Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween at the ArchaeoBlog household

Get it? It's a pumpkin. . .pi.
Jamestown update Still Building: Archaeologists plumb layer after layer at Jamestown
Jamestown, Va., has a history of building on its past. The English arrived there nearly 400 years ago and began build- ing things - a fort, a few mud huts and a church. The hapless colonists did not thrive at first, and many of them found early graves. So many died that they sometimes buried folks on top of other folks. They must not have marked the graves very well, or else the gravediggers were also buried, because no one at the time seemed to remember where any of the departed had been laid to rest.
Neptune yields tiny treasure
Underwater archaeologists found something to crow about this week on the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck site.

Divers discovered a 1-inch-high brass rooster, the decorative top to something — but they don’t know what.

“On the base, you can tell where the metal broke off,” said Linda Carnes-McNaughton, a historical archaeologist with Fort Bragg who volunteered this week with the QAR Project.

Took me a while to figure out that headline. . . . .
Relic Hunting update Hunts thrill hunters, irritate historians
Though most privately owned area sites have been picked over for years, there's plenty left to find. Union soldiers encamped in Stafford, for example, left behind bullets, uniform buttons and belt buckles, stirrups, pieces of bayonets, rifles, dinnerware, remnants of canteens and the like.

Burt Alderson of Tennessee, a judge for the Grand National Relic Shootout, said yesterday that most participants keep their finds.

"Some of these people come from all over the country," he said. "If they find one thing, they're in love."

Though many relic hunters carefully document what they've found, and where, for posterity, some are in it for the money.

Blogged before. Still controversial.
The Archaeology Channel has a new film up called STORIES OF LIFE IN HELLS CANYON:
The basalt cliffs of Hells Canyon have witnessed the ebb and flow of Native American tribes, trappers, miners, and homesteaders as each has left a mark on America's deepest river gorge. This film brings Hells Canyon to life through the accounts of historians; Horace Axtell, a descendent of Chief Joseph's band of the Nez Perce; and early Hells Canyon residents, Violet Wilson, Ace Barton and Joe Jordan. These old-timers share stories of work and family, isolation and ingenuity, and a deep respect for the canyon they called home in the first half of the 20th Century.
Cave fossils are early Europeans
Erik Trinkaus from Washington University in St Louis and colleagues obtained radiocarbon dates directly from the fossils and analysed their anatomical form.

The results showed that the fossils were 30,000 years old and had the diagnostic features of modern humans (Homo sapiens).

But Professor Trinkaus and his colleagues argue, controversially, that the bones also display features that were characteristic of our evolutionary cousins, the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis).

Artist's conception of what the Euro-caveman may have looked like:

Also check out this course at Johns Hopkins utilizing the same characters.

UPDATE: More here.
War grave clues in mystery of skeletons buried at church
It was first thought that they may have belonged to plague victims as other remains found in Leith have proven to be. But now the archaeologists believe the most plausible explanation is that they were soldiers who died in the 1559 to 1560 Siege of Leith.

They think the site where their skeletons were discovered may have been a small war grave directly behind what was then Leith's town defences.

It means the men would have fought in one of the bloodiest conflicts in Leith's history, when Scottish, French and English soldiers clashed, and were alive during the time of Mary Queen of Scots.

Good article. Seems odd that there's still no indication of cause of death, especially given that they're all adult males and presumably died of battle-related causes. Those things usually leave some mark because the injury is traumatic. If it was a siege they could have been starved or diseased, I guess.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Headline of the day Stone Age man was at sewage site
Evidence of a Stone Age settlement has been uncovered by a water company planning to extend a sewage works.

Stone Age flint and Roman items were found at the site in Kintbury, near Hungerford, Berkshire.

The find dates back to 8,000 BC and confirms that a nearby Roman bath site probably had a British owner, a local archaeologist said.
Girls Gone Wild! Sex and booze figured in Egyptian rites
"We are talking about a festival in which people come together in a community to get drunk," she said. "Not high, not socially fun, but drunk — knee-walking, absolutely passed-out drunk."

The temple excavations turned up what appears to have been a "porch of drunkenness," associated with Hatshepsut, the wife and half-sister of Thutmose II. After the death of Thutmose II in 1479 B.C., Hatshepsut ruled New Kingdom Egypt for about 20 years as a female pharaoh, and the porch was erected at the height of her reign.

The writer Herodotus reported in 440 B.C. that such festivals drew as many as 700,000 people — with drunken women exposing themselves to onlookers.

If you think about it, it is kind of like Mardi Gras which is (loosely) based on Catholic theology. Okay, that's a stretch, putting it that way. But still, who knows what future archaeologists will make of film of Carnival in Brazil. I feel certain they will enjoy viewing a lot of the tape though.

Here's the illustration accompanying it:

Note the young lady apparently hurling in the top left panel.

The story is from The Book of the Divine Cow. You might be able to find the text online somewhere, but a cursory glance through Yahoo didn't locate any for me.

And no, I am not going to provide a link to the "Girls Gone Wild" web site for y'all.

Unless they give me a cut of any profits derived therefrom.

And no Artists' Conceptions either.
Treasure! Viking treasure found on Gotland
Two young men on Gotland have found Viking treasure dating to the 10th century.

The treasure cache consists of silver coins, weighing a total of around 3 kilos. They were discovered by 20-year-old Edvin Svanborg and his 17-year-old brother Arvid, who were working in the grounds of their neighbour, artist Lars Jonsson.

"I just stumbled by chance across an Arab silver coin that was around 1,100 years old," Edvin Svanborg told news agency TT.

. . .

"I'm planning to study to become an archaeologist," he said.

Boy, is he in for some disappointment. . . .

"What? You people mostly study little bits of chipped rock?"
Grave discovered by homebuilder
A home builder working near a community founded by freed slaves recently discovered a grave, halting the project while officials determine if the area is a burial site.

Lennar Homes had been working on the housing project near Bell Helicopter Textron's south plant and Mosier Valley, a community founded by former slaves after the Civil War. An archaeologist working with the builder unearthed the grave this month.

Short story, but the locals think there will be more graves found.
Dead Sea Scrolls update U. of C. professor may be right after all
Chicago scholar's long-discredited theory on Dead Sea Scrolls finds support in new archeological dig (free reg required)

"A lot of people said he was wrong," said Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, "But Norman had one small piece of the puzzle all along."

In its September issue, Shanks' magazine reported on an archeological dig in Israel that backstops Golb's ideas about the scrolls--religious texts written in Hebrew and Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Near East in biblical times.

The dig raises questions about whether the crumbling ruins at Qumran are the remains of a monastery, a fortress or a pottery factory.

This got hashed over a couple of months ago, too. I really don't know if this is the first sustained archaeological work at the place or not.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Up Pompeii - ancient brothel restored
The "wolves' lair" - ancient Pompeii's biggest, best planned and most richly decorated brothel - yesterday reopened to the public after extensive restoration.
The two-storey building, which was built at about the time Spartacus was leading his slaves' revolt, had been closed for almost a year. Its explicit wall paintings have long been a popular attraction for tourists visiting the site of the classical world's best-preserved city.

The busy port of Pompeii was packed with bordellos. At least 25 have been identified. But most occupied a single room, usually above a wine shop. Though sited, like all the others, at the junction of two side streets, the "Lupanare", was different.

Sorry, no artist's conception for this one, folks. This is a family operation.
Archaeologists still in search of First Colony
At an archaeological dig at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Phil Evans stepped into a meticulously measured pit and started shoveling dirt.

The Durham lawyer is no scientist. But he couldn't miss this. After 30 years of searching, he still wants to pinpoint where the English failed to establish their first permanent colony in North America.

Nearly every American knows that a band of English settlers vanished from Roanoke Island about 1589, creating the legendary Lost Colony. No one knows where they went. An outdoor production replays the mystery year after year.
Ancient footprints found in Mexico valley
A trail of 13 fossilized footprints running through a valley in a desert in northern Mexico could be among the oldest in the Americas, Mexican archeologists said.

The footprints were made by hunter gatherers who are believed to have lived thousands of years ago in the Coahuila valley of Cuatro Cienegas, 190 miles (306 kms) south of Eagle Pass, Texas, said archaeologist Yuri de la Rosa Gutierrez of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.

"We believe (the footprints) are between 10,000 and 15,000 years old," De la Rosa said in a news release Wednesday. "We have evidence of the presence of hunter gatherers in the Coahuila desert more than 10,000 years ago."
Cataloging the Cradle of Civilization
The first known depiction of a human face in stone . . . A vase documenting the daily tasks that defined activity as people built a future in the Fertile Crescent . . . Towering walls that heralded the end of rootless wanderings and the beginning of urban society . . . They have all come from sites in what we now call Iraq, and they are irreplaceable evidence of our species' cultural evolution.

The locations--Uruk and Ur--that gave birth to these treasures are in peril. The cradle of civilization lies largely unguarded. The winds of war, progress, and time threaten to erase the sites and the knowledge they hold, leaving only traces and tales.

To prevent this loss is the mission of the World Monument Fund's two-year project to catalog the cultural resources of Iraq. The ambitious undertaking is under the direction of Gaetano Palumbo, director of Archaeological Conservation for WMF Europe.
Tangentially archaeological Mastodon tusks tell of brutal battles
Battle scars on male mastodon tusks show these Ice Age giants were not the peaceful creatures once thought, according to new findings.

The scars reveal they fought in brutal combat each year during seasonal phases of heightened sexual activity and aggression.

The discovery, announced at a recent Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Ontario, counters the view that now-extinct mastodons were peaceful, passive creatures that rarely engaged in battles.

Actually, there's a bit about people butchering the things, but it doesn't seem particularly related.
Eyes of a princess
These remarkable eyes (right), fashioned from stone and shell, are among a number of new finds that provide remarkable insights into the life and death of Bronze Age royalty in ancient Syria, where the passing of a princess was marked by the decapitation of donkeys and sacrifice of babies.

Measuring around the size of a thumbnail and dating back to around 2400 BC, the eyes are thought to have come from a statue made of perishable material such as wood. They are among new finds to come from the ruins of an ancient city in northern Syria containing the only known elite, possibly royal, cemetery in the region that dates back to the early Bronze Age.

Poor donkeys. . . . .
To archaeologist, location everything
State archaeologist Nick Bellantoni, in the hopes of solving a centuries-old mystery, took a walk through Milford Cemetery on a recent crisp autumn afternoon, scanning the landscape for possible clues.
Bellantoni and other history buffs gathered at the cemetery Wednesday seeking to uncover evidence of the lost graves of 46 Revolutionary War soldiers who died of smallpox in February 1777, less than a month after a British prison ship dropped the men off at the city's shores.

The names of the men who fought for American independence, including Antonio Gomez of Spain and Abram Beach of Goshen, are engraved in a monument built in 1858 near the southern corner of the cemetery, where the soldiers are believed to be buried in a mass grave.
And now. . . .news from the EEF

Press report: "Rays and Neutrons, for Art's Sake"

[Choose for id and password: eefeef]
"Eager for precision in a field notorious for ambiguity and
frustration, curators at top museums in Europe and the United
States have long reached for the instruments of nuclear science
to hit treasures of art with invisible rays. The resulting clues have
helped answer vexing questions of provenance, age and authenticity.
(..) The methods they use, some of the most fundamental in nuclear
science, include neutron activation analysis, proton-induced X-ray
emission, accelerator mass spectrometry and X-ray fluorescence
spectrometry. "

Hmm. That's actually it for this week.

End of EEF news
Digging up the past
Archaeologists started digging into the past this week at Donner Memorial State Park in order to move into the future.

The archaeological survey is part of an environmental review for the proposed High Sierra Crossing Museum near the entrance of the park. Archaeologists are looking for prehistoric and historic artifacts on the proposed museum site.

A surface survey began on Tuesday and work will continue until either Nov. 2 or 3, said State Park Ranger Don Schmidt.
Europe's oldest child skeleton unearthed in Bulgaria
Archaeologists have unearthed an 8,000 year old skeleton of a child in the village of Ohoden, northwestern Bulgaria, the Sofia News Agency reported on Thursday, citing Darik News.

Archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski, the leader of the excavation, said the finding had been made at the southern end of a pre-historical funeral facility in a pre-historical village, which was found just two metres below the current ground level and was completely preserved in its original form.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

14 Roman Treasures, on View and Debated
Robert Brooks, the chairman of Bonhams, said he hoped this private exhibition, which ends on Friday, would at least provoke a debate. “In particular, there is the question of what happens to objects when their early provenance is unknown,” he said in an interview. “Do important objects get locked away forever, or are they exhibited and studied?”

But while scholars have jumped at the chance to view the Sevso Treasure, the debate has so far not favored Lord Northampton or Bonhams, not least because recent claims by Italy and Greece to antiquities acquired by some American museums have heightened awareness of the international traffic in Roman and Greek treasures.
Rare ancient monastery moat discovered in Tibet
Chinese archaeologists have discovered a 700-year-old rare moat surrounding a monastery in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

"The unearthed part of the moat whirled its way about every five meters in a square manner, which has been a shape rarely found in history both at home and abroad," said Zhang Jianlin, deputy director of the Shaanxi Archeology and Research Institute.

The excavated section of the river way is 8.8 meters deep, 6 meters and 3.3 meters wide on its upside and downside respectively, said Zhang, who took charge of the excavation work.
Gallery unveils the $4 million woman
She is tiny, exquisite and has won the hearts of the director and staff of the National Gallery of Australia.

Unveiled yesterday at the opening of the South-East Asian Gallery, The Bronze Weaver is the most important piece of bronze sculpture to enter the National Gallery's collection.

The director of the National Gallery, Ron Radford, describes the piece, which cost $4 million, as a masterpiece of sixth-century Indonesian art. And Robyn Maxwell, the senior curator of Asian art, is thrilled by it.
Mass of ancient tombs found in central Vietnam
Archaeologists have unearthed relics of 31 ancient tombs at a site in the central coastal province of Thua Thien - Hue after a two month excavation.

The tomb designs were typical of the Sa Huynh culture, dating back to over 2,000 years and popular from the central to southern regions of Vietnam, said Dr. Vu Quoc Hien, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Historic Museum.

The dead were buried with a number of personal belongings such as necklaces and earrings made of either glass or agate.
On blogging Some times, it's all good. This from Dilbert creator Scott Adams:
As regular readers of my blog know, I lost my voice about 18 months ago. Permanently. It’s something exotic called Spasmodic Dysphonia. Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down in some people, usually after you strain your voice during a bout with allergies (in my case) or some other sort of normal laryngitis. It happens to people in my age bracket.

I asked my doctor – a specialist for this condition – how many people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero.

. . .

To state the obvious, much of life’s pleasure is diminished when you can’t speak. It has been tough.

I had no idea, not being a regular reader of his blog. But the good news:
The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn’t considered. A poem isn’t singing and it isn’t regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.

I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it’s just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.

My brain remapped.

My speech returned.

Very cool. Something similarly weird happened to Jenny Craig a while back, which is why you quit seeing her in commercials.

Not that it has anything to do with this, but one of our cultural anthro colleagues who worked in SE Asia caught some form of parasite that completely denuded his entire body of hair. (Er, we assume it was in entirety; we didn't actually check everywhere *ahem*). That should go under the Dangers of Fieldwork.

Just so you know, I have no grave physical deformities to claim, except for that thing on my head that looks like a '47 Ford.
Web site alert Reader LoriK sends this link: Mysteries of Catlahoyuk. Seems to have been created by Kate Larson through the Science Museum of Minnesota. Seems to be geared largely for kids (good for school projects!) but there's enough there for other interested parties to peruse as well.

Myself, I find the balls utterly fascinating.
Off on a tangent Just finished reading an old book that I'd been meaning to read for a long, long time: Blue Highways by William Least-Heat Moon:
First published in 1982, William Least Heat-Moon's account of his journey along the back roads of the United States (marked with the color blue on old highway maps) has become something of a classic. When he loses his job and his wife on the same cold February day, he is struck by inspiration: "A man who couldn't make things go right could at least go. He could quit trying to get out of the way of life. Chuck routine. Live the real jeopardy of circumstance. It was a question of dignity."

I first learned of this book about the time it came out (1982) because the author was on some morning talk show thing. Since then, it's become something of a cult classic and most people can at least come up with the phrase 'blue highways' to refer to non-interstates, though whether the phrase really predates the book or not, I don't know.

Still, it's a neat look at life ca. late '70s, early '80s. He's an Indian and much of his commentary along the way relates to that; he often describes some of the routes he's driving on as following old Indian trails. He calls his wife 'the Cherokee' and we never (I don't think) ever learn her real name. It's not a raging polemic on the plight of the Native American either, though he sometimes shows his dislike for any sort of chain store, especially restaurants. In fact, one of his main themes is finding diners with numerous calendars up on the walls; the more the better the food. (I don't actually understand this)

It's one of those things probably everyone wishes they could do at some point, just hop in the car and go, with no plans, nowhere to be, and nothing in particular to do. It's kind of similar to One Man's Wilderness but in reverse (check this one out, too, and the video which has been airing on PBS a lot lately).

He ought to make the journey again, 30 years later. And this time blog it!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Huh Geological feature key to finding, protecting tombs
A 42-year-old method for finding water, monitoring pollution and helping with tunneling may also be a way to locate and protect tombs in the Valleys of the Kings and Queens and other burial sites in Egypt, according to Penn State researchers.

The idea that fracture traces could bare some connection to the rock cut tombs found in Egyptian valleys came to Katarin A. Parizek as she toured Egypt. K. Parizek, the daughter of Richard R. Parizek, professor of geology and geo-environmental engineering at Penn State, is a digital photographer, graphic designer and geologist. In 1992, on a Nile cruise to the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, she recognized the geological structures.

"Many of the tombs were in zones of fracture concentration revealed by fracture traces and lineaments," says K. Parizek, an instructor in digital photography. "I knew that these fractures were what Dad used to find water or to plan dewatering projects."

Honestly don't know what to make of this. Science has more.
Extinctions update Book gives poor explanation for death of ‘mega-mammals’
So, who or what killed 35 genera of mammals, including mammoths, mastodons, giant beavers, horses, camels, saber-toothed cats and short-faced skunks?

Martin says archaeologists and paleontologists who think climate change might have caused the extinctions "are in deep denial." When you consider the evidence, however, it is Martin who seems in over his head.

He concedes there is little evidence that people killed any of these animals, except for 14 accepted mammoth and mastodon kill sites and one or two possible cases of horse and camel kills.

However, he doesn’t see this lack of evidence as a problem. In fact, Martin says the lack of kill sites supports the "overkill model." He says it all happened so fast that the event might have left few traces in the fossil record.

Lepper also queries: But what about the short-faced skunk?

Those are two of the big arguing points between the Grayson/Meltzer camp and the Martin camp. The former have argued that the Overkill theory has evolved so much to suit whatever evidence turns up that it is virtually unfalsifiable. The short-faced skunk has been dealt with by assuming that whatever other species went extinct were somehow ecologically related to the megafauna.

The absence-of-evidence one, well, I'm not too keen on that one. In a geological sense, mass extinctions are generally characterized by a lack of remains. But those are over much longer time frames much deeper in history. This seems to be the only case where we might infer resource abundance inversely. That is, at any other, say, Magdalenian site we would assume that more reindeer bones means more of them were being hunted relative to other critters. Why would Magdalenian hunters bring all their food back to the site, while Clovis hunters didn't? (Actually, the Overkill people have an explanation for that, too: Clovis didn't have the big central sites that other Paleolithic hunters did).

I suppose I'm being a bit snarky, but I really suspect that if a few dozen undoubted megafauna kill sites were found next week, Overkill would all of a sudden be perfectly happy with abundant remains. . . . .
Dirty archaeology money Korea scientist paid Russia mafia for mammoth
Disgraced South Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk said on Tuesday he spent part of private donations for research to pay the Russian mafia for mammoth tissues to clone extinct elephant species.

Hwang, once celebrated as a national hero, was indicted in May on charges of fraud and embezzlement after prosecutors said he was the mastermind of a scheme to make it look like his team had produced stem cells through cloning human embryos.

He previously told a Seoul court that he spent part of more than $1 million in corporate donations for "peripheral activities related to research."
Beaufort County dig finds 300-year-old Yamasee artifacts
Archeologists digging through Beaufort County soil where million-dollar homes will soon be built have discovered what one scientists calls the most significant finds in South Carolina in at least two decades.

The land, currently in dense forest near the confluence of the Okatie and Colleton rivers, was home to an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 Yamasee Indians between 1700 and 1715.

For six years, a group of archaeologists has worked to uncover clues on how the tribe lived, how they built their homes, what they ate, how they hunted and how much they traded with early European settlers.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ethiopia's famed Lucy fossils to on display abroad for first time
One of the world's most famous fossils — the 3.2 million-year-old Lucy skeleton unearthed in Ethiopia in 1974 — is to travel to the United States, going on display abroad for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

Even the Ethiopian public has seen Lucy only twice — the Lucy exhibition at the Ethiopian Natural History Museum in the capital, Addis Ababa, is a replica; the real remains are usually locked in a vault. A team from the Museum of Natural Science in Houston, Texas, spent four years negotiating the U.S. tour, which will start in Houston next September.

That's worth travelling to go see, IMO. I didn't make a big effort to see the Tut exhibit (mainly because I've seen it all in the Cairo Museum a half dozen times), but this is something else. Confession: As a young undergraduate, Johanson's book was one of the things that kind of cemented the idea of archaeology into my head.

I'd started out as a computer science major, only to find programming linked lists in assembler to be, in a word, Dullsville. I'd started taking some archaeology/bioanth courses to satisfy the curriculum requirements and, seeing as I'd already had some interest in such things, kept taking them and switched majors. I think I read Lucy while taking a bone lab course. I would have ended up in bio/forensic anthro but I was too far along to do the whole medical curriculum that woud have been required to be worthwhile at it. Besides, archaeology was just as interesting to me. If you've never read it, pick up a used copy and give it a read.
Not archaeology, but cool Amazon River Once Flowed in Opposite Direction
The world's largest river basin, the Amazon, once flowed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific - opposite its present direction - according to research by a geology graduate student and his advisor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Russell Mapes, a graduate student from Grass Valley, Calif., set out in 2004 to study the speed at which sediment in the Amazon travels from the Andes mountains, in the present headwaters of the river, to the Atlantic. While studying sedimentary rocks in the river basin he discovered something else - ancient mineral grains in the central part of South America that could only have originated in now-eroded mountains in the eastern part of the continent.

Of course, they're talking pre-Cretaceous. . . . .
New evidence of early horse domestication
Soil from a Copper Age site in northern Kazakhstan has yielded new evidence for domesticated horses up to 5,600 years ago. The discovery, consisting of phosphorus-enriched soils inside what appear to be the remains of horse corrals beside pit houses, matches what would be expected from Earth once enriched by horse manure. The Krasnyi Yar site was inhabited by people of the Botai culture of the Eurasian Steppe, who relied heavily on horses for food, tools, and transport.

"There's very little direct evidence of horse domestication," says Sandra Olsen, an archaeologist and horse domestication researcher at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA. That's because 5,600 years ago there were no saddles or metal bits to leave behind. Equipment like bridles, leads, and hobbles would have been made from thongs of horse hide, and would have rotted away long ago. Likewise horses themselves have not changed much physically as a result of domestication, unlike dogs or cattle. So ancient horse bones don't easily reveal the secrets of domestication.
Artifacts Unearthed in Syria Hint at Ancient Burial Rituals of Elite
“Animal sacrifices were certainly a big part of this culture,” said Glenn M. Schwartz of Johns Hopkins University, leader of the excavations. “Nowhere else in the region have we seen this elaborate example of animal sacrifices as part of burial rituals.”

Dr. Schwartz said in interviews last week that the signs of sacrifices, the wealth of the grave goods and the cemetery’s setting — at the highest place in the center of the community — signified the importance of the tombs in the society of one of the most ancient cities in Syria.

More from Eurekalert.
Extinctions update Far more than a meteor killed dinos
There's growing evidence that the dinosaurs and most their contemporaries were not wiped out by the famed Chicxulub meteor impact, according to a paleontologist who says multiple meteor impacts, massive volcanism in India, and climate changes culminated in the end of the Cretaceous Period.

The Chicxulub impact may, in fact, have been the lesser and earlier of a series of meteors and volcanic eruptions that pounded life on Earth for more than 500,000 years, say Princeton University paleontologist Gerta Keller and her collaborators Thierry Adatte from the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland, and Zsolt Berner and Doris Stueben from Karlsruhe University in Germany. A final, much larger and still unidentified impact 65.5 million years ago appears to have been the last straw, exterminating two thirds of all species in one of the largest mass extinction events in the history of life. It's that impact – not Chicxulub – which left the famous extraterrestrial iridium layer found in rocks worldwide that marks the impact that finally ended the Age of Reptiles.

This got blogged some time ago but I can't find the entry. Keller's been working on this for some time and a 1-hour program about her has been on The Science Channel every now and then.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Naked Archaeologist
Bringing a touch of rock and roll to archaeology as he dances and raps his way around the ancient Middle East, he’s been affectionately termed Ali G meets Indiana Jones. We know him better as The Naked Archaeologist. But just who really is Simcha Jacobovici?

Think I blogged about this guy at one point or other. Mighta been some other controversial movie-making Jewish person though.

Oh, and here's one of me naked.
Maltese graffiti 5,000-year-old graffiti at Tarxien Temples to be saved
Heritage Malta is currently undertaking the preservation of two unique megaliths at Tarxien Temples as part of the BOV Tarxien Temples Project. These megaliths are significant because they bear witness to the vessels that transported the very first people to the Maltese Islands, and may well be the oldest representations of ships or boats ever discovered.

The Tarxien Temples, dating back to around 3600BC, hold an impressive number of prehistoric works of art, consisting mostly of megaliths carved in relief to depict various animals, spirals and other intricate designs.
Nonotechnology update Nanotechnology saves Renaissance masterpieces, Mayan wallpaintings, and old shipwrecks
Nanotechnology has recently found practical applications in the conservation and restoration of the world’s cultural heritage. Nanoparticles of calcium and magnesium hydroxide and carbonate have been used to restore and protect wall paints, such as Maya paintings in Mexico or 15th century Italian masterpieces. Nanoparticle applications were also used to restore old paper documents, where acidic inks have caused the cellulose fibers to break up, and to treat acidic wood from a 400-year-old shipwreck.
Aside from the enormously rich cultural resources in the city of Florence, it is one of the most suitable places for conservation studies. For example, after the 1966 Florence flood, the Center for Colloid and Surface Science (CSGI) research group at the University of Florence, founded by Prof. Enzo Ferroni and currently directed by Piero Baglioni, was the first academic institution that applied a rigorous scientific approach to the investigation of cultural heritage degradation.
New Archaeological Find Links Syria And Egypt
An important archaeological dig in southern Syria found evidence of extensive trade between ancient Egypt and Syria during the middle and old Bronze Age. An excavation team at Tel al-Dibbeh in Sweida, southern Syria, discovered clay pots with hieroglyphs used for burying children.

Most of the items date to the middle to old Bronze Age and show a link between Egypt and Syria during this period, most obvious in the use of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Dentists making the rounds This has been all over the Egyptian lists: Thieves first to discover dentists' tombs at Egypt's Saqqara pyramids
The arrest of tomb robbers led archaeologists to the graves of three royal dentists, protected by a curse and hidden in the desert sands for thousands of years in the shadow of Egypt's most ancient pyramid, officials announced Sunday.

The thieves launched their own dig one summer night two months ago but were apprehended, Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters.

That led archaeologists to the three tombs, one of which included an inscription warning that anyone who violated the sanctity of the grave would be eaten by a crocodile and a snake, Hawass said.

No word yet of people consumed by either species.

BBC has more and a picture of some of the glyphs.

UPDATE: Mark Rose send this link to more pictures.
Domestication event: Why the donkey and not the zebra?
A few years ago, Egyptologists found a new Pharaonic burial site more than 5,000 years old. They opened up a tomb.

"They're expecting to find nobles, the highest courtiers," said Washington University archaeologist Fiona Marshall. "And what do they find? Ten donkey skeletons."

"The ancient Egyptian burial shows how highly valued (donkeys) were for the world's first nation state. After the horse came, they became lower status. Of course, they're the butt of jokes and all the rest of it. That has to do with the name mostly."

The poor donkey, probably the most abused animal in the world.
For archeology buffs, Caral is a chance to begin at the beginning
Dotted with pyramid temples, sunken plazas, housing complexes and an amphitheater, Caral is one of 20 sites attributed to the ancient Caral-Supe culture that run almost linearly from Peru's central coast inland up the Andes.

The ruins changed history when researchers proved that a complex urban center in the Americas thrived as a contemporary to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt - 1,500 years earlier than previously believed.

But much remains to be discovered about Caral and the Caral-Supe culture that flourished here for more than a thousand years.

More of a travel thing than an archaeological story.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Google Earth: Kom el-Hisn

Finally tracked down the lat-long of the site: 30 48'N 30 36'E. Plug that into GE and it will take you there. Everything you want to know about Kom el-Hisn and probably more than you want to.

That particular location is on the road right next to the site. The mound itself is just south of that -- there's a small dirt road off the main paved one. Follow it down to the large sandy blob. The field house is located pretty much smack in the middle and is surrounded by a few palm trees (we called it the Seven Palms Resort).

The green area is the main mound midden -- green because it holds water better than the gezira sand that it all rests on. The cemetery was mostly located to the north in the gezira; these were all excavated in the late 1940s and 50s.

There's an area just north of the main mound that looks something like a river delta; this is, I believe, the site of the small temple that may have been located here. It's now just a bunch of blocks in the middle of a swampy area.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Remote sensing update update Kris over at About.com came up with what appears to be a forthcoming book edited by Jay Johnson: Remote Sensing in Archaeology: An Explicitly North American Perspective
All the money spent by the United States space program is not spent looking at the stars. NASA is composed of a vast and varied network of scientists across the academic spectrum involved in research and development programs that have wide application on planet Earth. Several of the leaders in the field of remote sensing and archaeology were recently brought together for a NASA-funded workshop in Biloxi, Mississippi. The workshop was organized specifically to show these archaeologists and cultural resource managers how close we are to being able to "see" under the dirt in order to know where to excavate before ever putting a shovel in the ground. As the book that resulted from this workshop demonstrates, this fantasy is quickly becoming a reality.

In this volume, eleven archaeologists reveal how the broad application of remote sensing, and especially geophysical techniques, is altering the usual conduct of dirt archaeology. Using case studies that both succeeded and failed, they offer a comprehensive guide to remote sensing techniques on archaeological sites throughout North America. Because this new technology is advancing on a daily basis, the book is accompanied by a CD intended for periodic update that provides additional data and illustrations.

She also has a page developed with more links! Plus some other books not dealing specifically with archaeology.

I think part of the problem is that RS has been kind of in the experimental stage with a lot of people using it on and off and with mixed results. Sometimes it's been very successful, such as the radar rivers imaged by the space shuttle (see here, too). [And while looking up those links I also found this one that has more references] Other times, not so much. Probably much of the problem is that it's pretty expensive and the data one gets, especially from satellites, is much too coarse-grained for archaeologists to work with. And it needs to be validated as well. Plus, well, anthropologists aren't generally trained in that sort of thing. But it's coming along.

There's some work being done with ground penetrating radar in Egypt that's tending to be fairly succesful. They can map out mud brick structures under the sand and get a fairly accurate map of what's there. I visited the people working there in 2003 but for the life of me I can't remember who it was. Grrrrr.

Check out NASA as well; they're doing quite a bit on it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

And now. . . . .the news from the EEF
Press report: "Egypt police bust antiquities traffickers"

"Egyptian police have broken up a trafficking ring that was trying
to sell stolen and highly valued ancient busts of Pharaohs
[incl. a "bust" of Ramses II] and mythical figures [gods]. "
Other reports speak of "five small statuettes":

[Submitted by Michael Tilgner]
Press report: "Miroslav Verner, Egyptologist and Professor
at Charles University"

"Egypt's ancient cultural treasures are under serious threat, not only
because of theft and development but because of Egypt's worsening
environment. Why makes Egyptology such a fascinating field of study?
What kind of challenges can Egyptologists expect in the coming years,
and what plans do Czech Egyptologists have for the future? What did
the ancient Egyptians give to Europe and the world? To answer these
and other questions, we bring you an interview with Miroslav Verner,
one of the most renowned experts on ancient Egypt."

Press report: "Tests begin to shed light on mummy in Barnum Museum"

More on the tests on the mummy in the Barnum Museum [see
"CT scans showed evidence of arthritis in the pelvic area, which is
common with women who have given birth. The examination
showed no external genitals, another indication the mummy
may have been female, he said. However, the remains were
severely dried out, making a definitive identification of the
gender difficult."
-- Another press report on this: "The Mummy Talks"


Joel D.Irish, A 5,500 Year-Old Artificial Tooth rom Egypt: A Historical
Note, in: International Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Implants, vol. 19,
pp. 645-647 (2004)

"Archaeologic excavations at a Neolithic cemetery near Gebel Ramlah,
Egypt yielded, among other finds, a life-size shell carving of a human
tooth. Based on its spatulate crown and large conical root, the tooth
must closely emulates a maxillary incisor. The crown's lingual and
labial surfaces are suggestive of a left central incisor, whereas the
occlusal view is more reminiscent of a left lateral incisor. The
present report details the tooth's appearance and provides
several interpretations concerning its function, including the
possibility that it was intended to be a dental implant."

The "Echoes of Eternity" website includes most of the Egyptian art
currently displayed in the Nelson-Atkins galleries:

At times the entries do not only give information about the
individual objects, but also background information (and
bibliography) about the class of artefacts the objects
belong to; see e.g. about shabtis:
Treasure! Archaeologists uncover treasure in Gloucester
All it took to excite the archaeologists were some black patches the size of serving platters in the red clay.

To the trained eyes of David Brown and Thane Harpole, these black patches marked spots where once, more than three hundreds years ago, there had been deep holes in the ground.

The scientists began digging, and soon confirmed their suspicions. The black soil they found told them they'd found postholes.
Remote sensing update Reader mikem requests any recent general books on remote sensing. Can't come up with any dealing specifically with that topic. I'd start by looking at Kris Hirst's About.Com pages: Remote Sensing which has some links to articles, papers, and some web sites, and maybe her remote sensing bibliography; this seems to have mostly journal articles which are not available online except through (expensive) subscriptions.
TV stuff Check out the homepage for PBS's Secrets of the Dead. Much of it isn't strictly archaeology, though even then it's interesting. I caught Death at Jamestown the other night and it was quite good. Upshot: Lots of them died while other settlements not too far away thrived. The "mystery" focusses on a guy name of Frank Hancock who proposes that they were poisoned with arsenic by rogue Catholics out to sabotage the (Protestant) English colonists. Apart from a list of symptoms derived from contemporary writings that seem to fit arsenic poisoning, it's all quite circumstantial. Unfortunately, those who don't exactly buy that theory either weren't given enough time to respond substantively or were unable to.
It was intriguing, I suppose, but what was provided in the program was too little to really judge by. How accurate are the descriptions of "symptoms"? Were all the supposed outbreaks really restricted to several days following visits by ships? And there is a great deal of other evidence that points to that particular colony being in a bad place and stocked with people more intent (and skilled at) making a profit than building a sustainable settlement. For instance, it was on an island with no fresh water other than a river, and it was during a period of extreme drought. Certainly drinking bad water swimming with numerous pathogens could bring on a host of ailments with a wide range of symptoms.

So, eh. Interesting.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hmmmm. . . Jerry Bruckheimer and Danny Cannon are taking their new action adventure to CBS.
Variety says the untitled show will be about a wealthy benefactor funding a team of archaeologists to find artifacts. Iron Man writers, Matt Holloway and Art Marcum, are putting the pen to paper for the pilot and will get a production credit; Cannon is also set to direct the show if it gets picked up.

That's all there is. Never heard of this before. There haven't been a whole lot of strictly archaeological shows on. . .I can think of Relic Hunter with Tia Carerre (which makes it worthwhile in the first place, IMO), and of course, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. A short-lived one called Veritas: The Quest, too, which had Arnold Vosloo from The Mummy films. There's probably more from pre-1970s, but they are unknown to me.
Discovery of Historic Floor Delays Interment Ceremony for Cinnamon Bay Remains
Cinnamon Bay has proved to be a wealth of historical artifacts, from human remains to the recent discovery of a 17th century floor — in fact, there is so much history at the site, archaeologists are having a hard time finding a place to reinter human remains that have washed up from their original burial site.

The 17th century floor was discovered while exploring a site designated for the reburial of the remains, which have been washing up from their original burial site, now underwater a few hundred yards from the beach due to erosion.

A reburial ceremony is in the works for the human remains, which have been surfacing at Cinnamon Bay for more than 30 years.
Non-archaeological news Ancient Fish Fossil May Rewrite Story of Animal Evolution
A fish that swam on an ancient barrier reef in Australia 380 million years ago had fins and nostrils remarkably similar to the limbs and ears of the first four-limbed creatures to walk on land, according to a new study.

Four-limbed land animals, also known as tetrapods, such as modern amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, evolved from lobed-finned fish.
. . .
The new finding suggests that certain aspects of tetrapod ears and limbs can be traced much further back in "fishy looking" fish than had been previously known, says John Long, head of sciences at Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.
Coptic language’s last survivors
Considered an extinct language, the Coptic language is believed to exist only in the liturgical language of the Coptic Church in Egypt. The ancient language that lost in prominence thanks largely to the Arab incursion into Egypt over 1300 years ago remains the spoken language of the church and only two families in Egypt.

Coptic is a combination of the ancient Egyptian languages Demotic, Hieroglyphic and Hieratic, and was the language used by the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt following the spread of Greek culture throughout much of the Near East. In essence, it is the language of the ancient Egyptians themselves.

Why did they stop speaking Coptic?
With the Arab conquest, Arabic began to be the language spoken in everyday life. After a period of religious turmoil in Egypt, Coptic leaders decided to use Arabic as their main means of conversation in order to show the Arab rulers that they were not conspirators of the European Crusaders.

Probably a good strategy even today, meaning it probably wil go the way of Latin.
Neanderthal update Bending the Branches
Most people think of humans as the top, the apex of the family tree. But new research suggests this quintessentially human infatuation with ourselves may have impaired our judgment. Erik Trinkaus, a paleontologist and Neandertal expert at Washington University in St. Louis, believes that modern human features are unusual enough, compared with ancestral members of the genus Homo, to make us a side branch of the family tree. Neanderthals have generally been seen as evolutionary outcasts, but through comparisons and analyses of unique and shared traits, published in the August issue of Current Anthropology, Trinkaus concludes that modern humans are morphologically more divergent from ancestral humans than Neanderthals. This leads to the question, then: Why are modern humans so different? ARCHAEOLOGY spoke with Trinkaus about his research and its implications concerning the ongoing story of human evolution.

I'm still not sure about this whole business. The idea of evolution as an inverted bush rather than a tree -- meaning every species is a "side" branch -- seems a bit at odds with the characterization that H.s. is supposed to be thought of as some sort of pinnacle or end point. The bit about primitive and derived characters is certainly a common one in non-hominid evolution, so that's certainly worthwhile.
More Althouse on blogging ("ArchaeoBlog has a crush on Althoooooouse! ArchaeoBlog has a crush on Althooooooouse!")

"The model of an eclectic, general interest blog is a less viable one."

Ann says this: "It's a longstanding theme here and is, if fact, what I wrote my paper about for the Bloggership conference last spring. The theme of most of the other papers was that lawprof bloggers should find ways to make blogging more ostensibly like legal scholarship, and I passionately took the contrary position."

Yeah, blogging as drafts of journal papers would be boring and too time-consuming. Besides, if you're just communicating with your discipline's peers just use email listservs rather than a publicly accessible blog.

But, who knows. Maybe this stuff will run its course and eventually we'll only have corporate-owned professional "blogs" dishing out over-produced content designed to appeal to a statistically average readership.

Blogging ought to be fun. One of the great things about doing this is seeing something during the day and thinking "Hey! I can post this!"

It's an obsession really. . . . .

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Off-topic post II: Speaking of ancient history. . . Althouse had a post relating to music and much of the commentary ended up being about old vs. new music and who all just listens to the stuff that they grew up with. Perhaps not "grew up with" but probably that which they liked in their late teens and 20s, which seems to be the time people end up fixating on as their best years. We all know the type. "Ain't nuthin' good since 1969. . . .". Or 1947 or whatever. Back then I swore I would never end up like that. I swore a lot of other things, too, like I would never be bald and fat. (still true, although #1 is gettin' a little close these days)

So anyway, I submit two photos for your approval:

Anyone over the age of, oh, 35 or so ought to know what most of those are. The three objects to the left are, for those under that age, implements for cleaning what were called "records". Us audio geeks would religiously clean our LPs (those were the large 33-1/3 rpm ones) so they wouldn't become all knicked up and scratchy sounding. The liquid is called "D4" and what you did was take the little brush and brush the dust off of the black thing -- it's got a knobby-fabric pad for a top -- then rub some of the liquid onto the pad. Then you'd hold the pad onto the record and turn it around a couple of time with your finger (our records would end up with a dirty ring around the paper center where our fingers would rub while spinning it). It got the dust and other junk off.

The headphones are Koss Pro4-AAs which it seems Koss still sells. That's kind of amazing. I would wager at least half of the top records of the 1970s were mastered by a guy wearing these headphones. For a long time they were the standard. Interestingly, a few years ago this pair of mine were getting kind of ratty. The wire going in kept shorting out, one of the labels on the outside was missing, the rubber cups were all flat, etc. So I just boxed them up and sent them back to Koss with a note asking if they could fix them up and to just send an invoice and I'd pay for it.


Couple weeks later they came back in the mail good as new. I even bought a newer pair of moderately-priced headphones and, really, they sounded very inferior. These things have held up remarkably well, soundwise. You can't really wear them around with an iPod, but the sound quality is something to be heard. So heck, go buy a pair and see. Only $99.99!

Second pic. This may be the first album I ever purchased:

Yeah, it's Styx, Pieces of Eight. It's either that one, Hot Streets by Chicago, or perhaps Point of Know Return by Kansas. Memory from those days is a bit hazy. They're the first band I saw live, too (Styx). Played with a warm up group called New England.

My old college roommate -- still a good friend who moved out to Seattle (from Wisconsin/Illinois) too -- could go through his entire collection of records and tell you when he bought it, where he bought it, why he bought it, and probably how much he paid for it.

Ha! Check out the earrings for an archaeological connection. I didn't even think of that when I took the picture. Maybe that's what did it to me in the first place. . . .
Off-topic post Guess where this came from:
Rinds differ chemically from subjacent outcrop, notably showing enrichment of Na and Cl and depletion of S. They are particularly well developed where they have formed at the interface between outcrop surfaces and thin coverings of soils. This observation suggests that the rind formation process may be ubiquitous and ongoing on exposed or thinly covered outcrop surfaces, but that its rate is substantially slower than the eolian sandblasting of soft outcrop rock by saltating grains that is pervasive across the plains. In this model, only where rock surfaces have been protected from sandblasting, for example, when buried by a thin veneer of soil and only recently uncovered, is thick rind formation observed.

Fracture fills are erosionally resistant, often vertically oriented features associated with linear fractures of possible impact origin. These features are spectrally distinct from adjacent outcrop but differ chemically only in detail. APXS data indicate that fracture fills contain siliciclastic materials in amounts similar to or slightly greater than nearby outcrop lithologies; the fill is typically slightly enriched in Al and Si and depleted in Mg and S. Unlike rinds, fracture fills show no substantial Na or Cl enrichment. The high abundance of silicates means that the fills are not primarily precipitated, but the absence of basaltic minerals indicates that fractures are not filled by present-day soils. Instead, the close similarity of fracture fill and country rock lithologies suggests that fractures were filled primarily by intraclastic material derived from adjacent outcrops. The limited total volume of alteration rinds and fracture fill indicates very low aggregate rates of fluid flow and chemical weathering during the time since the outcrop rocks were deposited.

Pretty standard geological mumbo-jumbo, eh? Could be from anywhere on earth.

But it's for Mars.

Admittedly, I deleted a couple of words that would have given it away. But I was reading Science this afternoon, specifically Two Years at Meridiani Planum: Results from the Opportunity Rover by Squyres et al. (Science 8 September 2006: 1403-1407) and halfway through it occurred to me that this is the same sort of stuff that is done here all the time, but now they're doing it on a different.freakin'.planet.

I'm old enough (barely) to remember when it was still thought that there were 'canals' on Mars, because telescopes couldn't get enough detail to see any sort of land features other than dark smudges on the surface. I still remember as a kid one day watching TV as pictures from one of the Viking landers came in (live). I'm too young to remember the moon landing, but this really struck me: looking at pictures from the surface of another planet.

So now here we are 30 years later talking about the micro-stratification and grain characteristics of Martian rocks. Wow.
Iron Age remains hailed as crucial
THE remains of a 2000-year-old city have been discovered under Inverness and it is being hailed as one of the most important recent discoveries in Scotland.

The find near Inverness Royal Academy was uncovered by a team who spent almost a year excavating the remains of seven large roundhouses and almost a dozen iron kilns.
French explorer's bad luck in Syria avenged at last
First the 1920s French archaeologist ran out of money to uncover the treasures he suspected hidden under a Syrian castle, and then he ran out of time to see others finish the work.

Twelve years too late for Georges Ploix de Rotrou, a German team has now revealed the full glory of the 500 square metre (5,400 sq ft) Temple of the Storm God that lay under the vast citadel in Aleppo.
From dwarf humans to giant camels and back again Ancient Miniature Buffalo Discovered
The bones of an extinct dwarf species of buffalo were recently unearthed on the Philippine island of Cebu.

Dubbed Bubalus cebuensis, the miniature buffalo stood at just more than two feet, three times smaller than today’s domestic buffalo, and weighed a mere 350 pounds. It probably lived during the Pleistocene (Ice Age) or Holocene Epochs, between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago.

Well, forget that last part about the dating. Article says something about 20,000 years ago, but that's it.
Ancient remains causing problems
State laws require landowners to contact California's Native American Heritage Commission when native remains are found. The commission then assigns a person known as the "most-likely descendant" to consult with the landowner.

But there's sometimes tenuous or no ancestral ties between the "descendant" and the uncovered bodies, scientists and American Indians said. Many remains found in eastern Contra Costa and Alameda counties, for example, are too old to be linked directly with any modern tribes.

It's a long article looking at what happens when remains are found on private property. This is an area I'm none too familiar with. The method described in the article seem fairly arbitrary and a bit confusing to me. Do tribes nominate a person as a "most likely descendent"? Can anyone register themselves as a descendent? It's actually kind of a disturbing article since much of what goes on in these cases is kept secret by the parties involved. There's a lot of stuff in there worth discussing though, but it's mostly terra incognita for me. A lot of these regulations and processes vary state by state a LOT, too.
Archaeologists find huge stash of Bronze Age anchors
CYPRUS’ reputation as an archeological gold mine has been given another boost, with an important underwater Bronze Age discovery.

A team of maritime archeologists from the UK has uncovered 120 stone anchors off the coast of Paphos. The anchors, some of which date back to the Bronze Age (2500-1125BC), are the second largest collection in the eastern Mediterranean.

The fact that so many anchors have been found at the same site suggests that the area may have once been an important port, serving the maritime traders on the busy trade routes to and from the east.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Found this link on Yahoo while looking around a bit for the previous post: Stonehenge makes list in new seven wonders vote
Only one of the ancient wonders of the world still survives -- now history lovers are being invited to choose a new list of seven.

Among 21 locations shortlisted for the worldwide vote is Stonehenge, the only British landmark selected.

The 5,000-year-old stones on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, will be up against sites including the Acropolis in Athens; the Statue of Liberty in New York; and the last remaining original wonder, the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo.

The entire list:
1 Acropolis, Athens, Greece
2 Alhambra, Granada, Spain
3 Angkor Wat temple, Cambodia
4 Chichen Itza Aztec site, Yucatan, Mexico
5 Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
6 Colosseum, Rome
7 Easter Island Statues, Chile
8 Eiffel Tower, Paris
9 Great Wall, China
10 Hagia Sophia church, Istanbul, Turkey
11 Kyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan
12 Kremlin/St.Basil's, Moscow
13 Machu Picchu, Peru
14 Neuschwanstein Castle, Fussen, Germany
15 Petra ancient city, Jordan
16 Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
17 Statue of Liberty, New York
18 Stonehenge, Amesbury, United Kingdom
19 Sydney Opera House, Australia
20 Taj Mahal, Agra, India
21 Timbuktu city, Mali

I bolded my quick-and-dirty choices. I had some difficulty beyond the pyramids, the Great Wall, Machu Picchu, and Stonehenge. Those seem to me to be works that were outstanding even in their own time; that is, the zenith of construction within each's particular time/culture context. The remainders just strike me as being emblematic structures that capture elements of design that are almost universally acknowledged to embody some sort of ideal form (e.g., Taj Mahal).

But frankly, I think the Channel Tunnel is a freakin' wonder. . . .
This just came over the EEF list:

Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical
Civilization, Volume III: The Linguistic Evidence. Oct. '06


"This long-awaited third and final volume of the series is concerned with
the linguistic evidence that contradicts the Aryan Model of ancient Greece.
Bernal shows how nearly 40 percent of the Greek vocabulary has been
plausibly derived from two Afroasiatic languages-Ancient Egyptian and West
Semitic. He also reveals how these derivations are not limited to matters of
trade, but extended to the sophisticated language of politics, religion, and
philosophy. This evidence, according to Bernal, confirms the fact that in
Greece an Indo-European people was culturally dominated by speakers
of Ancient Egyptian and West Semitic."

The key word in the above is, of course, "plausible" which is really pretty meaningless.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ancient Stonehenge Houses Unearthed
Nine Neolithic-era buildings have been excavated in the Stonehenge world heritage site, according to a report in the journal British Archaeology.

The structures, which appear to have been homes, date to 2,600-2,500 B.C. and were contemporary with the earliest stone settings at the site's famous megalith. They are the first house-like structures discovered there.

Julian Thomas, who worked on the project and is chair of the archaeology department at Manchester University in England, said Stonehenge could have been a key gathering place at the Neolithic era's version of a housing development.
1,800-year old painted coffin discovered in north China
Chinese archaeologists have discovered an ancient coffin painted with colored drawings dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (A.D. 25-220) in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The funeral objects had already been robbed when the coffin was discovered from a tomb in Siziwang Banner. The coffin, in delicate appearance, was well preserved during excavation of the tomb.

"The color drawings, painted at inner sides of the coffin, feature daily life and hunting activities," said Wang Dafang, an official with the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regional Cultural Relic Bureau
Remote sensing update Web lets UNC prof do armchair archaeology
After 25 years of fieldwork abroad, UNC-Chapel Hill archaeologist Scott Madry has dug up a new way to hunt for ancient ruins -- without leaving home.

Last year, Madry read how an Italian man accidentally discovered the outline of an ancient Roman villa while looking at his house on Google Earth. Since then, with help from the French government, Madry has confirmed the free service's promise as a research tool. As the news spreads, other scientists are growing excited, too.

Yup. Matter of fact, I went right to GE after reading about that and made an attempt to locate Kom el-Hisn in the Egyptian delta. Couldn't do it because I simply cannot find the lat-long coordinates of the place. I expect an abundance of work with this.

UPDATE: Still can't find the Kom el-Hisn lat/long but I found this site which seems to have those for a lot of other egyptian sites.
Back to the Stone Age – How Did the First Farmers Live?
The people that established Central Europe’s first farms in the late 6th millennium BC were not behind the times. Indeed, a combination of arable agriculture and animal husbandry was already being operated in this period. However, until now, research on more detailed aspects of day-to-day agricultural practices in Austria has largely been sparse in comparison to work in other European countries.

A current project is set to change all that. Two agricultural settlements are being closely scrutinized in order to create a detailed picture of life as an "early farmer". Over the next two years, a team headed by project manager Doz. Dr. Eva Lenneis from the Institute for Pre- and Protohistory at the University of Vienna will be examining finds such as animal bones, plant remains, pottery and stone tools.
Piltdown's lessons for modern science
Hopefully, the Piltdown saga has taught those of us who study the evolution of humans some important lessons that we should apply today.

Firstly, we mustn't let preconceived ideas run away with us. Secondly, specimens have to pass certain basic tests.

Science thrives on scepticism, which is why the extraordinary discovery of the "Hobbit" fossils in Indonesia has prompted a lively scientific debate over its status.

True dat.

Not a whole lot of analysis in the piece but it gives a nice outline of the Poltdown hoax, plus the Cricket Bat which I honestly hadn't heard of before.
Imperial-era tomb stops work at Beijing shooting venue
Work was halted at a Beijing Olympic shooting venue after workers unearthed an imperial-era tomb at the site, a Chinese newspaper reported on Monday.

The tomb was located about 100 meters from the site of several Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) tombs unearthed during construction of the Beijing Shooting Range Hall in May, the Beijing Times said.

Workers laying pipe at the site on Saturday night had discovered a "relatively large chamber with a structure" and subsequently informed authorities, the paper said.
Archaeologists study ancient Hohokam find
PHOENIX Archaeologist Mark Hackbarth had expected to find Hohokam ruins on the site for the new Phoenix Convention Center.
But he never imagined the immensity of the find. Over 30 days this summer, Hackbarth uncovered 40 of the earliest known Hohokam pithouses in the Phoenix metropolitan area. They are three thousand years old.

Now, thousands of artifacts from the dig rest in a Tempe laboratory.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Marine archaeology update Lewes shipwreck, the Severn, gives up her secrets
Sometime during early May 1774, Capt. James Hawthorn made a decision to run the 200-ton cargo ship Severn aground just off Lewes Beach. A nor’easter was lashing the Cape Region, threatening the vessel and its crew of 20 or so men.

“They all made it to shore alive,” says Dan Griffith, director of the Lewes Maritime Archaeological Project.

Griffith, Secretary of State Harriet Smith Windsor and Tim Slavin, director of the state’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, gathered at the University of Delaware’s College of Marine Studies in Lewes Wednesday, Oct., 11, eager to talk about the Severn and what’s been learned during the past several months.
The lost world on our doorstep
The skids come down on the rock platform, then lift again to shuffle onto a flatter position before we can clamber out. Less than half an hour later the rest of the team also flies onto the rock.

A decade ago a party of bushwalkers exploring in this same area of the Wollemi wilderness just 100 kilometres from Sydney came across a staggering overhang wallpapered in rock art. The discovery was reported to the NSW parks service immediately. Oddly, not until 2003 did a team of archaeologists, Aborigines and bushwalkers revisit the cave and return to civilisation with a story that made headlines worldwide.

The site was named Eagle's Reach and contained hundreds of art motifs ranging in age from the time of European settlement to thousands of years. The galleries included vast anthropomorphised eagles, the likes of which had never been seen anywhere.

Neat (long) article.
Mexican monolith update Monolith Perhaps Largest Found in Mexico
Archaeologists announced Friday that a monolith discovered earlier this month near Mexico City's main square is perhaps the largest ever unearthed in the city's center.

The monolith, found on Oct. 2, is rectangular and measures nearly 13 feet on its longest side. The largest monolith from the city's center until this latest discovery _ the circular Piedra del Sol, or Aztec Calendar, unearthed in 1790 _ has a diameter of 12 feet.

Eh. Just a short discussion about its size compared to the "Aztec Caendar" stone.

UPDATE: mmm. More here: The scientists believe the monolith could cover the entrance to a chamber and may soon announce more finds.
"Most likely we will find an enormous offering below it. If there is a chamber, we will find a series of impressive offerings," he said.

Hard to know what to make of that. I haven't seen any other story raise the possibility that this thing is covering something. But maybe the guy is just speculating for effec.

Friday, October 13, 2006

And now. . . .the news from the EEF

Digitized book from the University of Michigan Digital
General Collection:
-- Arthur E. P. Brome Weigall, The Life and Times of Cleopatra,
Queen of Egypt; A Study in the Origin of the Roman Empire.
Edinburgh, London: W. Blackwood and sons, 1914.
Pages must be downloaded seperately, at:

[Next two items submitted by Michael Tilgner]

Digitized book from "Google Book Search"
-- A. Henry Rhind, Thebes, Its Tombs and Their Tenants, Ancient
and Present, Including a Record of Excavations in the Necropolis,
London, 1862. xxi, 329 pp., [the plates are not present], some
newspaper clips are included - pdf-file: 14.2 MB

"While describing the results of certain excavations which I made
at Thebes, I have endeavoured in this volume to offer, at the
same time, a general view of Egyptian sepulchral facts, as
represented in the Necropolis of that city."

Digitized book from the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA)
-- E. A. Wallis Budge, The Nile. Notes for Travellers in Egypt,
8th ed., London / Cairo, 1902. xxvi, 674 pp. - HTML-file: 2.2 MB

"The short descriptions of the principal Egyptian monuments on each
side of the Nile between Cairo and Khartûm, printed in the following
pages, are not in any way intended to form a 'Guide to Egypt.' They
are drawn up for the use of those travellers who have a very few
weeks to spend in Egypt, and who wish to carry away from that
country some of the more important facts connected with the
fast-perishing remains of one of the most interesting and ancient
civilizations that has been developed on the face of the earth. The
existing guide books are too full, and they contain too many details
for such travellers."

Cheryl Haldane, "The Promise of Egypt's Maritime Legacy",
in: The Institute of Nautical Archaeology Quarterly, Volume 20,
No. 2 (Spring 1993), pp. 3-7; in PDF (1.62 MB):

About a shipwreck survey of the Red Sea, and providing an
overview of the nautical heritage of ancient Egypt.
By the same author: "A Pharaoh's Fleet: Early Dynastic
Hulls from Abydos", in: INA Quarterly Vol. 19. No. 2
(Summer 1992), pp. 12-13; in PDF (1.75 MB):
About "the world's most ancient planked hulls" found
in a funerary context in Abydos in 1991.

Richard Lobban, Emily Boisseau, "Cat Mummification Project",
in: ISAZ [International Society for Anthrozoology] Newsletter,
no. 29, June 2005, pp. 10-12 - pdf-file (whole issue): 1.2 MB

"This study recreates cat mummification by using the techniques
and objectives of ancient cat mummification in the late Egyptian

[Submitted by Michael Tilgner]
New foreword by Joseph G. Manning for Miriam Lichtheim,
Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol. III: The Late Period, Berkeley /
Los Angeles / London, 2006 - 20 pp., pdf-file: 100 KB

"It is now twenty-five years since the publication of volume
three of _Ancient Egyptian Literature. A book of readings (AEL)_.
That the volume remains a major source for Egyptian literature and
history in the first millennium BC is a fine testament to the scholar
who produced it. Each of the three volumes of _AEL_ is a
remarkable achievement in its own right; as a whole they are
among the most famous volumes in English-speaking Egyptology,
and are still in regular use in courses on Egyptian history and

End of EEF news
Vatican graves update Unearthed graves show how average Romans lived, died
The burial sites help "document the middle class, which usually escapes us," said Paolo Liverani, an archaeologist and former Vatican Museums official who worked as a consultant on the site. "You don't construct history with only generals and kings."

Among those buried in the necropolis was a set designer for Pompey's Theater, notorious for being near the spot where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death. Decorating the designer's tomb were some symbols of his trade -- a compass and a T-square.

An archivist for Emperor Nero's private property and mailmen also were buried there.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Car blogging!

Okay, so this has nothing to do with archaeology, except that said automobile is rather old. But I'm throwing it out there anyway, since I'm rather pleased with the whole thing.

Actually, it does have some archy connection. In 1990 I had just bought a 1984 Bronco II because A) I hated with the white heat of a thousand suns the old 4-door 1975 Buick I had, and B) I was doing CRM work at the time and needed something that could go in the mud and junk. Talk about jinxed. Less than 24 hours after buying it I had my first accident. Then I got it back and drove down to California to do some fieldwork down there and the engine died in the middle of Oregon (Roseburg, OR: I hate you as well). Since I didn't have the money to rebuild the engine, I swapped 'em for a 1978 Mustang II off of their lot. It really was driven by a little old lady who drove it on Sunday and kept it garaged the rest of the time. It had 45k miles on it at the time. This is what it looked like when I got it:

It's kind of a weird car. It's essentially a special edition Cobra II like this one but without all the stickers, stripes, and spoilers. It wasn't bad for a mid-late 70s car, performance-wise, though obviously nothing like those from the early 70s and before (though it drives much better). It's got a 302 (5-liter) V8 but with a very modest 140 hp; still, not bad for a 2700 pound car. They never got much respect from the muscle car crowd, even though it sold far better than the early 70s models; it really had very little Pinto in it, but Ford very mistakenly made the sheet metal look much too Pinto-like and the reputation stuck. OTOH, while a lot of other pony cars were dropped, the Mustang line kept going with increased sales.

At any rate, a few years ago, the old boy started looking a little worse for wear. The paint on the entire front end was peeling and cracking, and I was getting tired of hearing the engine knock going uphill on the highway -- it was indeed a car of its time, made specifically for 55 mph and few freeways. If I were going to keep it, it would need new paint and either a modified or new engine, which I estimated would cost anywhere between $7-15,000. Yeesh. A lot of money for a non-collectible car. But then, to get what I really wanted in a new car would cost probably $30,000 and it would be sitting in the garage most of the time.

So after much internal debate, I decided to restore/modify it. So I got it painted:

That's the original color, called dark metallic brown. Yeah, not a great color, but I wanted to keep it looking as stock as possible. Next came a new engine and exhaust. I went with a new one because it would be cleaner, more powerful, get better mileage, and just perform better than bolting stuff on the original. I put in a remanufactured 1989-93 5-liter fuel injected engine, the ones that came with Mustangs of those years. Here are two of the exhaust:

That's Brad of Brad's Custom Auto in the second one who did the work. They do lots of high performance stuff on mostly Mustangs and Corvette's. For the interested, those are 2.5" dual exhausts (with headers), catalytic converters pulled from a new Corvette, and a dual in/out muffler. Except for those two shiny things sticking out the back it looks like a basic stock Mustang II.


I don't think I've floored it yet. We estimate ca. 270hp. AND the mileage got better. Sady, I shall never know its top speed since the speedometer only goes to 85. . . . .

So there thank you for indulging me.
Digging up archaeology interest
As Danielle Kerr, 11, examined pieces of green glass from a broken bottle that was unearthed during an archaeological dig around the Morris Canal, she thought she might change her mind about becoming an actress.

"I wanted to be an actress, but now I'm thinking that I might want to be an archaeologist," she said, as her classmates dusted off other pieces of the bottle.

Well. Uhhh. . . .hmmmm.
Hmmmmm. . . Bulgarian Archaeologist Claims Ancient Man Performed Brain Surgery
Archaeologists from Bulgaria are claiming to have found evidence that ancient men performed brain surgery.

Georgi Nehrizov, who led the team of researches say diggings near the city of Svilengrad in Bulgaria revealed a skull from the Thracian period or some 4,000 years ago, bearing a hole that had been carved out with surgical precision.

He said, "The skull dates back to 2500-1800 BC and the hole had clearly been made for medical reasons. It is the first such discovery from Thracian times."

Thracians were a nation comprised of different tribes that developed from a mix of invading Indo-European and indigenous settlers in the Balkans over the centuries, beginning from the Early Bronze Age.

The group was mentioned in Homer's the "Iliad" as allies of the Trojans, hailing from Thrace.

That's the whole thing. Doesn't seem too terribly important since trephination has been known for a long time. I don't think this is any earlier than any oher examples. . . .
Extinctions update This one has been making the rounds recently, but I kind of neglected linking to it because the first story I saw didn't have anything to do with archaeology per se:

Scientists find more bones of big camels
Hunters stalked giant camels as tall as some modern-day elephants in the Syrian desert tens of thousands of years ago and archaeologists behind the find are wondering where the camels came from and what caused them to die off.

The enormous beasts existed about 100,000 years ago and more of the bones, first discovered last year, have been found this year in the sands about 150 miles north of the capital, Damascus.

The animal, branded the "Syrian Camel" by its Swiss and Syrian discoverers, stood between three and four yards high — about twice the size of latter-day camels and the height at the shoulder of many African elephants.

Hawks linked to it, but I haven't found anything in any of the reports suggesting that people hunted the damn things, just that some hominid bones and tools were found in the general vicinity. So, make of it what you will.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Silver-in-the-pottery update I took a (fairly quick) look at the original paper.


This is the first study on the differential distribution and concentrations of silver in ceramics recovered from archaeological excavations. The chemical compositions of 1174 pottery vessels from 38 Roman-period sites in Israel have been determined. Unusually high and variable abundances of silver were discovered in pottery samples of all vessel types and chemical compositions from four distinct archaeological contexts dating to late first century bce to 70 ce Jerusalem. The large majority of the Jerusalem vessels could be distinguished by their silver abundances from all analysed pottery pieces recovered at rural sites outside Jerusalem, even when the pottery types and chemical compositions, except for silver, of pottery found within and outside Jerusalem were indistinguishable. The evidence is suggestive of a human origin for the high and variable silver abundances, and dispersion of the silver by aqueous transport. The differential silver concentrations found in excavated pottery from Jerusalem and other urban and rural sites suggest that attention to the distribution of silver in pottery from excavated contexts may be helpful for evaluating the nature and function of archaeological remains and patterns of urban contamination.

No page numbers for the quotes, as I lifted them from an HTML version.

Relating to the sample prep:
The pottery pieces were carefully cleaned and the surface layer removed before grinding and preparation of samples for analysis. The detected major Ag anomalies, therefore, were in the fabric of the pottery, not just on the surface. The only feasible way for the Ag to enter the pottery fabric, therefore, would most likely have been by aqueous transport.

From the above arguments, it appears that a likely source of the Ag anomalies in the Jerusalem samples is in situ contamination by aqueous transport after deposition, although a use-related source for the Ag in some samples is also possible.

That occurred to me initially -- whether they were getting surficial contamination or if the silver was getting deep into the fabric. So it seems as they sampled deep into the wall, indicating whatever put the Ag there, it had to penetrate deep into the structure.

One other question was whether there was any evidence of silver nearby that could serve as a source for the aqueous transport:

After six years of excavation in the Jewish Quarter during which no silver coins were recovered, a hoard of 13 silver coins, of the first, second, third and fourth years of the First Jewish Revolt (see below), was found in an excavation area about 50 m south-east of Area E
. . .
Although only the above-mentioned hoard of 13 silver coins has been reported from the Jewish Quarter excavations, over the past century a relatively large number of silver coins has been recovered in the many excavations that have been conducted in Jerusalem and its vicinity, and in chance finds in the area.

There seems to be at least some silver material present in the surrounding sediments. It should also be noted that the samples came from a variety of types -- "bowls, cooking pots, storage jars, jugs, juglets, flasks and lamps" -- and one group came from a mikveh which is described as a "ritual immersion bath". According to Figure 6(c), there is no significant difference between the various types, suggesting that it probably wasn't a function of use.

They did deal somewhat with the possibility of vessels containing silver objects by testing a vessel that did contain a mass of silver:
In order to learn more about the possible patterns of Ag corrosion and dispersion, we measured by HPXRF the Ag concentrations within the ceramic of a large Iron Age jug (c. late 11th to early 10th centuries bce) from Dor (Fig. 1) that contained a hoard of about 8.5 kg of silver (disc-shaped tokens, small fragments, and scraps of jewellery). The jug, discovered intact, was found standing in an upright position, with its mouth covered by a bowl (Stern et al. 2000; Stern 2001). Two samples were taken from the jug, one from the upper shoulder, above the present level of the mass of metal, and one from the base. Routine procedures for sample preparation were followed, including removal prior to analysis of the surfaces from both sampled pottery fragments. The Ag concentrations in the shoulder and base were 29.8 ± 0.6 and 101 ± 1 ppm, respectively. These data indicate that Ag entered the ceramic fabric.

Those are much higher concentrations than the ones they were getting from the other samples.

I'm tending to lean toward something other than the coins-in-the-vessel idea, mainly because the high concentrations are in a variety of vessel types in a variety of contexts. But I'm still not convinced that it was aqueous transport, since not a lot of information was provided on the likely sources of the silver in solution. This isn't really a criticism of the paper per se since that's a whole other can o' worms, and this largely dealt with the pottery itself. So, eh, interesting hypothesis.