velichkov as the 'most sensational discovery of the season', Focus news agency reported.

Discovering an earlier theatre beneath the remains of another one was unprecedented, Velichkov said. The theatre was build in second century AD during the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, also know as Carcalla.
Excavation unearths burial site
The burial site is believed to date back to the 6th Century
Archaeologists believe they may have discovered one of the oldest churches in Scotland during an excavation in Aberdeen.
They are awaiting test results which will confirm whether they have uncovered a religious burial site dating back to the 6th Century.

The find was made during Scotland's biggest archaeological dig in the east kirk of St Nicholas Church.

Think this was blogged not too long ago. . . .

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Archaeologists are transforming our understanding of Jamestown, where British America took root.
GOOGLE the phrase "America's Birthplace" and something eye-opening happens.

Jamestown, which has long played second fiddle to Plymouth Rock, Boston and Philadelphia, is popping up more frequently.

And with good reason.

Archaeologist Bill Kelso's hunch that the remains of England's first successful settlement in the New World had not eroded into the James River, as originally thought, has paid off beyond his wildest dreams.

Long article, but very informative.
Dig this tel
More than a hundred years ago, German archeologists began to excavate the remarkable tel (mound) of Megiddo. Since then, artifacts galore from 26 layers of civilization built on top of one another have been discovered. However, the site still has many untapped secrets waiting for a trowel or shovel to unearth and expose them to the light of the new millennium.

Scores of students from Israel and abroad, including archeology buffs of all ages, are hard at work hoping to discover the unknown as they participate in this season's dig on and around Tel Megiddo.

For 25 years a German team worked the site, mentioned in ancient Egyptian writings as Thutmose III - one of the mightiest kings of Egypt - waged war upon the city in 1478 BCE. The battle was described for posterity in hieroglyphic detail on the walls of his upper Egypt temple.

Kind of a long article but it doesn't say all that much.
Whoops WW II bomb found in Pompeii ruins
A mortar bomb from the Second World War was found today in the archaeological ruins of Pompeii, Italy, police officials said.

The bomb was discovered in the rubble of the Surgeon’s House, the archaeological site next to the Roman Basilica, the ANSA news agency said.

Police from Pompeii secured the area as tourists looked on until the bomb squad from Naples arrived.
English Heritage is celebrating the centenary of the first aerial photographs of Stonehenge with a touring exhibition opening at the Neolithic site.

Dozens of vintage and modern photographs will tell the story of the first images and explore the world of aerial photography in Victorian, Edwardian and wartime Britain, and will look at how they have helped our understanding of 6,000 years of British history and pre-history.

“Aerial photography is most useful in helping us understand the human use and development of the landscape around Stonehenge,” said Dave Batchelor, chief Stonehenge archaeologist at English Heritage.

Compare the two older photos with the modern one and you can still see where the old roads went through it. Kind of a shame there's any at all, but I guess that's something future archaeologists will have to ponder as well.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Remote sensing update LOW IMPACT: Technology helps archaeologists shrink footprints
In a lonely field a few feet from the shade of a towering Indian mound, a graying medicine man charts the progress of the crew probing his ancestral stomping grounds for ruins.

Tim Thompson, the soft-spoken spiritual leader for the ceremonial Hickory Ground, scribbles measurements on a crisp white tablet as a ground-penetrating radar system rolls across the grassy pasture, yielding a series of blips and dips on a colorless computer screen.

In a few days, the data they painstakingly record will be used to jot a map of ancient structures and relics buried deep in the sacred soil of the Etowah Indian Mounds site in northwest Georgia. Yet even if the data can pinpoint exactly where Native American artifacts are buried, Thompson would just as rather leave them alone.

Not a bad article. This part:

"Americans have no sense that this is their history," said Kent Reilly, a professor of anthropology at Texas State-San Marcos who studies the cultural and religious symbols. "There's nothing sadder than to lose your past. We ought to be proud of this."

If given the right to excavate, King said, he will use the most innocuous of techniques. Researchers would dig squares that are but one-meter-wide, 10-centimeters-deep over areas where research revealed there are likely relics.

is probably the best one could hope for. Even so, a few test pits would keep plenty of people busy. It's probably where archaeology is headed anyway, what with museums filling up, Indians becoming more assertive, and remote sensing and analytic techniques becoming better.
Right there between the turnips and the carrots Greenwich man finds prehistoric artifact in his vegetable garden
Chris Fountain had long suspected that, thousands of years ago, native Americans hunted and camped along the same eastern Greenwich shoreline where he grew up.

As a boy playing on the unspoiled banks of Longmeadow Creek, a tidal waterway that forms the border between coastal Old Greenwich and Riverside, Fountain and his pals unearthed mysterious piles of oyster shells and arrowheads from lush fields and thick woods -- areas since divided into lots and developed with mansions.

But Fountain, who remembers himself as an "avid searcher for artifacts," never found anything on his own.

Then recently, as the 52-year-old turned over the rich soil of a vegetable garden overlooking the creek, he unearthed the kind of prehistoric artifact he had always longed for.

All I ever find is peanuts the local jays bury and other things the local cats bury.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

ANd now. . . the news from the EEF

Press report: "The big draw"
"It was to be a book like no other: bigger, more beautifully
bound, more lavishly illustrated. But the man behind the world's
most expensive travel book was no gentleman adventurer.
He was a painter and decorator from Edinburgh with a big talent,
and an even bigger ambition. David Roberts travelled through
the Middle East in the 1830s when such journeys were virtually
unknown, sketching as he went. He published his work, The
Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia, in six immense,
folio-sized volumes. "

* Press report/release: "Ancient Egyptian poem could be oldest
description of suicidal thoughts"
"Analysis of an ancient Egyptian poem by a psychiatrist
[Dr. George Tadros] and an Egyptologist [Dr. Ahmes Pahor]
shows that it describes the psychopathology of suicide with
great accuracy."
[This is hardly an original conclusion - what may be new is that they
"used a computer programme with special software for qualitative
analysis to assess the poem.". The poem is not known as "Dispute
over Suicide" but as "The Dispute between a Man and his Ba",
and it is not written by "The Eloquent Peasant", let alone
comissioned by "king Merikare" (Pharaoh as Dr Phil...?), which
are two figures associated with two other pieces of wisdom literature.
For online translations and a bibliography of the Man&his Ba text, see: ]

Press report: "Under the waves. Will Egypt build the first offshore
underwater museum?"
About "an international workshop held last week in Alexandria
to discuss the feasibility of constructing such a museum. "

Online digitised version of:
H.F. Jolowicz, "Case Law in Roman Egypt", Journal of the Society
of Public Teachers of Law, 14 (1937), pp 1-16. In PDF (863 kB).

[Submitted by Michael Tilgner]
* Online versions of:
-- Amanda-Alice Maravelia, Some Aspects of Ancient Egyptian Civilisation,
from the Study of the Principal Love Poem's Ostraca from Deir al-Medina, in:
Zahi Hawass (ed.), Egyptology at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century.
Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Egyptologists, vol. 3,
Cairo 2000, pp. 282-288 - pdf-file (370 KB)
-- Amanda-Alice Maravelia, Cosmic Space and Archetypal Time:
Depictions of the Sky-Goddess Nut in Three Royal Tombs of the
New Kingdom and Her Relation to the Milky Way, in: GM 197,
pp. 55-72 (2003) - pdf-file (1.2 MB)

End of EEF news
Bypass works uncover ancient site
EASTLINK builders are now constructing the Dandenong Southern Bypass through an ancient Aboriginal site.

The site in Dandenong South has had sand tested at 35,000 years old with artefacts estimated to be about 17,000 years old.

A spokesman for Thiess John Holland said Dandenong Southern Bypass works would continue as scheduled while Latrobe University archaeologists and local Aboriginal groups moved artefacts safely from the site.
Excavation unearths burial site
The burial site is believed to date back to the 6th Century
Archaeologists believe they may have discovered one of the oldest churches in Scotland during an excavation in Aberdeen.
They are awaiting test results which will confirm whether they have uncovered a religious burial site dating back to the 6th Century.

The find was made during Scotland's biggest archaeological dig in the east kirk of St Nicholas Church.
Villa mosaic's secrets revealed
Archaeologists excavating part of a Roman villa in Somerset have unearthed a mosaic of Daphne and Apollo.
The mosaic, which dates back to the 4th Century, is part of the Dinnington Roman Villa site near Ilminster.

It is thought to be the only one of its kind in the country to feature the figures from Greek mythology.
Well, that sounds ominous Farinelli rises from grave to reveal castrati secrets
Historians and scientists have exhumed the remains of legendary castrato Farinelli in Italy to study the anatomical effects of castration carried out on young boys to turn them into high-pitched stars of the opera.
Castrati played heroic male leads in Italian opera from the mid-17th to late 18th century when the bel canto was the rage in Europe. Farinelli, born Carlo Broschi in 1705, was the most famous of them all, in a stage career lasting from 1720 to 1737.

Carlo Vitale of the Farinelli Study Center in Bologna said they had recovered the bodies on Wednesday of the singer and his great-niece, who moved his body from a first grave destroyed in the Napoleonic wars.

Hard to tell what they're going to get from a 'skeleton', although the article also states that the remains are "in a middling state of preservation" whatever that means. Soft tissue? You could get stature from skeletal remains, but that might not say anything other than that "he was tall".
Graves moved to save abbey's ruins
HERITAGE watchdogs are to dig up ancient graves to stop the ruins of one of Scotland's oldest abbeys from rotting away.

The plans are part of a radical effort by Historic Scotland to preserve Dryburgh Abbey, where Sir Walter Scott and Field Marshal Earl Haig are also buried.

Drainage ditches to stop water seeping into the historical structure are to be dug in an area which is thought to have been the burial ground of the monks who once worshipped at the site in the Borders.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ancient sin city bears fresh fruit
American, British and Italian archaeologists have made a major new find at the ancient Roman site of Stabiae, one of the hottest and most happening resorts in ancient times .

Stabiae has been neglected over the years because of its more famous neighbour Pompeii and because, frankly, there wasn't much to see there .

But now a key new partnership has been set up to dig the whole area of the ancient 'Gomorrah-on-the-Gulf' .

Modesty forbids me from providing any Artists' Conceptions.
Excavation underway to find more about our Thames Valley ancestors
AN excavation on the town's earliest known settlement began this week as the Marlow Archaeological Society (MAS) attempted to find out more about our ancestors in the Thames Valley.

The dig began on Tuesday in Low Grounds Farm in the Harleyford Estate where Marlow's first ever residents lived at a time when the rest of the town was just a lake.

. . .

The site was once several islands and is a late Neolithic to Bronze Age settlement (3000 - 800 BC) known to include a mortuary enclosure and a barrow cemetery.
Archaeologists dig up torso of Artemis statue
Greek archaeologists have unearthed the torso of a statue of the goddess Artemis dating back to the first century BC during a dig in central Greece, local archaeological services said on Monday.

"It is a very important find and the most beautiful feminine statue found in Thessalia," Athanassios Tzafalias, the head of the search team in Larissa said.

The 80cm tall torso was found "intact and richly adorned" wearing a short tunic covered by a deer hide, Tzafalias said.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

But did they have more fun? Mammoths get lighter
You might call them the Marilyn Monroes of the mammoth world. An analysis of 43,000-year-old DNA from these prehistoric creatures suggests that some of them were blondes.

Textbook pictures of woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) typically depict the shaggy beasts sporting a coat of brown hair. But they probably came in a range that also featured lighter browns and auburns, the study suggests.
Al-Ahram has an article on the latest KV-63 discoveries.
Scientists debate role climate change plays in creating civilizations
Various theories have been proposed to explain how this social complexity developed and why it developed in some areas and not others, but archaeologists and historians have not formulated any one satisfying explanation.

Nick Brooks, a climate-change researcher at the University of East Anglia in England, offers his idea in the latest issue of Quaternary International.

"The emergence of complex societies coincided with or followed a period of increased aridity," which began 8,000 years ago but intensified periodically in subsequent millennia, he said.

That's been one of the main "prime movers" of explanations involving cultural complexity for quite a while. But then one has to consider the New World where the earliest true complex cultures didn't develop until several thousand years later.

Monday, July 10, 2006

NATALIE PORTMAN is being lined up to play INDIANA JONES' daughter in the fourth and final movie adventure to star HARRISON FORD as the daredevil archaeologist. THE PERFECT STORM star KAREN ALLEN, who is expected to reprise her MARION RAVENWOOD role in the upcoming Indiana Jones movie, let the news slip about STAR WARS heroine Portman at a question-and-answer session in New York on Friday (07JUL06). Allen spoke to Indiana Jones fans after a screening of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and, although she was coy about her own part in the fourth film, she revealed Portman's name is being mentioned. She told fans, "I just heard Natalie Portman was cast as Indy's daughter." One fan in attendance says, "She (Allen) immediately changed the subject as if she knew she shouldn't have said anything."

That's the whole thing.

Frankly, we here at ArchaeoBlog would prefer either Keira Knightly

or Scarlett Johansson

who, incidentally, was going to be an archaeologist.

Errr, did we mention it's blog sweeps month?
Bulgarian archaeologists uncover ancient Thracian city
Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient Thracian town in Karlovo Municipality in Central Bulgaria, local media reported on Sunday.

Initial estimates dated it to the 5th century B.C., and remnants of the town's fortress wall have been unearthed.

The archaeologist will be looking for the residence of the ruler, supposed to have been a powerful Thracian king, reports said.

Greek vessels, most probably used to keep wine, have also been found.

Reports said that the ancient Thracian town may prove to be one of the most important sites in the history of Bulgarian archaeology and to provide valuable information about the life of Thracians in the region.

That's the whole thing.
Digging for buried history
A RE-CREATION of James Monroe's birthplace in Westmoreland County will begin with shovel holes in the ground next month.

That's when archaeologists from the College of William & Mary say they will begin digging test holes in search of artifacts at the 70-acre site near Colonial Beach.

The test holes may help locate structures that were on the property when President James Monroe was born there in 1758, said G. William Thomas Jr., president of the James Monroe Memorial Foundation.
Lost civilization fire pit. . .found Archaeologists make ancient discovery in State Park
Archaeologists have uncovered a hearth, or fire pit, in Fort Ridgely State Park that may be between three thousand to eight thousand years old.

The pit was discovered when diggers found fire rock nearly 20 centimeters beneath the ground. More digging revealed a perfect circle of rocks about three feet in diameter.

Laboratory tests of rock and dirt samples will determine the exact age of the pit, but it's depth suggests it's ancient. More recent artifacts are usually within five centimeters of the surface.

Not much else there.
KV-63 update A message across the EEF list alerts us to another update from Otto on his Dig Diary (July 9). They're getting ready to close things up for the season. Some new pictures are on Photos Page 2.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Overkill update Tackling 10,000-year-old mystery
Students in the CU archaeology summer field school were at ground zero in the rancorous, protracted debate over who or what killed the Hudson-Meng bison. The bones were discovered in 1954, and the dispute still rages.

For the CU undergraduates, the dig provided a rare glimpse beyond the black-and-white of textbook narratives, into the often-murkier realm of real-world science.

"In the classroom, things are presented as 'This is how it happened,' " said Kirsten Smith, a junior anthropology major.

"But out here we see the process in action, the process of gathering information to support different interpretations," Smith said.

Very good article, though not particularly "overkill" related. It does, however, point to the many difficulties of determining what an actual "kill site" is. This one seemed obvious at the time, what with spear points in direct association with some of the bones. Or were they? Once again, the totality of the site stratigraphy, chronology, and in this case taphonomy needs to be considered. The taphonomy -- the processes affecting the bones after death -- will probably be crucial. If it really was a jump site, one would expect that many of the good cuts of meat will be missing from some of the animals. Read the whole thing.
Valuable Han Dynasty tomb discovered
A large scale Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 25 AD) tomb was discovered at Fengpengling in Wangcheng County in Hunan Province.

Piles of yellow cypress wood were found between the coffin and tomb wall, evidence of a typical Western Han Dynasty burial style reserved for a king during that period.

Experts who excavated the Mawangdui Han Dynasty Tomb in Changsha said that after examining the tomb at Fengpengling they believe the status and rank of the buried person in the tomb and the scale of burial have exceeded that of Mawangdui, another famous tomb uncovered in Changsha in 1972.
A burial ground, the foundations of medieval castle buildings and a chapel have all been discovered by archaeologists carrying out an excavation in Exeter. The human remains date to before the construction of Rougemont Castle by William the Conqueror in 1068 and could represent an early Christian cemetery.

Archaeologists from Exeter City Council are undertaking the four-week trenching at the castle courtyard to discover what remains of the former medieval building and of Roman and Saxon Exeter beneath it.

Any finds could go on public display and help in discussions with a new owner about the future use and landscaping of the courtyard.
Ridgely find may be thousands of years of years old
For the past year, archaeologists have been unearthing pieces of history underneath Fort Ridgely Historic District and state park, where thousands of artifacts lie below the surface. Most recently crews have been busily clearing items from areas where construction crews will soon remodel a golf course that runs through portions of Fort Ridgely.

In those areas, archaeologists have found many artifacts from the actual fort, the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 - when the Dakota Indians attacked Ridgely - and various other American Indian artifacts ranging from tools to arrowheads.

Last week, however, diggers possibly stumbled upon one of the most significant and oldest finds.
Biblical archaeology update Documentary sets new date for Exodus
A new documentary by a Canadian Jewish filmmaker argues that the Exodus did happen, but that it took place a couple of hundred years before the commonly-accepted time frame.

The Exodus Decoded, a two-hour documentary by award-winning Israeli-born filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, suggests that the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt as recounted in the Bible occurred around 1500 BCE, about 230 years before the date most commonly accepted by contemporary historians.

The 10 plagues that smote the Egyptians, according to the Bible, are explained in the documentary to be the result of a volcanic eruption on a Greek island that occurred 3,500 years ago.

That would be the eruption of Thera. It's not exactly a new idea -- Charles Pellegrino did a whole chapter on the idea in his Unearthing Atlantis book. The basic idea is that the eruption caused a cascading series of Bad Things to happen in Egypt that got translated into the Plagues. E.g., the ashfall caused fish to die which caused flies to bloom, etc. I have to admit, it's rather appealing, if the chronology could be worked out.

But then you have this:

Jacobovici. . .readily agrees that he is no archeologist. But he asserts that this makes him no less qualified to investigate historical facts.

"I bring with me the same skills you bring to any investigation, whether it is sex trafficking, politics, terror or the Biblical archeological story," said the two-time Emmy award-winner, denouncing "minimalists" who say that the Exodus - and the Bible - is a fantastic fairy tale.

"I think it is a mistake when you have a situation in archeology where some academics have set themselves up as some sort of priesthood between us and the Bible," he added.

So, step up to the table, but don't whine about the criticism.