Friday, December 29, 2006

Indiana Jones update Lucas: Filming `Indiana Jones 4' in 2007
George Lucas said Friday that filming of the long-awaited "Indiana Jones" movie will begin next year.

Harrison Ford, who appeared in the three earlier flicks, the last one coming in 1989, is set to star again.

Lucas said he and Steven Spielberg recently finalized the script for the film.

"It's going to be fantastic. It's going to be the best one yet," the 62-year-old filmmaker said during a break from preparing for his duties as grand marshal of Monday's Rose Parade.

Exact film locations have not been decided yet, but Lucas said part of the movie will be shot in Los Angeles.

Yeah, and some enterprising young squealer Quisling intern or something ought to forward a script my way. . . . .
It doesn't get any better than this Archaeologist Fiona sets up new brewery
A CUMBRIAN woman has swapped archaeology for ale to open up a brewery in Geltsdale.

Fiona Deal, 42, decided on the move after years of amateur brewing.

She had been working as an archaeologist at Tullie House Museum, Carlisle, on short term contracts.

But now Fiona, a mother-of-five and grandmother-of-one, has set up at Brampton Old Brewery’s former industrial units.
And now. . . . .the news from the EEF

Press report: "King Tut hit by the curse of the dome",,2087-2517951,00.html
"Plans for a grand exhibition of the teenage pharaoh’s treasures
at the [Millennium Dome, London] have been thrown into doubt
because Egyptian officials will not allow the artefacts to be displayed
next to a proposed casino. " (..) "Earlier this year Hawass vetoed
plans for the Tutankhamun exhibition to be displayed at a South
African resort after he discovered that it included a casino. "
-- Another press report:

Press report: "Ancient site to go nuclear"
"The National Democratic Party's announcement a month ago
that Egypt is seeking to revive its nuclear programme and
means to build a large power station neighbouring the
Graeco-Roman site of Tel Al-Dabaa on the Alexandria-
Marsa-Matrouh road caught the headlines of newspapers
and sparked uproar among archaeologists who feared the
construction would destroy a major archaeological site."

Press report: "12th century BC carving may hold
the secret of Karnak Temple"
Some more details about the recently discovered
stela -- with photo and fairly detailed description!

Press report: "Judas's Story?"
Report of a lecture on the Gospel of Judas. The
relevant part is at the end: "Meyer concluded by noting
that more ancient texts have been found in Egypt by
a Polish team of archaeologists digging in the famed
Valley of the Kings."

Press report: "PLOS One: Peer Review Begone!"
"Peer review costs journals, in time, in labor, and in restricting the
number of publishable articles to be included. Those costs are
passed along to subscribers, and that is, no joke, one of the main
blocks to converting established journals to open access. "
[Ed. Blogged about this once, but I can't find it.]

Dr Nicole Hansen ( has
made available online a presentation she made at the Digital
Humanities and Computer Science Colloquium held at the
University of Chicago in November 2006. It consists of a
5 minute Flash video plus a 2 page PDF handout: "How to
Reach a Million Students: Teaching Egyptology Online".

Online version: Alexander Turner Cory, The Hieroglyphics of
Horapollo Nilous, Chthonios Books, London, 1840. XII, 174 pp.,
3 pls.
"In the first stages of hieroglyphical interpretation, this work afforded
no inconsiderable light. But upon the whole, it has scarcely received
the attention which it may justly claim, as the only ancient volume
entirely devoted to the task of unravelling the mystery in which
Egyptian learning has been involved; and as one, which in many
instances, unquestionably contains the correct interpretations. In
the present edition of the work, where any interpretations have
been ascertained to be correct, the chapter has been illustrated
by the corresponding hieroglyphic. In those cases where the
hieroglyphic is mentioned, but an incorrect interpretation assigned,
engravings have been given of it, as well as of the hieroglyphic
corresponding to such interpretation, wherever these have been
ascertained: and they have been inserted in the hope that they
may lead persons better acquainted with the subject to discover
more accurate meanings than we have been able to suggest."
Without the parallel Greek text which appears in the original

Digitized books from "Google Booksearch"
-- Jean-François Champollion, L'Égypte sous les Pharaons ou
recherches sur la géographie, la religion, la langue, les écritures
et l'histoire de l'Égypte avant l'invasion de Cambyse. Description
géographique, de Bure, Paris, 1814.
vol. I - xxvi, 378 pp. - pdf-file (11.8 MB)

A. G. Nerlich, I. Wiest, U. Löhrs, F. Parsche and P. Schramel,
"Extensive pulmonary haemorrhage in an Egyptian mummy", in:
Virchows Archiv, Volume 427, Number 4 / December, 1995,
pp. 423-429; in PDF, 2.7 MB.
"Report on morphological and trace element findings of
several internal organs from an Egyptian mummy approximately
dating from the year 950 B.C. By use of a multidisciplinary
approach we succeeded in discovering evidence for severe
and presumably recurrent pulmonary bleeding during life."
[For the drug problem, see EEF threads of March '04 ("Misc")
and Dec '04 ("Hemp"). The plants refered to in note 6 would
be of the Solanaceae family.]

* E. Panczyk, M. Ligeza and L. Walis, "Application of INAA to
the Examination of Art Objects: Research in Poland", in Journal
of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, Volume 244, Number 3
/ June, 2000, pp. 543-551. In PDF, 914 kb.
"Systematic studies on art objects using instrumental neutron
activation analysis (INAA) and neutron autoradiography, [in order
to determine] concentrations of trace elements in [several objects,
including] the clay fillings of sarcophagi of Egyptian mummies."

R. G. V. Hancock, M. D. Grynpas and B. Alpert, "Are
archaeological bones similar to modern bones? An INAA
assessment", in Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry
Volume 110, Number 1 / March, 1987, pp. 283-291. In
PDF, 350 kb.
"For more than a decade, archaeometrists have been analyzing
archaeologically recovered human bones in an attempt to relate
their trace element contents to diet. Although the problems of
diagenesis have been recognized, the variable effects have been
difficult to establish. In this paper, an assessment is made of the
analytical reliability of the INAA determination of major and trace
elements, using their short-lived radioisotopes in both regular and
defatted modem cancellous bone, and in modem cortical bone. This
modem bone information is then compared with analytical data
for bones from Egyptian mummies ranging in age from ~ 2000
to ~ 3700 BP, and with normally-buried 11th century French bones."

Oxford Eprints:
-- John Baines, Open palms, in: Atti del VI Congresso Internazionale
di Egittologia, vol. I, Torino, 1992, pp. 29-32 - pdf-file (63 KB)
"... There are relatively few standard poses in Egyptian art in which
the rendering of palm lines is appropriate. It is desirable to explore
why this form was relatively uncommon and what meanings were
attached to it and whether it correlates with other relatively unusual
details changes in anatomical representation ..."
-- John Baines, Symbolic roles of canine figures on early monuments,
in: Archéo-Nil, vol. 3, pp. 57-74 (1993) - pdf-file (2.8 MB)
"Late predynastic Egyptian representations of canine figures on
palettes and other objects can be divided into jackals, wild dogs
(lycaon pictus) - which are very prominent - and domesticated
dogs, among which several breeds can be distinguished ... The
emergence of the king at the centre of the dynastic system of
decoration and the identification of king and lion influenced
profoundly the presentation of canines."
-- For earlier Oxford Eprints, see EEFNEWS (356), (376), (380)
and (391), most articles written by John Baines.

Claire Newton, Upper Egypt: vegetation at the beginning of
the third millennium BC inferred from charcoal analysis at
Adaïma and Elkab, in: Journal of Archaeological Science,
vol. 32, pp. 355-367 (2005)
"Archaeological charcoals from two Predynastic sites located
in Upper Egypt are studied to help reconstruct woody
vegetation. 'Ash-jars' from the cemeteries at Adaïma and
Elkab appear to have been filled with domestic hearth
residues as offerings. The results show the predominance
of Acacias at Elkab and Tamarix at Adaïma."

End of EEF news
Now world can see work on £3.3m project thanks to webcam
BERWICK'S first public webcam is now up and running so people all over the world can watch the construction of a multi-million pound office development.
The camera has been installed on the rear wall of the Berwick Advertiser, overlooking all developments at the Berwick WorkSpace, a £3.3 million project to develop office and conference space for use by small to medium sized businesses.

Here's the site link. Unfortunately, the web cam only shows a still picture every 5 minutes and there's not much to see (at this time anyway). The blog is. . .eh. The Links page has some nice sites on it though.
Python cave update "Python Cave" Reveals Oldest Human Ritual, Scientists Suggest
A team of archaeologists has discovered what it says is evidence of humankind's oldest ritual.

Africa's San people may have used a remote cave for ceremonies of python worship as much as 70,000 years ago—30,000 years earlier than the oldest previously known human rites—the team says.

"The level of abstract thinking within the peoples of [this period] and the continuity of their cultural patterns is proving to be astonishing for such an early date," said Sheila Coulson, an archaeologist at Norway's University of Oslo.

Coulson and colleague Nick Walker base their findings on artifacts found in Rhino Cave, a cavern discovered in the 1990s in the remote Tsodilo Hills of Botswana.
Plastered Syrian Skulls from the Dawn of Civilisation
In the Neolithic period the Levantine Fertile Crescent ushered in one of the most profound cultural revolutions in the history of the Mediterranean basin. This environmentally blessed cradle of civilisation played host to modern humans as they made the crucial transition from hunter-gatherers to sedentary farmers to emerge as proto-urban societies. A conspicuous enigma of the world’s first ‘city dwellers’ was the most extraordinary ritual practice of plastering human skulls, which is attested at several major Neolithic sites, such as Jericho in the Palestinian Territories, Çatalhöyük in Turkey, and ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan. To this list may now be added five skulls recently excavated by Danielle Stordeur of the CNRS at Tell Aswad in northern Syria.

There are several short articles on that page.
The wines and herbs in the land of Pan
In early December, the interdisciplinary Oino Istoro (or Talking Wine) group and Ktima Spyropoulos winery held the “Symposium of Arcadian Wine Talk.”

I presented a paper there, which I want to summarize here. The inspiration for this paper came from an extract from “The Deipnosophists” by Athenaeus, which refers to certain wines with unusual qualities: “Theophrastus says that in Heraia, Arcadia, they produce a wine which when drunk stimulates men and makes women get pregnant. He also says that in Keryneia in Achaia, there grows a vine variety from which is made a type of wine that makes pregnant women miscarry; they even miscarry if they eat its grapes. The wine of Troezen makes those who drink it infertile. In Thassos they make a wine that is a soporific and another that causes insomnia.”

“Theophrastus says that in Heraia, Arcadia, they produce a wine which when drunk stimulates men. . .

Otherwise known as "beer goggles".
Medici death mystery solved. . . .again Tuscan church reveals answer to mystery of Medici deaths
Picking through centuries-old rubbish, masonry and discarded body parts beneath an abandoned Tuscan church, an Italian historian believes she has solved one of history's great crime mysteries.

For more than four centuries, researchers have puzzled over the fact that Francesco I Medici, the son of the first Grand Duke, Cosimo, died within hours of his wife in October 1587. Legend had it they were poisoned by his brother and successor, a cardinal.

. . .

Her search yielded part of a human liver "the size of a hazelnut" and two other body parts that have defied identification. Tests showed the liver was that of a man and its DNA matched that taken from remains in Francesco's tomb. The other body parts belonged to a woman and, like the fragment of liver, they revealed high concentrations of arsenic.

Actually interesting.
9,000-year-old artifact stirs archaeological excitement
The black flint stone shaped like a spearhead immediately caught Joan Rennick's eye during a routine beach stroll one summer afternoon seven years ago. A talisman collector, Rennick had been limited to a moose tooth and a hollow rock during her previous wanderings across New Brunswick.

But this discovery was different.

"Gee! It's my lucky day," she recalled thinking. She started wearing the rock around her neck every day, for good luck, without knowing her talisman was a 9,000-year-old artifact that could help scientists understand the cultural sequence of North American civilization.

Now, after the prehistoric tool was authenticated, a local archaeologist is planning to dig the beach around the fittingly named Cape Spear region on the province's east coast.

Archaeologist Brent Suttie believes Ms. Rennick's rock was crafted into a hunting weapon between 7,000 and 7,500 B.C.

Note to self: Do more beachcombing.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Fight! Fight! An alert reader notified us of a rather large kerfuffle going on regarding archaeology in Israel. I'm, er, somewhat hesitant to link to this for fear of touching off a political maelstrom, but there's some good archaeological issues involved anyway, so it's probably worth the risk. Besides, it's not like you guys are comment-happy. . . . .

Basics: An anthropology professor at Barnard College, Nadia Abu El-Haj has written a book, ”Facts on the ground: archaeological practice and territorial self-fashioning in Israeli society” (Chicago, 2001), charging Israeli archaeology in general with gross archaeological misconduct in order to construct a Zionist view of the past.

Please note that some of the blogs linked herein are not anthropological/archaeological in nature.

Start here. A response by one of the affected particulars is here. Follow the links therein. Actually, there's not a whole lot of light shed on the actual archaeological claims being made, but clicking around and reading gives a sense of what's going on. This ain't my area, so I can't comment much. Bulldozers, or at least backhoes, aren't exactly unknown at archaeological sites; often you'll use a backhoe to dig a quick trench to get a sedimentological profile so you have some idea of the sort of stratification you're dealing with. And, though it still makes me shudder, picks and shovels can be used with some discretion for removing, say, large deposits of mud brick wall collapse.

A search on Yahoo didn't produce much more in the way of strictly archaeological commentary. But, YMMV.
Archaeology has its Top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2006.

Boat provides historical insight

A Bronze Age logboat which had lain unseen in the River Tay for 3,000 years is being studied by archaeologists.

It is hoped the find will yield important new information about how human ancestors lived.

Although the boat, made from the trunk of a single oak, was found five years ago, it was only lifted out of the Tay during the summer.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Computers F Anyone's I, I got a new Samsung SyncMaster 940BW LCD monitor for the office computer (I was provided with a CRT, blehh). I like this one, but it took me a while to get the right resolution. I've got it on 1440 by 900. Other configurations just made the icon text look all weird.

Interestingly, I first discovered the joys of the LCD screen while in. . .Egypt! I spent a couple months there in 1994 doing a little Fayum project and had a couple of weeks layover due to holidays and waiting for permissions, blah blah blah, so I spent quite a bit of time on a Toshiba monochrome laptop translating an old Fortran seriation program into. . . .Pascal, I believe. I found that I could sit and stare at that monochrome LCD screen for hours without getting all bleary-eyed.
Obvious headline of the year Report: Rains damage Peru mud ruins
Heavy rains damaged several adobe walls in the ancient ruins of Chan Chan, the world's largest mud city on Peru's northern coast, the newspaper El Comercio reported Saturday.

An unusual downpour Friday morning saturated the top seven inches of the walls in a southern portion of the ruins and penetrated the sides, Cristobal Campana, the director of the archaeological site, told the newspaper.

With more rains expected in the usually arid coastal desert zone, workers were covering the walls with plastic tarps at the site near Trujillo, nearly 300 miles northwest of the capital, Lima.
Mysterious Egyptian Glass Formed by Meteorite Strike, Study Says
Strange specimens of natural glass found in the Egyptian desert are products of a meteorite slamming into Earth between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago, scientists have concluded.

The glass—known locally as Dakhla glass—represents the first clear evidence of a meteorite striking an area populated by humans.

. . .

"This meteorite event would have been catastrophic for all living things," said Maxine Kleindienst, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto in Canada.

"Even a relatively small impact would have exterminated all life for [several] miles."

Egypt apparently has a reasonable store of meteorites, too. One of the Geological Survey guys told me they got burned once from someone pretending to be a meteorite expert who wanted to borrow one of their specimens for analysis. He ended up skipping off with it and selling it. Apparently, meteorites are a high priced commodity. And one of the big reasons they've really tightened up export requirements for geological and archaeological samples.
Shattered clues for solving Greek island's riddle
Unlike its larger, postcard-perfect neighbors in the Aegean Sea, Keros is a tiny rocky dump inhabited by a single goatherd.

But the barren islet was of major importance to the mysterious Cycladic people, a sophisticated pre-Greek civilization with no written language that flourished 4,500 years ago and produced strikingly modern-looking artwork.

A few miles from the resorts of Mykonos and Santorini, Keros is a repository of art from the seafaring culture whose flat-faced marble statues inspired the work of 20th century masters Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore.

Indeed, more than half of all documented Cycladic figurines in museums and collections worldwide were found on Keros. Now, excavations by a Greek-British archaeology team have unearthed a cache of prehistoric statues -- all deliberately broken -- that they hope will help solve the Keros riddle.

. . .

"What we do have clearly is what must be recognized as the earliest regional ritual center in the Aegean," [excavation leader Colin Renfrew] said.

Either that or "We always just dump the broken stuff over on that island. There's no on there anyway."

Good article though, read the whole thing.
Medieval watercourse unearthed
Workmen preparing the site of new public toilets have unearthed a 600-year-old sandstone watercourse, believed to have been an important feature of the Shrewsbury Abbey grounds in medieval times.

The find was made as contractors broke the ground for the new loos being built in Abbey Foregate.

Construction is due to start in the new year, and archaeologists were hired by Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council to keep a watching eye on the development.

The existence of a redundant Victorian culvert was known and had been recorded some years ago, and a pair of brick tunnels were duly unearthed.

Read to the end for a bit of controversy.
Sutton amateur archaeologists close in on their ultimate goal
IAN RAY reports on a project that shows how a community-organised venture has made a significant contribution to our knowledge of local pre-history.

FOR more than three years now, a group of volunteers, who have named themselves the Sutton Archaeological Group, have worked steadily to excavate a Bronze Age barrow at the village's gravel pits.

The barrow - a Bronze Age burial mound - has already provided a glimpse into the activities of the people in the area, but the team hopes to dig deeper and even uncover some human remains.
Extinctions update Climate change didn't kill megafauna
AUSTRALIA'S giant prehistoric animals were killed off by humans, not climate change, new research indicates.
Ninety per cent of Australia's so-called megafauna - prehistoric animals such as giant goannas, three-metre tall kangaroos and rhino-sized marsupials - died out within 20,000 years of human arrival.

But the lack of data from the years preceding human arrival has made it difficult to determine whether environmental changes or human hunting and habitat destruction killed off the giant animals.
New video from The Archaeology Channel

Friends and colleagues: Don't believe everything you see on TV!
Archaeologists increasingly are concerned with depictions of their
discipline on television and how this affects public understanding.
A personal (and light-hearted) reflection of this concern by an
archaeologist is the subject of Excavating Television, the latest
video feature on our nonprofit streaming-media Web site, The
Archaeology Channel (

In this personal-voice and very witty short film by University of
Southern California student Amy Ramsey, the archaeologist/filmmaker
explores what the public knows, and often misconstrues, about her
field of study. She interviews people and finds out that they often
have inaccurate perceptions about archaeology. She concludes that
the media are largely responsible for misleading people about
archaeology and urges her audience to be a bit skeptical about
archaeology stories they see and hear through media sources.

I admit I have some difficulty getting worked up over the whole "media representation" issue. It's just a fact of life that What's On TV isn't a whole lot like real life. The latest group getting the attention is the forensics people who are all agog that CSI is just getting it all wrong and are Not Portraying Them Realistically. Of course, not real life is either too boring or far too coarse and exciting for short periods to be interesting viewing. I've worked with ER docs and spent many an enjoyable hour watching the actual real life ER shows on Discovery and the like, seeing them make truly heroic efforts to save lives, with humor, sensitivity, and a certain amount of nonchalance borne of repetition. I'd thought, for example, that putting in a chest tube was an interesting and certainly useful technique; but then I turned on NBC's ER for the first time and learned that it was actually quite a heroic and risky procedure that should only be attempted by George Clooney ("Okay, stand back. . . .I'm going to. . . .put in a chest tube!").

So enjoy them, and if anyone asks, just say no, aliens didn't build the pyramids.
Consumer note: PIAA wipers are the best I have ever found. That is all. Archaeological blogging will continue shortly. I hope you all had a faaaaaabulous holiday weekend and were far too busy enjoying friends and family that you didn't notice that no archaeoblogging was taking place. For what it's worth, I was doing the above and also dealing with a new little varmint that has entered the ArchaeoBlog household:

Yeah, he's got one eye. The female consensus on a name seems to be "Winkie" which I am attempting to avoid (it's just so. . . .girly). Actually, "Indiana" is in the running because he's a fearless little explorer, which might be partly explained by the fact that his depth perception is a little off and so he tends to just jump everywhere. But, as usual, the proper name will eventually make itself known.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New issue of American Scientist Not any articles of really archaeological interest, though Why We Develop Food Allergies may be of some interest.

And there's an interview with Steven Casey who has written on design issues. Lawdy, I could go on about this, especially with software. Anyone remember Ami Pro, the word processor from Lotus? Beautiful piece of work it was. I'd been using WordPerfect 5.1 for a long time on an old Leading Edge PC (DOS! monochrome monitor! phosphorescent green!) and really quite liked it. Then everything was switching to Windows 3.x (gag) and I had to as well. WP didn't really have a good Winblows product at the time, and I always hated Word (still do, mostly) but then I discovered Ami Pro. It was one of the first WYSIWYG (bonus for those who know what that means) (actually, maybe not, it means you're an old nerd) word processors on the PC side of things. Very well designed. They made the interface such that the tasks you do 90% of the time were readily available and easy to figure out. Other less-used tasks were more in the background but still pretty easy to locate help on how to do it. It wasn't terribly pretty, but it was really a joy to use. Like WP 5.1 ended up being, you got used to not paying attention to the software itself, but on the words you were writing. That's the sign of a good application: you forget it's there and concentrate on the work you're doing. That generally necessitates a fairly clean interface, with just a few buttons and status bars visible at any time. Keyboard shortcuts ought to be useful as well.

A couple of years ago, I also had the misfortune to shop for a new alarm clock radio. Admission: I hate buzzing, beeping, clanging, ringing LOUD alarm clocks. I am not one of those people that needs a brass band and a physical action (i.e., turning it off) to get out of bed in the morning. I like a radio that will just bring me awake and be somewhat pleasant to listen to for a minute or two. I also like one that's easy to set, reset, turn off, etc. And one that sounds reasonably well.

That is a difficult set of criteria anymore. Ended up going through three different makes/models before finding one that is marginally acceptable. One had a brilliant feature: gradually increasing the volume so you wake up more gently. And it really good sound quality. Great, right? Except: they didn't provide a way to set the maximum volume. So unless you turn it OFF it gets so loud it practically shakes you out of bed. Worst part was that it said on the packaging that it had an adjustable volume (liars). A second one had a similar feature that, ahem, let you adjust the maximum volume. . . .but only by physically hitting a button when it got loud enough for you. No, I don't want to have to hit a stupid button to keep it from blowing out my eardrums every morning, thank you very much.
The latest version sounds okay, doesn't have the gradual volume feature, but at least it requires nothing in the way of physical action. It's trouble is that it's got so many features and buttons and what-not that I have to read the manual to figure out what sequence of actions to perform to turn the damn alarm off so it won't go off on a weekday that I don't have to get up. I do have a backup in another room that is easy to program, but it sounds like a transistor radio from 1965.

Okay, gripe session off. Next time: The ideal design for the urinal.
Applied archaeology in action 3,000-year-old dam revives farming in Turkish village
In this central Turkish village, peasants and archaeologists celebrate a unique achievement -- a 3,246-year-old dam, once buried under mud and slime, is back in service to irrigate farmlands.

The dam is a heritage of the Hittites, who ruled over vast areas of the Middle East from 2000 to 1000 BC, fought Pharaoh Rameses The Great, among others, and built some of the biggest cities of the time in the heart of Anatolia, the Asian part of modern Turkey.

The 2,500 inhabitants of Alacahoyuk know the Hittites well: since the early 20th century, archaeologists have been digging the remains of a royal city at the entrance of their village about 160 kilometers (100 miles) east of Ankara.

Very neat.
Whoa Professor Bruce Trigger: June 18, 1937 - December 1, 2006
Bruce Trigger was a leading expert in three distinct fields of archaeology: as a historian of the discipline; as an Egyptologist; and as an authority on the aboriginal cultures of ancient North America. He placed archaeology as an academic discipline and a practice within a broader context of social and cultural evolution.

As a historian of his discipline, Trigger was best known for his monumental History of Archaeological Thought, published by Cambridge University Press in 1989; the 2006 revised edition, which appeared just before his final illness, was in many ways a new book. It critically analysed not only the distant history of antiquarianism from the Middle Ages and Renaissance to the present day, but dissected the variety of current approaches to archaeology, including the “ processual”, “post-processual”, “critical” and “feminist” variants, with even-handed expertise.

Well, that's a shock. Not that he passed, but that it took so long to find out. The news articles I've found all go to Dec 1-3 or so, but I've not gotten any notifications about it.

Best wishes to his family and friends from ArchaeoBlog.
Ancient Artificial Eye Unearthed in Iran
Around the time that the great pyramids were built in Egypt and Stonehenge was erected in England, a young woman living in what is now Iran lost an eye and was fitted with a prosthetic device.

The 4,800-year-old artificial eye was recently found by archaeologists working at the Burnt City historical site in southeastern Iran, according to a report published by the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, a London-based research and educational program.

The find supports speculation that such prosthetics were available to a fortunate few in the ancient world. An early Hebrew text, for example, references a woman who wore an artificial eye made of gold.

Couple of pictures of it, too. Here's one:

Seems not to look too realistic. Painted maybe?
Mysterious rings found at tomb of Chinese only empress
Chinese archaeologists have found a group of huge rings at the site of the 1,300-year-old tomb of Wu Zetian, China's only empress, but they are unable to explain their existence.

At least 10 rings appeared on aerial photographs taken by experts from the Xi'an Preservation and Restoration Center of Cultural Relics and Qianling Museum in a survey of Qianling.

Most of the rings were 30 to 40 meters in diameter and were in a zone four kilometers long from east to west and two kilometers from south to north, said Qin Jianming, a researcher with the center.

The most eye-catching was the largest ring, with the diameter of 110 meters sited in fields, he said.

Crop circles!!!!!
Ancient Italian Decree: 'No Dumping'
The mountains of garbage that often fill the streets in the Italian city of Naples and surrounding areas aren't just a modern-day problem, suggest ancient wall inscriptions.

Using infrared reflectography, a non-destructive technique commonly used to peek beneath the surface of paintings, Italian researchers have brought to light two inscriptions against garbage dumping in the ancient Roman town Herculaneum.

The modest town was destroyed, along with its more famous neighbor Pompeii, in the first-century eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

They don't provide the text though.
Ancient site becomes a jewel
Thirteen thousand years ago, people lived in northern Colorado's Lindenmeier Valley, hunting ancient, giant bison.

Five hundred years ago, people there built stone tipi rings and dug earthen ovens.

Today, the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County together own 23,000 acres of the famous archaeological site - and they're trying to figure out how people can enjoy the area without destroying it.

"It's a pretty amazing site, culturally," said Daylan Figgs, senior environmental planner with Fort Collins' natural-areas program. "If you're an archaeologist, you've heard of the Lindenmeier site."

True 'dat. Although I am unable to find a web site dedicated to it. . . .

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Thierry Benderitter sends this web site update via the EEF list:

We have launched a new tomb on OsirisNet : the so-called mastaba of Ptahhotep.
You think you know everything on this famous Saqqara monument? Maybe not...
And a bit of philosophical musings The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook

Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word "cake." I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert. Still, I feel that this may be my most profound achievement yet, and have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.

Via Insty

Note: There's also this classic.
Uninformed opinions about archaeology


Reader Amber sends this link along. With talking dinosaurs, how can you go wrong?
Shrouded 5000-year-old child unearthed in southeastern Iran
The skeleton of a 5000-year-old child wrapped in a winding sheet was discovered at the foot of a wall in the Taleb Khan Mound, which is located near the Burnt City in Sistan-Baluchestan Province.

“The skeleton was discovered in a room of a house, while remnants of a white cloth were found around it. The cloth shows that the child had been shrouded before burial,” Mehdi Miri, the director of the archaeological team working at the site, said on Tuesday.

“It was common for children to be buried at home during prehistoric eras, but what astounds the archaeologists is that the Taleb Khan Mound is located a short distance from the Burnt City and was one of the city’s satellite villages, but the Burnt City has a cemetery separate from the urban area while the Taleb Khan site has burials in its residential area,” he explained.
Archaeologist says Spokane site of oldest community in state
Late last month city officials celebrated the 125 anniversary of incorporation. As it turns out, that's barely a pimple on 8,000 years of human habitation at the confluence of the Spokane River and Latah Creek.

In terms of continuous human use and habitation verified by radiocarbon dating, recent discoveries have made Spokane the oldest city in the state, said Stanley C. Gough, archaeology director at Eastern Washington University in nearby Cheney.

"This documents for the first time people actually living here at this age," Gough said.

Although this is weird:

"We've known that all our lives," said Buzz Gutierrez, a Spokane Indian tribal member who was born and raised just upstream from the traditional encampment.

"It's great for me to know that somebody is going to admit that native peoples have been here for more than 3,000 years," he said. "We can say to the Europeans, 'We've been here longer than you thought."'

Errrr, no, we've always figured people have been 'round about these parts for several more thousand years.
Blogging update New blog software.

Blogger has updated this thing, but I haven't looked at it yet. The Posting window is different but not substantially so. But it seems wickedly faster. . . . .

So if anything gets posted here you find utterly inane and trite, you may immediately blame it on Blogger.
Archaeologists find cradle of china in north China
Archaeologists have unearthed three high-temperature ceramic kilns dating back about 2,000 years in a North China village, which shows North China was also the cradle of porcelain, against the conception that porcelain only originates from south China.

The archaeologists from the Hebei provincial cultural relic research institute drew the conclusion on the basis that analysis on wares in the kilns suggests they were made at more than 1,100 Celsius degree, exceeding the temperature of 800-900 Celsius degree required for pottery-making.

Although built during the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 24), the kilns in Duting village, Tangxian County of Hebei Province are in good conditions. They were named Duting Kilns after the place where it was excavated according to the convention in archeology.
Ancient Egyptian carving sheds light on Karnak temple
Egypt announced the discovery of a carving dating back to the 12th century BC which could hold the key to valuable information on Karnak temple, the largest ancient religious site in the world.

The large quartzite stone, carved with 17 lines of hieroglyphics, highlights the achievements of high priest Bak En Khonso and his contributions to the grand hall at Karnak.

The 170 cm by 80 cm carving (5.5 by 2.5 feet), unearthed by a team of archeologists in the southern Nile city of Luxor, also depicts the high priest's family tree.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Peat bog psalter update How a manuscript found in an Irish peat bog was saved
The first stage of the work, which has almost been completed, is a full investigation of the book in its excavated condition. This has involved an analysis of the binding and book structure, photography, magnetic resonance imaging, multi spectral imaging, analysis of vellum deterioration and an investigation of pollen samples.

Work is about to start on the second stage, which will involve the delicate separation of the pages and the process of drying out the vellum. Sadly, the vellum losses mean that only a fairly small part of the text of the Psalms remains, but it should be enough to enable scholars to see how the book has been written, decorated and bound.

Just don't wreck it.

F Anyone's I, this reminds me of one of my favorite Sci Fi books, Inherit The Stars by James P. Hogan. Great book from the 1970s. It's set in about 2030-ish and a human is found on the moon wearing a space suit, and it's dated to 50,000 years ago. The author has a web site as well, which he adds to fairly often, in addition to answering reader email. The book itself is scientifically well done, with one of the characters providing good basic summaries of evolutionary theory (which is kind of odd since Hogan seems to be entirely un-enamored of said theory, which you will find out if you peruse enough of his site). But it's really a first-rate story and really put the "science" in science fiction. And the ending is truly gripping, if you happen to be a nerdy science type. It was pretty influential on the young ArchaeoBlogger that was me; it made the tedium of real science seem interesting.

But back on topic, the lead character had developed a machine that could reproduce solid objects in 3D (as a hologram) to whatever magnification you wanted. Like a great big 3D real time CAT scanner. They used it to create images of the inside of books found on the body without having to open it. This has slowly been coming true with modern imaging -- see its use on mummies all the time -- but I don't know if it has the precision necessary to scan down to particular depths. Fiendishly complicated, that.
Harebrained hypotheses prove invaluable to scientific debate
In 1926, Harvard University’s W.M. Davis published a paper in the journal Science titled, "The Value of Outrageous Geological Hypotheses." Davis argued that when a discipline, which in his case was geology, got too stodgy and conservative, it was in danger of "theoretical stagnation."

Science sometimes needs wild and seemingly harebrained ideas to shake things up and get people thinking outside the box. Davis wrote, "We may be pretty sure that the advances yet to be made in geology will be at first regarded as outrages upon the accumulated convictions of today, which we are too prone to regard as geologically sacred."

True. Continental drift seemed pretty harebrained at the time.

Still not buying the ancient astronauts though.
Prehistoric S. Texas comes alive on Web
Archaeologists work hard unlocking the secrets of the past. They dig up artifacts, catalog them and figure out what they mean. Then they stow them in drawers where few people ever see them and write about them in dry academic journals few people ever read. aims to change all that.

A self-titled virtual museum, the Web site is dusting off the story of prehistoric Texas, wrapping it in a shiny package and presenting it to a global audience. It has easy-to-read narratives, pictures, movies, children's games and lesson plans for teachers, all meticulously compiled using 80 years of research and artifacts from all the state's major archaeological collections, including one at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Looks like a very good site. I checked out a couple of the sites including Lubbock Lake. Lots of historical photos and artifact photos.The "Credits and Sources" links give some background. Now we just need some of the papers published on the sites available online. . . .
Non-archaeological story Village basks in success
A VILLAGE in the Italian Alps is finally basking in winter sunlight thanks to a giant mirror installed on a mountain top to reflect the sun's rays into the main square.
Viganella, with a population of less than 200, lies in a valley so steep that each year from November 11 to February 2 it hardly receives any sunshine.

That was until Mayor Pierfranco Midali decided to do something about it.

Now a five-metre high, eight-metre wide mirror tracks the sun's movement and reflects its rays into Viganella's historic piazza.

Saw this a while back on a television program, before they had actually installed the thing. As it says, little sunshine reaches the town because it's situated in a steep-sided valley. That must be totally freaky.

Monday, December 18, 2006

New agreement to protect England's archaeology

English Heritage and the Highways Agency have signed a new memorandum of understanding designed to protect the country's archaeology.

The agreement, signed by Highways Agency chief executive, Archie Robertson, and English Heritage chief executive, Simon Thurley, builds on an existing agreement signed in 1993 and signals the start of closer co-ordination between the two agencies.

Not really sure what the significance of this is.
Underwater archaeology update Egypt’s Sunken Treasures reveals lost world
The great port of Alexandria was a bustling trade hub, a transit point for merchandise from throughout the ancient world, at least until much of it vanished into the Mediterranean Sea.

Treasure hunters have long scoured the Egyptian coast for vestiges of the port, thought to have disappeared about 13 centuries ago. Now, an exhibit at Paris’ Grand Palais brings together 500 ancient artifacts recovered from the area by underwater archaeologists using sophisticated nuclear technology.

Egypt’s Sunken Treasures features colossuses of pink granite, a 17-tonne slab inscribed with hieroglyphics, a phalanx of crouching sphinx, pottery, amulets and gold coins and jewellery — all painstakingly fished out of the Mediterranean. Some of the oldest artifacts are estimated to have spent 2,000 years underwater.
Experts out of joint over bones
Allegheny County forensic experts should have been called to Point State Park immediately after old human bones were found last week during excavation for a $35 million park renovation, officials at the county medical examiner's office said Thursday.

"What if this was a homicide? What if this was a mass murder? What if this was a mass grave?" said Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist with the medical examiner's office. "When they found more pieces of bone, why did they not bring them to us, the office with jurisdiction? As a forensic pathologist, I feel very insulted by this -- I feel slighted."

Last week, a crew from Lowellville, Ohio-based S.E.T. Inc. -- hired by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as general contractor -- was digging a trench behind the Fort Pitt Blockhouse to install temporary water lines.

Friday, December 15, 2006

EEF news update
No EEF news this week. Nothing particularly interesting in it.
Grave robbery keeps Chinese archaeologists bustling around
Veteran archaeologist Zhu Zhongxi couldn't believe the "irony" when Gansu provincial authorities announced their bids for the country's 2006 ten most important archaeological discoveries with two ancient graves unearthed recently.

The discoveries of the graves, one dating back to the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.) and the other to ancestors of China's first emperor Qinshihuang, "were actually not archaeological achievements, but the result of rampant grave robbery", said Zhu, director of the archaeological institute of Gansu.

The Warring States grave in Zhangjiachuan county was discovered last August when local police caught grave robbers who had unearthed an ancient tomb, that had remained hidden for more than 2,000 years.
French archaeologist says Ur royal tomb artifacts came from Burnt City
French archaeologist Michèle Casanova said that the artifacts unearthed from the royal tombs in the ancient Sumerian city of Ur came from Iran’s 5200-year-old Burnt City, the Persian service of CHN reported on Friday.

“Now, we are almost certain that the beautiful artifacts discovered in the city of Ur had been brought from the Burnt City, Jiroft, and Central Asia. This fact raises many questions, including why trade relations were established between the regions,” Casanova said.

Casanova, who is also an expert on ornamental stones and particularly lapis lazuli, and several other foreign archaeologists are working together with the Iranian team at the Burnt City, near the city of Zabol in Sistan-Baluchestan Province.
Prehistoric Babies Held in Equal Esteem as Adults ~ Archaeologists
Archaeologists in Austria, on discovery of elaborate infant gravesites, have concluded that infants in prehistoric societies were regarded as equally important as adults.

The report by the Prehistoric Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and published in the journal Nature, says the findings indicate that even newborns were considered to be full members of these hunter-gatherer communities. Radiocarbon dating estimates the remains at about 27,000 years old.
2,500-year-old boat coffin to reveal mysterious Chinese kingdom
With abundant cultural relics, a boat-shaped coffin dating back nearly 2,500 years has unearthed recently in southwest China's Sichuan Province, giving expectation to reveal true history of a mysterious kingdom in the area.

Located in a construction site in Feilong Village of Heshan Town in Pujiang County, the coffin was discovered on Dec. 5 by workers when they were conducting mud-digging 1.5 meters deep underground.

The Pujiang County was part of the Shu Kingdom, which has kept mysterious because no written record about its history and culture left over in the past 2,500 years.

According to Liu Yumao, an expert of Chengdu Institute of Archaeology, the coffin, belonging to the Warring States period (475 BC - 221 BC), was made of a 7-meter-long rare wood material nanmu with a diameter of 1.6 meters.

That's a good article, too.
Hands-on archaeology I'll never forget
During the summer, I touched shell tools and pottery pieces that hadn't been handled for perhaps a thousand years; it was a hands-on-archaeology experience that I will never forget.

Screening is hot, tiring, dirty work; it's a wonder that it can be so enjoyable. Novices like myself screen material that others have meticulously unearthed with hand trowels and put into buckets ready to be screened. I worked with experienced screeners to distinguish bone from shells, potshards, and tool implements. Still others bag and label, noting the specific pit, level and location of the artifact for analyses at some future date.

Nice article. Read the whole thing.
Archaeology booms with oil and gas
The oil and gas boom of the West has also opened vast lands to discoveries by an unlikely group: archaeologists such as Kevin O'Dell.

With crews spaced 100 feet apart, O'Dell and other archaeologists are walking thousands of acres of sagebrush highlands, valleys and hills, and they're achieving a remarkable increase in identification of prehistoric and historic sites - from those of ancient Native Americans to the homesteaders of the last century.

Because the Bush administration is pushing for more energy extraction on federal property, and because laws require cultural resource surveys before any such drilling, private archaeologists are enjoying a boom of their own.
Rescued Afghan treasure on display
he mystery baffled archaeologists for more than two decades. What happened to 22,000 pieces of gold -- jewel-encrusted crowns, daggers and baubles from an ancient burial mound -- that had apparently vanished from Afghanistan in the 1980s?

With the country mired in wars and general chaos, rumors swirled. Had the 2,000-year-old gold treasure trove been spirited away from the Afghan National Museum to Russia, or sold on the black market, or melted down? Many assumed it was gone forever.

This tale, though, has a happy ending.

The Bactrian gold, as it is known, went on display this month at Paris' Guimet Museum. The treasure, and a host of other masterpieces, had been saved by a mysterious group of Afghans who patiently kept them hidden underground at great personal risk.

This really is a phenomenal story:
Members of the group were known as the key holders, because they held the keys to the basement vault on the grounds of the presidential palace where the treasures were hidden, archaeologists and curators said.

"Over the last 20 to 25 years, during food shortages and money crises, this handful of people ...could have sold these collections instead of going hungry, but they never once sacrificed their own cultural heritage," said Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist with the National Geographic Society.

The key holders are believed to have hidden the treasures sometime after the 1979 Soviet invasion.

The Taliban are believed to have tortured a security guard who refused to give up the treasure's secrets, said Christian Manhart, a specialist on Afghanistan with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The regime also purportedly tried to crack the lock with a diamond drill bit, he said.

They caution about believing all of the stories told about this, but it's still pretty unbelievable that that much gold could stay hidden for that long. Apparently, human greed does know some bounds after all.

UPDATE: More at NYTimes with pictures!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Blogging update Blogging suspended while a big ol' storm blows through. Already came about 12 feet from a flooded basement. As it is, I have a couple of strand line deposits in the back yard!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Field Museum scientists solve riddle of mysterious faces on South Pacific artifacts
What archaeologists working in the Pacific call prehistoric "Lapita" pottery has been found at more than 180 different places on tropical islands located in a broad arc of the southwestern Pacific from Papua New Guinea to Samoa.

Experts have long viewed the faces sometimes sketched by ancient potters on this pottery ware as almost certainly human in appearance, and they have considered them to be a sign that Pacific Islanders long ago may have worshiped their ancestors.

John Terrell, Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology at The Field Museum, and Esther M. Schechter, a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at The Field Museum, have pieced together evidence of several kinds leading to a radically different understanding of the religious life of people in the South Pacific 3,000 years ago. Most of these mysterious faces, they report, may represent sea turtles. Furthermore, these ceramic portraits may be showing us ideas held by early Pacific Islanders about the origins of humankind.
4,000-year-old Seahenge to rise again – but not until 2008
CONSERVATION work on the Seahenge wooden circle is continuing apace – but it will be at least a year before the Bronze Age monument will be on display in Lynn.
The 4,000-year-old structure was uncovered by waves on the beach at Holme in 1998, sparking frenzied interest from the archaeological community.
In 1999 the pieces were excavated and preserved before they were handed to the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth for conservation, with the ultimate aim of putting them on display in Lynn.
Posted without additional commentary.

Global Warming Good for Mediterranean Tits?
When some people think of a trip to the Mediterranean, they think there is a good chance to see a wide variety of tits, and for those of you interested in global warming, you might fairly wonder how climate change in the Mediterranean might change this situation. Well, you are in luck given an article in the most recent issue of Global Change Biology that specifically addresses potential climate impacts on Mediterranean tits. There are certainly many tits to study in that region, and there is no doubt that any change in climate could have an impact on their characteristics. To us at World Climate Report, this sounds like an important issue and we applaud any effort to explore climate change and tits throughout the planet.

An international team of tit experts from France, Belgium, and Canada note that “Climate change over the past century has had important ecological consequences, but predictions concerning the impact of future climate change on biodiversity remain subject to large uncertainties.” As tits are hardly confined to the Mediterranean, this work could provide insights into tit response in many other regions. World Climate Report has focused on tits in the past (see our story “Great tit watching in the British Isles” for more details), and we eagerly awaited the publication of this important manuscript.
Blogging update Probably no blogging today as I'm in an all-day conference on clinical trial design and implementation in the developing world. Actually quite interesting so far.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More media + Archaeology Eternal Pompeii
Ancient Rome is now in vogue. The popular television series produced by the BBC and HBO has stirred interest in many of the viewers about how the Romans really lived. Public libraries receive numerous queries on the subject every day. Interest in the topic is in fact so wide that one librarian thought it best to contact Paavo Castrén, a professor emeritus in classical philology, for advice.

Castrén was just the man to help. He has headed the Expeditio Pompeiana Universitatis Helsingiensis (EPUH), the Pompeii Project of the University of Helsinki, for five years, leading the group’s investigative work on Pompeian excavations. This September, Castrén also published his book Pompejilaisia kohtaloita, ‘Pompeian Lives’, later probably to be published in English and Italian.

“Fictive films and books about ancient Rome are good for our cause, as they capture people’s interest and make them ask questions. The series should, however, be watched as entertainment, not as a historical documentary,” says Castrén.

Never watched that series as I don't subscribe to HBO. I heard it was pretty good though, better than yer usual Roman fare. But it occurred to me that if professionals can still complain about art not directly imitating life for a society we know very well from both archaeology and historical records, we can't get too het up over Apocalypto.
Now, here's a switch Ming tombs fail to excite archaeologists
CONSTRUCTION on a North Bund office building will restart tomorrow after archaeologists decided four ancient tombs unearthed by diggers had little historical value.

Officials confirmed the Hongkou District tombs dated back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) but said the site looked as if it had been disturbed by another construction project some years ago and reburied.

"So they are not in their original state and don't have much archaeological value," said Song Jian, director of the archaeological department of the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission.

Also see this for news on some other Chinese tombs.
Ohio's Stonehenge
The extensive earthen mounds and walls in southwest Ohio are unlikely a fortress, although they might have been used for social gatherings and religious ceremonies and astronomical viewings.

The site, atop a wooded bluff 235 feet above the Little Miami River in Warren County, was built 2,000 years ago by ancient Indians that archaeologists call Hopewells.

The intricate mounds stretch nearly 3 ½ miles and enclose about 100 acres atop a promontory on the east bank of the river in Washington Township.

The earthen walls are as high as 23 feet and as wide as 68 feet. The walls are divided by 67 crescent-shaped gateways. There are stone pavements in some places.

Some call Fort Ancient Ohio's Stonehenge and it is one of Ohio's top prehistoric sites.

That's actually a pretty good article. Any of you Ohio residents ought to go have a look if you already haven't.

New scan of 'Neanderthal' jawbone

A piece of jawbone found in a Devon cave is being re-examined by scientists who believe it may be Britain's first direct evidence of Neanderthal man.

The bone was excavated from Kents Cavern in Torquay in 1927 and was thought to be about 31,000 years old.

But more research showed the Torquay Museum piece could be 40,000 years old.

A computer scan is to be carried out to determine if the bone was put back together correctly after it was found, and to see if DNA can be extracted.
Heh Shortcuts: How to make it as an archaeologist
Archaeology is a tough business, and certainly not for those who crave either their creature comforts or a healthy bank balance. Spending months living in a fly-blown tent in the middle of the Sahara, or up to your knees in mud digging up tiny fragments of flint in the Outer Hebrides, all for the sort of pay packet that would provoke workers in most other industries to walk out on strike - this is neither a comfortable nor a renumerative career.

Not strictly true. Just make sure you don't marry another archaeologist.

I prefer a hardhat for hot conditions. Keeps the sun off but lets air circulate.
Vaguely archaeology USS Arizona dissolves slowly into the sea
Steel plates, once an inch thick, have rusted down to less than half that. Tiny marine creatures have planted themselves on the ship's hull and died there, creating a thick, concretelike coating that weighs it down.

And blobs of oil — so smooth they look like black pebbles — slowly float to the surface. There may still be half a million gallons onboard the Arizona; if the hull gives way, it will all escape.

When will that happen? It could begin in as little as a decade or two.

I think it's about time we get over the 'sacredness' of the site and, minimally, do what is necessary to get the remaining oil out.

Monday, December 11, 2006

New video This just in from Pettigrew at The Archaeology Channel:
Friends and colleagues: Through forensic applications, archaeology
can be used directly as a tool in the pursuit of justice worldwide.
This use of archaeology is described in detail and in real cases by
Following Antigone: Forensic Anthropology and Human Rights
Investigations, the latest video feature on our nonprofit
streaming-media Web site, The Archaeology Channel

This film tells how forensic sciences and archaeology have been used
to investigate international human-rights abuses in trouble spots
around the world. The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF),
an international Non-governmental Organization (NGO), took footage of
forensic investigations they carried out in Argentina, El Salvador,
Ethiopia, Haiti, and East Timor in order to tell the story of what
they do. Exhumation and reburial sequences document the heavy
emotional toll befalling survivors and their families.

Still not sure how many trained archaeologists actualy do this work; most of it seems to be done by forensic anthro's using archaeological techniques to recover the remains.

UPDATE: It's a bit graphic in places and fairly emotional, but do watch it.
Flag fen digs in for £1m grant
THE team behind the most important bronze age site in Europe are making a bid for a £1 million grant.
Flag Fen Bronze Age Centre in Fengate, Peterborough, relies solely on grants and donations to keep up its important archaeological work and growing tourist appeal.

Today, general manager Georgia Butters and her team are hoping to be given the Heritage Lottery Fund cash to make the centre and surrounding 20-acre park – which welcomed more than 14,000 visitors last year – more people friendly.
Oriental Institute archaeologists follow up turn-of-the-century dig in city of Zincirli
Oriental Institute archaeologists are renewing exploration of a large, heavily fortified, ancient urban site in southeastern Turkey, which has not been excavated since a German team explored it more than a century ago.

Under the leadership of David Schloen, Associate Professor in the Oriental Institute, the Chicago archaeologists hope to uncover materials that will help scholars understand the transitions in the region that took place during the Bronze and Iron ages, during the collapse of the Hittite Empire and during the rise and fall of Assyrian power.

Located near a critical pass of the Amanus Mountain range, the city, known today as Zincirli, was once called Sam’al. The city was occupied before and during the Hittite Empire (ca. 1400-1200 B.C.) and was later taken over by an expanding Assyrian Empire. Eventually, the city was destroyed and abandoned in about 650 B.C.
World’s oldest curse tablet unearthed
A team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester have unearthed what they claim is the world’s oldest curse.

The 1,700-year-old curse tablet asks god Maglus for invoking his wrath on the thief who has stolen the cloak of Servandus. The curse states that the person who committed the theft dies before the ninth day.

“To the god Maglus, I give the wrongdoer who stole the cloak of Servandus. Silvester, Riomandus (etc.) ... that he destroy him before the ninth day, the person who stole the cloak of Servandus,” says the ancient curse as translated by an Oxford University researcher.

Man, that one is just ripe for ribald jokes. . . . . .
Study Detects Recent Instance of Human Evolution
Geneticists wondered if the lactose tolerance mutation in Europeans, first identified in 2002, had arisen among pastoral peoples elsewhere. But it seemed to be largely absent from Africa, even though pastoral peoples there generally have some degree of tolerance.

A research team led by Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Maryland has now resolved much of the puzzle. After testing for lactose tolerance and genetic makeup among 43 ethnic groups of East Africa, she and her colleagues have found three new mutations, all independent of each other and of the European mutation, which keep the lactase gene permanently switched on.

The principal mutation, found among Nilo-Saharan-speaking ethnic groups of Kenya and Tanzania, arose 2,700 to 6,800 years ago, according to genetic estimates, Dr. Tishkoff’s group is to report in the journal Nature Genetics on Monday. This fits well with archaeological evidence suggesting that pastoral peoples from the north reached northern Kenya about 4,500 years ago and southern Kenya and Tanzania 3,300 years ago.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Blogging from space Bill Oefelein's STS-116 Mission Blog
Here we are, one day after our scrub, but more importantly, one night before our next attempt. From those that were at the launch attempt last night, I hear the anticipation was captivating. There was so much energy in the air that you could feel it. We were inside the shuttle, ready to go. Roman (Mark Polansky) and I were busy getting the systems on line for the launch. I felt good about the weather prospects, but it wasn't meant to be. As much as I would've liked to go, I still enjoyed the moment.

I like this idea, unless it turns into something of a PR stunt.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The coming Apocalypto
Haven't been posting about this much, despite its dealing pretty directly with archaeolgical subject matter. But, you know, it doesn't have anything to do with Brangelina, so it kind of runs under the radar.

At any rate, it seems to be getting some decent reviews, much of it concentrating on the blood and gore. The Seattle PI:
For all its excesses, it's an absorbing, disturbing, savagely beautiful "trip" movie, and an extraordinary -- perhaps even outrageous -- personal vision of the one A-list filmmaker who truly deserves the adjective "maverick."

Set in the dying Mayan culture of 15th-century Mexico, it opens with a series of scenes that depict tribal life in one village and establishes its inhabitants as being people pretty much like ourselves, with basically the same social concerns, family problems and sexual insecurities.

. . .

To say that the movie is over the top is a vast understatement. Gibson creates a world of almost unimaginable cruelty, brutality and inhumanity, and Jaguar Paw's journey is filled with more cliffhanger situations than "The Perils of Pauline."

And also:
What is apparent is that the movie is an all-out attack on tribal culture, which Hollywood has idealized throughout its history and made a fetish in the era of political correctness.

. . .

But his movie definitely is telling us that tribal sensibility, which films like "Dances With Wolves" celebrate so nostalgically, actually is primitive and backward

The issue of sanitization of the past has been blogged about here, mostly in terms of how extensive warfare of whatever sort was in prehistory. Personally, I figure it's fairly difficult to be too over-the-top about what went on in human history (actually, at any point, including now, I'm afraid). Even the film Gladiator was pretty bland in its depiction of the spectacles the Roman Colosseum witnessed. Certainly, no movie has even begun to capture the senseless cruelty inflicted on captives and animals, no matter if the high-profile gladiators themselves were rarely killed. I've read at least once that Caligula is probably the most honest representation of Roman court life though. But I've *ahem* never seen it m'self.

Reader reviews welcomed.

UPDATE: See here and here for previous posts and links.
Ancient ape ruled out of man's ancestral line
Ancient remains, once thought to be a key link in the evolution of mankind, have now been shown to be 400,000 years too young to be a part of man’s family tree.

The remains of the apeman, dubbed Little Foot, were discovered in a cave complex at Sterkfontein by a local South African team in 1997. Its bones preserved in sediment layers, it is the most complete hominid fossil skeleton ever found.

Little Foot is of the genus Australopithecus, thought by some to be part of the ancestral line which led directly to man. But research by Dr Jo Walker and Dr Bob Cliff of the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment, with Dr Alf Latham of Liverpool University's School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, shows the remains are more than a million years younger than earlier estimates.

The team used uranium lead chronology to date the remains. Working on extracts of stalagmite deposits from immediately above and below the body, they dated the skeleton at around 2.2 million years old.

Their findings, published in the American journal Science, are controversial. Earlier estimates had put the age of Little Foot at three to four million years old placing it potentially on a direct line to humans.

Not much else there relating to the actual article. Here's an article on the original find and date.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Finally, a better archaeological pun Historic dig team gets what it was gunning for
PILRIG PARK is the last place you might expect to find the remains of a 16th-century English fort.

But a team of archaeologists knew exactly what they were looking for when they carried out a recent series of digs there.

And today the jubilant researchers revealed they had unearthed part of Somerset's Battery, an artillery fort from the 1560 Siege of Leith.

The remains are thought to be the only 16th-century siege works ever found in Britain, and archaeologists believe the discovery is of international importance in terms of military history.
Well, archaeologists will date any old thing An engaging 'Luminescence Dating'
The romance of archaeology gets entangled with the archaeology of romance in Carey Perloff's "Luminescence Dating," the new play by the American Conservatory Theater artistic director that opened Saturday at the Magic Theatre. Some of what Perloff and director Mark Rucker's talented cast dig up is contrived, some is intriguing and well dramatized. At its best, "Dating" combines plot and information so that it engages both the heart and mind.

That's the intent. "Dating" was commissioned by the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Project, set up to encourage the writing of plays about scientific subjects. Perloff's play, which hinges on determining the age of an artifact (through the process named in the title), opened at EST in New York last year.
Bones may be repatriated
Legislation is in the works to help repatriate Native American remains found on private land, a growing number of which are being housed indefinitely at repositories.
When human remains are discovered on public lands, they're analyzed to determine cultural affiliation, and Utah tribes have the opportunity to submit claims for repatriation, said Forrest Cuch, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs. If no claims are made, the remains are interred at the state burial vault, he said.
But for those remains found on private property, no such process is in place, so they're kept at repositories at places such as the University of Utah or the state Division of History, Cuch said.
Tomb of ancient Eastern Han unearthed
Archaeologists display a couple of clay skulls excavated from a tomb that dates back to the Eastern Han (25-220 AD) in Jintang county, Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province December 5, 2006. Archaeologists have not identified the tomb's owner and find it to have been dug out by tomb raiders.

More pics at the site, too.
Well, he was named after the dog. . . . Digging dog's archaeological find
A dog proved to be a canine Indiana Jones by finding a stone axe head dating back thousands of years in Aberdeenshire.

Rowan the inquisitive black labrador unearthed the Neolithic find at the Drum Estate.

She dropped it on owner Alec Gordon's foot and he took it for examination, with early analysis estimating it as perhaps 6,000 years old.

Mr Gordon said: "I wonder if she knew it was something special."
Age of archaeology turns 100
From the Grand Canyon to Governors Island, ancient Alaskan villages to Virgin Island reefs, American archaeology is quietly celebrating a centennial.

At two national parks — El Morro (N.M.) and Montezuma Castle (Ariz.) national monuments — simple commemorations Friday will mark 100 years since the federal Antiquities Act was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt.

"The Antiquities Act absolutely was a major step for professional archaeology," says archaeologist Jane Waldbaum, head of the Archaeological Institute of America. "The act raised up the public image of archaeology to a highly responsible one," she says, particularly after Congress chartered her organization two months after the signing of the law June 8, 1906.
Neanderthal update Hawks has up his review of the Neanderthal Amazons theory. Basically hits the problems of ethnographic analogy referred to here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Online publication FYI, the new issue of the SAA's Archaeological Record is out so the last issue is available w/o subscription. Lots of articles on public archaeology and the Antiquities Act.
Scientist Fights Church Effort to Hide Museum's Pre-Human Fossils
Famed paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey is giving no quarter to powerful evangelical church leaders who are pressing Kenya's national museum to relegate to a back room its world-famous collection of hominid fossils showing the evolution of humans' early ancestors.

Leakey called the churches' plans "the most outrageous comments I have ever heard."

He told The Daily Telegraph (London): "The National Museums of Kenya should be extremely strong in presenting a very forceful case for the evolutionary theory of the origins of mankind. The collection it holds is one of Kenya's very few global claims to fame and it must be forthright in defending its right to be at the forefront of this branch of science." Leakey was for years director of the museum and of Kenya's entire museum system.
Neanderthal update Neanderthals Were Cannibals, Study Confirms
Neanderthals suffered periods of starvation and may have supplemented their diet through cannibalism, according to a study of remains from northwest Spain.

Paleobiologists studied samples from eight 43,000-year-old Neanderthal skeletons excavated from an underground cave in El Sidrón, Spain since 2000. The study sheds light on how Neanderthals lived before the arrival of modern humans in Europe.

Researchers found cut marks and evidence that bones had been torn apart, which they say could indicate cannibalism.

Hard to say from that whether the taphonomic evidence is really all that solid, but it probably shouldn't be surprising.
Mummy of ancient doctor comes to light
EGYPTIAN archaeologists have discovered the funerary remains of a doctor who lived and worked in the country more than 4,000 years ago, including his mummy, sarcophagus and bronze surgical instruments.

The upper part of the tomb was discovered six years ago at Saqqara, 12 miles south of Cairo.

However, the sarcophagus only came to light in the burial pit as archaeologists carried out cleaning work.

The doctor, whose name was Qar, lived under the 6th dynasty and built his tomb near Egypt's first pyramid. The 6th dynasty ruled from about 2350BC to 2180BC.

Bit more in this one.
Tombs, tombs, tombs Vatican archaeologists find tomb believed to be that of Apostle Paul
Vatican archaeologists have unearthed a sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of the Apostle Paul that had been buried beneath Rome's second largest basilica.

The sarcophagus, which dates back to at least A.D. 390, has been the subject of an extended excavation that began in 2002 and was completed last month, the project's head said this week.

"Our objective was to bring the remains of the tomb back to light for devotional reasons, so that it could be venerated and be visible," said Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who headed the project at St. Paul Outside the Walls basilica.

This always seemed to me as a legitimate tomb of a Biblical figure. But I could be wrong. Just never seemed very controversial.
Christmas blogging

We here at ArchaeoBlog appreciate the holiday season, we really do. And to make sure all of our loyal readers do, too, we hereby provide you, gentle readers, with at least two items which, if used properly, will increase your enjoyment of the season as well, even if your family is composed of a bunch of cognitively less advanced fellow hominids. Herewith, we now reveal the two best Christmas albums ever:

Christmas With The Rat Pack:

Just as irony is being pronounced dead, along comes this boozy holiday compilation to suggest that rumors of its demise may be premature. Given the culture's simmering lounge mania, this collection (with its cheesy homage/rip-off Oceans 11 art direction) may be belated--but hey, punctuality was never these swingin' cats' bag, Jack. The novelty of having three of the 20th century's most notorious sinners belt, whoop, and sing the praises of sleigh bells, roasting chestnuts, and the virgin birth would be enough to recommend this dizzy, 21-track delight, but there's actually some rewarding pop archaeology here as well. Two of the best tracks--Sammy Davis's ring-a-ding-ding romp through "Jingle Bells" and Dino's dreamy "Peace on Earth/Silent Night"--hail from a vintage, ultra-rare Reprise sampler. Sammy's typically over-the-top "Christmastime All Over the World" and Nat Cole tribute, "The Christmas Song," also make their CD debut. Dino's holiday TV specials yield more unreleased rarities: Sinatra-Martin duets of the loopy "Marshmallow World" and a touchingly tipsy take on "Auld Lang Syne" that suggests the boys have shared more than one cup of kindness.

(See, even a reference to archaeology!)

Well put, Amazon reviewer. In fact, that might not be the exact album we here at ArchaeoBlog have nearly always blasting through the sound system in our spacious metropolitan offices, but it's close enough. True 'dat: Sammy's Jingle Bells is a classic: Jing. . .Jing. . .Jingle in the morning. . .jingle all the way. . .. Any other version will leave you weaping.

Elvis: It's Christmas Time:

Actually, most of this isn't all that great, but no Christmas, and no Christmas collection, is complete without Elvis's Blue Christmas, Santa Claus is Back in Town ("Got no sleigh with reindeer. . .no sack on my back. . .you're gonna see me coming. . .in a big black Cadillac"), and Santa Bring my Baby Back (To Me).

A close runner-up, albeit not for any non-Americans, is A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Original Sound Track Recording Of The CBS Television Special. For those of a certain age, this will bring back memories. Plus, the Vince Guaraldi is great anyhow so it's listenable just for that.

So, go out ye merry gentlemen (and women) and get some of that good cheer, ho ho ho and all that jazz.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sorta breaking news This just in from the EEF:
Egypt finds 4,000-year-old doctor's mummy

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered the funerary remains of a
doctor [called Qar] who lived more than 4,000 years ago [dyn 6],
including his mummy, sarcophagus and bronze surgical instruments.
The upper part of the tomb was discovered in 2000 at Saqqara,
20 km (12 miles) south of Cairo, and the sarcophagus came to
light in the burial pit during cleaning work.
Neanderthal update Althouse is having a rousing discussion on Neanderthal women: Desperate HouseCavewives or Amazon Warriors?

UPDATE: I put these comments at Althouse, which I am reproducing here since I have no idea whether it ever actually got posted or not. . . .

Well, I linked to this and came up with a pretty nifty hook, if I do say so myself.

But you know, this whole division-of-labor thing has been haunting archaeologists forever. And it's led to some pretty off the wall hypotheses. One major problem is that much of archaeology is anthropology-driven, and anthropologists only study modern peoples, be they first-world suburbanites or fourth world hunter-gatherers. The classic studies of modern H-G's has, unfortunately, colored much of how we view the past. The problem is that we have assumed (mostly, there has been criticism of this) that modern H-G's are somehow ancient holdovers from the past. That is, that we can use modern H-G's as a model of how prehistoric H-G societies lived. This is where the whole "Man the Hunter, Woman the Gatherer" hypothesis came from. But that assumes that no change has occurred for thousands of years and that these modern groups really do represent ancient people that time forgot. But they're not; they are modern societies existing in a contemporary setting, albeit with simpler technologies and social structures.

There are biological constraints, of course, that may suggest that women played different roles regardless of where/when said society existed. Childbearing and nursing obviously impact the kinds of activities women can participate in. Demonstrating what those activities are is another matter entirely, when the rocks and bones and sticks and stones of the archaeological record aren't generally stamped with the gender that made and/or used them and one extends the ethnographic present back at one's peril.

Shutting up with the archaeological theory now. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interestingly, I linked to this very post in the above Update so what we have here is an example of recursion.
'Church of the Ark' found on West Bank
Archaeologists claimed yesterday to have uncovered one of the world's first churches, built on a site believed to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant.

The site, emerging from the soil in a few acres in the hills of the Israeli occupied West Bank, is richly decorated with brightly coloured mosaics and inscriptions referring to Jesus Christ.

According to the team, led by Yitzhak Magen and Yevgeny Aharonovitch, the church dates to the late 4th century, making it one of Christianity's first formal places of worship.

They're debating whether to keep digging or not. Some form of remote sensing (ground penetrating radar maybe) ought to probably be used to see if there's anything of interest below before taking it out. IMO.
There are only 23 more of them in the world and it's been 80 years since anybody found some before these ones turned up.

What are these rare artefacts? They are mysterious bronze spoons, always found in pairs, dating from 800 BC – 100 AD, and Shrewsbury Museum is the proud owner of the most recently discovered set.

Huh. Never heard of things like these. They surmise they may have been used for divination, dripping liquid from one to the other.
Emperor Maxentius Insignia Found in Rome
Archaeologists have unearthed what they say are the only existing imperial insignia belonging to Emperor Maxentius _ precious objects that were buried to preserve them and keep them from enemies when he was defeated by his rival Constantine.

Excavation under Rome's Palatine Hill near the Colosseum turned up items including three lances and four javelins that experts said are striking for their completeness _ digs usually turn up only fragments _ and the fact that they are the only known artifacts of their kind.

Clementina Panella, the archaeologist who made the discovery, said the insignia were likely hidden by Maxentius' people in an attempt to preserve the emperor's memory after he was defeated by Constantine I in the 321 A.D. battle of the Milvian Bridge _ a turning point for the history of the Roman empire which saw Constantine become the unchallenged ruler of the West.