Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wilcox a thorn in the side
he big metal gates that kept the world out of Waldo Wilcox's Range Creek Canyon cattle ranch for 50 years are now locked against him.

"If they don't want me there, it's their right," the 76-year-old Wilcox says of state officials and archaeologists. "They bought it. When I owned it, I changed the locks to keep people out too."

Wilcox is the celebrity curmudgeon of eastern Utah - a man who sold his remote 4,200-acre spread to the state in 2001 for $2.5 million and revealed to the world a treasure trove of hundreds of largely undisturbed ancient Indian sites.

Actually, a pretty good article.
Uncovering the past
Julia Lawson’s gloved hand moves with short, precise strokes, each pass of her scalpel kicking up a small cloud of ancient dust and rock particles.

Little by little, she reveals a piece of history underneath the rocky crust: a 4,500-year-old bronze knife blade from the cradle of civilization.

Spread on a table before her in a lab at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology are dozens of similar items — fragile bowls, arrowheads and tools from the Mesopotamian city of Ur.
Sacred Cave of Rome's Founders Discovered, Archaeologists Say
Archaeologists say they have unearthed Lupercale—the sacred cave where, according to legend, a she-wolf nursed the twin founders of Rome and where the city itself was born.

The long-lost underground chamber was found beneath the remains of Emperor Augustus' palace on the Palatine, a 230-foot-tall (70-meter-tall) hill in the center of the city.

Archaeologists from the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Rome Municipality came across the 50-foot-deep (15-meter-deep) cavity while working to restore the decaying palace.

Bit more detail than earlier stories.
EEK! Archaeologist digs for proof of Sasquatch
BY DAY SHE'S the Stanislaus National Forest's archaeologist. With a master's degree in anthropology, she makes sure prehistoric Native American sites in the woods are protected. She's also the forest's liaison with the Me-Wuk tribe.

But it's what Kathy Strain does in her spare time that separates her from Forest Service colleagues.

She's a Bigfooter. A student of Sasquatch. A yearner for Yeti. A true believer.

"A strong case can be made that Bigfoot exists," said Strain, whose Jamestown-area home includes a room full of books, videos, cast footprints, notes and reports on the creature. "I've seen things I have no other explanation for."

Yeah, if you've lost 95% of you critical faculty. . . . . .

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

4.5-ton slab falls from cliff, damages ancient dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park
Something looked different at the popular Square Tower House at Mesa Verde National Park when research archaeologist Julie Bell took visitors by the most photographed site at the park recently.

There was rubble where rubble should not be.

A 4.5-ton slab fell on the picturesque ruin sometime last month, smashing a storage room, rupturing the wall of a kiva and coming to rest inside a two-story room at the far end of the site.

"It pierced the kiva like a knife," Bell said. "Fortunately, it didn't get the tower."

A shame, but not unexpected. For some reason, I was under the impression that Threatening Rock at Pueblo Bonito had only recently fallen, but it appears to have followed up on its threat in 1941.
Discovering the pharmacy of the pharaohs
Scientists at The University of Manchester have teamed up with colleagues in Egypt in a bid to discover what medicines were used by the ancient Egyptians.

The KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology in the Faculty of Life Sciences and the Egyptian Medicinal Plant Conservation Project in St Katherine's, Sinai, have formed a partnership to research Egyptian pharmacy in the times of the pharaohs.

The 'Pharmacy in Ancient Egypt' collaboration, which is funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust, will compare modern plant species common to the Sinai region with the remains of ancient plants found in tombs.
Ancient mystery solved? Taft man says ‘Murphy Mover' explains pyramids
James Murphy said his Apex Delivery and Lifting System - or Murphy Mover - is more than just an explanation. It's a nearly energy free way of lifting and moving large objects.

It doesn't take much power and doesn't need any major outside energy - just gravity.

. . .

Murphy came across his idea reminiscing about riding his swing set as a young boy. As he swung higher and higher, the swing set started moving -- frightening to a young boy, but a revelation to an inventor.

“I would swing so high that the back legs would come off the ground, then the front legs would come off the ground.”

Hmmmm. Picture of the model device:

I'm having trouble imagining how it works. Wish they had a little movie of it.
Workmen uncover leper grave
HUMAN bones, thought to be from medieval lepers, have been found during renovation work at a Coventry pub.

The grisly discovery was made by builders during excavations at the Four Provinces in Allesley Old Road, Chapelfields.

Work has now been halted while archaeologists probe the site.

Publican Kieran Connolly said: "The builders were digging up the foundations of the gents toilets and kitchen when they found the bones.
Research team discovers village
A team of researchers, led by Oregon State University anthropologist Deanna Kingston, has discovered a prehistoric village on a tiny island in the Bering Sea. The archaeological site, shown by carbon dating to be 800 to 900 years old, indicates that King Island, Alaska, was inhabited by Inupiat walrus hunters for at least a millennium.

The effort is part of a four-year study of the plants, birds, place names, dialect and culture of King Island, supported by two grants from the National Science Foundation, one for $540,000 and another for $23,000. Kingston — whose team includes an archaeologist, an ornithologist, a botanist, a linguist and 30 elder King Island volunteers — is working to preserve the traditional ecological knowledge of King Islanders, who today use their homeland only as a seasonal hunting camp.
Slavery archaeology update Sea Island Strata: At a former Georgia plantation, archaeologists delve into both the workaday and spiritual lives of slaves.
On the northern end of Ossabaw Island, three former slave cabins sit in a perfect row—remains of a plantation that predates the Revolutionary War. Dan Elliott stands next to the cabins one morning, near palm trees silhouetted against the gray sky. For five weeks he has been digging inside the cabins. Now he has set his shovel aside.

Wearing a blue-striped train conductor's cap and dirt-stained jeans, he holds the handle of a ground-penetrating radar device that looks like a lawn mower. At its base is a small black box that emits radar, and attached to the handle is a laptop computer. Elliott is an archaeologist and the president of a nonprofit archaeology firm called the Lamar Institute, based in Savannah. On his computer screen is a map of Ossabaw from the year 1860. It shows six additional slave cabins in the same row as the three still standing today. He hopes the radar will detect the buried foundations of the vanished buildings.

Apparently, the houses/cabins remained relatively untouched since they were abandoned, as the island was used as a private hunting ground and not developed.
Pollen Reveals Terracotta Army Origins
China’s Terracotta Army has mystified scholars since the 8,099 clay warriors and horses were first discovered in Emperor Qin Shihuang’s mausoleum in 1974. The figures, meant to protect the emperor in the afterlife, were buried with him around 210-209 B.C.

At least one mystery about the imposing faux army recently was solved. It is now known that the horses and warriors were constructed in different locations, based on analysis of pollen found in fragments of terracotta that were collected from the clay figures.
Big Stonehenge news Stonehenge builders' houses found
Archaeologists say they have found a huge ancient settlement used by the people who built Stonehenge.

Excavations at Durrington Walls, near the legendary Salisbury Plain monument, uncovered remains of ancient houses.

People seem to have occupied the sites seasonally, using them for ritual feasting and funeral ceremonies.

. . .

The dwellings date back to 2,600-2,500 BC, the same period that Stonehenge was built.

They determined seasonality provisionally by pig teeth, which gave ages of 9 months for the porcines, assuming birth in spring. But this depends on an accurate dating of Stonehenge to this period as well, as they note in the article. Still, there's so much to analyze it should keep people busy for decades.

More here, too.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Fight! Fight! Saving the story under our feet: What happens when rich archaeological sites stand in the way of progress?
Kick the dirt in just about any prime local spot, and you're likely to be in a place where others lived their lives before you. The soil under our feet has some compelling stories to tell about the "SLO life" of the past 8,000 or 10,000 years.

But unread books and even whole libraries full of these stories are being destroyed all around us, according to some archaeologists and Native American tribes.

"This is just ghastly. It's like throwing books in a bonfire," said archaeologist John Parker, shaking his head as he walked by towering piles of bulldozed earth at a hillside construction project on Rockview Street.

Long article but a bit confusing. Essentially it seems that the original assessment was probably correct: Dunton agrees with Singer's assessment that the Rockview construction site "doesn't contain anything interesting" because it was disturbed years ago, when the U.S. military installed a gun emplacement at the top of the hill during World War II.
Geico Cavemen update Hawks has a post up on the Caveman ads with a link to a Ron Rosenbaum post on them. Rosenbaum thinks they jumped the shark with the therapist ad. Sadly they're both WRONG! I didn't much care for the mango salsa one -- he seemed too petulant -- but the airport one is brilliantly done. The music is perfect, he doesn't over-react to anything, perfectly timed, everything. I also love the therapist one, especially the end where he answers his cell phone and says "My mother's calling. I'll put it on speaker." The Cavemen at a party one doesn't seem too good though. I may not get the bit with Tina though, if that means something in particular.

And don't forget to visit! "As America’s oldest and largest caveman civil rights organization, Up With Cavemen works with a unified voice to ensure that cavemen everywhere, no matter their physical appearance, can live open, honest lives."
Homo hobbitus update Survival of the biggest - hobbits wiped out by man
Remains of at least 13 members of the little species, Homo floresiensis, who were about a metre tall, were unearthed in Liang Bua between 2001 and 2004. The hobbits lived there from 95,000 to 12,000 years ago when a layer of volcanic ash filled the cave.

It had been thought the eruption devastated life on Flores and led to the demise of the little people, as well as the pygmy elephants they feasted on.

Studies of the volcanic ash by two team members, Chris Turney and Douglas Hobbs, however, showed it was from an eruption about 600 kilometres to the west, near Bali, and so was unlikely to have resulted in island-wide extinctions.

Mike Morwood, co-leader of the Australian and Indonesian discovery team, said he now believed modern humans, who arrived on the "lost world" of Flores soon afterwards, hunted the stegadon to extinction and were responsible for the disappearance of the hobbits.
Let an anthropologist in your jeans The Politics of Pants: It was consumers, not marketers, that made jeans a symbol of youthful revolt.
It’s neither makers nor marketers who successfully attach meaning to the products they want to sell. It’s the consumers who impute meaning to those products they choose to buy.

The anthropologist Grant McCracken has done a lot of scholarly work to elucidate this distinction, and The New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell has been a pioneer in reporting it. His famous 1997 piece “The Coolhunt” focused on consultants who attempt to monitor “coolness” as it is attached to—and detached from—consumer goods by a hierarchy of influential buyers. Gladwell offered case studies of brands, such as Hush Puppies shoes, that had become cool (for a while, anyway) without the manufacturer or its ad people ever having a clue. Jeans conquered the world—Levi’s 501s are the single most successful garment ever designed—not because of the denim industry’s efforts to give them meaning but in spite of them.

I highlight only because it's fairly interesting, but it also throws in a lot of ideas archaeologists have talked about off and on for years. This used to be the explanation for the battleship-shaped curves (otherwise known as monotonic) in frequency seriations -- particular styles rise in popularity and then gradually lose popularity over time. It also goes to a lot of post-processualist arguments about how meaning is imputed to objects and symbols. One seriously wonders how archaeologists a thousand years hence will make sense of the Denim Culture and why it floresced when and where it did. Will they call any of it an Elvis Phase? A James Dean Focus? Will they be arguing style vs. function, ala Binford and Bordes? And what about button vs. zipper?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Mathematics in Ancient Egypt
It has been suggested that mathematics then amounted to no more than the two-times table and the ability to find two-thirds of any number. The whole structure of Egyptian mathematics was said to be based on these two simple rules, and indeed no evidence exists of a textual geometry with constructions and proofs.

Yet, looking at the Egyptians' stunning monuments, as well as a civilisation that spanned three millennia, one might expect to find a similar element of grandeur in their sciences -- especially in mathematics and astronomy. How did they configure the manpower and materials needed to build more than 90 pyramids? It is obvious that to calculate the vast amount of computations they needed, the ancient Egyptians reached a fairly advanced mathematical knowledge.

Good article, but it doesn't really get going on the actual mathematics until about 2/3 of the way down.
Yorkshire clan linked to Africa
People of African origin have lived in Britain for centuries, according to genetic evidence.

A Leicester University study found that seven men with a rare Yorkshire surname carry a genetic signature previously found only in people of African origin.

The men seem to have shared a common ancestor in the 18th Century, but the African DNA lineage they carry may have reached Britain centuries earlier.

Details of the study appear in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

The scientists declined to disclose the men's surname in order to protect their anonymity.

I'm betting it's "Forsyth-Mbutu" m'self.

That's a joke, by the way.
Non-archaeology post Marsupial lion among finds in treasure trove of fossils
The animal was 9ft long, and probably the most fearsome predator on the continent. But the marsupial lion may have been wiped out in Australia by the arrival of humans 50,000 years ago, according to a first analysis of a treasure trove of fossils unearthed in southern Australia. The discovery has been described by scientists as the "find of the century".

"They constitute a veritable Rosetta stone for ice age Australia," said Gavin Prideaux, a palaeontologist at the Western Australia Museum, who led expeditions to recover and study the fossils. "We discovered 69 species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including a remarkable eight new species of kangaroo, the most common of which sported unusually large brow ridges."
Sacred Cave of Rome's Founders Discovered, Archaeologists Say
Archaeologists say they have unearthed Lupercale—the sacred cave where, according to legend, a she-wolf nursed the twin founders of Rome and where the city itself was born.

The long-lost underground chamber was found beneath the remains of Emperor Augustus' palace on the Palatine, a 230-foot-tall (70-meter-tall) hill in the center of the city.

Archaeologists from the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Rome Municipality came across the 50-foot-deep (15-meter-deep) cavity while working to restore the decaying palace.
Connan the (theory) Destroyer Human Remains in Ancient Jar a Mystery
For over 100 years, four blue-glazed jars bearing the nametag of Rameses II (1302-1213 B.C.) were believed to contain the Egyptian pharaoh's bodily organs. But analysis of organic residues scraped from the jars has determined one actually contained an aromatic salve, while a second jar held the organs of an entirely different person who lived around 760 years later.

Now the question is, who was this individual?

"We do believe that the unknown person was of importance for at least two reasons," said Jacques Connan, one of the study’s authors. "First, he or she had access to the famous jars and secondly, his or her organs were embalmed with pure Pistacia resin, which is uncommon according to our present chemical knowledge on balms of Egyptian mummies, especially during the Roman period."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Archeologists discover ancient Olmec-influenced city near Mexico City
A 2,500-year-old city influenced by the Olmecs – often referred to as the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica – has been discovered hundreds of miles away from the Olmecs' Gulf coast territory, archaeologists said.

The remains of Zazacatla are providing insight into the early arrival of advanced civilizations in central Mexico, while also providing lessons about the risks to ruins posed by modern development that now cover much of the ancient city.

Archaeologist Giselle Canto said Wednesday that two statues and architectural details at the site, 25 miles south of Mexico City, indicate that the inhabitants of Zazacatla adopted Olmec styles when they changed from a simple, egalitarian society to a more complex, hierarchical one.
Walker site update Archaeologists explain significance of the Walker site
Thor Olmanson is director of the Leech Lake Heritage Sites program and is the project's principal investigator. He is understandably more cautious in describing the site, especially since "we are in the early stages of site material and landform analysis," he said. This fall, he and David Mather, National Register Archaeologist for the state's Historic Preservation Office, invited geologists, soil scientists, fellow archaeologists and other scientists to investigate the site. "As the natural response is skepticism, everyone who came was ready to debunk the site," said Olmanson. "And, so far, they have left convinced that this is something different, something that needs to be looked at more closely" he said.

Considerably more detail in this report than previous ones. It's going to be a tough sell because there is apparently no organic material at all. It seems geologically sealed though so at least disturbance doesn't seem to be an issue. At this point, the crucial things to pin down will be the artifactual nature of the lithics and the dating.

Another shamelessly linked photo. Can't really tell anything from it though:
Homo hobbitus update Hobbit cave digs set to restart
Archaeologists who found the remains of human "Hobbits" have permission to restart excavations at the cave where the specimens were found.

Indonesian officials have blocked access to the cave since 2005, following a dispute over the bones.

But Professor Richard "Bert" Roberts, a member of the team that found the specimens, told BBC News the political hurdles had now been overcome.
Hunting for Hadrian
HISTORIANS hope to unearth evidence that Roman emperor Hadrian once stayed in a fort along the magnificent wall bearing his name.

Archaeologists will be digging along Hadrian’s Wall this summer in an attempt to confirm speculation about why and when it was built.

They hope their work at Vindolanda in Northumbria will prove that the emperor once stayed there on a visit to the wall, as well as unlocking secrets about the Roman army and people’s political and social lives.
A historic woodland just outside Peterborough could hold the key to finding out more about the area’s Roman past as archaeologists prepare to lift the lid on 2,000 years of history.

Funding has been made available for a study of the 208-hectare woodland of Bedford Purlieus in Cambridgeshire, which archaeologists believe contains the remarkably intact and undisturbed remains of a large but hitherto unknown Roman structure.

“There was some indication of Roman building in the area,” explained Paul Malcolm, Forester with the Forestry Commission. “The site is marked on the OS map but we didn’t know this was going to turn out to be the size that it has. I think the extent of it was a surprise.”
Ancient Turkish site set to be flooded
The Allianoi archaeological site could soon be under water if authorities carry out their plans to flood a newly constructed reservoir. Located in western Turkey, the site is a well-preserved example of an ancient Roman health spa.

Archaeologist Ahmet Yaras, head of the Allianoi excavation team, is spearheading a campaign to save the site from being submerged. They are trying to rally international support to pressure the authorities to move the reservoir — or at least delay the flooding for another five years so that they can finish the excavations.

Depending on how deep it ends up being, it may be the best thing for it, if it preserves it.
That's a relief Italian police recover ancient Roman marble reliefs of gladiators
Italian police have unearthed the hidden cache of a group of grave robbers, recovering ancient Roman marble reliefs depicting stunningly lifelike gladiators locked in mortal combat, officials said Wednesday.

The 12 panels were found buried in the garden of a private home near Fiano Romano, some 25 miles north of Rome, and officials hailed the recovery as a major archaeological find and a blow to the illegal antiquities market.

The reliefs date to the late 1st century B.C. and are believed to have decorated a tomb, still to be located, in the nearby Roman settlement of Lucus Feroniae, said Anna Maria Moretti, superintendent for antiquities in the area north of Rome.

Cool stuff but no arrests. Shamelessly linked photo:
Lost civiliation road. . . .found City of David dig unearths pilgrims' road to Temple
At the end of the 19th century, the archaeologists Bliss and Dickey discovered a short piece of road dating back to the Herodian period in Jerusalem's City of David. The road ascended from south to north in the direction of the Temple Mount. Many years later, in 1963, the archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon found another piece of the road, a little closer to the Temple Mount. When, a little over a year ago, Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists found yet another section of it, they believed they had solved a puzzle, and that they could now sketch the course of the main road by which many pilgrims of Second Temple times made their way up to the Temple after immersing themselves in the Siloam Spring. It turned out they were wrong. That road was apparently secondary.
ArchaeoBook notes The Great Pyramid: Ancient Egypt Revisited by John Romer
The largest and most precise stone building in the world and a feat of Bronze Age technology, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built around 2478 B.C. in the reign of King Khufu. But how did the Great Pyramid's makers go about their daily work? what were their timetables, their ambitions? Transposing to Giza some known facts about the building rates of the Red Pyramid during the reign of Khufu's father, Sneferu, archeologist Romer (Great Excavations) concludes that it would have taken 14 years to build the Great Pyramid and that a nationwide workforce of around 21,000 was employed during the first year of construction and almost half that number as it approached completion. Taking traditional Egyptologists to task, Romer warns readers against swallowing the "myth" that the Great Pyramid was built by a mindless rural labor force kidnapped from distant villages and enslaved by a bureaucracy governed by talented noblemen. Instead, he posits that the workers were intelligent and inventive. Moreover, the author believes that the builders worked from a single construction plan, a "hidden logic" denied by many scholars but that he claims he alone has recovered. Romer is a bracing writer with attitude to spare, yet highly technical data render this volume more suitable to architects than lay readers. Illus. (Apr.)

Just got this from the publisher and it's not out until April so I can't. . . .well, I don't know what I can say about it. The above seems to indicate that, in part, it's a review of the recent literature and thought on pyramid construction. I suppose he might be "taking traditional Egyptologists to task" for thinking they were buit by slave(-ish) labor, but that's been pretty well argued by Mark Lehner among others. Don't know about this construction plan though; I've never heard anyone really refer to a lack of one, but who knows. But feel free to discuss what might be in it, and go buy a copy when it comes out so they'll keep shoving books my way.

I will mention that Romer's Valley of the Kings is an excellent review of the VK. He's a good writer and this latter volume is an excellent and informative introduction to the Valley.
Trophy Skull Sheds Light on Ancient Wari Empire
A team of archaeologists and Earthwatch volunteers led by Dr. Mary Glowacki and Louis Tesar uncovered an elite Wari cemetery at Cotocotuyoc this past summer in Peru’s Huaro Valley, near Cuzco. Among their finds was a “trophy skull,” which offers insight into warfare in the Wari Empire based here from 1,500 to 1,000 years ago.

The trophy skull was found in what the archaeologists consider the VIP area of the cemetery. Special placement of llama bones, a distinguishing feature of Wari remains, alerted the archaeologists and volunteers that something special might be underneath. The skull had a large circular hole cut in its base, suggesting that it may have been put or held on a pole. A large hole in the back of the skull indicates that it may have been worn during special ceremonies like a large pendant. The skull also features a line cut across the frontal bone, which indicates removal of the scalp possibly for the cleaning, perhaps for use as a ceremonial vessel, and was later reattached to the skull with gold alloy pins.
Catblogging update
You may recall from this post that the ArchaeoBlog household acquired a new resident last month, namely a one-eyed kitten. Well, the little critter's doing fine and has, in fact, acquired a name: Jack (as in, one-eyed. . .). He developed a nasty respiratory infection the day after Christmas which caused some concern since A) I'd never had a cat with a bad cold before, and B) He had small amounts of blood emanating from his nose and even his good eye. (!!) Veterinary professionals didn't seem overly concerned about it, and said it was common for shelter cats to contract those things. Stress of moving, exposure to other cats, etc. He's since rebounded quite nicely and is busily making himself at home. The other two felines were wary, but they've come around. He still tries to get the older one to play, but he won't have any of that, but at least he's not all growly and hissy. The younger one is a little more accommodating, but still doesn't quite seem to know how he's supposed to play with such a little guy. Like "Is he attacking me? Do I need to go full-bore romp on him? Will I get yelled at if I do?" Ostensibly, the younger one was obtained so as to give the younger cat someone to play with during the day, as the older one (14) is deep into retirement mode and just likes to sleep in the front window most of the day. So, hopefully it will work out okay in the end.

But they are getting along, at least when both are unconscious (that's the younger cat and Jack):

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Well, this is interesting The winds of change
Dartmouth researchers have learned that the prevailing winds in the mid latitudes of North America, which now blow from the west, once blew from the east. They reached this conclusion by analyzing 14,000- to 30,000-year-old wood samples from areas in the mid-latitudes of North America (40-50�N), which represents the region north of Denver and Philadelphia and south of Winnipeg and Vancouver.

The researchers report their findings online on Jan. 23 in the journal Geology, published by the Geological Society of America.

"Today in the mid-latitude zone of North America, marine moisture is transported either from the west coast by westerly winds, or from both the west and east coasts by storms," says Xiahong Feng, the paper's lead author and a professor of earth sciences. "In this study, we found evidence that during the last glacial period, about 14-36 thousand years ago, the prevailing wind in this zone was easterly, and marine moisture came predominantly from the East Coast."

They argue that the Laurentide ice sheet shifted the jet stream south which. . .affected the wind direction somehow (the article doesn't say). It also doesn't say how they determined this except that it involved "oxygen and hydrogen isotopic compositions of cellulose extracted from ancient wood". One would guess there is some difference between Atlantic and Pacific/continental isotope compositions. Still, this would go a long way towards explaining climate change in these regions over time.

Also note this: "This study began as Allison Reddington's undergraduate honors thesis," says Feng. "This exemplifies the extraordinary opportunities that undergraduates at Dartmouth have to become integral parts of research groups." Good for undergrads!

And in other glacial news: Scientists observe drumlin beneath ice sheet
Scientists have discovered a warehouse-sized drumlin � a mound of sediment and rock � actively forming and growing under the ice sheet in Antarctica. Its discovery, and the rate at which it was formed, sheds new light on ice-sheet behaviour. This could have implications for predicting how ice sheets contribute to sea-level rise. The results are published this week in the journal Geology.

Drumlins are well known features of landscape scoured by past ice sheets and can be seen in Scotland and Northern England where they were formed during the last ice age. They form underneath the ice as it scrapes up soil and rock, and they slow down the rate at which the ice can flow.

Scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), Swansea University and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Pasadena used a new technique of time-lapse seismic surveys to find the drumlin, and how it formed over time.

You can navigate a plane in south-central Wisconsin by the drumlins since they all trend in one direction. Growing up there, I always wondered why there were so many freakin' hills and it turned out I was living in the middle of a drumlin field.
Travel to Egypt! Do exciting things! Just in from the EEF:
Via Dr. Janice Kamrin came this announcement:

The Cairo Museum is looking for volunteers to come
to Cairo and help with an important and urgent project:
to transcribe all of the museum's register books into
a new database. This information will form the basis
of a new collections management system, currently
being researched and designed by a team sponsored
by ARCE (the American Research Center in Egypt).

All volunteers must have a basic knowledge of
Egyptology and good computer skills (and must have
their own laptop). Reading knowledge of French is a
plus. Volunteers are expected to pay their own way
to Cairo and cover their own living expenses.

Anyone interested should contact the project director,
Dr. Janice Kamrin, at .

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Amateur archaeology update Man unearths Bronze Age dagger in field
A METAL detecting enthusiast has unearthed a 3,600-year-old dagger from the depths of a South Lakeland field.

The finder, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear others will descend on the secret site, said he could not believe his luck when he stumbled across the Bronze Age relic.

"I was going along a small footpath when I got a good signal from the detector. I dug down a few inches and saw a piece of green metal," he explained.

And don't forget to click on the Pickle the Stowaway Possum story!
Shipwreck from the Early Islamic Period discovered off Israeli coast
An 8th century shipwreck was discovered off Dor Beach and excavated by researchers from the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies of the University of Haifa. It is believed to be the only boat from this period discovered in the entire Mediterranean region. "We do not have any other historical or archaeological evidence of the economic activity and commerce of this period at Dor.

The shipwreck will serve as a source of information about the social and economic activities in this area," said Dr. Ya'acov Kahanov from the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies and the Department Of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa.

It seems remarkably well preserved. Click on the photo at the site.
Batlefield archaeology update USD professor: Battle of Big Horn a military debacle steeped in myth
Rather than a hero, immortalized with statues and in movies and books, Gen. George Custer simply appears to be a military failure.

His troops disintegrated into panic and fear, leading to the death of every soldier during a fight against Native Americans on June 25, 1876.

During a talk at Augustana College on Sunday, Richard Fox Jr., professor of anthropology at the University of South Dakota, told of his extensive archaeological study of the mile-square battlefield and what the artifacts found there tell of the battle.

This is actually the first place I'd heard of the term "battlefield archaeology" and the methods they use -- plotting the positions of shell casings and what-not.
Pollution said destroying pre-Aztec Mexican ruins
Oil refineries and power stations pumping acid air pollutants along Mexico's Gulf coast threaten to erase carved stone murals at the pre-Aztec ruined city of El Tajin, a scientist said on Sunday.

Air pollution specialist Humberto Bravo said acid levels in the air around El Tajin, in oil producing Veracruz state, were among the highest in Mexico.

El Tajin's architecture is famous for intricate reliefs, many depicting an ancient Mesoamerican ball game sometimes compared to basketball.
Penn halting time’s assault on bronze Iraqi antiquities
Julia Lawson's gloved hand moves with short, precise strokes, each pass of her scalpel kicking up a small cloud of ancient dust and rock particles.

Little by little, she reveals a piece of history underneath the rocky crust: a 4,500-year-old bronze knife blade from the cradle of civilization.

Spread on a table before her, in a lab at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, are dozens of similar items - fragile bowls, arrowheads and tools from the Mesopotamian city of Ur.
"That presents one of the great dangers of archaeology. . .not to life and limb although that. . . sometimes does occur. . ."
Ancient Iraqi Art Determined Poisonous

Some ninth century Iraqi artists may have literally died for their art, suggests new analysis of Iraqi stucco fragments from this period. A fragment, taken from the ancient palace-city of Samarra, contains three arsenic-based pigments that are known to be poisonous and may cause cancer upon exposure.

Although the findings will not be published until May in the Journal of Archaeological Science, curators at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, where the fragments are housed, have already taken special handling precautions.
Chachapoyas update Peru ruin may lift veil on lost culture
For at least 600 years, until the late 15th century, the Chachapoyas amassed an extensive empire in the high Andes, building large cities, controlling complex trading routes and practicing a little-understood form of shamanism.

Nobody knows where the Chachapoyas came from, but starting about 1,300 years ago, they began to spread through an area known as the Ceja de Selva, or Eyebrow of the Jungle, reaching a population of about 500,000. They are renowned for their mountaintop citadels, such as Kuelap and Gran Pajaten.

Their downfall began around 1470, when the Inca began a war of conquest against them, resulting in their subjugation. Soon after, the Spanish came and conquered the Inca.

You know, I didn't think too much of this at first, but it's starting to sound more and more interesting.
Rome's Palatine Hill reveals new treasures as archaeologists work to save its monuments
Work on Rome's Palatine Hill has turned up a trove of discoveries, including what might be the underground grotto where ancient Romans believed a wolf nursed the city's legendary founders Romulus and Remus.

Archaeologists gathered Tuesday at a conference to save crumbling monuments on the Palatine discussed findings of studies on the luxurious imperial residences threatened by collapse and poor maintenance that have forced the closure of much of the hill to the public.

While funds are still scarce, authorities plan to reopen some key areas of the honeycombed hill to tourists by the end of the year, including frescoed halls in the palaces of the emperor Augustus and of his wife Livia.
Researchers: Roanoke Island trips cleared way for Jamestown
Three researchers say a lesser-known yearlong expedition to North Carolina in 1585 may have provided valuable lessons for the colonists who came to Jamestown, Virginia 22 years later.
They presented a paper about the so-called "Lost Colony" recently at the annual conference of the Society of Historical Archaeology in Williamsburg.

Phil Evans, president of the First Colony Foundation, says the 108 men who came to Roanoke Island, North Carolina in 1585 learned that American Indians in the area cherished copper.
Atlantis found. . . . again History Channel program on Atlantis features Fla. Museum archaeologist
The legend of Atlantis has captured the imagination of many. Go in search of the fabled continent with Florida Museum of Natural History archaeology curator William Keegan at 9 p.m., Jan. 22, on the History Channel. Keegan is featured on the program “Digging for the Truth: Atlantis, New Revelations.”

The show’s host, Josh Bernstein investigates the evidence for Atlantis in the Bahamas and the Mediterranean. Bernstein joins Keegan at the Clifton National Heritage Park on New Providence Island in the Bahamas, where Keegan explains exposed beach rock formations. They also excavate a test unit at the Lucayan archaeological site at Clifton to obtain a sample of beach rock for radiocarbon dating.

This is a bit old (but hey, isn't it all here!) but I never blogged it. And didn't watch it either, but it should be on this weekend. Do check out the DFTT forum though.
Fight! Fight! EPA Superfund cleanup turns messy
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began its Superfund cleanup of fill dirt tainted with mercury within 50 acres of the Elem Pomo Colony, it was a welcomed project, said Jim Brown III, the tribe's administrator.

But his opinion of the $7.3 million project changed when he learned from the tribe's cultural monitors that historic artifacts were popping out of the ground as bulldozers moved and excavated the soil. Dump trucks hauled the waste to the nearby Sulfur Bank Mercury Mine - the area from which it first came.

Wilson county historical site optioned by conservancy
The Archaeological Conservancy, based in Maryland, has optioned 63 acres of land near the U.S. 264 bypass in Black Creek for $250,000.

According to information released by the organization, they have until Oct. 10 to raise the funds. The land is currently owned by the Cozart family. The family declined to comment on their deal with the conservancy.

Andy Stout, eastern regional director for the conservancy, said the Contentnea Creek site is widely known for its archaeological significance.

"People have found fascinating artifacts on the land for years and years, but now we want to protect it from treasure hunters and keep it around for future research," Stout said.
Scientist: Sites found that are consistent with Exodus story
An experienced Egyptologist, who has been excavating in northern Sinai since 1994, said Sunday that physical evidence has been uncovered there that is consistent with the story of the Exodus.

Those discoveries appear to support the biblical account of the journey of the Israelites while debunking scholars who say the Exodus never happened.

James K. Hoffmeier, professor of Old Testament and Near Eastern archaeology at Trinity International University, gave a presentation Sunday, Jan. 14, at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Highland Park - a day after the first chapters of the book of Exodus were read in synagogues around the world. The program was sponsored by the Biblical Archaeology Society of Pittsburgh, which is marking its 25th year.

Hmmmm. I guess logically, just because some sites were where they were said to have been doesn't exactly make the Exodus story true, just that whoever wrote Exodus knew Egypt had fortifications along the coast.
Snakes and spells and mummy smells? Deciphering of earliest Semitic text reveals talk of snakes and spells
A 5,000-year-old Semitic text dealing with magical spells and snakes has been deciphered from an ancient Egyptian pyramid inscription, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced Monday.

The texts, which were first discovered a century ago in a 24th Century BCE Egyptian pyramid, are the earliest continuous Semitic texts ever to have been deciphered, said Semitic languages Prof. Richard Steiner of New York's Yeshiva University in a premiere presentation at the Hebrew University.

The passages, serpent spells written in hieroglyphic characters, are estimated to have been written between the 25th to the 30th centuries BCE.

Says they were found in the pyramid of Unas at Saqqara. This part is interesting:
Although written in Egyptian characters, the texts turned out to be composed in the Semitic language spoken by the Canaanites in the third millennium BCE, a very archaic form of the languages later known as Phoenician and Hebrew.

. . .

The new discovery shows that they also imported magical spells intended to protect royal mummies against poisonous snakes that were thought to understand Canaanite.

Although the Egyptians viewed their culture as far superior to that of their neighbors, their morbid fear of snakes made them open to the borrowing of Semitic magic.

Hence, we now know the origin of "Snakes. . . . why'd it have to be snakes?"

UPDATE: More here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

As the Ground Shares Its Secrets
On the south side of Jamestown Island stands an imposing bronze statue of Capt. John Smith, put up in 1907 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the colony he helped to found. For most of the past century, a loose archaeological consensus held that the statue looked out over the site of the original settlement, a stretch of low-lying ground long ago eaten away by the swiftly flowing currents of the James River.

The loss of that land, and the stories that its subterranean contents might have told, became a kind of coda to the standard historical interpretation of the colony itself: that Jamestown had been a largely unsuccessful venture, carried out by genteel adventurers and military men ill-suited to the task of wresting a livelihood from a rugged wilderness. That they had failed to build their palisaded encampment on higher ground was further proof of their ineptitude. No wonder Jamestown took a back seat to Plymouth Rock in American history textbooks.
Railway construction unearths ancient artifacts in Germany
In the third century , he recorded his prowess in high Latin on a stone tablet that he dedicated to Jupiter. That and a hefty donation probably ensured that the tablet won display in the temple to the Roman god in the settlement then called Colonia.

Five or six centuries later, Cologne's early Christians, perhaps offended by the tablet dedicated to a pantheist god, chucked it into the silting channel between the Rhine river port and a small island on the Rhine, unknowingly ensuring the hunter's immortality.

Historians now know the ordinary man named Gennatus hunted ducks and prayed to Jupiter because of Cologne's decision to punch 2 1/2 miles of new north-south light railway tunnel through the silt and sediment that lie beneath one of Germany's oldest cities.
Bering land bridge theory disputed
Schoolchildren can recite the story of the first Americans.

About 12,000 years ago, prehistoric humans walked out of Siberia, trekked across the Bering land bridge and down an ice-free corridor into inner North America, where they hunted Ice Age elephants and peopled the new world.

But mounting evidence is slowly turning that story to fiction, said Michael Collins, an archaeologist with the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin.

For more than 20 years, Collins and other scientists have been digging up artifacts from Chile to Texas that convince them the first Americans didn't walk here at all, but came by boat, and arrived much earlier than previously thought.

I don't know about schoolchildren. . . . . .
Dig unearths unique artifacts
AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL dig at the Female Factory at Ross this month has uncovered many unique artefacts that give a new insight into the lives the prisoners led.

Fragments of bottles that are thought to have once contained illicit alcohol, ladle spoons, buttons, pins and seals used to monitor the use of cloth have all been unearthed at the site.

A team of university students, led by archaeology lecturer Eleanor Casella, from the University of Manchester in the UK, has been working carefully on the excavation, which has focused on the nursery and workshop section of the factory.

They have FACTORIES producing them????
Quarrying firm wins 'Stonehenge' battle
PLANS to quarry more land close to one of the area's most important ancient sites have been given the go-ahead by North Yorkshire councillors.
At a meeting in Masham this week they approved "downsized" plans by Tarmac to extend its operations near Thornborough Henges, north of Ripon, which have been described as the Stonehenge of the North

The county council's planning committee approved extraction of sand and gravel on a site east of the existing Nosterfield Quarry at Ladybridge Farm – but only on condition that the company gives legal safeguards to protect the Iron Age site.
Scientists identify early English settlement
Army scientists sifting through a 52-year-old archaeological study and a small but compelling stream of early colonial records have identified a site off the Lynnhaven River as one of the earliest English settlements in America.

Lt. Gov. Samuel Argall described the outpost near Cape Henry as "Henries Towne" in a 1613 letter, says Randy Amici, head of the Fort Eustis-based archaeological team that made the announcement Friday. But other accounts from the time suggest that the long-lost site, where a large cache of unusually early European artifacts was recovered in 1955, might have been in existence as early as 1610.

Never heard of it either.

But if any readers out there have suggestions for general books on pre-revolutionary U.S. history, please let me know.
Amateur archaeology update Ironworks uncovered at Falling Creek
The ruins of a 17th-century iron blast furnace built by some of the country's first settlers have been uncovered along the banks of Falling Creek in Chesterfield County.

Historians say the furnace, built around 1619 by the Virginia Company of London, is a significant find because it is the first ironworks in North America and the earliest known evidence of heavy industry in the New World.

County officials yesterday announced the find, made five weeks ago by county public utilities employee Ralph Lovern, an amateur archaeologist who frequently combed the area looking for Indian artifacts.
Iran loses court battle over ancient carving
Iran on Friday lost a legal battle against an 85-year-old French widow over a piece of carved limestone from the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis.

London's High Court ruled in favour of Denyse Berend, who bought the artefact in 1974, in a case brought against her by the Iranian government which sought to reclaim the relief fragment.

After a week of legal argument, Mr Justice Eady decided Berend was the legal owner of the piece, originally part of a wall frieze from the Northern Facade of the Eastern Staircase of the Apadana, or audience hall, at Persepolis.
Meteorites from under the pyramids
Samples of rock and fragments of pyramid walls brought from Egypt are being examined at the AGH University of Science and Technology. It is very likely that meteorites had dropped near the pyramids. The material was collected during the December expedition of geologists. Another aim of the expedition was to study some geoglyphics, i.e. gigantic pictures drawn on the ground.

According to "Dziennik Polski", the scientists were intrigued by some unusual structures, which resembled craters formed after meteorites hit the ground. They noticed them when analysing satellite pictures of areas north of the great pyramids in Giza.

Well. First I've heard of this.
Site yields up clues to the ancient past
A prehistoric treasure trove spanning more than 100,000 years of Norfolk's past has been unearthed.

Travel just millimetres down through the layers of chocolate brown and olive green earth at the site outside Saham Toney, near Watton, and you are crossing millennia.

Digger driver Ralph Fickling made the first discovery last October - a leg bone the size of a small tree trunk protruding from a shelf of black gravel.
Here's something interesting The XXX industry has gotten too graphic, even for its own tastes.
Pornography has long helped drive the adoption of new technology, from the printing press to the videocassette. Now pornographic movie studios are staying ahead of the curve by releasing high-definition DVDs.

They have discovered that the technology is sometimes not so sexy. The high-definition format is accentuating imperfections in the actors — from a little extra cellulite on a leg to wrinkles around the eyes.

This is apparently also a looming problem in the mainstream movie biz. I recall watching an episode of. . .Dynasty* I think it was, and a very annoying aspect of it was that every time Linda Evans was on-screen they'd switch to a real soft-fuzzy lens. I don't know whether it was just to make the character appear softer, or if they were trying to make her appear younger or what have you. That was my first thought for this HD problem, but that seems to defeat the purpose. Perhaps this will create a similar problem as the first talking movies.

* Two footnotes, one of them archaeological: First, confession: My old roomie in college and I were kind of addicted to Dallas and Falcon Crest. Well, mostly in the sense that on Fridays we would buy a bunch of beer and a box of those big, thick crunchy pretzels and watch the two of them while getting semi-plastered. Er, then we'd head out to drink. I often wonder how I even made it to grad school.

Second, Paul Freeman, who played Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark had a recurring role on Falcon Crest for a season. Played a bad guy. I actually didn't recognize him until another person came over and just screamed "That's BELLOQ! From Raiders of the Lost Ark!" Interestingly, perusing IMDB he also seems to have been in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles for a few eps as well. Don't remember that either. I watched that little series for a bit, but it was kind of lame. A bunch of us grad students had a party one night to watch one 2-hour episode that had the return of Harrison Ford as Indy. This was in 1993, after The Last Crusade had already been out. Very annoying since they just had him on for a couple of minutes in the beginning and a couple at the end, sandwiching a long bit of boring viewing.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Death in the stone age update This relates to this post on some recent work done to identify wounds in archaeological samples resulting from projectile point impacts. The paper in question is:
Experimental evidence for lithic projectile injuries: improving identification of an under-recognised phenomenon, Martin J. Smith, Megan B. Brickley and Stephany L. Leach, Journal of Archaeological Science Volume 34, Issue 4 , April 2007, Pages 540-553

Between the Upper Palaeolithic and the spread of metallurgy stone-tipped projectiles were of great importance both for subsistence and as weapons. Whilst finds of embedded projectile points in human and animal bone are not uncommon, identifications of such wounds in the absence of embedded points are rare. Previous experimentation involving archaic projectiles has not examined the effects of stone-tipped projectiles on bone. This paper presents the results of experiments in which samples of animal bone were impacted with flint-tipped arrows. The results demonstrate that positive identifications can be made, both grossly and microscopically, of bony trauma caused by flint projectiles. In addition, flint projectiles are shown to often leave small embedded fragments, which can also be identified microscopically. These results compare well with archaeological examples of suspected ‘arrow wounds’ and the article demonstrates the practical application of this data in identifying such injuries. By facilitating the recognition of projectile trauma these findings will have significance both for the investigation of hunting strategies and levels of conflict amongst early human societies.

They used two methods of testing: Firing archaeological replicas at faunal specimens, and a mechanical impact tester to both control for velocity and angle of impact and also, as they put it, "a ‘failsafe’ should the present authors’ ability to hit the desired targets with the bow prove lacking". Heh.

Couple of observations: One possible problem, they used defleshed bones for their experimental tests. They did cite a few articles that purportedly found that soft tissue presented no difficulty of penetration, but one has to assume tha soft tissue will slow down a projectile and change the velocity at impact with the underlying bone.

Also noted that in around 50% of the cases, fragments remained in the bone even after removal of the point. Often these were not noted macroscopically, so it could be useful when imaging archeological samples in the future where a lack of a projectile point is the case.

They also noted that modern arrows behave quite differently from ancient stone points, the former being designed more for piercing than cutting. Thus, the ancient specimens tend to penetrate bone more deeply, often piercing through it where the modern tips tend to hit the bone and stop. In this way, the ancient ones tend to behave more like modern ballistics, producing penetrating wounds and internal bevelling.

What did they find? I'll cite their entire 'Conclusions' paragraph:
The present study has provided new information regarding several ways in which stone-tipped projectiles interact with bone. The key conclusions of this study are summarised as follows. Firstly, point breakage leaving stone fragments embedded is frequent when archaic projectiles strike bone. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this study has established that it is possible to identify bony trauma caused by stone-tipped projectiles even in the absence of embedded projectile fragments. The supposition that stone-tipped projectiles can produce internally bevelled puncture wounds in areas of flat bone has been shown to be correct. However, it has also been shown that such defects may differ in form and area from those produced by modern projectiles. A particular point of interest was the observation that tangential impacts by stone-tipped projectiles may produce incised marks that resemble cut-marks made with stone tools. Finally, the most significant observation made was that all of the above features have the potential to survive in a recognisable state in archaeological material. Application of the signatures discussed may significantly enhance both the number of such projectile wounds which are identified and the degree of confidence with which such identifications are regarded.

They do note that many of these characeristics are not entirely unique to projectile point injuries. Tools can damage bone in a number of contexts including trophy-taking, defleshing for burial purposes, and cannibalism. These will probably result in markedl different marks though, since defleshing and what-not are designed to remove soft flesh and generally occur around specific locations (joints, tendons insertions, etc.).

Another suggestion to take away is that those oberving the bones ought to be trained osteologists, and I would argue forensic anthropologists who are used to working with trauma. Note to any aspiring forensic anthros out there: There are gazillions of specimens in museum basements that haven't been thoroughly examined for these sorts of injuries.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The real Mona Lisa (almost) found? 'Mona Lisa' died in 1542, was buried in convent
An expert on the "Mona Lisa" says he has ascertained with certainty that the symbol of feminine mystique died on July 15, 1542, and was buried at the convent in central Florence where she spent her final days.

Giuseppe Pallanti found a death notice in the archives of a church in Florence that referred to "the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, deceased July 15, 1542, and buried at Sant'Orsola," the Italian press reported Friday.

Born Lisa Gherardini in May 1479, she is thought to have been the second wife of Del Giocondo, a wealthy silk merchant, with whom she had five children.

No actual remains as yet. The convent is in ruins and apparently hasn't been excavated.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Napolean. . . .again Mystery of Napoleon's Death Said Solved
After being defeated by the British in 1815, the French Emperor was exiled to St. Helena--an island in the South Atlantic Ocean. Six years later, at the age of 52, Bonaparte whispered his last words, "Head of Army!"

An autopsy at the time determined that stomach cancer was the cause of his death. But some arsenic found in 1961 in the ruler's hair sparked rumors of poisoning. Had Napoleon escaped exile, he could have changed the balance of power in Europe; therefore murder speculations didn't seem outlandish.

However, a new study--combining current medical knowledge, autopsy reports, Bonaparte's physician memoirs, eyewitness accounts, and family medical histories--found that gastrointestinal bleeding was the immediate cause of death.
Cloud warriors update Pre-Columbian ruin discovered in Peru
Explorer Keith Muscutt has announced the existence of a previously unknown pre-Columbian ruin in Peru: the Huaca La Penitenciar�a de la Meseta, which will be featured in Discovery Channel's new series, CHASING MUMMIES, premiering January 2008.

Located in the cloud-forested eastern slope of the Andes mountains, the ruin is believed to belong to the ancient Chachapoya -- a civilization that flourished in the upper Amazon, between its Huallaga and the Mara��n tributaries, from about the ninth to the fifteenth century AD. Muscutt delivered the news at the annual Institute for Andean Studies conference ( at the University of California, Berkeley.

For the life of me, I can't find the earlier post on this. Dang it.
Interactive digs

Two expeditions currently have dig diaries going:
Betsy Bryan working at Luxor.
Romanian skull update European skull's evolving story
The earliest modern humans in Europe were short of being the complete article, according to a study of a fossilised skull from Romania.

The 35,000-year-old cranium discovered in Pestera cu Oase in the west of the country shows an interesting mix of features, say scientists.

Whilst undeniably a Homo sapiens specimen, it has some traits normally associated with more ancient species.
A Civil War site discovered?
Members of the University of Tennessee's Archaeological Research Laboratory are using ground-penetrating radar to determine if Confederate soldiers from the Civil War-era Camp Van Dorn rest on property that now belongs to the city of Knoxville.

Amateur historians believe they have found the long-sought burial site near the city's Malcolm Martin Park at Western Avenue. They are using a ground-mapping process with a geophysics survey system that records abnormalities below ground.

Yet another area where amateur researchers can be invaluable.
Non-archaeology (but sort of anthropology) post

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the movie Pumping Iron. For those of us alive in 1977 (albeit in the case of yours truly somewhat young to really take full notice of it at the time) it marked something of a cultural change in direction. Admission: part of nearly every day of my life for the last, oh, *mumble mumble* years has been taken up in one gym or another lifting weights or, as we can say since 1977, pumping iron. Note that I look nothing like a professional bodybuilder and never will (too naturally scrawny) but I probably work out harder than your average schmoe so that during the three weeks of summer here in the Northwest when the raincoats come off and we can wear short sleeved shirts, it's noticeable. Small aside: I owe a debt of gratitude, not to Arnold, but to Jack LaLanne. My mother had one of his fitness books that I discovered one summer and found that, whoa, you can exercise with a couple of kitchen chairs and a towel and actually see results! I tell ya, I wowed some people that Fall at school when it came time for the President's Physical Fitness Test or whatever it was called. Never did pass it though; I could never quite get the peg board. C'est la vie, I guess.

Anyway, before Arnold was unleashed upon the universe, the world of professional bodybuilding was barely noticeable by the larger public; our views of guys who "worked out" were largely derived from Charles Atlas ads in comic books which mostly portrayed those kind of people as intent on beating up other guys and impressing women, the sort of manly characteristics that were most often portrayed up to that point. What little else we knew of bodybuilders -- mostly referred to as "muscle men" -- were that they were probably vain and didn't really use all those muscles for anything except posing in their underwear.

Pumping Iron showed the personalities of the more notable in the sport (if you can call it that), the intense competition that was in effect, and the simply vast amount of work and dedication that went into competing. They were funny, often charming, intelligent, personable, and focused on what they were trying to accomplish, while still utterly enjoying it at the same time. It showed that there was far more to being a competitive bodybuilder than just having "lots of muscles". There was a certain psychology involved, there was a keen sense of the aesthetic they were trying to achieve -- Arnold probably had the best grasp of this, then or since -- and they all had an acute attention to detail within that context. Above all, it showed these guys as human beings who knew they were human beings just trying to win a competition.

Before that, most film and TV tough guys (good or bad) weren't particularly endowed physically. It was just assumed that they were maybe a bit bigger, but mostly just stronger and tougher than other men. Check the opening sequence in the Bond film From Russia With Love: the big baddie, played by Robert Shaw, is a bit taller and bigger than most men, but he's not particularly developed muscularly. Heck, even the various actors who played Superman weren't terribly physically imposing.

Similarly, gyms weren't exactly known as clean, inviting sorts of places. They were dark, dingy and full up mostly with guys who thought of themselves as budding boxers. Certainly not places that most people in polite society, and definitely not women would dare enter.

That all changed after PI. Fitness became an acceptable goal for its own sake, not just as a way to either smack down rivals or as part of training for another sport. It went mainstream. Gyms -- or "health clubs" or "fitness clubs" -- became social hangouts where you could actually go to -- *gasp!* -- meet women.

A bunch of studies in the intervening years have shown how the idea of muscularity has permeated popular culture. The best known of recent years is that done by Pope et al. (Pope, H. G., Olivardia, R., Gruber, A., & Borowiecki, J. [1999]. Evolving ideals of male body image as seen through action toys. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 26, 65-72) on representations of fictional heroes in the form of action toys. They found that most of these toys gradually became far more muscular, in both size and definition, over time such that they represented physiques not even attainable by actual bodybuilders:

The findings indicated a big increase in sizes for the measured body parts from GI Joe Land Adventurer (1973) to GI Joe Extreme (1998). The chest increased in size from 44.4 in. to 54.8 in. and the biceps increased from 12.2 in. to 26.8 in. The authors noted that, extrapolated to a 70 in. (height) male, "GI Joe would sport larger biceps than any bodybuilder in history" (p. 68). Although the waist increased in size also (31.7 in. to 36.5 in., the authors noted that the latter figure has "the sharply rippled abdominals of an advanced bodybuilder" (p. 67) whereas the early models have far less definition.

Much of this research has been controversial, not in its empirical findings, but relating to the cause/effect this may have on eating disorders in men and boys. Someone even wrote a book on this supposed connection called The Adonis Complex. I paged through it once, but remain unconvinced that the connection is really a causal one or that it's a growing crisis. Mostly the book had a bunch of anecdotal stories of obsessive gym rats, like the guy who went on vacation in the Caribbean and shipped his entire set of barbells ahead of him so he could work out while there. Sheesh.

Empirically, it's hard to argue what the bodybuilding theme has done to action movies (similar to what Bruce Lee did with martial arts, but that's another story) and culture at large. It's hard to find an action movie without a fully muscled lead; James Bond seems to rather upset this trend, at least until Daniel Craig bulked up for his most recent outing; otherwise, Bond was pretty much a normal guy, physique-wise. Even Batman, which caused most observers to raise an eyebrow when the distinctly un-muscular Michael Keaton played him in 1989, was clad not in tights a lá Adam West, but in an armored suit with. . . .muscular definition. Note also the transformation of Rocky Balboa through the years; he started out being big but with little definition in the first film, but progressivley got more chiseled as time went on.

So here we sit 30 years on. Go rent the movie this weekend and check out the gym they were working out in. It's really quite small with a limited range of equipment, a far cry from the acres of machines we now enjoy(?). Also compare them with the current crop of bodybuilders. You'll be surprised at how small they look; bodybuilding has developed into being more about size and definition these days, when back then it had more of an emphasis on overall proportion and balance. Also remember that it's a documentary and the filmmakers took some liberties with developing a 'narrative'. The particulars note that, despite the intense competition, there wasn't really the nastiness the movie seems to portray, particularly in the Lou Ferrigno angle. Still, it's an enjoyable trip back in time when men were men, women were women, and bodybuilders were these really freaky guys who went up on stage in Speedos.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Archeological finds on disputed Ont. land strengthen claims, natives say
Six Nations protesters are pointing to a new government report of archeological finds on disputed land in Caledonia, Ont., as further proof to the legitimacy of their claim.

Ontario's Ministry of Culture says the dig on a former residential housing construction site last fall unearthed stones left by nomadic hunting groups as much as 9,000 years ago, plus the remains of an 800-year-old longhouse settlement that included used pottery, storage and refuse pits.
. . .
"It just goes to show you how far back our connection to that territory goes," Janie Jamieson said. "Our connection stems back to our very existence, our creation.
A culture shaped by natural disasters
Those who lived on ancient Thera often attributed the island’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to the wrath of the gods. But this mythmaking that arose from the need to explain the chronic destruction also contributed greatly to the creation of the island’s culture, a leading archaeologist said last week.

“The volcano of Thera was a permanent challenge to local residents, to which they came up with various responses,” said Professor Christos Doumas, director of the Akrotiri excavations on Santorini, in a lecture last Thursday at the Archaeological Society.

Doumas noted that the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri suffered numerous earthquakes in the course of its 3,000-year history, which shaped it both physically and socially.

Interesting article. Most intriguing (I thought) was the suggestion that the inhabitants learned some methods to earthquake-proof their houses, by (in one example) using pumice under the foundations of walls acting as a shock absorber. Would this work? Seems like the pore space between the rocks would absorb some of the movement. They also note some sort of "wooden webs" used in multi-story construction. Something like reinforcing, like rebar in concrete?
Preservationists say history being buried at historic Fort Pitt
In 1759, British forces successfully beat back French occupiers of a triangular point of land where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers meet to form the Ohio river. The British built Fort Pitt and named the adjoining area Pittsburgh.

Today, next to office buildings and sitting underneath modern highways, part of Fort Pitt is surrounded by a chain-link fence. Inside, construction equipment scoops up dirt and broken chunks of concrete in preparation to cover a wall and moat that once surrounded the fort.

State officials say the renovation at Point State Park will create a flatter space that can be used better for community events. But critics say history is being buried because so little is known about what actually lies beneath the land.

Technically, it appears that nothing will be "lost" just buried, meaning that it will be available for future archaeologists to work on.
Temple Aqueduct and Ritual Bath Excavated Opposite Temple Mount
The new archaeological find uncovers a missing link in the ancient water system, known as the "Lower Aqueduct." This system channeled water from Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem (located several miles south of Jerusalem) directly to the national focal point of Jewish worship - the Temple Mount.

Solomon’s pools, situated just north of the modern Jewish town of Efrat, cover an area of about 7 acres and can hold three million gallons of water. A lengthy aqueduct conveyed the water from the lowest pool through Bethlehem, across the Gihon valley, along the western slope of the Tyropoeon valley, and into the cisterns underneath the Temple Mount. Today, the water from the pools reaches only Bethlehem due to the destruction of the aqueducts.
Invading Romans' greatest obstacle uncovered in J'lem
An immense bedrock cliff uncovered opposite Jerusalem's Temple Mount may help explain why it took the Romans so long to capture what is now known as the Jewish Quarter almost two millenia ago, an Israeli archeologist said Sunday.

The cliff, uncovered during a year-long excavation at the western edge of the Western Wall Plaza, was one of several important finds that include the remains of a colonnaded street called the Eastern Cardo, dating from the Roman-Byzantine period; a section of the Lower Aqueduct that conveyed water from Solomon's Pools to the Temple Mount; and a damaged rock-hewn and plastered Jewish mikve (ritual bath) that dates back to the Second Temple period, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced at a press conference.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Minnesota pre-Clovis update A faithful reader send this article on the recent finds in that state that is generating some interest. Pictures, too, one of which I am hereby pilfering for display here:

Described as an "axe-like tool". Admittedly, that looks rather like retouch at the bottom, but it's hard to tell from the photo whether that shape is accidental or whether there is more retouching to get it to that shape (it seems like the former though). There is only mention of artifacts being found, no features (hearths) or anything else, which is a bit disconcerting.
Archaeologists get to the point
Call it CSI: Stone Age, an archaeological investigation of how ancient flint arrowheads left their mark on some very old bones.

The trauma caused by these arrows may be a clue in the scholarly mystery of whether warfare existed in the centuries before recorded history, says the team led by archaeologist Martin Smith of the United Kingdom's University of Birmingham. "Finds of embedded projectile points are not uncommon" in bones from the late Stone Age, or Upper Paleolithic, about 10,000 to 40,000 years ago, the team says in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

While archeologists have long examined butchering marks and rock bashes left in bones, identifiable signs of the glancing blows of arrows, prehistory's weapon of choice, had heretofore been lacking. That's because archaeologists didn't know what to look for, Smith and colleagues suggest. So, they decided see for themselves what sort of wounds flint arrowheads leave behind.

Must get this paper and read the whole thing. Will report on it later.
Amateur archaeology update II With a little help, an Apalachin man identifies a rare find
Long ago, there was this guy (probably) who made a spear or knife (probably) and then went hunting (probably). But then something happened: "It seems he lost his knife," said John Krein. "Probably."

The spear point was found by the 69-year-old Apalachin retiree in 1965 while he was working on his lawn in the backyard.

"It was right there, practically on the surface, and I was grabbing it with the corner of my digger and then it kind of popped up," he recalled, of the day he found it.
Treasure — old ship — found in bayou
A sunken ship that wrecked nearly 140 years ago was unearthed last year during a site excavation by New Iberia architect Paul Allain.

The vessel was buried below 4 feet of mud under the bed of Bayou Teche.

Maria Tio with the Louisiana Division of Archaeology said that since the ship’s discovery in late 2005, only a preliminary report had been completed by the private archaeology company hired to research the findings. “Coastal Environments Inc., the company that conducted the archaeological investigation, believes that the ship was a sidewheel steamboat named the Teche,” Tio said.
Amateur archaeology update Treasure trove: Metal-detecting finds up by 20 per cent in a year
For most treasure seekers the promising glint of a gold coin in the garden has turned out on closer inspection to be a rusting bottle top. However, a report to be published this week will show that more buried treasure than ever is being reported found in the UK by amateur archaeologists armed with metal detectors.

The number of reported valuable finds has increased by nearly 20 per cent in the last year, with discoveries including iron age and medieval hoards, Roman coins and exquisite examples of Anglo-Saxon jewellery.

The official report will show that thousands of finds are being reported each year and that 506 discoveries were significant enough to be declared as treasure trove. The remarkable increase has caused huge excitement among museums and in government.

The article notes that this probably results from a change in laws requiring finds -- on public or private land -- to be reported and any proceeds from the sale split between the finder and the owner of the land, if private. This would never work here (U.S.) because of our stronger private property rights, but a more voluntary system has been batted about here before.
And now. . . .the news from the EEF

Press report: "Chain Reaction"
"News of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy’s plan to
set up a nuclear power plant in the North Coast Daba’a
region has come as a shock to Dr. Zahi Hawass (..)
According to Hawass, the entire stretch between Alexandria
and Marsa Matrouh, including Daba’a, is riddled with ruins
covering the Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman eras. "
[The report confirms that it concerns the ancient site of
Zephyrium, as was suggested in EEFNEWS (438).]

Dietrich Raue, Cornelius von Pilgrim, Felix Arnold, Roberta
Cortopassi, E. Endenburg, Eva-Maria Engel, Julia Gresky, Jana
Jones, Peter Kopp, Aleksandra Kozak, Nikolaos Roumelis,
Michael Schultz, Stephan J. Seidlmayer, A. Veldmeijer, Report
on the 35th season of excavation and restoration on the
island of Elephantine. - 25 pp., pdf-file (2.5 MB)
"The 35th season of the German Institute of Archaeology and
the Swiss Institute for Architectural and Archaeological Research
on Ancient Egypt at Elephantine was carried out from October 31st
2005 till April 20th 2006. The work on the finds collected in past
seasons was continued. The small finds, pottery from the Old Kingdom,
Nubian pottery, seal impressions of the Old Kingdom, pottery of the
Greek-Roman and Late Roman Period, lithic finds, textiles as well
as human and animal bones were studied. The epigraphic documentation
of the Graeco-Roman temples of Satet and Khnum, as well as the
survey on rock-inscriptions, was continued. Restoration work focussed
on the central part of the town of the Third Millennium BC. Small scale
investigations were carried out in the building complex of the late Old
Kingdom, in the temple of Khnum and its later occupation, the strata
of the Middle Kingdom opposite the Festival Courtyard, and the
occupation levels of the late 2nd Millennium south of the sanctuary
of Heqaib."

* Dietrich Raue, Felix Arnold, Morgan de Dapper, Ruth Duttenhöfer,
E. Endenburg, Julia Gresky, Thomas Hikade, Peter Kopp, Oleksandra
Kozak, Nikolaos Roumelis, Teodozja Rzeuska, M. Schultz,
A. Veldmeijer, Report on the 34th season of excavation and restoration
on the island of Elephantine. - 28 pp., pdf-file (3.2 MB)
""The 34th season of the German Institute of Archaeology and the
Swiss Institute for Architectural and Archaeological Research on
Ancient Egypt at Elephantine was carried out from October 18th
2004 till March 30th 2005."

* Dietrich Raue, Cornelius von Pilgrim, Martin Bommas, Roberta
Cortopassi, A. von den Driesch, Daniel Keller, Thomas Hikade,
Peter Kopp, Joris Peters, Beatrice von Pilgrim, Sophia Schaten,
Teyde Schmidt-Schultz, Michael Schultz, Stephan Johannes
Seidlmayer, Report on the 33rd Season of Excavation and
Restoration on the Island of Elephantine. - 28 pp., pdf-file (3 MB)
"The 33rd season of the German Institute of Archaeology and
the Swiss Institute for Architectural and Archaeological Research
on Ancient Egypt at Elephantine was carried out from October
25th 2003 till December 23rd 2003, and from 13th January till
6th April 2004."

Amanda-Alice Maravelia, "Two Faience Shabtis from the Egyptian
Collection at the Benaki Museum", in: Mouseio Benaki, 2, 2002 [2003],
pp. 19-24. In PDF, 280 kB.
"In this article we study two faience shabtis from the small Egyptian
Collection of the Benaki Museum in Athens. [Earlier digitized articles
by Amanda-Alice Maravelia in this "" venue may be found
in EEFNEWS (415) and (416).]

End of EEF news

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Scientific American RSS feed Note that part of the redesign was to allow for some enhanced features. I put an RSS feed for SciAm over at the right. Be sure to click on it several times a day; although it doesn't bring me any revenue, it will enhance the already lofty prestige of ArchaeoBlog so maybe they'll throw me a bone every now and then by sending a free book to review. HINT HINT.
'Ancient artefacts brought over by Egyptians, not by traders'
Two members of the Egyptological Society of Malta are promoting the theory that the many ancient Egyptian artefacts unearthed in Malta were brought over by the Egyptians themselves, and not, as commonly thought, by traders.

In an article titled Did The Ancient Egyptians Ever Reach Malta?, published in the Egyptian Egyptological journal, Anton Mifsud and Marta Farrugia analysed Egyptian artefacts found here and went through old and recently published material on which to base their conclusions.

Dr Mifsud and Ms Farrugia argue that because of their beliefs in afterlife, the ancient Egyptians were extremely reluctant to leave their country to live and possibly die miles away from home. However, war and trade with the Eastern Mediterranean nations and islands lured the Egyptians out of their homeland.

There's something screwy in that article. It says:
The authors note that though it has always been assumed that it was the Phoenicians who brought the earliest Egyptian artefacts to Malta, the items found here span a time frame that pre-dates the arrival of the Phoenicians in the eighth century BC.

The earliest Egyptian artefacts date to the end of the third millennium BC, 400 years before the arrival of the Phoenicians. . .

They mention some Middle Kingdom objects, which would date roughly 2000-1800 BC (end-ish of the third millennium), but the Phoenicians are generally dated to 1200 BC and later (though they seem to have cultural roots deeper than that). Either way, it doesn't say a whole lot about who was carrying the damn things all over the Med.
Hofmeyr-Skull supports the "Out of Africa"-Theory
"The Hofmeyr skull gives us the first insights into the morphology of such a sub-Saharan African population, which means the most recent common ancestor of all of us - wherever we come from," said Grine.

Although the skull was found over half a century ago, its significance became apparent only recently. A new approach to dating developed by Grine team member Richard Bailey and his colleagues at Oxford University allowed them to determined its age at just over 36,000 years ago by measuring the amount of radiation that had been absorbed by sand grains that filled the inside of the skull’s braincase. At this age, the skull fills a significant void in the human fossil record of sub-Saharan Africa from the period between about 70,000 and 15,000 years ago. During this critical period, the archaeological tradition known as the Later Stone Age, with its sophisticated stone and bone tools and artwork appears in sub-Saharan Africa, and anatomically modern people appear for the first time in Europe and western Asia with the equally complex Upper Paleolithic archeological tradition.

Hawks has more here and here and also here.
Pre-Clovis update Ancient stone tools found in N.America
What appear to be crude stone tools may provide evidence that people lived in Minnesota 13,000 to 15,000 years ago, which if confirmed would make them among the oldest human artifacts ever found in North America, archaeologists said Friday.

Archaeologists in the northern Minnesota town of Walker dug up the items, which appear to be beveled scrapers, choppers, a crude knife and several flakes that could have been used for cutting, said Colleen Wells, field director for the Leech Lake Heritage Sites Program.

"They don't look like much," Wells acknowledged. "They don't look pretty."

No pictures and not much else to go on. The key seems to be the artifactual nature of the objects and the dating.