Monday, December 31, 2007

Spain's seabed goldmine
Freak storms, the gall of audacious pirates or the guns of rival navies all sent them to the bottom while they sailed the perilous India Run, bringing treasures from Spain's colonies in the Philippines and the Americas. Marine archaeologists believe that lying under the waves in the Mediterranean alone could be sunken treasure worth ¿100bn (£73bn), but all acknowledge the real value will probably never be known. Elsewhere, scattered around parts of the globe, in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific, lie more sunken millions. Now, hundreds of years after the gold baubles and silver ducats went to the bottom of the briny, there is an international battle to lay claim to this treasure.

Centuries on from the Spanish conquistadores, their modern descendants are determined the millions in gold and silver will not be claimed by 21st-century pirates who employ hi-tech gear to retrieve the treasures.

This is an update on earlier stories relating how countries are attempting to lay claim to wrecks outside of their territorial waters by arguing that they were, for example, Spanish ships then and should still be Spanish ships now.
Non-archaeological post Tied Up in Knots: Anything that can tangle up, will, including DNA
Call it Murphy's Law of knots: If something can get tangled up, it will. "Anything that's long and flexible seems to somehow end up knotted," says Andrew Belmonte, an applied mathematician at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. Belmonte has plenty of alarming anecdotal evidence. "It certainly happens in my house, with the cords of the venetian blind." But the knot scourge is a global one, as anyone who owns a desktop computer can confirm after peeking at the mess of connection cables and power cords behind the desk.

Now, scientists think they may have found out how and why things find their way into knotty arrangements. By tumbling a string of rope inside a box, biophysicists Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith have discovered that knots—even complex knots—form surprisingly fast and often.

YES. I was thinking about this the last few weeks as I was getting extension cords unraveled to put up Xmas lights. I vaguely remembered something about a special mathematics that described knots and tangles forming. It always amazes me how you can carefully coil up a cord, flops it on the ground, plug it in and start dragging it away and THE FRICKIN' THING SPONTANEOUSLY KNOTS UP. Infuriating. A friend of mine and I spent like an hour in an Egyptian apartment untangling wires for some pieces of equipment and I remember him adminishing me that, whatever you do, don't pull on it. Hardest thing to do.

Anyway, it's a pretty good article. Via Insty.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A paper from the British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan has a free paper up: The possible existence of Third Intermediate Period elite tombs at el-Ashmunein. I should probably post a permalink to that site as all of the papers are downloadable for free.
Al-Ahram has a review of the Egyptian finds from 2007.
Lost civilization civili-. . .hey! Archaeologists discover remains of 2500-year-old advanced civilization in Russia
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 2500-year-old advanced civilization at the bottom of Lake Issyk Kul in the Kyrgyz mountains in Russia.

According to a report in RIA Novosti, the team consisted of Kyrgyz historians, led by Vladimir Ploskikh, vice president of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, and other Russian colleagues, like historian Svetlana Lukashova.

The expedition resulted in sensational finds, including the discovery of major settlements, presently buried underwater.

More here. There's not a lot of explanation as to why the lake levels rose except to attribute it to various events like earthquakes.
Lost civilization pyramid. . . .found Ancient pyramid found in central Mexico City
Archeologists have discovered the ruins of an 800-year-old Aztec pyramid in the heart of the Mexican capital that could show the ancient city is at least a century older than previously thought.

Mexican archeologists found the ruins, which are about 36 feet (11 metres) high, in the central Tlatelolco area, once a major religious and political centre for the Aztec elite.

Since the discovery of another pyramid at the site 15 years ago, historians have thought Tlatelolco was founded by the Aztecs in 1325, the same year as the twin city of Tenochtitlan nearby, the capital of the Aztec empire, which the Spanish razed in 1521 to found Mexico City, conquering the Aztecs.

There's junk all over the place, but it's the date that's significant.
Blogging update

Yeah, light on the posting the last few days. Busy! I've had to get a paper in shape among other things and at home it's been busy as well. I finally got the ArchaeoWife's computer set up, mostly with the wireless network and transferring files and such. And, um, watching bowl games. The "Meineke Car Care Bowl" is on now, UConn and Wake Forest. I admit to not particularly liking the whole corporate bowl idea. Lame. I noticed over the years that various bowls went from, say, the Orange Bowl, to the FedEx Orange Bowl to the FEDEX orange bowl. I always liked the bowl system, anachronistic as it is, but if we end up with all-corporate bowls then bring on playoffs as far as I'm concerned. Thankfully the Rose Bowl has stayed the Rose Bowl, albeit nowadays it's starting corporate creep: it's the Rose Bowl presented by Citi.

I've only been to two bowl games, both in Seattle at the short-lived Seattle Bowl. I saw Georgia Tech vs Stanford in the first one (played in the baseball stadium) and Wake Forest against Oregon in the second, played at Seahawks Stadium. The latter is a NICE place for football. I guess they both made money, but there was little enthusiasm for it. Two of the old Hawaii bowls moved one year and one went to Seattle and the other went to San Fran. as the Emerald Bowl, which is still around. I still have a single souvenir from the first one, a Seattle Bowl pint glass. I can't even find one on eBay so they're obviously quite rare and valuable.

Anyway, UConn just ran back a punt for a TD. Must continue regular archaeoblogging.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Book unearths village past
THE publication of a book about an archaeological project which unearthed fascinating discoveries in Downley has brought the past back to vivid life.

The scheme, which saw schoolchildren digging holes and people scurrying through the woods with strange contraptions, won £23,000 of lottery funding.

A free book of the findings is available to anyone who wants to learn more about the village's intriguing past.

Dr Jill Eyers, a geologist and archaeologist from Pusey Way, Lane End, was one of the guiding lights of the project. She said: "I'm feeling a bit like Santa, giving away all these books. I have been overwhelmed - people are absolutely loving them. I have had them saying to me how wonderful it is.
Archaeologists Dig in the Panhandle
Kristy Mickwee is in a hole. But she is in no hurry to climb out; this hole has yielded treasure.

"Most of it came from this lighter area," she said, pointing out the different layers of earth with her spade.

Mickwee is part of a University of West Florida archaeology team surveying 168 acres of the Falling Waters State Park in Chipley. During the past few weeks, the team has dug the park full of "shovel tests" in search of American Indian artifacts. Fieldwork was extended because of the bountiful findings.
Ancient petroglyphs rest among suburban sprawl
An ancient 40-ton jungle gym of sorts, the massive burnt umber boulder anchors a neighborhood park and beckons suburban kids to clamber over its mysterious Anasazi etchings.
And climb aboard they do, sometimes even attempting to scratch their own marks before the adults run them off, neighbors say. Archaeologists typically warn against even smudging natural skin oils on the chiseled drawings or the rock's natural mineral glaze so they won't slowly melt away.
"I've climbed on it," acknowledged Melissa Cornwall, whose in-laws live next to backyard-sized Petroglyph Park in the city's Bloomington subdivision, near the meeting place of southern Utah's Great Basin and the Mojave Desert. "It's just kind of cool to see something from the old, ancient people who used to live here, and to think what it used to look like before all the houses were here."
North by Northwest:
The planet's wandering magnetic poles help reveal history of Earth and humans

Hikers in the wilderness often place their faith in a trusty compass. But any navigator worth his salt knows that compasses can't truly be trusted: Only along certain longitudes in the Northern Hemisphere does a compass needle point due north.

In other locales, a compass needle slews either to the left or the right of true north by a certain angle, a process commonly known as declination. That's because a compass isn't attracted to the north geographic pole, the point at which Earth's rotational axis pierces the Arctic ice. Instead, the needle is attracted to the north magnetic pole, the spot where the planet's invisible magnetic field lines burst from the surface and point directly upward.

Long article on the magnetic poles and some on its relation to archaeology and history.
The hidden past that's being uncovered every day
Beneath the Garden of England lie the remains of past civilisations from the earliest period of human history to the emergence of the Kingdom of Kent and beyond.

The archaeological richness of the county is explored in a new book that reveals how each new development in Kent, both major and minor, brings us closer to the past.

The Archaeology of Kent to AD 800 is edited by John Williams who is head of heritage conservation at Kent County Council.
The endangered future of the past
A number of news organizations reported on Sotheby's auction on Dec. 5 in New York, but their headlines tell only part of the story: "Ancient figure of lion shatters record price for sculpture at auction" (BBC World News); "Sculpture as old as civilization tops $65m" (The Sydney Morning Herald); "Tiny lioness figure fetches hefty $57M U.S. at auction" (CBC).

Why not simply say: "Loot and you will make vast sums of money!"

Despite all of the hard-fought countermeasures against the looting of archaeological sites, such headlines only add impetus to trade in the illegal art market. To be sure, much legislation is in place that forbids the selling of looted antiquities, but where there is the lure of millions, too many people are willing to take their chances.

It's an opinion piece. They do a good job of explaining why context is important with a very good example.

I liked this quote: As if to add insult to injury, the buyer of the lioness went on record as describing himself as an archaeologist. $57.2 million accounts for over a quarter of the total budget allocated to the social, behavioral and economic sciences directorate under the National Sciences Foundation for 2008.

Ancient ship raised from S China Sea
Chinese archaeologists have raised a merchant ship which sank in the South China Sea 800 years ago while transporting a cargo of precious porcelain.

The Nanhai 1 treasury ship, built during the Song dynasty which ruled China from 960-1279, is believed to contain one of the biggest discoveries of Chinese artefacts from that period.

"It's the biggest ship of its kind to be found," said professor Liu Wensuo, and archaeologist from Sun Yat-sen University.

They are estimating over 70k artifacts are in the ship. There's a video at the link but you can't see anything of the ship itself; a couple of porcelain artifacts are shown though.
Blogging update

Back to posting. Yesterday was shot as my stupid cable modem kept crapping out. I haven't got the new computer to hook up with my wireless network; keeps either not recognizing the network and saying it's out of range (yeah, from 2 feet away) or, after tweaking some stuff, attempting to connect to it, but then just stopping without connecting or giving any error message. I think I have to upgrade the router's firmware. I would have gotten more progress done on it last night, but of course the cable modem kept crapping out.

I should write an entire long, drawn-out post on this like Jerry Pournelle used to do in Byte magazine. He'd do entire columns on his attempt to hook up another Windows computer to his network and detail all the cards he'd had to pull out, the dipswitch settings he'd have to alter, blah blah blah ad infinitum. Then he'd write a quarter of a column on getting an OS/2 machine to join the network and how once he got it in it would just work fine without any further hassles, but spend the rest of it praising Windows (3.x) and how despite the myriad problems, everyone should really just stick with it instead of trying anything -- gasp! -- different.

Okay, rant off. On to archaeology. . . .

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Etc. to all ArchaeoBlog readers!

Yeah, so what am I doing blogging on Christmas Eve? I suck and have no life. Actually not, I have quite a few things to do today. No mad wrapping and/or last minute shopping though. My family is all back east so I get all the buying and shipping done shortly after Thanksgiving. BECAUSE I HATE STANDING IN LINES. I rather like the holidays, I really do. I didn't used to. Matter of fact, there were several Christmasses and Thanksgivings when I was a young green grad student that I spent it at the office or in the lab. About 10 years ago, I started to appreciate the season for whatever reason. Age maybe. I don't really do much except listen to the music and do shopping for myself after buying stuff for everybody else, thus taking advantage of the sales. But I like strolling through the mall or downtown with all the decorations and Christmas items and people buying stuff. Some say it's become too commercial, but I think people really like buying things for their friends and family. Yeah, we're supposed to show people we care all year round, but this is a time we can show it with a specific gift we've picked out for them. Probably something that's been going on ever since we came together in larger-than-family groups. I think people are friendlier around this time of year, too, despite the occasional madness around parking spaces.

Anyway, our one tradition is going to the zoo on Xmas eve. We started doing it a few years ago when we both had the day off and it was sunny and we didn't have anything else to do, so we went to the zoo. It's fabulous on Xmas eve because hardly anyone else is there, it's quiet, peaceful, and I think the critters are more active. Just a nice laid-back time without having to dodge strollers. And it's a nice break from all of the aforementioned madness. So we're doing that. I got the ArchaeoWife a new computer, a Dell Inspiron. I "gave" her my old computer a couple of years ago, but that one is kind of a pain, and she hates hates HATES the keyboard on this one. Plus, she uses MINE all the time.

I think I'm getting a new vacuum cleaner. Yes, I am weird about that. I have an old old tank of a Kirby that works very well, but it weighs a ton. I think it's an Electrolux cannister. I am indeed the Floor King at ArchaeoBlog Manor.

So, this morning I am doing a bit o' blogging and listening to Jimmy Buffett records (yes, records). A lot of people go through a Jimmy Buffett phase. Some never get out of it. I went through mine in my first couple of years of grad school when I did my field school out on San Juan Island, WA, living the whole island life while doing archaeology at the same time. Lots of drinking (I had a wet bar in my tent) and carousing and having a summertime fling with a perfectly delightful little blond. Perfect music for cruising the islands and mostly just having a good time and not worrying about money or a career yet. We worked hard, but had fun, too. Climb out of that filthy shell midden in the afternoon, drive to town and take a shower, come back for dinner (we had an excellent chef cooking for us), and then have martinis in and around our tents. Yeah, the grass behind those tents was pretty green and tall by the end of the summer, tellyawhat. On the weekends we'd mostly go drink at the Downriggers in Friday Harbor where they made this wicked cayenne pepper vodka martini. I also had a cast-iron stomach in those days.

Interestingly, there are various species of bioluminescent fauna in the waters around the islands. They bioluminesce when disturbed. This is particularly interesting for two reasons. First, if you happen to jump into Garrison Bay in the middle of the night, and especially if you're buck nekkid, it's like swimming in fireworks. Second, if you grab a bioluminsecent jellyfish and smoosh it all over your face, your face glows in the dark for a couple of minutes and then the next morning you wake up with decaying fish matter in your beard wondering what the heck you did last night and decide maybe you should swear off booze for a while but know good and well that that particular vow will only last until about 4:30 that afternoon so whatever.

Christ, I had a lot of fun back then. . . . .

Anyway, I hope you all have a happy and safe holiday. I really do appreciate your reading this humble blog every now and then.

UPDATE: I did, in fact, get a new vacuum, the Electrolux Intensity.I admit it doesn't have the solidity of the old Kirby (the plastic handle feels kinda cheap and rickety) but it works very well and is WAY easier to maneuver around, let alone carry around the house. I'd been wanting a Dyson for a while, but those suckers start at like $450 and would probably be overkill for my uses. I have only two rooms with carpeting in them and I use a combination of a dustmop and a Roomba to do most of that. So this one will fit the bill quite nicely.

I also got 4 seasons of The X-Files (</nerd>) and a Grand Phone for my office. I have a 1950s desk that was owned by an engineer so this will look perfect. And a few other odds and ends. The ArchaeoWife loves her computer, and now it will give me the opportunity to reformat and rebuild the older one she was using. THAT should be a struggle; I tried once before to wipe the drive clean but it resisted all attempts to do so. Even after booting from a floppy the stupid thing still wouldn't let me reformat the hard drive. So, expect a post or two detailing my struggles there. Happily, you all will be spared the specific language I will no doubt direct Microsoft's way.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

That could be kinda creepy Treasure-hunting sisters find human remains from Roman era
Human remains believed to be 2,000 years old were found this week by two sisters near the ruins of the ancient city of Caesarea.

Julia Shvicky of Kibbutz Barkai and Janet Daws, visiting from England, found some bones that had washed up on the shore during a stroll by the beach.

"I love taking strolls at this spot. I always look for special stones and coins from the Roman era," Shvicky said. "Just as we started walking I said to my sister: 'Wouldn't it be fun if we found something interesting?'"

At first, the sisters did not know they had found human bones. They took them to the kibbutz nurse who told them the bones were part of a human spinal cord and hip.
Hopewell culture shows little evidence of warfare
War, in one form or another, has been a part of the human experience for centuries.

Archaeologist Lawrence Keeley, in his book War Before Civilization, argues that it has been with us for millennia, but that historians and archaeologists have downplayed its importance because we like to think our ancestors were smarter than us and lived in more or less perfect harmony.

The evidence against that, however, is growing stronger with each discovery.
Medieval African Sculptures Were Coated in Blood
Sculptors from the extraordinarily wealthy ancient Mali Empire — once the source of nearly half the world's gold — at times coated their works of art with blood, scientists confirmed for the first time.

At its height, the empire, which lasted from the 13th century to the 17th century, extended over an area larger than Western Europe and was renowned for its gold mines.

Researchers have often reported or suspected the presence of blood on many African relics, purportedly shed during ancient ceremonies involving animal sacrifice.
Evolution tied to Earth movement
Scientists long have focused on how climate and vegetation allowed human ancestors to evolve in Africa. Now, University of Utah geologists are calling renewed attention to the idea that ground movements formed mountains and valleys, creating environments that favored the emergence of humanity.

“Tectonics [movement of Earth’s crust] was ultimately responsible for the evolution of humankind,” Royhan and Nahid Gani of the university’s Energy and Geoscience Institute write in the January, 2008, issue of Geotimes, published by the American Geological Institute.

They argue that the accelerated uplift of mountains and highlands stretching from Ethiopia to South Africa blocked much ocean moisture, converting lush tropical forests into an arid patchwork of woodlands and savannah grasslands that gradually favored human ancestors who came down from the trees and started walking on two feet – an energy-efficient way to search larger areas for food in an arid environment.

I don't believe this is a new theory. At least, I've heard seen the forest-to-savanna idea before.
Archeologist explains link between bones found in Ethiopia, Texas
One roamed the forests of East Africa 3.2 million years ago. The other lived in Central Texas more than 9,500 years ago.

What's the connection between two skeletons found a world apart? That was the question on a recent visit to Houston, where the famous older skeleton is on display.

After Lucy, the oldest, most complete pre-human skeleton ever excavated, arrived at the Houston Museum of Natural Science this fall, we enlisted the help of Michael Collins. He is a research associate at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at the University of Texas who led a dig at the Williamson County site where the more modern remains were found.

It's kind of a tenuous comparison, but a pretty good article. I personally don't know how fragile the Lucy fossils might be so can't say how amenable they are to damage.
Reindeer: It's What Was For Dinner
Reindeer meat went from being an occasional treat to everyday fare among prehistoric cavemen who lived in Southwest France and what is now the Czech Republic, two new studies suggest.

In fact, so many nibbled-on reindeer bones were present in their caves that possible calendars circa 26,000 years ago might have been carved on the leftover bones. They may have also been used as counting devices or for ornamentation.

The first study, authored by J. Tyler Faith, analyzed bones found in limestone cave and rock shelters at a site called Grotte XVI at Dordogne near Bordeaux. The numbers and types of bones revealed plenty -- how, for instance, the hunters butchered the meat, how far they traveled to hunt, and details about populations of the animals themselves.

Read the whole thing, but the neat aspect is that butchery and use patterns seem to follow abundances of reindeer which itself seems to be a function of cooler temperatures which favor reindeer abundances. The correlation of specific behavior patterns with climatic variables, if it holds up, could be significant depending on how other factors are controlled for.
Archaeologists to dig 'Hospital Field' in Winchester
ARCHAEOLOGISTS have announced ambitious plans to dig up more about Winchester's medieval history.

The project, by the University of Winchester, will focus on a site on the eastern edge of the city, close to St Swithun's School.

The plot, known to nearby residents as Hospital Field', dates back to the 12th century and was the location of a leprosy hospital during the 1500s.

Interesting to me was this bit: "Lepers have been thought of as being people who society shunned and pushed away. But some more recent research has discovered that was not necessarily the case. This dig gives us an insight into how these people were viewed and how they lived." That aspect will be interesting, though how they'll get answers to that question escapes me at the moment.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Neanderthals sewed too little, too late
Neanderthals probably froze to death in the last ice age because rapid climate change caught them by surprise without the tools needed to make warm clothes, says an Australian researcher.

Ian Gilligan, a postgraduate researcher from the Australian National University argues his case in the current issue of the journal World Archaeology.

By the time some Neanderthals developed sewing tools it was too little too late, says Gilligan.

Well, you can't reap what you don't sew!
Movie review National Treasure: Book of Secrets reviewed by the NY Times.

They don't seem too thrilled. Eh, I liked the first one. A decent action-adventure film but with a bunch of history thrown in which in and of itself is probably worthwhile (who has seen it and doesn't know how Silence Dogood is?).

I dunno though. The previews make it seem like they may have just thrown together stuff that worked in the first one and hope to make money off of this one, too. Hope not.
Excavation adventures in the Valley of the Kings
While the boy-king's discovery massively raised the profile of archaeology, generating a widespread popular interest in the subject that persists to this day, it at the same time created a false expectation that what archaeology is primarily about is digging up graves full of stupendous gold artifacts.

Don't get me wrong; I am as mesmerized as the next person by the Tutankhamun treasures. Nor am I immune to the excitement and mystique of tomb archaeology. To work in an ancient burial chamber, as I did in KV56, is a magical experience, tapping into those deep-seated childhood fantasies of exploration and adventure, of burrowing down into a secret, hidden world and finding wonderful things concealed therein.

At the same time, it has always slightly saddened me that while our team made hugely significant discoveries in terms of the stratigraphy and topography of the Valley of the Kings, and the lives and activities of the workers who labored there, it is the gold jewelry that always seems to get people excited at dinner parties.

It's a pretty good article. I liked this part:
15 centuries before the birth of Christ, a workman has finished his shift in the tombs and, sweat-drenched and knackered, has squatted down in his shelter, taken a refreshing swig of beer and cleaned off his paint brushes by smearing them across a piece of rock, just as decorators and DIY-ers the world over do every day.

His name is lost, his face is lost, everything about him is lost save for that single fleeting instant of his existence. And now that instant has popped up in our own age, as though e-mailed to us across the millennia.

It's often the simple things like this that make fieldwork so interesting. Gold and stuff is neat, but it's not something we regular Joes and Janes can relate to. It's when we find something fairly simple that we can easily see ourselves doing that makes that connection to these long-dead people.
“A previously unknown Neolithic structure has been found that is very different from anything else known to exist at this remarkable site,” explained Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland senior archaeologist.

“It was built using dressed stone and was clearly intended to look impressive from the outside. This marks it out from houses of the time, the exteriors of which tended to be created with function rather than looks in mind.”

“However there were some very special buildings, including certain tombs, where a great deal of architectural skill went into their architecture.”

There are a couple of photos but they're not enlargeable.
Egyptians in Egyptology
An important development in cultural history during recent years has been the recognition of the long exclusion of Egyptians from their nation’s ancient past. For most of the two centuries or so that Egyptology has been a recognized field, ancient Egypt has been considered the intellectual property of the West. University syllabi presented ancient Egypt as one of the foundations of Western civilization, but one with little pertinence to the subsequent history of Egypt or the Middle East. Western collectors plundered the material riches of the ancient land for decades following Napoleon's epochal Egyptian expedition in 1798-1801, filling the galleries of European museums and adorning the shelves and walls of foreign homes, and doing so without compunction.

The article is actually a book review of Jill Kamil's biography of Labib Habachi, an Egyptian Egyptologist.

UPDATE: Another good Al-Ahram article is here.
Let those arrowheads be
Drought provides advantages to scavengers and collectors who explore the expanded shorelines of the Triangle's shrinking reservoirs and lakes. The mud-encrusted fishing lures, waterlogged watches and other contemporary artifacts are theirs to keep.

But pocketing the shards of Native American pottery, spearheads and other remains from past cultures can get people in trouble.

Federal and state laws prohibit the removal of archaeological materials from public lands and carry stiff fines and potential jail time. That fact is unknown to many shore combers who think nothing of palming an arrowhead or other souvenir from a trip to Falls Lake or other public parks.
Beirut cashes in on wealth of archaeological sites
Passing through the many narrow avenues that make up Achrafieh, few would realize that major archeological excavations are under way all around them. The Beirut neighborhood has been experiencing a development boom in the past few years, and construction projects are ongoing, yet in the midst of all this local archaeologists have been experiencing a boom of their own.

Construction companies clearing away old buildings to make room for new luxurious high-rises have unearthed the remnants of nearly 5,000 years of successive civilizations. Assad Seif, head of archaeological research and examination in Lebanon, said this includes layers of Ottoman, Roman, Persian and Hellenic civilizations.

Not literally cashing in.
Archaeologists surprised that geology preserved artifacts for millennia
Long before traffic clogged Main Street and backed up on Airport Road, Alkali Creek was a busy transportation corridor.

It must have been an inviting place with a gentle little stream where children could play without too much supervision and women wouldn't have to walk too far with a heavy burden of water.

Trails to bison herds on the bench above and easy access to the Yellowstone River less than a mile away may have attracted bands of hunter-gathers generation after generation in the millennia before contact with Europeans 500 years ago.

Few pretty good photos at the link.
EBay stops auction of 4,000-year-old artifact
A 4,000-year-old clay tablet that was "with great probability" illegally smuggled out of Iraq was pulled from eBay minutes before the close of the online auction, the authorities said Tuesday.

Criminal proceedings had started against the seller, identified only as a resident of Zurich, the officials said.

A German archaeologist spotted the tablet, bearing wedge-shaped cuneiform script, on the online auctioneer's Swiss Web site,, a government official said.

The archaeologist alerted the German authorities, who passed the tip on to their Swiss counterparts, said Yves Fischer, director of the Swiss Federal Office of Culture's department on commerce in cultural objects.

I should start trolling eBay for stuff like that. I'm not sure if I ever have. . . .
Blogging update Sorry about the lack of posting. Wednesday I took the day off and spent it visiting former coworkers and not even touching these infernal machines. And then yesterday I was kinda slammed. So, eh. Really, nothing of interest happened in the wonderful world of archaeology. . . . .

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Surprise Finds at Egypt Temple "Change Everything"
A series of surprising discoveries has been made at the foot of Egypt's famous Temple of Amun at Karnak, archaeologists say.

The new finds include ancient ceremonial baths, a pharaoh's private entry ramp, and the remains of a massive wall built some 3,000 years ago to reinforce what was then the bank of the Nile River.

. . .

"[The discovery of the wall] changes the landscape [of Luxor]," said Mansour Boraik, general supervisor of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Luxor.

Monsour has interesting ways of pressing his points:
Professor preserves a piece of history
A University of Texas professor who for five years has sought to procure an archaeological dig site north of Austin for his colleagues has finally closed the deal: by cashing out his personal savings.

Michael Collins, associate researcher at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at UT's J.J. Pickle Research Campus, bought the 33-acre Gault site in southwestern Bell County and donated it to the Archaeological Conservancy.

The site was one of the major areas of activity for the Clovis people in North America and contains relics that are as many as 13,500 years old, Collins said.

It's a good article with a lot of Clovis info from Gault.
Ancients save money on plant for wastewater
Some of the earliest people to ever coax crops from the arid desert soil lived where the Roger Road Wastewater Treatment Plant now stands.
County officials ran head-first into their ancient settlement recently when it turned out to be in the exact spot where an odor-control facility was to go.
Although the discovery stalled the odor-control project for months, it didn't add to the cost. In fact, those long-ago settlers ended up saving 21st century taxpayers about $2 million.
A redesign of the project to avoid the archaeological site turned out to be that much cheaper.

The latter part of the article is interesting as it talks about covering up the remains instead of excavating it -- called it "banking" it.
Neolithic sword found in SW China
Archaeologists have unearthed cultural artifacts that date back to the Neolithic period, more than 4,000 years ago, in Chongqing in southwestern China.

Several days ago the archeologists unearthed seven tombs that belong to the Han Dynasty, Chongqing Business News reported. On Saturday, they dug out several pieces of stone tools, including an axe, a peeling tool, shovels and adzes. They also found a delicate bronze willow sword and a lance with particular Ba cultural images. "Ba" refers to the people who lived in Chongqing and Sichuan Province in ancient China.

It is the first time that Neolithic artifacts have been found in Chongqing. They indicate that human beings had already settled in the area some 2,000 years earlier than previously believed.

That's the whole thing.
Researcher: Georgia artifacts may point to de Soto's trail
The rusty, diamond-shaped iron blade, its sharp point jutting from the dirt where it was discovered, could be a centuries old clue that sheds surprising new light on the obscure path taken by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto.

For archaeologist Dennis Blanton it has erased most doubts that the patch of ground in southeast Georgia was visited more than 460 years ago by some group of Spanish explorers — if not de Soto himself.

"It's pretty much case-closed," says Blanton, standing in a clearing among planted pines where his archaeologists have dug about 18 inches into the dirt in an area the size of a small house. "If you had to deduce the most plausible source, it would be de Soto."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ancient secrets emerge from grave

The bones of six bishops buried more than 600 years ago have been identified using new hi-tech methods.

The medieval bishops, who died between 1200-1360, were discovered during an excavation at Whithorn Priory in Galloway between 1957 and 1967.

It was known the remains were of powerful churchmen of the Middle Ages, but their identities were a mystery.

But Historic Scotland research has shown when the men died, who several of them were and even what they ate.
Killed in a Duel, Then Lost in the Earth
On Saturday morning, cars jammed the street outside James and Laura Jane Bowen’s home. Friends chatted in the yard, hands around coffee cups.

With history buffs and curious neighbors looking on, an archaeologist directed the excavation of the Bowens’ lawn in search of a 201-year-old grave and, possibly, the resolution of a long-standing historical puzzle.

The dig’s goal was to solve a mystery over the grave of Charles Henry Dickinson, who was killed in an 1806 duel with a future president, Andrew Jackson. The location of Mr. Dickinson’s final resting place has been in contention since the 1960s, when historians in Maryland claimed to have found his coffin.
Extinctions update ow forests wiped out woolly mammoths
Woolly mammoths were among the biggest mammals to have walked the earth, but it appears they were driven into extinction by nothing more dangerous than trees.

A leading expert on the ice age will claim this week that, rather than being wiped out by human hunters, the giant creatures were doomed by the spread of forests around the world at the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago.

Professor Adrian Lister, a palaeobiologist at University College London, has found that the extensive areas of frozen grassland on which mammoths thrived were gradually replaced by forests, leaving the animals nothing to eat.

Hmmm. One can foresee the criticisms of this from the Overkill crowd, namely that the same sort of change in climate and presumably vegetation had occurred before and the mammoths survived, so why not this time? The article suggests that people did not have a "major role", but one could argue that, without people taking out the refuge populations, the would have survived. Depends on his argument for whether or not similar changes in vegetation occurred at earlier periods or if the genetic variation contracted over time such that mammoth populations in earlier periods of similar vegetation change had sufficient variation then to survive.

No doubt, more to come. . . .

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Update on the Roman glue story At There's a photo of the helmet at the site:

It doesn't appear that the yellow stuff that's visible there is the glue itself.
Ancient Egyptian glassmaking recreated
A team led by a Cardiff University archaeologist has reconstructed a 3,000-year-old glass furnace, showing that Ancient Egyptian glassmaking methods were much more advanced than previously thought.

Dr Paul Nicholson, of the University�s School of History and Archaeology, is leader of an Egypt Exploration Society team working on the earliest fully excavated glassmaking site in the world. The site, at Amarna, on the banks of the Nile, dates back to the reign of Akhanaten (1352 - 1336 B.C.), just a few years before the rule of Tutankhamun.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lucky ******** Ohio man finds 15,000-year-old flint spear tip
A spear point found in a central Ohio field by a farmer has been identified by archeologists as being used by hunters to kill mastodons about 15,000 years ago.

Forty-four-year-old Don Johnson of Heath found the Clovis point about four years ago while on a walk.

Brad Lepper, an archaeologist with the Ohio Historical Society, says the point is one of the only remaining types of evidence of the Clovis Paleo-Indians. The group, named for their weapons, used the points for about 500 years.

Experts say the point is made of Coshocton flint, a grade of stone used for weapons and tools.

HEATH, Ohio: A spear point found in a central Ohio field by a farmer has been identified by archeologists as being used by hunters to kill mastodons about 15,000 years ago.

Forty-four-year-old Don Johnson of Heath found the Clovis point about four years ago while on a walk.

Brad Lepper, an archaeologist with the Ohio Historical Society, says the point is one of the only remaining types of evidence of the Clovis Paleo-Indians. The group, named for their weapons, used the points for about 500 years.

Experts say the point is made of Coshocton flint, a grade of stone used for weapons and tools.

That's the whole article, but you may want to read the comments (at least some of them), many of which are a hoot. Sometimes I'm kind of thankful this place doesn't generate that many comments. . . . .
Spartans did not throw deformed babies away: researchers
The Greek myth that ancient Spartans threw their stunted and sickly newborns off a cliff was not corroborated by archaeological digs in the area, researchers said Monday.

After more than five years of analysis of human remains culled from the pit, also called an apothetes, researchers found only the remains of adolescents and adults between the ages of 18 and 35, Athens Faculty of Medicine Anthropologist Theodoros Pitsios said.

"There were still bones in the area, but none from newborns, according to the samples we took from the bottom of the pit" of the foothills of Mount Taygete near present-day Sparta.

I dunno. Just because they weren't in this pit (unless it's the only viable place around) doesn't necessarily mean it didn't happen. I suspect it's probably a myth, but one never knows what the limits of infanticide may have been at any given place and time.
Lost civilization pits. . . .found Archaeologists unearth ancient pits
ARCHAEOLOGISTS preparing the ground for a new building at an Anglo-Saxon village have discovered the remains of three pits dating back 1,500 years.

The unexpected find, at the site in West Stow, near Bury St Edmunds, was made during preparation work for a new timber construction that will be home to heritage displays and study facilities when it opens in the summer.

It is now hoped that a mysterious black substance in the pits will help answer age-old questions about their purpose, and give a better understanding of Anglo-Saxon life.
Found: a real old man of the sea
IT WAS obvious he was special from the moment archaeologists began to unearth his 3000-year-old remains. Skulls from three other people - two men and a woman - and the jaw of a fourth person had been carefully laid to rest on top of his skeleton.

The old man was one of the mysterious Lapita people - crafters of exquisite pottery who made the last great human migration on Earth, heading out across the Pacific Ocean more than three millenniums {Grrrrrr. --Ed.] ago, to settle Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

His skull-filled grave is unique in an ancient cemetery on Efate, the main island of Vanuatu, where a team from Australia and Vanuatu has discovered more than 60 Lapita skeletons in a range of burial positions.

One assumes it is part of this cemetery.
Stunning survey unveils new secrets of Caistor Roman town
On the morning of Friday July 20, 1928, the crew of an RAF aircraft took photographs over the site of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum at Caistor St Edmund in Norfolk, a site which now lies in open fields to the south of Norwich.

The exceptionally dry summer meant that details of the Roman town were clearly revealed as parched lines in the barley. The pictures appeared on the front page of The Times on March 4, 1929 and caused a sensation.

Now, new investigations at Caistor Roman town using the latest technology have revealed the plan of the buried town at an extraordinary level of detail which has never been seen before. The high-resolution geophysical survey used a Caesium Vapour magnetometer to map buried remains across the entire walled area of the Roman town.

UPDATE: More here.
This is really neat Ancient Toolkit Gives Glimpse of Prehistoric Life
Before the end of the last ice age, a hunter-gatherer left a bag of tools near the wall of a roundhouse residence, where archaeologists have now found the collection 14,000 years later.

The tool set -- one of the most complete and well preserved of its kind -- provides an intriguing glimpse of the daily life of a prehistoric hunter-gatherer.

. . .

There was a sickle for harvesting wild wheat or barley, a cluster of flint spearheads, a flint core for making more spearheads, some smooth stones (maybe slingshots), a large stone (maybe for striking flint pieces off the flint core), a cluster of gazelle toe bones which were used to make beads, and part of a second bone tool," he said.

It's really rare to find things like this in this kind of association. Or at least rare to have a really good idea what the spatial association means.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Old pa found on new town site
A pre-Ngai Tahu Maori pa has been uncovered at the site of the new Pegasus township.

The town is being built from scratch 25km north of Christchurch and is expected to house about 5000 people.

The pa, found under what was to be the town's pump station, is believed to be 500 to 600 years old.

The nearby Kaiapohia Pa, a Ngai Tahu fortified village, is about 300 years old.
Archaeologists find unique baby skeleton
Archaeologists have uncovered a unique skeleton of a baby, possibly a sacrifice, from the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries in a medieval house's foundations near a church in the centre of Usti nad Labem, Lukas Gal told CTK Tuesday.

The baby that was not older than six months was probably buried there intentionally. The find is unique since the dead were commonly buried at cemeteries then, said Gal from the Terra Verita company working on the archaeological research for the local museum.

Seems to be only the location that suggests sacrifice.
Archaeologists find speared skeleton
A new report led by an ANU archaeologist on the first evidence of death by spearing in Australia has been published in the prestigious British journal Antiquity.

The paper outlines the collaborative detective work that took place following the discovery of the skeletal remains of an Aboriginal male in the Sydney suburb of Narrabeen during excavations for gas works in 2005. A number of stone tools, interpreted as spear barbs, were also discovered at the site.

Lead author Dr Jo McDonald from the Research School of Humanities at ANU said that anatomical, forensic and artefact studies indicate death by spearing and the archaeological evidence showed that that the man was slain and abandoned in a coastal dune around 4000 years ago.
Quick! Look over there! ===========================================>

I have become an Associate. Finally. So like, buy stuff and make me rich.

Not the Josh Grogan CD that's there now though. Well, wait, I don't care. Buy ten! They make great gifts!

Actually, by the time anyone reads this the arrow up top will probably be pointing at nothing.
Non-archaeology Video archaeology post I came across the following yesterday:

It's called "Shopping in 1999 A.D." (which, we should note, ought to read "Shopping in A.D. 1999") and supposedly represents a 1960s imagining of a home computer system late in the century. As Snopes notes, it seems to be legit. They also do a pretty good analysis of it. I was really struck by how well they got things in general. There are differences, of course, as the Snopes folks point out. The "Online banking" seems to be more of a way to view paper documents, but the video also describes the actual paying of bills and such online. And no keyboards! That's what struck me. I couldn't tell how they navigated anywhere, except that a couple of button pushes seemed to get them everywhere. Also interesting was the flat screens; no CRTs which is mostly all that was around then (if not totally).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Indiana Jones update First look: Whip cracks over new 'Indiana Jones' movie

When last we saw Indy, he was riding off into the sunset in 1989's The Last Crusade, set in 1938 near the start of World War II. The new movie, due this spring, is set at the height of the Cold War in 1957, so the character has aged in real time — 19 years.

"He's teaching and having kind of a quiet life," the producer says. Once the archaeologist is thrust back into danger, the signature Indiana Jones red line tracing across the map will take him to New Mexico, Connecticut, Mexico City and the jungles of Peru.

Despite all the gray-hair jokes (Harrison Ford is 65), Indy is still swinging from dangerous precipices and absorbing punches.

There's a few plot items in it. I like what they say here: "Indy's a fallible character. He makes mistakes and gets hurt. He has a few more aches and pains now," Marshall says. "That's the other thing people like: He's a real character, not a character with superpowers."

I think that's true. He doesn't really have any special powers -- no martial arts, no super-precision shooting skills -- he's just smart and he's incredibly tenacious. That resonates with audiences, I think.
Cemetery archaeology update Exhumation of nameless to take months
"Herculean" doesn't begin to describe the task undertaken by a small team of archaeologists in Juárez.

For a month now, they have been digging up forsaken corpses in a corner of the San Rafael municipal cemetery in the sand dunes south of town.

The corner is marked "Fosa Comun," or communal grave, in cheery yellow, but there are none of the colorful plastic flowers and angel statues that are the staples of Mexican cemeteries. There aren't even grave markers.

According to the cemetery's books, about 1,200 unclaimed bodies have been buried there, three to six per grave, since 1991.

Interesting story. Not made clear is who the heck these people were and who was burying them there. Well, it was a municipal cemetery and records were apparently kept, but it seems mysterious as to why there wold be a mystery about them. There's a photo gallery at the site, too.
Into every dig, a little rain must fall
Buckets and pumps worked alongside shovels and trowels this past week as Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists toiled to dry out the sprawling dig after several torrential downpours. In between showers, they returned to the west palisade wall and the cobblestone foundation of Structure 172, intent on exploring these two previously discovered features in greater detail.

Great photo at the site.
A Trove Of Artifacts For UConn
Louis "Louie" Bayer was one of the most feared game wardens in the state for 33 years, sniffing out and chasing down illegal hunters. His ability to track them miles into the woods earned him a legendary reputation.

Bayer, also a conservationist, tracked other things, and over the years collected about 3,000 artifacts in the fields and streams of southeastern Connecticut, including one that dates back 9,000 years. He also collected arrowheads in southeastern Connecticut while working for the state.

With the help of then-UConn graduate student Kathy Hoy, he cataloged and documented the collection before his death in 1997 at 90. He left the collection to his son, Jon Bayer, and his two grandsons, who recently donated it to the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History at the University of Connecticut.

Sounds neat but one wonders how useful they'll be without much in the way of locational data.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


When I was in China I picked up some Gillette Blue Blades:

I wonder if they might be these things that Corey Greenberg raved about. They sure do work well. I looked them up online and this seems to be an old-style packaging for them. I just bought them because I thought they looked kind of cool.

I snagged some other vintage blades at an estate sale this past weekend, along with an old-fashioned lighted Christmas lawn decoration. You know, the plastic kind with a light bulb on the inside? It's Santa in a sleigh with "Noel" written on it. I've been looking for one for a long time now. I also got some new LED lights (not at the estate sale though) to put outside. I like them. They have a nicely soft glow that's perfect for the holidays. My faves are the old-fashioned big bulbs -- I guess they're called C5 or C7 -- because they're the ones they had in my youth and they also have a softer glow than the mini lights. I'll probably replace most of my mini lights with LEDs since the latter are WAY more energy efficient and are tougher.

I don't remember getting a real tree much when I was a kid. I remember a few, but my mom hated them because of all the watering and the needles and the fire hazard. We had one of those silver aluminum trees and. . .I still have it! I don't put it up much because it's kind of fragile and takes forever to put up. You have to decorate them simply, too, with maybe just a few bulbs of one or two colors. Looks very clean and peaceful. I might have a picture of it somewhere. . . .

Oh yeah, here's a couple:

But man does not live by plain red bulbs alone!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Uncovering the Secrets of Ireland's Ancient Breweries
The odd mounds have long mystified archaeologists. Experts agree that the sites, usually located near streams, were likely used for boiling water, but excavations have yielded little more. Were they vats for dying clothes? Proto-saunas? One long-standing theory suggests they were used to boil meat — not an unreasonable notion, since fiadh can refer to deer. But few animal remains have been found near the holes, contrary to what might be expected around prehistoric kitchens.

Quinn believes that his theory, published recently in the journal Archaeology Ireland, is supported by the circumstantial evidence. Even for Bronze Age inhabitants, who lacked metal cooking vessels capable of withstanding fire, ale would have been easy to make.

This is the kind of applied archaeology most archaeologists can get into.
Neanderthal update Neanderthal-human hybrid 'a myth'
Did modern humans interbreed with Neanderthals and, if so, did the mating result in a half-human, half-Neanderthal hybrid?

The answer is possibly 'yes' to the interbreeding but 'no' to the hybrid, according to the authors of a new study that is already making waves among anthropologists.

At the centre of the study, published online in the Journal of Human Evolution, and the current debate, is a 29,000 year old Romanian skull that is one of the oldest fossils in Europe with modern human features.

But those features aren't quite a perfect match with us, which has led some experts to suspect it was a cross between a Neanderthal and a modern human.
Environmentalists lose appeal of landfill near ancient burial site in US
An independent pollution-control agency has rejected environmentalists' claims that a planned landfill could desecrate possible burial grounds near the ruins of a once-thriving prehistoric city.

Environmentalists say the expanded landfill site would be within 2,100 feet (640 meters) of the Cahokia Mounds site, which was among the among the most complex, sophisticated societies of prehistoric North America. As many as 20,000 people lived during its peak of 1100 to 1200 A.D.

Not enough there to really judge what's going on.
CT scan unravels mummy's secrets
Experts have carried out a CT scan on an ancient Egyptian mummy in a bid to unravel its secrets.

Radiographers at University College Hospital carried out a whole-body computerised tomography on the 3,000-year-old body on Sunday.

Nesperennub, a male priest, is enclosed in a linen and plaster case within a one and a half metre-long coffin.
Archaeology Channel video This from Richard Pettigrew:
Friends and colleagues: Early encounters between Europeans and Native
Americans on the West Coast of North America certainly occurred prior to
the well documented Spanish explorations of the 1770s, but very little
concrete evidence thus far has been documented. An exciting new
archaeological exploration of an exceptional case of early contact on the
Oregon coast is the subject of Anthropology Field Notes 5: The Beeswax
Ship of Nehalem, the latest video feature on our nonprofit
streaming-media Web site, The Archaeology Channel

In this series of interviews with today's news-makers, host Faith Haney
of Central Washington University (CWU) explores cultural anthropology and
archaeology. In the fifth episode, taped in September 2007, Faith
queries Washington archaeologist Scott Williams about his search for the
"Beeswax Shipwreck of Nehalem." On the northern Oregon Coast, near the
mouth of the Nehalem River, beeswax chunks, other cargo, and even parts
of a ship have been turning up over the past two centuries. Is this a
lost Spanish galleon from the 17th Century?

Nearly 1,000 ancient tombs found in China

Archaeologists in China recently discovered nearly 1,000 tombs in Henan Province, some of which may have been created 2,200 years ago.

A significant portion of the 972 discovered tombs are thought to date back to China's Eastern Zhou Dynasty, which occurred between 770-221 B.C., while others have been linked to the later Han and Northern Wei Dynasties, China's official Xinhua news agency said Saturday.

The hundreds of tombs were found near the ancient city of Luoyang, which served as the capital of six major Chinese dynasties.
Roman ruins cast new light on a trip to doctor
An ancient doctor's surgery unearthed by Italian archaeologists has cast new light on what a trip to the doctor would have been like in Roman times. Far from crude, the medical implements discovered show that doctors, their surgeries and the ailments they treated have changed surprisingly little in 1,800 years.

A fresco from Pompeii depicts a physician on a house call
A physician on a house call kneels to tend the hero Aeneas in this fresco from Pompeii

Sore joints were common, patients were often told to change their diets, and the good doctor of the seaside town of Rimini even performed house calls.

Archaeologists have spent the past 17 years at the Domus del Chirurgo - House of the Surgeon - painstakingly excavating the site and compiling the world's most detailed portrait of medical treatment in Roman times. Their discoveries go on public display for the first time on Tuesday.

"This is the largest find of surgical instruments anywhere," said Dr Ralph Jackson, the curator of the Romano-British collection at the British Museum and an expert in ancient medicine.

Neat story.

UPDATE: More Roman stuff here.
Non-archaeological post A couple of channels on cable have been running The Matrix lately:


It was made in 1999 at the height of the boom so it was very timely. And it was sort of apocalyptic so it also captured some of the pre-millennium hysteria, especially since its major theme had to do with computers; at the time there was also a lot of hysteria about the Y2k bug.

Side note: Several months before 2000 I had firmly decided that the whole Y2k panic was overhype and never going to amount to much. I was correct, and I would like to attribute that to prescience on my part, recognizing that there never was a problem to start with. OTOH, a lot of work was done beforehand to insure that it wouldn't be a problem, so that may have mitigated much that would have happened. A fried of mine spent a couple of years rewriting legacy mainframe COBOL code at a major financial institution and his company required them all to be on-hand before and after midnight at the turnover; no alcoholic partying, but they put on a might nice spread of food. Me, I was planning on being fast asleep that midnight, but I couldn't sleep and spent that fateful hour sitting in a chair in the dark trying to bore myself to sleep. I admit to some mild apprehension immediately beforehand, but when all of the street lights and electricity remained on I felt vindicated.

Anyway, back to movie: How cool was that movie? (spoilers ahead) I remember the first time I saw Neo waking up in his pod I just gaped at the screen and thought "WTF???!!!!" It was so full of excellent scenes. In the room, when Morpheus is handing Neo the pill:
Morpheus: I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Neo: The Matrix.
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?
Neo: Yes.
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

And then at the end, just when you think Neo failed and died, he stands up and just says "No." softly and calmly when the Agents start shooting at him.

Too bad the other two movies were made. That's one of those that should have been a one-off. It ended so perfectly: the hero had come, but there was still some ambiguity as to what would happen next.

Of course, it inaugurated the era of wire fighting. I realize that other films had been using it for years, but The Matrix brought it to the fore. Nowadays you can't see a fight scene without someone utterly betraying the laws of physics by leaping 8 feet in the air and repeatedly kicking their opponent as if just the simple act of kicking multiple times somehow manages to act as an anti-gravity effect.

Oh, and Carrie-Ann Moss in latex. How hot was that?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Field Photos du Jour Another installment! Today we go back to Kom el-Hisn in the Nile Delta. This is the 1986 season which I did not participate in. They did this in the summer meaning it was freakin' hot and humid. They did very detailed work that year, excavating primarily in 2-meter units and doing very detailed sedimentary work. It was according to a stratified random sampling design whose aim was to obtain a representative sample of the artifacts at the site and also get some idea of the distribution of the architecture, artifact types, and chronology. Detail can be found here.

One additional aspect of the 1986 season was to take one smallish area where architecture (nearly all mud brick) was quite near the surface and clear a larger area as something of a trench -- it was probably technically a "trench", but it was mostly excavated as a series of 2-meter units within a bounded area. We called it the Block Area. The architecture was only about 10cm below the surface; the surface was what is called a "lag" deposit called the Upper Pottery Layer or UPL as we called it. In Egypt this layer is called "sebakh" which was created by farmers sifting the top layer of sediment for use as fertilizer. Consequently, it's a very coarse-grained sediment with a lot of pottery and larger objects, with the fineer organic-rich sediment carted away.

This photo is an overview of the Block Area:

Full image here (KR13-86-36.JPG).

You can see the grid system and some of the features already uncovered. There were several mud brick storage pits in this area and at least one major hearth structure. The ceramics present seem to represent a food preparation and storage area. A few later burials were also found here.

How was the photo taken?

Full image here (KR13-86-37.JPG).

That's Rob Wenke up on the tripod and probably Richard Redding eagerly waiting for him to fall off.

One more:
How was the photo taken?

Full image here (KR13-86-25.JPG).

We called these thing Round Jobbies. They're regular ceramic sherds that have been rounded off to circles. Not clear what they are, but the best guess is that they were used as bottle stoppers. I did some statistical analysis of their characteristics but found nothing. Everything about them is distributed in a normal (bell-shaped) distribution. I even tried comparing them to known rim diameters of our ceramics but no relation.
Dining, Roman-style, as London dig finds history by the bucketful
Wine buckets, bowls and dishes with an elegant beaded design are among a spectacular Roman hoard of international importance that has been discovered in London.

Archaeologists have unearthed more than 1,100 objects dating from the first to third centuries AD that they described yesterday as unprecedented in size and scale.

The finds, which will give dramatic new insight into Londinium, the Roman city, include the most complete timber door to have survived anywhere in the Roman Empire, as well as shiny metal vessels in an exceptional state of preservation and the large-scale remains of an entire Roman streetscape.

This is a more detailed story than te link posted here so it's more than just a single well site.
Graves unearthed during Buffalo school excavation
Archaeologists unearthed the 19th century skeletal remains of three adults and a child from a school lawn that is to house an addition to the building.

District officials were not surprised. The site was a potter's field from 1832 to the mid-1880s, used by the city and Buffalo General Hospital.

Skeletal remains were relocated when the land became a park in 1885, and again when a high school was built there in 1897. Archaeologists were sent in Tuesday to look for any more as the school, now City Honors School, gets ready for a $40 million expansion and renovation project scheduled to begin next summer.

Not much else there.
Sinkhole opens way to weird fossil world
Fossil skeletons of an unusual land-roaming Cuban crocodile, a tortoise and 25 species of birds including a raptor known as a caracara are among the ancient treasures recently discovered in a sinkhole in the Bahamas.

Expert diver Brian Kakuk and his colleagues retrieved these fossils, along with the bones of a lizard, snakes, humans and bats, along the floor and walls of Sawmill Sink, a saltwater cavern of a type called a blue hole on Abaco Island.

The bones, ranging in age from 1,000 to 4,200 years old, were very well preserved in the deep, oxygen-free saltwater layer of the sinkhole, which is free of the bacteria and fungi that typically munch on bones. Divers also found fossilized leaves, twigs, flowers, fruits, seeds, pollen and spores.

Chock full of organic remains, too, so this should turn out to be a gold mine.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rewrites Viking history
Vestfold County archeologists presented finds on Wednesday that show there are two great hall buildings underneath the ground about 100 meters from the major burial mounds at Borre.

The Borre mounds are the largest grouping of monumental burial mounds from the late Iron Age, between 560-1050 AD. There are seven large burial mounds at Borre, and over 30 smaller mounds, all have been opened or plundered.
Glue used by the Romans has stuck around for 2,000 years
German archaeologists claim to have found traces of a glue they say was made by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago and used to mount silver laurel leaves on legionnaires' battle helmets.

Researchers at the Rhineland historical museum in Bonn said they had found remnants of the glue on a legionnaire's iron helmet unearthed near the town of Xanten. It had lain on what was once the bed of the Rhine for at least 1,500 years.

Frank Willer, the museum's chief restorer, said researchers came across the glue by surprise while removing a tiny sample of metal from the helmet with a fine saw. The heat from the tool caused silver laurel leaves decorating the helmet to peel off leaving thread-like traces of the glue behind.
Israeli archaeologists find 2,000-year-old mansion linked to historic queen
Israeli archaeologists digging in an east Jerusalem parking lot have uncovered a 2,000-year-old mansion they believe likely belonged to Queen Helene of Adiabene, a minor but exceptional character in the city's history.

The remains of the building were unearthed just outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, underneath layers of later settlement that were themselves hidden until recently under the asphalt of a small parking lot.

The dig site is in the Arab neighborhood of Silwan, built on a slope that houses the most ancient remnants of settlement in Jerusalem and is known to scholars as the City of David.
Well, well, well Largest haul of London pots
A unique collection of pots and pans found down a well in central London has given a rare insight into the lives of the bourgeoisie in what was then a remote northern outpost of the Roman empire.

Dating from the late fourth century the 19 gold coloured copper-alloy cooking and tableware implements are almost perfectly preserved because of the 1 700 years they spent under water, protected from the ravages of oxidisation.

"This is the biggest haul ever found in London," said Roman era archaeologist Marit Gaimster at the Museum of London where the artefacts go on display from Friday.

Old wells are kind of amazing in the amount of junk that accumulates in them. I'd wager you can't dig a deep hole in the ground anytime anywhere without people chucking stuff down it.
Whoa Lost pre-Inca treasure found in Spanish lock-up
Police have uncovered a hidden storage room in Spain holding 1,800 pieces of pre-Colombian art, including ceremonial masks, ceramics, jewellery and a suit of 37 plates of gold - artefacts from a collection last seen in public 10 years ago.

Many of the metallic pieces, including four copper masks, four gold rattles and four gold nose pendants, derived from the ancient tomb of the Lord of Sipan, one of the most important vestiges of pre-Inca Moche culture in Peru.

Article continues
The treasure, "of incalculable value" say police, had remained undetected for 10 years in a secure room beneath a home in Galicia. The artefacts had been last exhibited in 1997, in Santiago de Compostela. The curator of the exhibit, a Costa Rican man who is now wanted in Peru, has since disappeared, police said in a statement yesterday. A spokesman refused to name the curator, who they suspect first hid the treasure then fled the country.

I did not know about this.
Okay, I didn't see this one coming. At.All.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album. And web site. While at the gym this morning one of the TVs had on the video -- sound was off, you listen by plugging in headphones to whatever machine you're on -- and I think I physically gaped. And not just at Krauss either. . . .

I have not heard the song yet. But. . . but. . . .weird.

Though I guess Led Zep did have some bluesy influence on some of their stuff, so maybe it's not all that weird.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Discovery News has a short video on modern mummies from Colombia.
NAGPRA update The SAA's statement on the proposed DOI rules changing NAGPRA can be found at their web site (PDF).
Maya market update More on it here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

He digs less to learn more about Vikings
The joke is that, in John Steinberg's home, they know an awful lot about Vikings.

On one side you have his wife, Andrea Kremer, whose job requires her to be an expert on the Minnesota Vikings (and the other 31 National Football League teams) as a reporter for NBC Sports' football coverage.

And then there's Steinberg, a senior researcher at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, who is one of the world's foremost specialists on the real Vikings, the tough-guy (and girl) Scandinavian peoples who really knew how to blitz.

Steinberg, 41, has been exploring archeological sites in Iceland since 1999, and for the last two years has led the Skagafjord Archaeological Settlement Survey, which seeks to study the evolution of settlements in a northern fjord for clues as to how Iceland evolved from the era of Viking chiefdoms into a more organized central government.
NAGPRA update Proposed federal rule threatens 2 decades of established law
The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) has condemned a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Interior that would put in jeopardy the highly productive compromise that was reached when the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was passed in 1990.

On October 16, 2007, the Department of the Interior published draft regulations that would destroy the use of cultural affiliation as the principle for repatriation decisions, which is at the core of NAGPRA and supported by seventeen years of hard work and effort by tribes, archaeologists, and museum personnel, and replace it with an undefined notion of "cultural relationship."

“The Department’s proposed regulations have no basis in law or science and reflect an attempt to impermissibly legislate in a manner not prescribed by Congress. The adoption of the regulations as they stand would force the NAGPRA process back to square one,” said Dean Snow, president of SAA. “This ill-advised rule would irreparably diminish the archaeological record of the entire U.S. “The damage to some of our most cherished institutions and the cost to science and the public is incalculable.”

Note that this is different from the recent Senate moves to alter the language of NAGPRA. It's really perplexing what the point of this is.
Rare Maya "Death Vase" Discovered
An extremely rare and intricately carved "death vase" has been discovered in the 1,400-year-old grave of an elite figure within the Maya Empire, scientists say.

The vase is the first of its kind to be found in modern times, and its contents are opening a window onto ancient rituals of ancestor worship that included food offerings, chocolate enemas, and . . . .


No wonder they collapsed.

Back to story:

hallucinations induced by vomiting, experts say.

Archaeologists discovered the vase along with parts of a human skeleton while excavating a small "palace" in northwestern Honduras in 2005. (The dig was funded by the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)

Kinda gross. But since it was excavated in modern times they were able to do soil and residue analysis, thus getting some idea of its use.
2 Ancient Graveyards Found Near Damascus
Syrian archaeologists have unearthed two Bronze-era cemeteries dating from the 18th century B.C., the third set of ancient graveyards found in less than a month, the head of the Archaeological Department said Tuesday.

Mahmoud Hamoud said the circular limestone cemeteries that were discovered Monday in the village of Heina, south of the capital Damascus, contained skeletons of both adults and children, more than 120 pieces of pottery, jars and precious stones.

Syria's official SANA news agency, quoting the antiquities directorate, said the cemeteries resemble sites in the ancient Palestinian West Bank town of Jericho and the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon.
Fancy that, archaeologists studying beer Did Early Southwestern Indians Ferment Corn and Make Beer?
The belief among some archeologists that Europeans introduced alcohol to the Indians of the American Southwest may be faulty.

Ancient and modern pot sherds collected by New Mexico state archeologist Glenna Dean, in conjunction with analyses by Sandia National Laboratories researcher Ted Borek, open the possibility that food or beverages made from fermenting corn were consumed by native inhabitants centuries before the Spanish arrived.

Dean, researching through her small business Archeobotanical Services, says, “There’s been an artificial construct among archeologists working in New Mexico that no one had alcohol here until the Spanish brought grapes and wine. That’s so counter-intuitive. It doesn’t make sense to me as a social scientist that New Mexico would have been an island in pre-Columbian times. By this reasoning, ancestral puebloans would have been the only ones in the Southwest not to know about fermentation.”

Read the whole thing as it's a pretty good description of the work. I don't know of any place that didn't have some sort of alcoholic beverage.
Neanderthal update Tooth growth suggests rapid maturation in a Neanderthal child
An international European research collaboration led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology reports evidence for a rapid developmental pattern in a 100,000 year old Belgian Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis). The report, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (online edition early December), details how the team used growth lines both inside and on the surfaces of the child’s teeth to reconstruct tooth formation time and its’ age at death. Scientists found differences in the duration of tooth growth in the Neanderthal when compared to modern humans, with the former showing shorter times in most cases. This faster growth resulted in a more advanced pattern of dental development than in fossil and living members of our own species (Homo sapiens). The Scladina juvenile, which appears to be developmentally similar to a 10-12 year old human, was estimated to be in fact about 8 years old at death. This pattern of development appears to be intermediate between early members of our genus (e.g., Homo erectus) and living people, suggesting that the characteristically slow development and long childhood is a recent condition unique to our own species.
Blogging update Blogging may be limited today due to some minor water intrusion into ArchaeoBlog Manor as a result of yesterday's rather nasty rains here. We got 3.77" Monday (midnight on) which was on top of snow and rain Saturday and Sunday. It was a weather system knows around here as a Pineapple express:

It originates down near the Hawaiian islands and brings a LOT of moisture. As you can see by the sat photo they also tend to be elongated systems and often slide through lengthwise, meaning hours and hours and sometimes days of continuous rain. ArchaeoBlog Manor's problems results from the wind coming out of the southwest; the house is exposed on that corner and, despite a 4' overhang, the rain still battered it on that side and water crept down the foundation and into the basement. It's finished so there was about 2-3' of wet carpet along about 10-12' of wall. Not too bad, but thank GOD I purchased a carpet cleaner; otherwise I'd have had no way to suck up the water.

It may initiate a new floor; the carpet might be okay but I've been meaning to re-do it down there and this might be a good opportunity to rip it up and put down tile. So, depending on how much needs to be done, I will or won't get much posting done.
Breaking news Rare ancient wooden throne found in Herculaneum
An ancient Roman wood and ivory throne has been unearthed at a dig in Herculaneum, Italian archaeologists said on Tuesday, hailing it as the most significant piece of wooden furniture ever discovered there.

The throne was found during an excavation in the Villa of the Papyri, the private house formerly belonging to Julius Caesar's father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, built on the slope of Mount Vesuvius.

The name of the villa derives from the impressive library containing thousands of scrolls of papyrus discovered buried under meters (yards) of volcanic ash after the Vesuvius erupted on 24 August 79.

They have a couple of photos at that link, one of a portion of the chair itself and one of a mural showing a similar throne.

Monday, December 03, 2007

NAGPRA update Following on recent news of changing NAGPRA, Hawks has a post up on the, as he calls it, patriation of some very old remains:
In that light, repatriating a 10,000-year-old skeleton must subtract from our future inquiries into the origins of New World peoples. Or I should say, patriating, since it isn't being sent back to its people, it is being given to entirely new people who have no demonstrated relationship to the skeleton at all.

I do perceive the real benefits from cordial and cooperative relationships with indigenous peoples, particularly where tribes have well-defined and recognized historic territories. The vast majority of skeletal remains of ancient Americans are quite recent, and might in most cases (given sufficient evidence and analysis) be attributable to particular historic cultural groups.

But for remains over a few thousand years old -- and certainly for the earliest New World populations -- every living person of Native American descent may count these early skeletons among their ancestors.
Special Research Methods Find Ancient Maya Marketplace
Coaxing answers from 1500-year-old clues hidden in soil clumps, a team of archaeologists and environmental scientists identified a marketplace in an ancient Maya city, calling into question archaeologists’ widely held belief that people of the era relied on rulers to tax and re-distribute goods, rather than trading them with one another.

As reported in the December issue of Latin American Antiquity, Brigham Young University professor of environmental science Richard Terry and his student team helped confirm the location of a suspected marketplace on the Yucatan peninsula, giving Maya studies powerful new evidence for understanding the advanced civilization’s economy.

. . .

In trying to determine if the Maya of the Classic era (about A.D. 300 to 900) had a market economy, scientists had found large, open areas within settlements of the period, but no indications of the areas’ purposes. Terry’s soil analysis revealed outlines of use clearly consistent with a modern-day open-air market in the region.

It looks like a neat, innovative study. They mapped the distribution of phosphorous concentrations. I found this bit interesting:
Dahlin explained that he and other Maya archaeologists had recognized that many Maya cities appeared to have held more people than the regions’ agricultural capacities could have supported. For years, researchers sought evidence of sophisticated farming or irrigation techniques to explain this. The idea of a market economy that facilitated the importing of food and other goods wasn’t taken seriously, in part because it would be difficult to distinguish from most archaeologists’ belief that the Maya elite had a tax and tribute system and effectively paid their underlings for loyalty by passing goods down the social ladder. But proof of the existence of a market would certainly prove a market economy.

This seems like it could be similar to the (Old Kingdom, at least) Egyptian case of local markets existing in tandem with national distribution, tribute, and taxation systems (see here, the last 10-15 paragraphs). Especially in the OK, many texts imply that the king controlled virtually everything that went on throughout the country, but on the ground you find something at least somewhat different.
And speaking of which. . . . Tomb could haunt Gormley
Environment Minister John Gormley faces another archaeological headache over the development of a new port in north Dublin.

A passage tomb, which could be up to 6,000 years old, lies in the land earmarked for a deepwater port at Bremore, near Balbriggan, which is being developed by the Drogheda Port Company and Treasury Holdings at a cost of €300m.

And a 17th-century harbour, historic wrecks and a cairn on the beach -- which could contain the remains of victims of a wreck in 1875 -- could also be affected.

The passage tomb, which is protected, could be one of the earliest examples in the country and the port's developers will have to produce a plan as to how the port can go ahead without it being affected.

This is the third infrastructure project that could be delayed by concerns about archaeology.
Archaeologists doubt oak grove at Cal stadium houses Indian remains
Protesters believe an oak grove outside Cal's football stadium, where they have been roosting for the past year, is atop an ancient Ohlone Indian burial ground that should be protected from the university's plans to build an athletic training center.

But the Native Americans probably never buried anyone at the Memorial Stadium oak grove, two archaeologists said last week.

"If there was a village at the stadium, and I don't think there was, I'm confident Berkeley archaeologists will have dealt with it appropriately," Laura Jones, campus archaeologist at Stanford University and an expert on Ohlone, said Friday. "In any case, there's been so much construction there, I wouldn't trust anything I found within 100 feet of that stadium."

It appears that this conclusion is based on work done over the years, especially having to do with the construction of the existing stadium which was written up by. . .Alfred Kroeber (and Robert Lowie) who will be known well by students of Americanist archaeology.

I wonder if any remote sensing or possibly some minor test excavations could be performed first. That might at least provide some hard evidence, though if any burials were widely scattered you'd probably not find them.

I liked this: The Ohlone Indians lived on the banks of Strawberry Creek - and dozens of other Bay Area creeks - for at least 10,000 years. Cultural continuity for 10,000 years!