Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hmmmmm. . . . Mystery solved: Chemicals made Stradivarius violins unique, says professor
“Like many discoveries, this one could have been accidental. Perhaps the violin makers were not even aware of the acoustical effects of the chemicals. Both Stradivari and Guarneri wanted to treat their violins to prevent worms from eating away the wood. They used some chemical agents to protect the wood from worm infestations of the time, and the unintended consequence from these chemicals was a sound like none other,” he adds.

The team tested several instruments, including violins and cellos, produced by Stradivari and Guarneri from 1717 to around 1741, using spectra analysis and other methods.

The results and those previously reported by Nagyvary showed that two specific areas of the instruments accounted for their unique sound – chemicals used in the varnish and fillers of the instruments, and the overall wood treatment process used by Stradivari and Guarneri.

This sounds rather appealing (heh), though certainly there will be critiques of it. The blurb there doesn't say how many other instruments were also tested, how the particular effects of the chemicals are thought to affect the sound, etc.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Holy follicles! Frenchman arrested over bid to sell pharaoh hair
French police have arrested a man who tried to sell on the Internet strands of hair from the head of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II, a law court official has said.

The man, who was not immediately identified, asked for between 2,000-2,500 euros ($2,639-$3,299) for each of the various hair samples as well as for tiny pieces of resin and embalmed cloth taken from the pharaoh's mummy.

In background notes posted on the website, the seller said he had obtained the relics from his father who had worked in a French laboratory entrusted with analysing and restoring the body of Ramses in 1976-77.
Biblical past unearthed in Holy Land construction
Building a housing complex or a road in the Holy Land can often have grave implications.

Ancient cemeteries, burial caves from biblical times and centuries-old artifacts have been unearthed during construction work in Israel over the years, forcing contractors by law to call in archaeologists and sometimes halt building projects.

In Holyland Park, a complex of apartments being built on a hill in Jerusalem, archaeologists will soon finish removing bones and other remnants from a field of 40 tombs estimated to be 3,700 years old.

One of those annoying in-window popup ads appears. HATE those things.
Antiquities Market update Top Collector Is Asked to Relinquish Artifacts
Seeking to build on its success in bargaining with a few American museums, Italy has asked the New York collector Shelby White to consider returning more than 20 ancient artifacts that it argues were illegally mined from its soil, officials involved in the negotiations say.

The request was relayed this month in a letter to Ms. White’s lawyers, they said. Rather than implicitly threaten legal action, however, as it occasionally has in pursuing objects in major museum collections, the government hopes to rely on moral suasion, said Maurizio Fiorilli, a lawyer for the Italian Culture Ministry. He said negotiations would begin in earnest in December.

Mr. Fiorilli said the Italian government was not implying that Ms. White or Leon Levy, her husband, who jointly amassed the collection over 30 years, were involved in any crime. (Mr. Levy died in 2003.)
This is the fictional story of Khonso-Imhep, Head Musician of the Pharaoh's court during the 18th Dynasty, as he passes from life into the afterworld, complete with a trial that determines his fate. Through re-enactments and imagery on wall paintings, this film depicts the ancient Egyptian mummification process and the religious rituals involved in preparing a dead body. This story displays the unique funeral ceremonies surrounding the preparation of a mummy and portrays the religious beliefs involved, as well as the mummy's discovery by archaeologists.

New video from the Archaeology Channel.
Developers, historians at odds about remnants of Great Hopewell Road
Plans for an extension of James Parkway to Kaiser Drive are under way, but national magazine coverage has stirred up tension between developers and an archaeologist.

Bradley Lepper, of the Ohio Historical Society, said the remnants of a 2,000-year-old road might be present on two 300-acre sites.

"It may be the only remnants of what I call the Great Hopewell Road," he said.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snow blogging

This area got hit with what amounted to a minor snowfall, but around here it's pretty bad. Being from Wisconsin, I generally scoff at the notion of 3" of snow putting a damper on anything, but here I sit at home unable to get to work. Basic problem is, this place is extremely hilly (Seattle is largely composed of several drumlins and glacial till dumped next to a couple of deep flooded valleys, one filled by Puget Sound and the other by Lake Washington). Thus, when we do get snow it's usually when warm moisture-laden Pacific air collides with cold Canadian air. So it either dumps a lot of snow that melts in a day or, if the cold air mass stays around, we get wet snow that partially melts and then freezes. Which it did overnight. Hence, the streets are ice-covered. It doesn't snow very often so there's no point investing in a lot of snow-removal equipment, so we muddle through as best we can.

Anyway, here are a couple of pics. Latter is Marvin, one of several hummingbirds gathered around the feeding station in the front.

Back to Tut
King Tut Wasn't Bludgeoned to Death: Study

According to the researchers, Tutankhamun died at between 18 and 20 years of age and measured about 5-feet, 11-inches in height. They also concluded that the bone fragments found inside the pharaoh's skull came from the first vertebrae in his neck, not his cranium.

Some mishap, perhaps during a modern X-ray examination, probably explains the dislocated fragments, Selim's team concluded. The upper vertebrae may even have made their way into the skull 84 years ago, when a team led by British Egyptologist and Tut discoverer Howard Carter pried off the mummy's golden mask.

"I think this lays to rest the notion that the bone fragments in the head were caused pre-mortem, before his death," said Dr. Joseph Tashjian, a St. Paul, Minn., radiologist and member of the RSNA's public information committee. "It's pretty clear, looking at the images from this study, that they almost certainly came from the removal of the mask from the head. It definitely didn't occur either pre-mortem or even during the embalming period."

Not much new here, except for the bone fragments having come from vertebra and supposedly post-mortem. The broken leg hypothesis is still pretty shaky, however, since it can't definitively be placed pre-mortem. Considering the damage many corpses went through during mummification, this seems speculative at best.

Monday, November 27, 2006

ombs of Pre-Inca Elite Discovered Under Peru Pyramid
A complex of tombs recently discovered under a pyramid in Peru offers landmark clues to a thousand-year-old pre-Incan culture, archaeologists report.

A team co-led by Izumi Shimada, an archaeologist with Southern Illinois University, found 22 artifact-laden tombs about 420 miles (675 kilometers) northwest of Lima, the capital (Peru map).

Among the findings are meticulously arranged human remains; gold, gilt copper, and bronze artifacts; and the first decorated tumi, or ceremonial knives, ever discovered by archaeologists at a burial site.

The graves belong to elite members of the Middle Sican culture, a gold-working people whose farming culture thrived in Peru's desert coastal region from around A.D. 900 to 1100.

Much more than in previous stories, and very interesting so make sure to read the whole thing.
Archaeologist Finds Pottery, Wood Water Mains Downtown
When construction workers peel back the pavement in lower Manhattan, it's like opening a skylight into the old New York — a place where water flowed through hollowed-out logs and the streets were crowded with ship builders, pottery makers, and tavern riffraff.

More than 3,000 objects have been found under Beekman Street between Pearl and Water streets, where archaeologist Alyssa Loorya has been monitoring a city construction site for the last two years.
IRON Age man reared foxes to make fur-trimmed clothes, archaeologists believe.

Experts say the pelts were used to make sought-after fur-trimmed coats, loin cloths and blankets.

Researchers at York University found that foxes flourished on Orkney during the late Iron Age.

But there were none on the Outer Hebrides or Shetland, suggesting they were introduced to Orkney.

The study concluded that foxes were brought to the islands because their fur was valued more highly than that of indigenous species.
A Layered Look Reveals Ancient Greek Texts
An ambitious international project to decipher 1,000-year-old moldy pages is yielding new clues about ancient Greece as seen through the eyes of Hyperides, an important Athenian orator and politician from the fourth century B.C. What is slowly coming to light, scholars say, represents the most significant discovery of Hyperides text since 1891, illuminating some fascinating, time-shrouded insights into Athenian law and social history.

“This helps to fill in critical moments in ancient classical Greece,” said William Noel, the curator of manuscripts and rare books at the Walters Art Museum here and the director of the Archimedes Palimpsest project. Hyperides “is one of the great foundational figures of Greek democracy and the golden age of Athenian democracy, the foundational democracy of all democracy.”

Sunday, November 26, 2006

For this computer, call an archaeologist
In the dim basement of the University of Kansas' Learned Hall stands the dust-covered carcass of what was once a technological gem.

"It's the first financially successful, mass-produced computer in the world," Earl Schweppe said. He pointed to the old machine that he believes was the first mainframe computer on the KU campus.

The university called on Schweppe, professor emeritus and founder of the school's computer science program, to haul off the IBM 650 after resigning itself to the fact that there's no room for the relic.

Schweppe recently began the process of dismantling the computer and salvaging what parts he could.

"This is an archaeological dig," he said.

Ancient human remains may lie in Callery-Judge soil
The ancient bones of Palm Beach County's first humans could be buried in land trenched for tilling at Callery-Judge Grove - a farm that could become a sprawling housing development.

Not so fast, says the man who co-owns the land. Co-owner Nat Roberts' archaeologist determined that the site has been farmed too much to win the designation. And as far as the park goes, Roberts' long-standing plan calls for a water-cleansing flow way to be built there.
*sigh*. . .another Ming Dynasty tomb. . . Tomb will not stop Metro work
CONSTRUCTION of Metro Line No. 9 will not be affected by the discovery of a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) tomb containing the remains of two couples, archaeologists said yesterday.

Some of the artifacts inside the tomb, such as a bronze mirror, will be kept for further authentication.

The coffins and bodies will remain at the site, but they will be buried even deeper.

This is standard practice when archaeologists determenine there is no historical value to a particular find.

"We have found many such Ming Dynasty tombs," said He Jiying, an archaeologist at the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission.
The tomb was found by workers during construction of Metro Line No. 9 at the conjunction of Xujiahui Road and Huangpi Road S. in Luwan District.

The first phase of Metro Line No. 9 will open next year. It will link rural Songjiang District with Pudong by 2010.

That's the whole thing. Don't know if reburying the stuff deeper is a good idea or not, seeing as they're keeping some of the artifacts. Still, if it's in a location where preservation will be no worse than it was, probably a good thing.
Scandal! National Geographic Article Stirs up Scandal in Bulgaria
Bulgaria's top archaeologists reacted strongly to an article on Thracian heritage in the National Geographic latest issue, saying it aims to discredit the country and drive foreigners away.

The article, entitled "Bulgaria's Gold Rush", said that the country's rich history left artefacts that now mean money in the bank for anyone who succeeds in digging them up. "For looters, Bulgaria is El Dorado, a vast trove of buried treasure where some graves have harbored gold since at least 4000 B.C.," the National Geographic wrote.

"I am deeply displeased by the article," said Prof Nikolay Ovcharov, featuring wrongly in the article as "Bulgaria's Indiana Jones". Ovcharov joined Wednesday a press conference of some of the country's most prominent archaeologists, who denounced publicly the article. "Were I a foreigner, I would not have made anything of it. The article is meant to drive away, rather than attract foreigners."

But there's another guy who's the real Indiana Jones of Bulgaria.
Archaeologists study S. Grove site
While a backhoe churned away at the soil a dozen yards away, Snyder and his partner, Andrew Wyatt, studied the area before them. The men work for the archeology department of McCormick Taylor, an engineering firm based in Philadelphia and contracted by PennDOT for the dig.

And the soil in front of them contains the remnants of an early- to mid-19th century house.

"We're preserving history here," Snyder says. "If we didn't come out here, no one would ever know (this was here)."
Summer archaeology project unearthed original Fort Selkirk
An archaeological dig performed last summer near the confluence of the Pelly and Yukon rivers unearthed the remains of the original Fort Selkirk Hudson’s Bay Company post.
The announcement was made Tuesday by Selkirk First Nation Chief Darin Isaac and Tourism and Culture Minister Elaine Taylor.
The project, organized by the first nation and the tourism and culture department, was headed by archaeologist Victoria Castillo. She is in her second year of PhD studies in anthropology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
“My thesis is on interaction between Northern Tutchone people and the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Selkirk,” Castillo said in a statement.
New from The Archaeology Channel Pettigrew sends this email:

Friends and colleagues: ALI created The Archaeology Channel
(, our nonprofit streaming-media Web
site, in part to give voice to indigenous peoples. Their knowledge and
traditions are a precious element of the human cultural heritage. That
is why we are especially pleased to announce the launch of Wisdom of the
Elders, our latest audio series.

Produced by a nonprofit organization of the same name based in Portland,
Oregon, Wisdom of the Elders is a series of one-hour Native American
cultural magazine radio programs offering a rich tapestry of oral history
and storytelling from indigenous elders along with special features on
health and healing, grandmother's culture, and music—both traditional
and contemporary. We will add one program each week, beginning with the
first program of the first of the three existing series. The first
program went up on November 20, 2006.

Haven't checked it out yet, but do so.

Pre-Inca burial site found

A SPECTACULAR burial site of 20 tombs for the pre-Inca nobility of Sican has been found in northern Peru, the archaeological expedition's Japanese leader Izumi Shimada said today.

The discovery, one of the most significant finds in Peru in recent years, should allow for greater understanding of the Sican culture, which spanned from about 750 AD to the end of the 14th century.

Archaeologists found the pyramid-shaped tombs containing a dozen ceremonial knives, ceremonial figures called tumis, made in an alloy of copper silver and gold, breastplates, masks and ceramics, near the town of Ferranafe, about 800 kilometres north of Lima.

The so-called "Lords of Sican" were considered representatives of divine power on Earth.

That's the whole thing.

UPDATE: more here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

21st century technology cracks alchemists' secret recipe
A 500-year old mystery surrounding the centre-piece of the alchemists' lab kit has been solved by UCL (University College London) and Cardiff University archaeologists.

Since the Middle Ages, mixing vessels – or crucibles – manufactured in the Hesse region of Germany have been world renowned because of their ability to withstand strong reagents and high temperatures.

Previous work by the team has shown that Hessian crucibles have been found in archaeological sites across the world, including Scandinavia, Central Europe, Spain, Portugal, the UK, and even colonial America. At the time, many people tried to reproduce them but always failed.

Now, writing in Nature, the researchers reveal using petrographic, chemical and X-ray diffraction analysis that Hessian crucible makers made use of an advanced material only properly identified and named in the 20th century.

Dr Marcos Martinón-Torres, of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, who led the study, explains: "Our analysis of 50 Hessian and non-Hessian crucibles revealed that the secret component in their manufacture is an aluminium silicate known as mullite (Al6Si2O13).

Note: not
African cave art depicts peace
n the caves of South Africa's Cederberg mountains, an ancient people left a legacy of rock art that could teach modern man a valuable lesson or two about living in harmony with nature.

That is the view of John Parkington, professor of archaeology at the University of Cape Town, who has spent 40 years in the Cederberg and neighboring areas researching rock paintings and other artifacts left by the pre-colonial hunter-gatherers who once roamed southern Africa.

The Bushmen, or San, left tens of thousands of paintings in ochre and clay, most depicting humans or three or four key animal species, and some showing men with the heads of animals.

Unfortunately, this goes against much recent research and appears more of a political hypothesis than a scientific one.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Icelandic volcano caused historic famine in Egypt, says Rutgers-based team
An environmental drama played out on the world stage in the late 18th century when a volcano killed 9,000 Icelanders and brought a famine to Egypt that reduced the population of the Nile valley by a sixth.

A study by three scientists from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and a collaborator from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, demonstrates a connection between these two widely separated events. The research, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is the latest addition to NASA's Life on Earth series of Web features at:

The investigators used a computer model developed by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies to trace atmospheric changes that followed the 1783 eruption of Laki in southern Iceland back to their point of origin. The study is the first to conclusively establish the linkage between high-latitude eruptions and the water supply in North Africa.

Aha, a new area ripe for investigation!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Students seek to unearth club
Prothro explained that besides El Llano there were once lots of active societies in the Southwest, but now the numbers are down to just a few.

Don Clifton, an archaeologist from Pep, agrees that the area could use a society.
“With the approximation of so many areas, there is so much interest in it (archaeology),” Clifton said. “It (the interest) needs to be developed in the public.”

The organization hosts speakers at its monthly meetings, held every third Thursday, and plans to give members the opportunity to help at the site, museum and in local classrooms, and possibly even be involved in field work.

Kinda doubtful that we'll ever get back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when archaeological societies held monthly meetings, invited big time speakers, conducted excavations, and published results. OTOH, similar groups are already operating, though decidedly without the approval of professional archaeologists. Then again, maybe this should be a prod to get professors and CRM professionals involved locally.
Archaeologists dig deep to revive 2,200 year-old ancient capital
Fifty years of excavation work on the ancient city of Chang'an, situated in the northwestern part of Xi'an, have now passed and archaeologists have been able to map out a clear layout of the former capital of the Han Dynasty.

But there is still much work to be done. Experts, such as Liu Qingzhu, a veteran archaeologist with the Institute of Archeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), insist that only one thousandth of the total ruins has been unearthed.

"Like the ancient site of Pompeii, the study of large-scale ruins requires about 100 or 200 years of excavation," Liu said.
Royal Alberta Museum 'bursting at its seams'
The Royal Alberta Museum has unveiled architectural plans for a major facelift that will kick off with a new $200-million wing.

The wing will be built at the southwest corner of the Edmonton museum. At 250,000 square feet, it will house new galleries and create 300 underground parking spaces.

Museum director Bruce McGillvray said Friday the museum, built in 1967, is "bursting at its seams" with 10 million objects documenting Alberta's history.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Good show
3,000-year-old tools to museum

A man with a metal detector who came across a hoard of prehistoric bronze tools and weapons has handed over his find to the National Museum Wales.

Phil Smith came across the Bronze Age haul on land in Llanbadoc in Monmouthshire and reported his find.

Dating between 1,000 and 800 BC, the haul contains axes, fragments of swords and a spearhead as well knives and harvesting tools.

The 3,000-year-old pieces are being studied by experts.

Heh. "Top. Men."
Ancient food jars fare well under the sea
Archeologists have started exploring a sunken 1st century Roman vessel carrying about 1,500 clay amphorae, some still containing nearly 2,000-year-old fish bones nestled inside.

Boaters found its cargo of amphorae in 2000 when their anchor got tangled with one of the two-handled jars.

Exploration of the site a mile off Alicante in southern Spain began in July, said Carles de Juan, a co-director of the project, who works for the Valencia regional government.
At Mideast holy site, what is treasure?
Among finds that have emerged are a coin struck during the Jewish revolt against the Romans, arrowheads shot by Babylonian archers and by Roman siege machinery, Christian charms, a 3,300-year-old fragment of Egyptian alabaster, Bronze Age flint instruments, and - the prize discovery - the imprint of a seal possibly linked to a priestly Jewish family mentioned in the Old Testament's Book of Jeremiah.

And the finds keep coming. On a drizzly November morning, Gabriel Barkay, the veteran biblical archaeologist who runs the dig, sat in a tent near the mounds examining some newly discovered coins stamped by various Holy Land powers: the Hasmonean dynasty of Jewish kings more than 2,000 years ago, a Roman procurator around the time of Pontius Pilate, the early Christians of the Byzantine Empire, two Islamic dynasties and the British in the 20th century.
Digging up old digs
Near one of modern Jerusalem's most exclusive residential projects and largest shopping mall, an archeological dig is shedding light on the living, shopping and eating habits of the residents of a Bronze Age city.

A newly discovered ancient burial site in Bayit Vagan has proved to be an invaluable find. Atop the hill where the Holyland Park Project is being expanded, the cemetery is believed to have belonged to the Canaanite settlement situated where the Malha mall now stands.

Research archeologist Dr. Ianir Milevski, who has overseen the excavations since the outset, believes the cemetery dates back to the Middle Bronze Age IIB period, around 1750-1550 BCE.

Friday, November 17, 2006

And now. . . .news from the EEF

Press report: "Snap Shots"
About the "remains of the only Pharaonic temple outside
mainland Egypt", at Serabit Al-Khadem.

J. J. Castillos has placed online a report on the recent 2006
Toronto Scholars' Colloquium, see:
There's an English version and a Spanish version available.

[Next two items submitted by Michael Tilgner]

Lecture report: Robert K. Ritner, "Tutankhamun for the Twenty-first
Century: Modern Misreadings of an Ancient Culture"
"It is an honor for me to participate in the inaugural festivities for our
president Robert Zimmer by providing a brief introduction to the
Tutankhamun exhibition that awaits you. In proper University of
Chicago fashion, however, your raw enjoyment of the exhibit should
be leavened by the requisite dose of intellectual provocation, and I
hope to leave you with a few questions to ponder as you go where
thousands before you have flocked, been fascinated and departed
with modern artifacts of sphinxes, mummies and bobble-headed
Tuts. I speak as a repeat offender."

Strange object above the pyramids of Giza
"On November 11th, Joanna, one of our regular viewers, alerted
us to an image she saw over the Pyramids on our site at about 9pm
on the 10th. We looked it up in the archives and did indeed find
something that normally should not have been there. No planes
are allowed in the area. Could it be a meteorite?"
[Ed. Interesting, but it appears to be nothing. Go to the site, or just go to It seems to me a bright star, Venus maybe, elongated due to a longer exposure? Another couple of stars over to the lower right seem similarly elongated but not as bright.

"No other object has been misidentified as a flying saucer more often than the planet Venus. Even the former leader of your United States of America, James Earl Carter, Jr., thought he saw a UFO once, but it's been proven he only saw the planet Venus. Venus was at its peak brilliance last night. You probably thought you saw something up in the sky other than Venus, but I assure you, it was Venus."

Anyone who knows where that's from. . . .well, congratulations.]

Herbert Verreth, The Northern Sinai from the 7th Century BC
till the 7th Century AD. A Guide to the Sources, Leuven, 2006,
1291 pages, available online in PDF, in two volumes (26Mb +
20Mb). TOC and downloads at:
A historical topography of the northern Sinai, with a survey of
the places mentioned in sources from the 7th century BC till the
20th century AD and of the known archaeological sites.

Katherine Griffis-Greenberg ( has
just completed a richly illustrated web page about the coffin prepared
for the pet cat of the eldest son of Amenhotep III, with a rendering
of the "She-Cat" coffin text:
"The Coffin of The She-Cat of Crown Prince Thutmose ("Thutmose V"),
Cairo CG 5003 JE 30172 "

End of EEF news
Mexico Aztec god carving may be emperor's headstone
Archeologists say a giant, ornate carving of an Aztec god recently unveiled in downtown Mexico City could be a massive headstone in honor of one of the civilization's last rulers.

Scientists say the 12.4 ton stone cutting, which is covered with a vast, heavily detailed full-body engraving of earth god Tlaltecuhtli, is one of the most important Aztec finds ever.
Click to learn more...

The 11-foot (3.5 metres) long monolith was first made public in October. It is broken into several pieces but otherwise in excellent condition, archaeologists said.

Old story, not much else here that hasn't been covered elsewhere.
Teeth Tell Ancient Tale
University of Arkansas researchers examined the dental landscapes of prehistoric creatures from a South African province and found evidence for a dietary shift that suggests a corresponding change in the type of landscape that surrounded them. This marked change in the prehistoric landscape from woods and shrubs to grasslands may help fill in the picture of environmental changes that accompanied our own evolution.

Peter Ungar, professor of anthropology in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, and postdoctoral researchers Gildas Merceron and Rob Scott studied the teeth of bovids, or hoofed mammals, found in the fossil record at Langebaanweg, the site of a unique ecosystem on the coast of South Africa. Ungar reported their findings as part of an address at a symposium last week in Langebaanweg.
Unique Roman Artistry Revealed
Italian restorers have brought to light unique, bright, multicolored marble decorations that even contemporary Romans never got to admire.

The marbles crafted in a technique known as opus sectile, were designed to decorate the floor and walls of an ancient Roman palace more than 1,600 years ago. However, the roof of the palace collapsed during construction and the mosaics remained buried for centuries.
Elements of forgotten empire
Occupying the ground-floor rooms of the Musée Cernuschi in Paris until 30 December, Les Perses Sassanides, Fastes d'un empire oublié (The Sassanid Persians: Splendours of a Forgotten Empire) is an exhibition that brings together items from major European and North American museums and from the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, in order to show the range and variety of objects that have survived from this period in Iranian history, stretching from the early 3rd century CE to the Arab conquest of the Sassanid Empire in 642.
Nerds to the rescue Ancient Sanskrit manuscript goes digital
Scientists from the US are using modern imaging techniques to digitally restore a rare 700-year-old Indian palm leaf manuscript on Hinduism.

Restorers from New York's Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) are working on Sarvamoola Grantha which expounds on the essence of Hindu philosophy, the meaning of life and the role of God.

This priceless collection of 36 erudite commentaries was written in Sanskrit by Sri Madvacharya (1238-1317 AD), one of India's greatest theologians.
Stone Age Twins Discovered Buried Under Mammoth's Shoulder Blade
Researchers have unearthed the graves of three Stone Age infants that may ultimately bear on the question of whether humans interbred with Neandertals. The rare find, from a 27,000-year-old site in Austria, includes two bodies that might be twins sheltered under a mammoth's shoulder blade.

The team discovered the skeletons in two separate burial pits: One uncovered last year contained two infants side by side--twins, apparently. A second pit containing a single body was found this year about a meter from the first pit. The twins had been protected from the elements by the mammoth bone and were very well preserved, says team member Christine Neugebauer-Maresch of the Prehistoric Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna.

Web site alert See dig: The Arahceology magazine for kids. Lots of neat stuff. Take the quizzes!
Lindenmeier Site might gain status
Fort Collins has until April 1, the last chance for a decade, to apply for World Heritage status for the site or Soapstone as a whole.

The designation is meant to reflect human cultural and natural heritage sites that have international importance. There are 830 World Heritage sites in 138 countries, including the Great Wall of China, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Egypt's Pyramids, Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon.

"It's a very significant recognition of that place's special qualities," said John Stokes, director of the city's natural resources department. Stokes said he's in the early stages of "exploring" the designation and what it would mean for the land and the city.
Sharpest cut from nanotube sword
Sabres from Damascus, now in Syria, date back as far as 900 AD. Strong and sharp, they are made from a type of steel called wootz.

Their blades bear a banded pattern thought to have been created as the sword was annealed and forged. But the secret of the swords' manufacture was lost in the eighteenth century.

Materials researcher Peter Paufler and his colleagues at Dresden University, Germany, have taken electron-microscope pictures of the swords and found that wootz has a microstructure of nano-metre-sized tubes, just like carbon nanotubes used in modern technologies for their lightweight strength.
Stonehenge update Stonehenge ‘No Place for the Dead’, Says BU Expert
Professor Timothy Darvill, Head of the Archaeology Group at Bournemouth University, has breathed new life into the controversy surrounding the origins of Stonehenge by publishing a theory which suggests that the ancient monument was a source and centre for healing and not a place for the dead as believed by many previous scholars.

After publication of his new book on the subject - Stonehenge: The Biography of a Landscape (Tempus Publishing) - Professor Darvill also makes a case for revellers who travel to be near the ancient monument for the summer solstice in June to reconsider. Instead, Professor Darvill believes that those seeking to tap into the monument’s powers at its most potent time of the year should do so in December during the winter solstice when our ancestors believed that the henge was ‘occupied’ by a prehistoric god - the equivalent of the Roman and Greek god of healing, Apollo – who ‘chose’ to reside in winter with the Hyborians, long believed to be the ancient Britons.

Lots of typos in the article, if that means anything. The evidence given in there doesn't seem too impressive; mostly 14th century and later writings about what people at that time thought about the source of the stones. Not much else of any real substance, I'm afraid.
Time-travelling in the Cape
There are one million years of archaeology here, says Professor John Parkington of the UCT Archaeology department, pointing to shell middens along the coastlines and metres-deep evidence of human habitation in mountain caves. But most remarkable of all is the fact that the very origin of our species is written on the rock walls of the Cederberg.

For while archaeological sites further up the continent contain examples of our ancestors, and possibly the mythical “missing link” between us and the apes, it’s in the Western Cape that we find the first examples of homo sapiens, our species or literally "people like us".

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Non-archaeological pop-culture post and hopefully a draw for the estrogen brigades New Bond movie gets a 92% Tomatometer from E.g.,
For once, there is truth in advertising: The credits proclaim Daniel Craig as "Ian Fleming's James Bond 007," and Craig comes closer to the author's original conception of this exceptionally long-lived male fantasy figure than anyone since early Sean Connery. "Casino Royale" sees Bond recharged with fresh toughness and arrogance, along with balancing hints of sadism and humanity, just as the fabled series is reinvigorated by going back to basics. The Pierce Brosnan quartet set financial high-water marks for the franchise that may not be matched again, but public curiosity, lack of much high-octane action competition through the holiday season and the new film's intrinsic excitement should nonetheless generate Bond-worthy revenue internationally.

Only archaeological connection I can think of: Craig played Alex West in the first Tomb Raider movie, which I thought he did quite well. He was an American in that one and had the whole macho adventurer with a touch of the rogue down pat for that character.

Blatant hit-mongering image:

So all in all, I think he translates rater well to this role:

Frankly, I hope it's all it's portrayed to be, kind of a return to the old Bond form. The best one, IMO, is From Russia With Love. That one had a great villian (RObert Shaw) and wasn't overloaded with gadgets. In fact, perhaps the best scene ever in the Bond line was a fairly simple one that had Shaw and Bond (Connery) in a train compartment with the former pointing a gun at the latter. Shaw just oozed killer in that scene. One of the last times you saw Bond where he was actually in some realistic form of mortal danger.

Of course, the best line from a Bond movie ever was Goldfinger: "No, Mr. Bond! I expect you to die!"

(H/T to Ace of Spades for the link)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

B.C. Mud Mudflats yield archaeological secrets
During the summer of 2006, the HTS conducted archaeological fieldwork in the Johnstone Strait and Comox areas. Prior to the fieldwork, fish traps had been documented throughout the Johnstone Strait and Comox areas but the HTS believed that there were others that had been overlooked by archaeologists. The HTS also believed that there were hundreds of clam gardens that were yet to be documented. Thus the focus of the fieldwork was the identification of fish traps and clam gardens.

During June and July 2006, when the tides were low, HTS crews and Cullon, Simonsen and geomorphologist John Harper surveyed beaches throughout Johnstone Strait. Dozens of fish trap complexes were identified and more than 100 new clam gardens were identified. The crews recorded the GPS locations of the traps and clam gardens, took photographs and, for the fish traps, collected numerous samples of fish trap stakes for study and radiocarbon dating.

Interesting. Never heard of these things m'self.

I mean, I've sen small-scale fish traps, but not clam gardens nor ones of this (apparent) size.
Roman tombstone mysteries revealed
The mysterious cavalry officer serving in the Roman army probably had good connections and was buried close to the A6 in Lancaster about 70 years after Jesus was crucified.

He was German, in charge of the wine and beer supplies and was probably in Lancashire to brutally suppress an uprising or two.

The restoration has given something of a new lease of life for its owner, Insus Vodullus.
Extinctions update (not the archaeological kind though) Meteor-dinosaur theory evolves again
Until now, it has been accepted generally that the Chicxulub impact off the coast of Mexico 65-million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs. Evidence of the crater left by the giant asteroid or comet has been found under the sea off the coast of Yucatan.

But a group of scientists led by Professor Gerta Keller of Princeton and Professor Wolfgang Stinnesbeck of the University of Karlsruhe begged to differ. They uncovered a series of geological clues which suggests the truth may be far more complicated.

They seem to be blaming it largely on the Deccan flood basalts in India and imply that another impact caused those, with Chicxulub perhaps weakening many species. One would think an Indian crater of that size would have been found by now.
Revolutionary fort site explored in N.J.
History buffs in New Jersey believe they have located a Revolutionary-era fort built on the first property officially purchased by the new U.S. government.

Fort Billingsport guarded the Delaware River about 15 miles down river from Philadelphia and Camden. The land was purchased on July 5, 1776, in Paulsboro for 600 pounds in Pennsylvania money.

A survey of the area has found a piece of sunken ground that matches the size and dimensions of Fort Billingsport, the Camden Courier-Post reported. The site would have allowed the fort's artillery to take aim at British ships on the Delaware.

No a whole lot there either.
Old Baby in the New Media
This month's feature article by Kate Wong, "Lucy's Baby," represents something both very old and very new. The old has been christened Selam, a tiny being who was born 3.3 million years ago but did not live past her third birthday. Contrary to the nickname by which she has also come to be well known, Selam was most definitely not a child of Lucy, the Australopithecus afarensis female whose skeleton was famously unearthed in 1974--Selam predated Lucy by more than 100,000 years. (Yet incongruity trumps chronology: it seems equally wrong to refer to a baby as "Lucy's grand­mother.") Those two australpithecines were probably about as distantly related as any one of us is to the first modern humans to spread out from Africa.

Not a whole lot there.
Ancient Crash, Epic Wave
At the southern end of Madagascar lie four enormous wedge-shaped sediment deposits, called chevrons, that are composed of material from the ocean floor. Each covers twice the area of Manhattan with sediment as deep as the Chrysler Building is high.

On close inspection, the chevron deposits contain deep ocean microfossils that are fused with a medley of metals typically formed by cosmic impacts. And all of them point in the same direction — toward the middle of the Indian Ocean where a newly discovered crater, 18 miles in diameter, lies 12,500 feet below the surface.

The explanation is obvious to some scientists. A large asteroid or comet, the kind that could kill a quarter of the world’s population, smashed into the Indian Ocean 4,800 years ago, producing a tsunami at least 600 feet high, about 13 times as big as the one that inundated Indonesia nearly two years ago. The wave carried the huge deposits of sediment to land.

It's interesting but there are many questions on whether the chevrons are actually the result of mega-tsunami, whether the craters are really craters, etc.
Potty archaeology Toilets may be clue to texts
The latrines that the presumed writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls used to show their religious devotion may have led to their early deaths, according to a new study co-authored by UNC Charlotte religion expert James Tabor.

The discovery of the ancient toilets also gives more evidence that the scrolls were written by a small Jewish sect called the Essenes, said Tabor, who chairs UNCC's Department of Religious Studies.

. . .

In keeping with ancient ritual, the Essenes likely took a paddle or shovel with them to bury their waste. That differs from cultures like the Bedouins, who dumped their waste on the ground where sunlight would have killed the parasites or wind would have blown the feces away.

But the study said the Essenes used the same latrine for nearly 100 years, meaning the men walked over the buried parasites, which could stay alive for a year. "It's like a toxic waste dump," Zias said in the release. "And if you have any cuts on your feet ..."

There's really not enough there to do any judging and, frankly, I'm not an expert on Jewish toilet activity during this period. Or any other.

UPDATE: Way more information here. Not so far-fetched after all. Though the hypothesis that they had a somewhat lower life expectancy than other places isn't really supported directly by this. The lack of running water could certainly have contributed to the disease load as well as other lifestyle choices. Still, read that whole thing and it answers many questions.

I tried Google Earthing Qumran (which Wikipedia gives as near 31°45′N 35°26′E) but the resolution is bad in that area.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The things you find on the web

Comparative Placentation
This Volume of animal placentas was created to assist with the examination and evaluation of the many different types of mammalian placentas. It is primarily directed to the veterinary pathologist, the zoo veterinarians and others who have an interest in understanding the bewildering variety of placental forms. When new placentas are added or new information comes about, the new date will appear at the bottom of this page.

FWIW, I was looking for some data on the Egyptian water buffalo.
Of mice and urine For Clues on Climate, Seeing What Packrats Kept
Through carbon dating of specimens from packrat nests, scientists can put together a portrait of the prevalence of different plant species in an area over time, similar to the long view obtained by drilling into Arctic ice cores for plant samples trapped there.

“There are twigs and seeds and things in the middens that are easy to work with,” Dr. Cole said. “You don’t have to look at some microscopic piece of leaf. The rats collect some of everything. The nest is like a snapshot of that particular spot at some time in the past.”

Oh, well do I remember Don Grayson's western North American class and the dozens of pack rat midden articles we had to read. . . . .

Fascinating stuff though. See here (scroll down to the "Pack Rat Middens" section) for some links.
New Archaeology Channel video

This email just received from Richard Pettigrew:

Friends and colleagues: Many Native American groups in North America
are working hard to reconnect with a cultural legacy that was nearly
lost. A case in point is conveyed by Reclaiming Our Heritage: The
Monacan Indian Nation of Virginia, the latest video feature on our
nonprofit streaming-media Web site, The Archaeology Channel

The story of the Monacan People, from pre-history to the present, is
finally told in this documentary produced and edited by Sharon
Bryant, a member of the Monacan Indian Nation. Monacan traditions
link to the archaeological record and include the tale of Amoroleck,
the first Monacan to confront the English settlers, and his prophetic
words to Capt. John Smith. Later history reflects the systemic
disenfranchisement of the Monacans, along with other Indian peoples
of Virginia, and their recent triumph in gaining official state

Monday, November 13, 2006

Archaeologists discover rare antebellum Southern tannery
There's little glamour to the crumbling ruins of a 200-year-old tannery - where raw hides from deer, cattle and other animals were turned into leather for everything from shoes to holsters and saddles.

But archaeologists say that learning how it operated from its establishment in 1811 through the Civil War will give them insight into commerce and labor of a long-gone era.

"Up to the time of the Civil War, it is estimated that there were over 8,000 tanneries in existence in the United States, and yet we know little about them," said Daphne Owens Battle, an archaeologist with Cypress Cultural Consultants, the Beaufort, S.C., firm that is overseeing the excavation. "Only a handful of these sites have survived, and this is the only one we know of from this period in the South."
Weird story Accused looter has lifelong love for Indian lore, archaeology
Owens declines to talk about the pending charges against him, but readily discusses and his lifelong love for Indian lore and archaeology. His voice fills with awe talking about people who roamed Arizona 800 years ago, living in homes that could only be entered by way of a ladder to the roof, making beautiful earthenware. "I live it," Owens says. "Every pot is different. Every style has its own formula of clays, slips and paints."

Owens notes that there are millions of ruins on private land where artifact hunters can dig if they have permission, or if they buy the property. In fact, he made pot-hunting a career after a rancher offered to sell him land full of archaeological treasures. And he knows of several diggers who purchased residential plots near Globe that are checkered with pristine ruins. After artifacts are harvested, the land is flipped.

. . .

After thinking about his own legal problem, Owens says he's in favor of statutes protecting archaeological sites: "If it weren't for the laws, I don't think there would be any ruins left."

Which is kind of weird, since there are statutes protecting archaeological sites, but none that apply to private property.
Dales women aim to make a living from archaeology
STEP aside Lara Croft - Craven has two female archaeologists who are dedicated to unearthing the mysteries which lie beneath our district.

Sharron Stolarczyk and Jen Miles both graduated from Bradford University last year - and have now set up their own business, "The History Team" - aimed at helping Craven residents uncover the past.

The company is aimed at schools and community groups and the pair will run workshops in three areas: people of the past, buildings and archaeological practice.

But do they have really BIG. . . . .guns?
Archaeologists breathe life into old Turnbull Colony
Two hundred years after its remaining 700 settlers abandoned their riverside homes and marched north to St. Augustine, the Turnbull Colony largely remains a mystery.

The British colony's coquina and tabby buildings and riverside stone wharf had crumbled or were destroyed during the First Seminole War in 1817-1818 and the cities of New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater were built over the ruins of the past.

Little physical evidence remained, except for several hand-dug irrigation canals and artifacts local archeologists uncovered, to shed light on what life was really like for the mostly Minorcan, Greek and Italian colonists trying to carve a new life out of the swampy Florida wilderness.
Pollok dig hopes to unearth original mansion
It was once home to a wealthy and powerful family in the west of Scotland and historians believe it stood as an elegant and opulent mansion – before it went missing.

Now the quest is on to discover just what happened to the original Pollok House and where, indeed, it was located.
In commemoration of its 150th anniversary, the Glasgow Archeological Society has been given permission to excavate sections of one of Scotland's largest municipal parks to attempt to uncover its missing history.
Roman artifacts found in Swedish graves
Shards of Roman ceramics found in ancient graves in western Sweden suggest there was more contact between the Romans and Swedes than thought.

Archaeologists at the site in Stenungsund, around 30 miles north of Gothenburg, found the ceramic pieces along with some charred bones from two people, which were dated between the years 1 and 300 AD, said Bengt Nordqvist, who is leading the dig for Sweden's National Heritage Board.

He told Sweden's English-language newspaper The Local the finds challenge previous migration theories.

"The discovery shows that contact between Sweden and the Roman Empire was possibly much greater than we used to believe," Nordqvist said.

The excavation was ordered before the town granted permission to turn the land into soccer fields, the newspaper said.

Well, technically, this doesn't refer to the actual mechanism by which Roman artifacts found their way to Sweden. Technically, it could have made it there through trade/exchange with nary a Roman and Swede crossing paths.

That's the whole thing.
Hmmmmmm. . . . . Stonehenge built by a single person? See this video which, by the way, I have not done yet. Will do so this evening. Feel free to comment.

UPDATE: Watched it. Interesting. The first part where he's twirling slabs of concrete around doesn't seem very relevant (if they had slabs of flat concrete to twirl things on in Stonehenge days, maybe) but I liked the rest of it. Neither principle is entirely new; I've seen variations on both the rocking-and-buttressing and sliding-into-a-hole thing before (the latter is the preferred method of erecting an Egyptian obelisk). Personally, I like this approach of his more than the usual "Let's try to build an ancient structure in two weeks!" type of thing we usually see, since a guy constantly experimenting with different ways to do things is probably much closer to the ancient way of learning by trial and error.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Sicilian island yields fresh riches
The Sicilian island of Pantelleria, midway to Africa, has yielded fresh Roman treasures that have spurred local officials to call for a full-fledged open-air archaeological park across the island .

"We've unearthed amphorae and urns in a necropolis that came to light during building work. The finds on the island have now reached a critical mass that makes an archaeological park imperative," said Sicilian culture chief Lino Leanza .

"With the prehistoric village of Mursia, the San Marco acropolis, the Punic-Roman shrine at the Lake of Venus and the late Roman settlement at Scauri, we have all the potential for putting the island on the world culture map," Leanza added .
Horsemen of the Steppes: Ancient Corrals Found in Kazakhstan
At least 5,600 years ago the Botai people that inhabited what is modern day Kazakhstan used horses--both wild and apparently domestic--as the basis of their lifestyle. With no evidence for agriculture or other domesticated animals, these people of the ancient steppes seem to have raised, rode and ate horses to survive. "It looks like the Botai people rode horses to hunt wild horses and either used horses to drag the carcasses back on sleds, or kept some domesticated horses for food," explains David Anthony of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. But proof of their ancient use has been hard to find. Because of the impermanence of leather, little survives of the implements that would be used to ride a horse, such as a bit or bridle, and domestication induced few morphological changes in the horse. But new research in the ancient Botai village of Krasnyi Yar seems to have turned up some ancient corrals--and pushed proof of horse domestication further back in time.
Burial mounds move housing
The discovery of "nationally important" bronze age burial mounds on the edge of Bicester has prompted a housing developer to change its plans.

Archaeologists uncovered the two mounds buried beneath land between Bicester and Chesterton, which is earmarked for 1,585 houses.

The discovery has forced Countryside Properties to draw up new plans for the site, which it submitted to Cherwell District Council last week.
Varied diet of early hominid casts doubt on extinction theory, says Colorado U study
The researchers used a technique called laser ablation to examine teeth from four individuals collected from the Swartkrans site in South Africa which contain isotopes of carbon absorbed from food during each hominid's lifetime. Since trees, shrubs and bushes produce a different carbon isotope signal than grasses and sedges, the team was able to determine that Paranthropus was often dramatically altering its diet over periods ranging from months to years.

"This is the first study to paint a portrait of an early hominid eating its way across a varied landscape," Sponheimer said. "None of us involved in the study dreamed Paranthropus would have had such a variable diet over thousands of years, much less in just a few months time."

Which is interesting. The preferred hypothesis is that early hominids outcompeted the Australopithicenes because they had tools to more efficiently extract resources. I had thought meat played a role as well, which ties into the tool use (hunting, butchering).

This related story on the same research seems to indicate some C4 plants in the diet as well but it seems more plausible they were getting it from whatever C4 plants were around. So, eh.
Raiding for women in the pre-Hispanic Southwest?
An important new archaeological study from the December issue of Current Anthropology is the first to document interregional movement of women in the pre-Hispanic Southwest. Using an analysis of grave sites, the researchers found more female remains during periods of political influence, providing an interesting insight into the ways warfare may contribute the local archaeological record.

"Warfare is common in small- and intermediate-scale societies all over the world, now and in prehistory. Capturing women was often either a goal, or a by-product, of such conflict," says archaeologist Tim Kohler (Washington State University), who authored the study with Kathryn Kramer Turner (U.S. Forest Service).
Libraries in the sand reveal Africa's academic past
Private and public libraries in the fabled Saharan town in Mali have already collected 150,000 brittle manuscripts, some of them from the 13th century, and local historians believe many more lie buried under the sand.

The texts were stashed under mud homes and in desert caves by proud Malian families whose successive generations feared they would be stolen by Moroccan invaders, European explorers and then French colonialists.

Written in ornate calligraphy, some were used to teach astrology or mathematics, while others tell tales of social and business life in Timbuktu during its "Golden Age," when it was a seat of learning in the 16th century.

Not really archaeology, but history. Interesting though.
Update on earlier post

When I first read the article that this post referred to, a portion of it struck me as being potentially controversial:
They noted that this D allele is very common in Europe, where Neanderthals lived, and more rare in Africa, where they did not.

Which, given the import of the article (having the allele makes brains bigger) seems bound to not sit right with some. Turns out, I was right. This story (HT to Robin at The Perfect World) from the WJS a few months ago highlights it. Seems to be open access.

Scientist's Study
Of Brain Genes Sparks a Backlash

Last September, Bruce Lahn, a professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago, stood before a packed lecture hall and reported the results of a new DNA analysis: He had found signs of recent evolution in the brains of some people, but not of others.

It was a triumphant moment for the young scientist. He was up for tenure and his research was being featured in back-to-back articles in the country's most prestigious science journal. Yet today, Dr. Lahn says he is moving away from the research. "It's getting too controversial," he says.

What Dr. Lahn told his audience was that genetic changes over the past several thousand years might be linked to brain size and intelligence. He flashed maps that showed the changes had taken hold and spread widely in Europe, Asia and the Americas, but weren't common in sub-Saharan Africa.

Read the whole thing, as it goes into some more detail than the earlier article. This one suggests Lahn is more sympathetic to the allele = intelligence idea than the later one, perhaps because Lahn has been through the wringer already. Yet he does seem to favor at least something of a link:
While acknowledging that the evidence doesn't permit a firm conclusion, Dr. Lahn favors the idea that the advantage conferred by the mutations was a bigger and smarter brain. He found ways to suggest that in his papers. One mutation, which according to his estimates arose some 40,000 years ago, coincided with the first art found in caves, the paper observed. The other mutation, present mostly in people from the Middle East and Europe, and estimated to be 5,800 years old, coincided with the "development of cities and written language."

As others note in the article, that's fairly simplistic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that many of the hallmarks of "higher civilization" appeared at different times in different places, often with no possibility of connection (e.g., the new world).

Clearly, the allele has some selective benefit to become fixed in the population, but what exactly it does and why it would be selected for doesn't seem adequately addressed as yet. So, watch for this.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Neanderthal update Could our big brains come from Neanderthals?
Neanderthals may have given the modern humans who replaced them a priceless gift -- a gene that helped them develop superior brains, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

And the only way they could have provided that gift would have been by interbreeding, the team at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Chicago said.

Their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides indirect evidence that modern Homo sapiens and so-called Neanderthals interbred at some point when they lived side by side in Europe.

I did a "Huh?" on this item at first, but figured Hawks had blogged on it and he seems to like it. There are a couple more posts on introgression around that linked post, so make sure you read those, too. They don't exclusively target Neanderthals but posit them as a likely archaic source. The paper itself is up on PNAS (open access, it appears) so do check it out.
Graves hint at contact with Romans
Archaeologists excavating ancient graves in western Sweden have found shards from ceramic vessels made in the Roman Empire, in a find that could challenge assumptions about contacts between people in Sweden and the Romans.

The graves in Stenungsund, around 45 kilometres north of Gothenburg, have been dated to between the years 1 and 300 AD. The remains of burned bones from two people were found, along with the pieces of ceramic.

"There are pieces from four or five vessels in each grave, and we have never previously found so many in Sweden," said Bengt Nordqvist, who is leading the dig for the National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet).
The Ancient Americas: A New Permanent Exhibition at The Field Museum
Based on ground-breaking research by Field Museum scientists and
others, The Ancient Americas will shatter long-held preconceptions.
Visitors will see for themselves the intelligence and creativity that
distinguish human beings, the innovations that allowed groups to diversify
and populate the hemisphere from the Arctic to the tip of South America,
and the great cities, trade networks, and sophisticated cultures built by
Indigenous Peoples long before Europeans decimated their populations and
imposed their own cultures on these lands.

"shatter long-held preconceptions"? Of what? Held by whom? Hard to tell from this. Presumably, the idea of culturally and technologically simple aboriginal groups, which might be the popular conception?
Ancients’ holy site revealed
An archaeologist surveying Northmoor has accidentally discovered a sacred landscape' created in the Bronze Age.

Robin Brunner-Ellis was amazed when he stumbled upon a pattern of features in the landscape made by ancient people to communicate with their gods.

He is now hoping to launch a sacred landscape heritage trail to enable people and walkers to discover how and why the landscape was formed.

No idea of the veracity of his interpretation, but it sounds interesting.
4,000-year-old cemetery uncovered in Jerusalem
Containers for ritual offerings, weapons and jewelry are among the finds uncovered this week after builders in Jerusalem's Bayit Vagan neighborhood stumbled upon a 4,000-year-old Canaanite cemetery.

The Israel Antiquities Authority was alerted back in July when builders working on apartment buildings in the Holyland Park Project found evidence of ancient tombs. The remarkable finds were only discovered this week.

The dig's director, Yanir Milevsky, said that "the quantity of items and their particularly good state of conservation will allow us to enlarge our knowledge of farming villages during the Canaanite era."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Archaeologist digs into province, city for burying past
A Toronto archaeologist wants to save thousands of historical artifacts buried under the city's waterfront from being lost as development plows forward, but he says neither the city nor the province is willing to make a commitment to preserve the past.

"It is our archaeological heritage," says Michael Gregg. "It belongs to the people of Toronto. It belongs to the people of Ontario."

Gregg accuses the province of abdicating its responsibilities, while the city hasn't come up with adequate policies to make sure artifacts are preserved.
Remote sensing update Google Earth, Satellite Maps Boost Armchair Archaeology
"I've spent 25 years on and off bouncing around in low-level aircraft, searching old maps, looking at aerial photographs, and I found a handful of new archaeological sites.

"I found more sites on the first day of sitting down and doing a systematic survey on Google Earth than in those years of using the other techniques."

(I've got another post soon to come on this, I promise)
Blogs finally jump the shark

Professor Althouse posts a Columbia Journalism Review of the CNN-sponsored bloggerfest for election night:
All of which proved, once again, that the act of writing a scorching blog post looks no different on camera than the act of writing the world's most mind-numbing inter-office memo. And neither makes for good television

True 'dat. They filmed people typing. Let bloggers blog and let talking heads talk. Bring 'em on for occasional opinions if they're camera-friendly, but otherwise the blogging's the thing.

But, um, do check out some of Mme. Athose's pictures of the event. Let's just say some of them really outta be in pictures.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Remote sensing update 'Time team' uncovers Civil War clues
Archaeologists armed with hi-tech gear may have uncovered remains from a legendary English Civil War encampment.

Experts say it could be the first hard evidence of the Fairfax Entrenchment, a military base high above Bingley headed by a top-ranking Roundhead general.

Using technology seen by millions on television's Time Team programme, geophysicists led by Dr John Gater turned up a tantalising subterranean view of a field at the St Ives estate near Harden which may have held part of the encampment Dr Gater, a regular on the Channel 4 show, carried out the painstaking electronic survey on behalf of a group which is aiming to plant a new wood on the site.
Not Alaska Ancient anchorage found at Netanya
A Netanya beach lifeguard who stumbled on an iron anchor while out for a swim has led marine archeologists to uncover the first evidence of an ancient anchorage for sailing vessels in Netanya, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.

The lifeguard, Ofer Harmoni, 37, summoned the archeologists to the scene after noticing the iron anchor near the Netanya shore during a swimming workout two weeks ago.

The authority's marine unit subsequently uncovered five large stone anchors dating back 4,000 years during an underwater survey at the site.
Excavators uncover 19th century sarcophagus
Monday afternoon, Darvis McIntosh was bulldozing the cut for a street in what will be the Lanie Brooke subdivision off Barnes Mill Road when the blade of his dozer hit a cylindrically shaped iron object.

“I called for my son Joseph who was working with me to run over and see what it was,” McIntosh said. “I thought I might have hit a piece of sewer pipe.”

Joseph was in for a shock when he peaked inside the iron case that was partially ripped open by the bulldozer.

“It’s a body!” he said. “You’ve uncovered a grave.”

There's a picture but it doesn't show anything.
"One of the things you develop is an aesthetic sense of dirt," Time's Secrets, Unearthed
Dirt is so important that archaeologists don't do anything so vulgar as actually dig it. They sort of gently coax it aside: "Please, Mr. Dirt Clod, would you kindly move?"

I know this because Heather Bouslog , assistant archaeologist for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, invited me to help excavate a Civil War-era site not far from the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

It's a neat little article and what he says is true so read the whole thing. One caveat though: Artifacts found in the same layer of dirt come from the same time, so it's important to know exactly what kind of dirt you're working with. Almost correct: artifacts in the same layer of dirt can be assumed to have been deposited at the same time; but they were not necessarily produced at the same time.
New moves to unearth secrets of Capital kirk
ARCHAEOLOGISTS are hoping to unravel the secrets which lie beneath one of Edinburgh's most historic buildings.

A council team is returning to the Tron Kirk, 30 years after a whole 16th century street was found in its basement.

They will investigate the front part of the building which has not previously been excavated, ahead of work being carried out to create a new cafe in the Kirk.

The public are set to be able to watch the dig as it happens when it begins in just over a week.

We know what your first thought was:
Burial ground could shed light on life and death of slaves
A paper trail documents their lives as human property, from their passage across the Atlantic to their sale as slaves for sugar plantations. Now a newly discovered burial ground promises to shed extensive new light on the lives and deaths of Africans in the Caribbean.

Researchers from Denmark and the U.S. Virgin Islands want to unearth up to 50 skeletons next year, hoping to learn about their diet, illnesses and causes of death, and thus broaden knowledge of slave life in the one-time Danish colony.

Descendants of slaves could discover ancestors through DNA tests. At public meetings, islanders have also embraced the excavations as a way for Europeans to recognize their historic role in the slave trade -- and perhaps to make new amends.

Good project. Also: . . .said David Brewer, an archaeologist with the U.S. Virgin Islands government

Talk about a peachy job. . . .

Monday, November 06, 2006

Magnificent Mayan civilization that attracts tourists stars in Mel Gibson's 'Apocalypto'
More than a thousand years after the Classic Mayas vanished from the magnificent cities they built in the tropical forests of Mexico and Central America, interest in their art, beliefs and traditions has never been higher.

That attention is likely to peak next month when Mel Gibson's $50 million epic "Apocalypto" opens in theaters nationwide. To be released by Disney's Touchstone Pictures on Dec. 8, the R-rated movie (for graphic violence and disturbing images) focuses on the end of the Mayan civilization.

Filmed in Veracruz, Mexico, and completely in the Mayan Yucatec language, the movie tells the story of a peaceful village that is violently conquered by another Mayan tribe. Many of the inhabitants are brutally killed and others captured, destined for mass sacrifice. The plot focuses on one villager, Jaguar Paw, who tries to rescue his family.

It mentions a fashion designer's collection featuring Maya-inspired clothing:

There doesn't seem to be a whole lot the Mayanists are up in arms about. . .yet. The mass sacrifices is the main bit of contention I've seen (i.e., that the Maya didn't do mass sacrifices), but the article seems to imply that similar sacrifices did happen. I believe the Bonampak murals show sacrifices involving numerous war captives, so maybe this isn't a big deal.
Biblical archaeology update Professor's digs may be key to discovering infamous cities
Getting to join a dig in the Holy Land may sound like a dream for anyone who has some Indiana Jones tendencies.

But it's a very attainable goal being offered by Stephen Collins, an Albuquerque biblical archaeologist, who said he has uncovered the definitive site of Sodom and Gomorrah in Jordan.

Collins, who has done one of seven planned excavations, will have a seminar in El Paso to discuss his excavation on the Sodom site, known as Tall el-Hammam, and how others can join him in December on his next trip. He will speak Sunday at St. Clement's and bring his mobile museum of biblical artifacts.

This sounds okay. . . .with one exception:
But his most exciting find is a shard of pottery with a glasslike surface that looks like trinitite, a substance formed at the Trinity Site atomic bomb test near Alamogordo in 1945.

Unclear whether Collins is providing this interpretation or the reporter. The rest of the article doesn't make him seem like a crank though.
Amateur archaeology update What’s the story with... amateur archaeology?
A new scheme called Scotland's Rural Past Project has just been launched by Scottish Culture Minister Patricia Ferguson. It's an attempt by Scottish cultural heritage agencies to give expert help to amateurs willing to augment the efforts of professionals. There is now funding to pay for training sessions and other costs. Around 40 groups in Scotland will have access to support. Turner says: "There is an enormous amount we don't know. For instance, we've done a lot of excavation work on St Kilda in the past few years and some of the evidence we are finding fundamentally challenges the written accounts of how people lived."
Overused archaeological pun, Reference #19,385 Future archaeologists will dig this atlas
The "Dinosaur Atlas," written by John Malam and John Woodward, consists of almost 100 pages of information on every prehistoric creature you can imagine.
The book tells us how we know that the reptiles existed, going into detail about various fossil records. It then goes on to introduce many classes of animals: reptiles of the land, sky and sea.
They are categorized by location and era, the writing heavily influenced by the theory of evolution. Six overleafed pages close in on a specific dinosaur and show the bone structure and joint movement as well as the supposed outer appearance and habitat of the animal.

Well, it's probably interesting, but that's paleontology, not archaeology.
Dig uncovers Britain's hunter-gatherer past
One of the country's richest archaeology sites has been uncovered at a Berkshire sewage works. Finds at the dig at Kintbury include 10,000-year-old flints left behind by ancient hunter-gatherers who lived at a time when Britain was still connected by land to Europe.

The archaeologists, led by Dr Roy Entwistle of Berkshire Archaeology Services, have also found Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman artefacts at the site, suggesting it had been in frequent use by humans for thousands of years.
Old graves keep public from new court site
Prying eyes won't be welcome for at least a year at the downtown site of a future joint Justice Court/City Court complex on Stone Avenue.
Certainly not when archaeologists are uncovering graves in the former city cemetery where the new court complex will sit..
Out of respect for the deceased and their relatives who may still live in the Old Pueblo, access to the 4.1-acre site will be restricted to official business until after workers exhume the bodies, store them, learn their identities and rebury them in another cemetery.

That seems a little extreme to me.
Niles has potential as 'major heritage tourist destination'
Fort Mackinac doesn't have anything on Fort St. Joseph in Niles when it comes to potential as a "major heritage tourist destination," Western Michigan University archaeologist Dr. Michael Nassaney said Wednesday night at The Museum at Southwestern Michigan College.

"This is a project that isn't of interest only to people in Niles and southwest Michigan," the anthropology professor said. "In fact, it's gaining national and international recognition among scholars. This site is real.

"I was recently asked to speak about the site in Nova Scotia at the French Colonial Historical Society's annual meeting. People throughout the country, throughout the world now, are very much interested in what we're doing at Fort St. Joseph," which represents one of the oldest settlements in lower Michigan.
Nerds to the rescue U. of I., USC students collaborating on unique archaeology project
Six students at the University of Illinois are wearing white gloves in class this semester. They’re learning to handle issues of age and fragility with aplomb and to make excellent first impressions.

The undergraduates are doing original research on a U. of I. collection of small signature stones that artisan scribes crafted up to 5,000 years ago. The research involves, among other things, examining, analyzing and documenting each item in minute detail, X-raying them, and rolling them out on soft clay, just as the original owners did when they needed to seal a deal, endorse and verify transactions.

Best part is that they are laser ranging all of them, both in a flat view of what the seal looks like rolled out and a 3D one in the round. They're also annotating them with (apparently) notes from a former researcher (Porada) and their own observations, so researchers anywhere can call up all of the info from the Web. Not sure what the x-rays are for though (that is, what they'll get out of them).

Friday, November 03, 2006

All eyes on Nubia
Of more than 150 papers that researchers presented at the 11th International Conference of Nubian Studies, the largest group concerned recent studies with special emphasis on current rescue operations in the area of the Fourth Nile Cataract.

Organisers made an effort to bring together papers that would present an overview of the most important archaeological sites under excavation in recent years, those where significant discoveries have recently been made. The conference provided an excellent opportunity to review the achievements made in Nubian studies over the 34 years since the 2nd conference took place in Warsaw in 1972, and conference committee director W Godlewski made particular mention of Nabta Playa, Kerma-Doukki Gel, Naga, Banganarti and Dongola.
We do that a lot Archaeologists dig up major find
ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Colchester have uncovered a major Roman find in the heart of the historic town.

The Head gate was one of the main Roman entrances to the ancient walled settlement and was situated where St John's Road, Crouch Street and Head Street now meet.

And on Saturday members of the Colchester Archaeological Trust (CAT) found the structure's central pier, proving that the gate had two arches and not one, as some people had speculated.
Egyptian papyri arrive on campus
Ancient papyri from an Egyptian excavation conducted for the University of California, Berkeley, more than a century ago have arrived on campus after a circuitous journey worthy of a mystery novel, campus officials announced at a news conference today (Wednesday, Nov. 1).

Following their discovery in Egypt, the papyri were sent to a German conservator, hidden in Berlin during World War II, concealed from East Germans intent on seizing them, smuggled to West Berlin and stashed in a shop, and stored in Switzerland. One roll was shipped to Boston in the 1930s, but the others remained hidden until the 1960s, when they, too, were shipped to Boston. They remained there until just a few weeks ago.

It's a good article, but it doesn't exactly say whether they've already been translated and published yet. If not, it's a significant. . . .discovery? Anything from the Middle Kingdom and earlier is significant especially if it deals with non-royal matters.
UConn students work to preserve watery archaeological site
Laurent Matson, a UConn-Avery Point senior, is shin-deep in water with his sleeve pushed up, fishing for the end of a piece of metal. A boat goes by and the wake splashes him. Nearby, Arthur Williams, a junior, is also suffering. Water has long since slopped over his knee-high boots and now it's marinating his cold toes.

Ah, archaeology. Ah, water. Ah, the pains of mixing the two on a chilly fall day.
Explorer to search depth of the Gulf
Dr. Robert Ballard, president of the Institute for Exploration at Mystic Aquarium and the man credited with finding the wreck of the RMS Titanic in 1985, has announced plans for an expedition into the Gulf of Mexico.

A team of project officials, including University of Connecticut professor Dr. Kevin McBride and Institute for Archaeological Oceanography professor Dr. Dwight Coleman, credited two graduate students with the idea for the mission, which was announced Wednesday morning at a press conference at the aquarium. The expedition will allow scientists to identify now-underwater land that was once the shoreline of North America during the Neolithic period.

Color me skeptical that they'll find anything.
And now. . . .the news from the EEF

Press report: "Preserving ancient treasures",,1932420,00.html
About Kent Weeks and the Theban Mapping Project's
site conservation materplan. "Some of my colleagues are very
pessimistic: they say 25, 50, or 100 years from now some of these
sites will have disappeared and I don't doubt for one moment that
they are right," says Prof Weeks." That tourists are "playing merry
hell with the heat and humidity levels" in tombs is illustrated by
tests with the tomb of Ramses VI: its temperature and humidity
are a steady 25C and 40% when the tomb is closed, but when
open to visitors this rises to 40C and 85%.... "As the humidity
increases the moisture content of the plaster increases [causing it
to] slide down the walls as if it were molten chocolate."
-- Another press report on damage by tourists to sites:
"Tourism damaging Egyptian heritage"

Press report: "Team helps save Egypt tomb mural”
“A Japanese [Kansai University] research team has
successfully removed a [plaster] mural in an ancient Egyptian
tomb [nl. the tomb of Princess Idut in Saqqara], using a technique
used on Japanese murals, so that preservation work can
be done on it."
-- Another press report on this:
"The team glued rayon paper with resin over parts of the mural
to be removed, using a type of seaweed paste to protect them
from breaking, and carefully separated the plaster from the
rock wall with knives."

Press report: “Egyptian Painted Wood Sarcophagus at Christie's”
On December 7, Christie’s will auction "an Egyptian painted
wood sarcophagus and mummy for Neskhons, TIP, Dyn. XXI".
"It comes with an impeccable provenance."

Press report: "Egypt trembles in front of 'made in China' pharaohs"
"The millions of souvenirs and trinkets snatched up by the
busloads of tourists flocking to the Old Cairo souk each
year are mostly manufactured in China, virtually spelling the
doom the local handicraft industry. (...) Chinese mass-produced
busts of pharaonic figures and alabaster scarabs sell like hot
cakes in Egypt's tourist markets, but the trained eye can still
identify their country of production, shopowners say. (...) "The
secret is to always check the eye."

Mario Capasso, The restoration of Egyptian and Greek Papyri
housed in Cairo Egyptian Museum (1997-2000), Università degli
Studi di Lecce, Lecce, 2001 (Gli Album del Centro di Studi
Papirologici, 1) - pdf-files (222 KB, 72 KB, 1.5 MB, 1.9 MB):
"The aim of this booklet is to illustrate briefly the work that a team of
papyrologists and egyptologists from Lecce and Bologna Universities
and restorers from Cairo Egyptian Museum have been doing since
1997 to preserve the Egyptian papyri exhibited on the walls of the
Museum as well as many Greek fragments which have been
precariously kept in envelopes and tin boxes in the Greek papyri

Online article: Geoffrey Chamberlain. "Historical perspectives
on health: Childbirth in Ancient Egypt., in: The Journal of the
Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, Nov 2004; 124:
284 - 286. In PDF, 2.4 MB.
"This article traces what we can piece together about
pregnancy of childbirth from the evidence we have in
tombs and papyri of Egypt."

Alfred Pawlik, "The Lithic Industry of the Pharaonic Site Kom al-Ahmar
in Middle Egypt and its relationship to the flint mines of the Wadi
al-Sheikh. Excavations and Sondings in a settlement of the Old Kingdom
1993-96", in: G. Weisgerber (ed.), Stone Age - Mining Age. Der Anschnitt,
Beiheft 19, 193-209. Deutsches Bergbau Museum. 2005. Online in
PDF, 1.3 MB.
Analysis of the lithic industries of the Old Kingdom layers excavated
in 1995 and 1996 by the Institute of Egyptology of the University of

End of EEF news