Thursday, May 31, 2007

Loch Ness update Man says he's got a new Loch Ness video
She's as much an emblem, and a tourist draw, as tartan, bagpipes, and shortbread. And now Nessie's back. An amateur scientist has captured what Loch Ness Monster watchers say is among the finest footage ever taken of the elusive mythical creature reputed to swim beneath the waters of Scotland's most mysterious lake.

"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this jet black thing, about 45-feet long, moving fairly fast in the water," said Gordon Holmes, the 55-year-old a lab technician from Shipley, Yorkshire, who took the video this past Saturday.

He said it moved at about 6 mph and kept a fairly straight course.

OOOooooo another small, dark lump moving around in the water. That certainly seals it!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

European Man Found in Ancient Chinese Tomb, Study Reveals
Human remains found in a 1,400-year-old Chinese tomb belonged to a man of European origin, DNA evidence shows.

Chinese scientists who analyzed the DNA of the remains say the man, named Yu Hong, belonged to one of the oldest genetic groups from western Eurasia.

The tomb, in Taiyuan in central China, marks the easternmost spot where the ancient European lineage has been found.
Evidence from ancient European graves raises questions about ritual human sacrifice
A fascinating new paper from the June issue of Current Anthropology explores ancient multiple graves and raises the possibility that hunter gatherers in what is now Europe may have practiced ritual human sacrifice. This practice � well-known in large, stratified societies � supports data emerging from different lines of research that the level of social complexity reached in the distant past by groups of hunter gatherers was well beyond that of many more recent small bands of modern foragers.

Due to their number, state of preservation, richness, and variety of associated grave goods, burials from the Upper Paleolithic (26,000-8,000 BC) represent an important source of information on ideological beliefs that may have influenced funerary behavior. In an analysis of the European record, Vincenzo Formicola (University of Pisa, Italy) points to a high frequency of multiple burials, commonly attributed to simultaneous death due to natural disaster or disease.

The interesting part seems to be this: This practice - well-known in large, stratified societies - supports data emerging from different lines of research that the level of social complexity reached in the distant past by groups of hunter gatherers was well beyond that of many more recent small bands of modern foragers. Which would tend to (further) undermine the idea that modern groups of H-G's can serve as useful analogs for ancient ones. Must check the actual paper out though. Can't tell if these are new graves or a review of previously ublished material.

Also see this piece on sacrifice in the Andes.
History at risk from erosion by the sea
KEY coastal sites which tell the story of Scotland's ancient past are in danger of being washed away, experts warned yesterday.

Archaeologists said that historic treasures could be lost forever unless action is taken now.

The most endangered sites include Viking and Iron Age remains in Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides - where rare dry-stone brochs and Viking houses are threatened by global warming, rising sea levels, storms and erosion.

Researchers from the charity SCAPE - Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion, based at St Andrews University - expressed concern over the situation.
Archaeologists find skeleton of eleventh century child
Archaeologists have found the skeleton of a child aged two to four during excavations at Täby kyrkby to the north of Stockholm. The remains found inside a wooden coffin are thought to date back to the eleventh century.

As children's graves from this period are so rare, the archaeologists were enthusiastic about the discovery.

"This is a unique find. We know that children are always the first to perish during bad times so it's a bit strange that we haven't found more," archaeologist MatsVänehem told Dagens Nyheter.
Archaeologist discovers 1814 breastwork in Sackets Harbor
Part of long-forgotten War of 1812 fortifications have been rediscovered in Sackets Harbor.

Local archaeologist Dr. Timothy Abel says he has uncovered remains of a palisaded breastwork in the village.

Sackets Harbor was a major Navy base and shipbuilding site during the War of 1812. It saw heavy fighting during a brief British invasion in 1813.

There are several comments I could make right now.

But I won't.
Time teams to dig up sites along planned extension to M74

ARCHAEOLOGISTS are being brought in to carry out excavation work on sites located along the proposed M74 extension.

They will dig up the city's past ahead of construction work which will end a 40-year wait and complete the motorway.

Work could start as early as July ahead of construction work starting on the "missing link"next year.

Teams will work at a number of urban, industrial and abandoned brownfield locations along the five-mile route stretching from Cambuslang in Lanarkshire to Glasgow's Kingston Bridge.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Quickie shaveblogging update

Back at this post I mentioned getting a Schick Quattro Titanium in the mail. Verdict thus far: Not great. Very uncomfortable the first day using my usual Noxzema-in-a-can. Next two days a gel worked better, but still hurt the further down my neck it went. Maybe my face has gotten all wussy from using a single blade, but I don't think so. I use my old Sensor Excel twin blade every now and then and that feels fine. Nice and close though, on the cheeks anyway; either it sucks on the neck or it hurts too much down there to do a proper job.

Tomorrow I'm using cheap-ass Barbasol and then I'll have a go with the Alba junk.
Automobile archaeology Hey, am I prescient or what? The newest Archaeology Channel video:

In 2006, University of Bristol archaeologists launched an innovative
project: "excavating" a 1991 Ford transit van, used by archaeologists
and others. This is an exercise in methodology: to see what can be
learnt about a commonplace but complex object through modern
archaeological analysis. It explores archaeology's potential
contribution to understanding society's use of such objects and
examines the very nature of contemporary archaeology. See in this
video how, amid science and method, a rusting transit van can conjure
up both enchantment and melancholy.

I'm actually rather dubious that these exercies really contribute much of anything to archaeological research, but at least they're interesting.
Egyptology, archaeology, what's the diff?

A topic on the EEF lists has been on ethics of Egytpologists, with a subthread of what the difference between Egyptologists and archaeologists is. FWIW, I think they're two separate fields that overlap, not unlike that between zoologists and archaeozoologists.

When fresh-faced undergrads (or high schoolers) as me "ArchaeoBlog, what do I need to do to become an Egyptologist?" my first question back is to ask if they really want to be an "Egyptologist" or an "archaeologist who works in Egypt". The stock answer is that Egyptologists are largely art historians/philologists who sometimes, but not necessarily always, use some archaeological techniques to obtain data. Archaeologists, conversely, sometimes but not necessarily always, use some analysis gleaned from Egyptological studies to further their archaeological aims.

Generally, I think, Egyptologists tend to go through Classics departments while archaeologists go through the archaeology departments. I suppose one could start all sorts of arguments here, but you can probably throw out a few generalities as well:

-- Egytpologists tend to excavate tombs and temples; archaeologists go after settlements
-- Egyptologists use archaeological data to enhance their text/epigraphic interpretations, while archaeologists use text/epigraphic sources to enhance their archaeological interpretations
-- Archaeologists have different problem sets that range across civilizations worldwide, where Egytpologists concentrate more closely on the Middle/Near East.

Of course, a dozen Egyptologists right now could spend 25 pages debating those, but I'll stick with the general propositions.

It's been my experience that, at least among American archaeologists, and definitely among Americanist archaeologists, that Egyptologists and those archaeologists working in Egypt are sorta inferior, methodologically and theoretically. I would argue it's probably a result of the whole New Archaeology fascination with Science and the hypothetico-deductive method. They're probably right, in a way, that Egyptian archaeology is less methodologically developed and rigorous than that in North America. Much of that is historical; Egypt had abundant textual material that set up a good Egyptian chronology long before that of much of North America was established, and it was far easier to do, at least in the sense of requiring unintuitive methodologies (though see Predynastic Egypt). Egypt had king lists and tombs and temples and loads of inscriptions that structured the record while North American archaeologists had to develop chronologies using a combination of stratified sites and fairly sophisticated seriation techniques. And, not having any epigraphic data to interpret what they found in any sort of commonsense way, NA archaeologists have had to develop other methods of interpreting the rocks and stones and sticks and bones they found.

I know that the professor that directed my first project in Egypt had some struggles with other faculty members justifying the "seriousness" of the work there. The automatic response of NA people to anyone working in Egypt is sort of a mixture of envy and disdain. "Wow, Egypt, that sounds so exciting. But you're just digging up cool stuff, while we're doing Significant Archaeological Work." Certainly, there are many who work in Egypt who found our anal retentiveness on sampling, stratigraphic techniques, and general proclivity toward recovering boring old sherds, sherds, and more sherds pretty, well, boring as snot. But then, people start talking about temple architecture and I'm asleep.

And yes, I still look with some suspicion on anyone who works in Egypt wearing khaki field coats and pith helmets. AND THERE ARE MANY.

But, eh, kind of a rambling post, but there it is. I could actually yak about this for hours. I shall spare you that.
Blogging update

I've turned comment moderation on since we've been getting a bunch of spam comments lately. Word verification is turned on so either someone has found a way around it, or they're starting to pay people to type in this junk. Hopefully, they'll go away after a bit.
"I've heard of people who have tight anal sphincters, but this is ridiculous"
How to Good-Bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way? by Hiroyuki Nishigaki
I think constricting anus 100 times and denting navel 100 times in succession everyday is effective to good-bye depression and take back youth. You can do so at a boring meeting or in a subway. I have known 70-year-old man who has practiced it for 20 years. As a result, he has good complexion and has grown 20 years younger. His eyes sparkle. He is full of vigor, happiness and joy. He has neither complained nor born a grudge under any circumstance. Furthermore, he can make love three times in succession without drawing out.

I'm not even going to pretend this has anything to do with archaeology.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Erosion uncovers West Feliciana gravesite
A Louisiana State University archaeologist wants help identifying a West Feliciana Parish cemetery where erosion has exposed buried human remains.

Rob Mann of the LSU Museum of Natural Science said the site is about 1.8 miles north of the Plettenberg community, in a remote area along Polly Creek in Section 39, Township 2 South, Range 4 West.

"The indications are that this was a cemetery where burials were done in coffins in the regular way. In addition to trying to identify the cemetery, we want to find out whether there's a church or descendant community that would want to rebury the remains in an active cemetery," said Mann, the state's southeast regional archaeologist.
1,600-Year-Old Roman Man May Offer New Clues to London's Past
The remains of a wealthy Roman man, buried 1,600 years ago near London's St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, is providing clues for archaeologists trying to understand a little-known period in the city's history.

The remains of the man, who was in his early 40s when he died about A.D. 410, went on display yesterday at the Museum of London. The museum also is showing items found in tombs nearby that date from a period when the Saxons of northern Germany ruled the city.

. . .

``It's very, very unusual to find a Roman burial here,'' said Francis Grew, senior curator at the Museum of London, in an interview. Archeologists in Britain haven't previously found remains so late in the Roman era, he said. Carbon dating shows the man died between 390 and 430.
Apply now! Lack of state archaeologist worries some
The number of vacanies at the state Historic Preservation Division has some worried about the future of Hawaii's historic sites.

The agency hasn't had an archaeology branch chief for almost a year. And five of its eight posts for archaeologist are empty.

Not much else there. One would think Hawaii would have no end of people dying to work there, but it's probably pretty prcey to live there.

UPDATE: Way more info here.
And now we resume our archaeological programming Possible Aztec Offerings Found in Mexico
Archaeologists diving into a lake in the crater of a snowcapped volcano found wooden scepters shaped like lightning bolts that match 500-year-old descriptions by Spanish priests and conquerors writing about offerings to the Aztec rain god.

The lightning bolts along with cones of copal incense and obsidian knives were found during scuba-diving expeditions in one of the twin lakes of the extinct Nevado de Toluca volcano, at more than 13,800 feet above sea level.

Scientists must still conduct tests to determine the age of the findings, but the writings after the Spanish conquest in 1521 have led them to believe the offerings were left in the frigid lake west of Mexico City more than 500 years ago.

Kinda neat if these things really do match the historical accounts. Sounds like they're deep cold (anoxic?) lakes, so maybe more to come.
Non-archaeological post: My history of Cars

Skip if you don't give a rip.

The first two cars I had anything to do with, I don't remember much about. I was born in Colorado Springs where my dad (Air Force) was stationed. He eventually was transferred to Truax near Madison (WI) and we drove back -- my mom was from Wisconsin -- in a pickup with a camper top on it. I remember nothing of this trip, although AS MY PARENTS CONSTANTLY REMINDED ME -- I kept climbing into the sink. We eventually ended up in a duplex in Sun Prairie (WI) and traded the truck in for some sort of green Chevy. I have only vague memories of this one also, being way too young to notice such things.

The first one I have a distinct memory about is the Catalina, which was a dark red 2-door probably much like this one, though I don't know what year it was:

We used to drive down to Alabama from Wisconsin every summer for vacation, and this is probably the first one that trip was made in. You really don't see too many of these around anymore, but that's one Family Car I wish we'd kept. even though it would probably be a tank. Incidentally, it was either this one or the green Chevy that I climbed into as a young lad and managed to put it into neutral and coast back down the driveway. Sheesh. My parent went nuts; meanwhile, I remember I was in the car desperately trying to put on the brakes but my little legs just couldn't do it (no power brakes/steering back then). I still occasionally have a mild nightmare about being in a car and the brakes don't really stop the car. Just goes to show what a little childhood trauma can do. . . .

Next, we traded the Catalina in for a '68 Buick Wildcat:

Ours was a green 4-door. Yeah, there's a pattern here: GM loyalists. To this day, my mother has never owned a non-GM car. They didn't hate other manufacturers, they just wouldn't buy anything else. This one definitely took a few trips to Alabama and I still have clear memories of driving over endless flat straight roads in Indiana listening to the radio and being bored and hot.

Next up: A 1975 Buick Century, the prototypical Family Car. No pics of this one really available. Let me state this clearly and unambigously: I HATED THIS CAR. It was a pukey green with green PAISLEY interior. Also, one of the first V6's, and it showed it. Totally typical crap 1970s car. I think the engine was a 231 and was woefully inadequate for such a heavy car. Supposedly, it was a pretty good engine, but this one had all sorts of problems. When I drove it out to Seattle, it started dying about 10 minutes after starting cold, and then it would flood itself. So very often I'd let it die (once at a busy intersection) and then have to sit and let it dry out before it would start again. Although once it died when I went to visit my then-housemate's Christmas tree lot and while I waited I sold some trees and made like $30.

So anyway, I hated that thing. As I said, typical crap 1970s car. I've since rethought whether the 1970s were all that bad for automobiles; they certainly weren't high quality, but I wonder if that wasn't a problem before the '70s. I've heard numerous people say that even '60s American cars were pretty unreliable, but one, they had no real competition to compare with (except for equally unreliable Euro imports), and two, the muscle cars kinda made up for that with massive speed. Certainly performance took a major hit in the mid-'70s and they didn't pull off fuel or emissions efficiency very well. And we were finally seeing quality Japanese cars in quantity so there was something to compare them to.

Apparently, some guy in Michigan bought a Cadillac -- 1972, I think -- and the thing was so awful it was always going back to the shop for repairs. He'd saved up a long time to buy this Caddy, and finally the straw broke the camel's back and it died on his wife while she was driving on a freeway. He got it running again, drove it over to the GM headquarters lawn, set the thing on fire and sat under a tree to watch it burn. Can't find anything on the internets about it though, so you'll have to take my word for it.

I always liked the design of 1970's cars though. I think they were beautiful to behold and in truth, they were much more comfortable and refined than their '60s counterparts. I love the sculpted look of the mid-late '70s GM products and even Ford, I think, produced some beautiful cars in that period. I have some faith that those will start increasing in value as remods. I'm already starting to see some on the street that have been restored and upgraded, engine-wise.

In comparison, we also had a little blue Fiat ("Fix It Again, Tom") that was similarly not high on the reliability scale. Fun car though. We eventually sold it to a Catholic priest, being all honest and letting him know we'd had trouble with it. He said no problem, he's not one to come back and complain, but don't be surprised if we saw it floating down the town river if it acted up.

I think it eventually caught fire.

We next got a 1975 AMC Hornet. Looked kind of like this one, but blue, four doors and bigger bumpers:

In contrast to the Buick, I love love LOVED this car. It was really my first one, although I kind of adopted it from the family. Wasn't flashy, more of a utility car than anything, but it had decent power, plenty of room for junk and college buddies, and wasn't too bland. It had a straight 6 that was actually a very good engine. Easy to work on, too. The things would go forEVER, even after rusting out. Good in snow, too. I remember driving some guy home(?) in a freakin' blizzard one night. Don't know why exactly I did that, but I recall constantly turning the wheel slightly because it was in a constant skid. Yes, I was, in fact, immortal back then. Got me everywhere, it did. Sadly, my parents inflicted me with gave me the Buick instead because they didn't think the Hornet would make it out to Seattle. Last I heard, the family mechanic had sold it to someone for an ice-fishing car and they were still driving it out on the lake with holes in the floor.

And so it was that a rusty Buick made its way to Seattle from Wisconsin. I finally got rid of the damn thing (somewhere I have a newspaper clipping of an identical car being dragged out of a local lake; wishful thinking) and got an equally crappy 1984 Bronco II. Wow, first car I owned not made in the '70s! Sadly, it was an absolute jinx of a truck. 24 hours after I bought it I had my first accident. Sheesh. So in it went to get fixed and get a hot new tubular steel bumper. Gotta admit, it was crappy and jinxed but I liked it. Perfect for me then, as I was employing myself doing contract fieldwork. Fun while I had it, which was about a month and a half. Apparently, the former owner had neglectd to change the oil and the lifters had difficulty getting oil anywhere. I was driving to a job outside of Chico, CA when half the cylinders seized up in the middle of Oregon. It needed a complete rebuild, but I didn't have the money, so I swapped 'em for my current Mustang. Yeah, back I went to the 1970s.

And I've had it since 1990. In truth, the Mustang II wasn't even on my radar back then. I remember it mostly because Farah-Fawcett had one in 'Charlie's Angels', but back then I liked Trans Ams and other GM products.

So there you have it. My Life In Cars.

To wrench this back to archaeology, cars do, in fact, make excellent examples for teaching various principles of archaeology. I used them several times to illustrate various aspect of archaeological method and theory. Stylistically, of course, you can demonstrate non-stratigraphic seriation simply by showing a variety of cars and having students put them in chronological order. And when you ask them why they did it, you can point out that it was largely on stylistic grounds that the ordering was made since, functionally, cars didn't change all that much -- four rubber wheels, an exhaust, engine, etc. Other items can be used to demonstrate how functional traits could turn into stylistic cues such as the false exhaust manifold ports on Buicks, and fake hood scoops on various models. It's a familiar item that people can immediately relate to and know something about so it makes for a nice analogy.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Non-archaeological post

One of the best movies and soundtracks ever made: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

I'd heard about this movie for a while and one day up and rented it, even though I didn't know squat about it. So I'm watching the opening scenes and credits when up comes a line about it being based on "The Odyssey of Homer".


Nearly every scene is an absolute gem. Funny all the way through. My Odyssey memory is a tad fuzzy but the "based on" is accurate. The cyclops! The sirens! (I should say, the "Si-reens") There are no doubt more bits and pieces thrown in, but I can't think of them offhand, plus I haven't watched it in a while. I caught a bit of it on TV the other day, and I've been listening to the CD lately.

"R-U-N-N O-F-T"

I went home and rented it for my dear old southern dad -- Rest his soul -- to watch, and he just sat there the whole time with a big grin on his face.

The soundtrack is a good listen, too, if you're into that sort of music at all. They did something of a followup CD and PBS special on the "roots music" in it, which I watched, but didn't buy. I could do without the first track, although the rock-smacking does send one of my cats into fits of wariness.

Anyway, don't know how much posting will be done over the long weekend, but who knows, we-who-have-no-life may end up throwing stuff in.
State archaeologist called to determine if subdivision site is ancient burial ground
Town officials contacted the state archeologist's office this week requesting an investigation of claims that an ancient Indian burial ground exists on the site of a planned subdivision in the Vernon Center area.

Town Planner Neil Pade said Wednesday he received three calls from residents asserting the site just off Trout Stream Drive has historical significance, and he wants to see if state officials have any maps or know of the likelihood of an Indian graveyard in the vicinity.

"It can't hurt to make the call," said Pade, adding, "We have an obligation to do a thorough review."
Archaeologist digs up Teotihuacan mysteries
Archaeologist Linda Manzanilla uncovered the cultural complexities of the ancient, multi-ethnic civilization of Teotihuacan during a presentation yesterday afternoon in Bolivar House.

Teotihuacan, which is located northeast of Mexico City, is one of the largest and most visited archaeological sites in the Americas. According to Manzanilla, its population was comprised of many different ethnic groups, each of which lived in its own neighborhood.

Unlike most Mesoamerican civilizations, the city lacked clear borders.

“What I don’t see is a territory well-defined with frontiers,” she said. “It’s a very amoeba-like thing.”
The Forgotten Dead
Beneath the neatly-shorn lawns of a quiet residential neighborhood lies a forgotten mystery. Children ride their bikes and homeowners dig in their gardens without a thought to the abandoned burial ground, neglected for over a century, that lies just below. Life goes on as normal – that is, until one of the burials is disturbed…

It’s a plot that’s been replayed hundreds of times in horror movies, comic books and trash archaeology novels. But in Deadwood, it’s not fiction. For the residents of the city’s Presidential District, the not-entirely-abandoned tombs under their homes are a fact of life. While there’s usually little reason to think about the old cemetery, its forgotten residents occasionally make an appearance.

That’s what happened on the morning of April 2. A construction crew, working at the behest of the city, was excavating with a backhoe on the corner of Jackson and Taylor Streets, where they were rebuilding an aging retaining wall. As the shovel dug through the earth, the crew noticed something unusual. Upon further examination, it became clear that they had discovered several bones – including parts of a human skull.
Greece: Archaeologists find thousands of clay offerings at ancient fertility shrine
Archaeologists in central Greece have discovered thousands of miniature clay pots and statuettes in the ruins of an ancient sanctuary possibly dedicated to the Three Graces, officials said on Wednesday.

In volume, it is one of the richest finds in recent years.

Excavations near Orchomenos, 130 kilometers northwest of Athens, revealed sparse remains of retaining walls from a small rural shrine, a Culture Ministry statement said.
Did they resort to eating dead colonists?
George Percy, one of Jamestown's early leaders, provided in about 1625 what is probably the best-known and most gruesome account. He described a "worlde of miseries" that included hunger-crazed colonists digging up the dead and one man who killed, "salted" and carved up his wife for food.

This story was repeated, and luridly embellished, over the years. "Whether she was better roasted, boiled or carbonado'd (barbecued), I know not," the colony's famous Capt. John Smith wrote in his version of events about the same time. "Such a dish as powdered wife, I never heard of."

Percy reported that he had the unnamed murderer hanged by his thumbs to extract a confession and then had him executed for the "crewell and unhumane" act.

But archaeologists have been wary of the Jamestown cannibalism reports.

It notes no actual archaeological evidence of cannibalism.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Protesters call King Tut exhibit racist
A traveling exhibition on King Tutankhamun drew about 50 protesters who denounced the popular display as racist.

Molefi Asante, a professor of African-American studies at Temple University, led the demonstration Sunday outside the Franklin Institute, claiming the exhibit has no mention of Africa and that it suggests that the ancient Egyptian king was white.

Asante, who is also president of the Association of Kemetic Nubian Heritage, specifically pointed to a representation of Tut that "looks more like Boy George than the boy king."

A spokeswoman for the Franklin Institute said images of Tut vary throughout the museum. In response to the protest, the museum will hold a symposium this summer at which scholars and experts will discuss forensic evidence relating to King Tut.

Similar protests have been held in other U.S. cities where the exhibit has appeared.

That's the whole thing.

I had about a dozen smart-ass comments, but discretion forbids me from actually typing them.

Okay, maybe I did type some, but I erased them before posting.
(HT Greg at TPW)
Late-Pleistocene impact update Did a comet hit the Great Lakes region and fragment human populations 12,900 years ago?
Multi-institutional 26-member team of researchers propose a startling new theory: that an extraterrestrial impact, possibly a comet, set off a 1,000-year-long cold spell and wiped out or fragmented the prehistoric Clovis culture and a variety of animal genera across North America almost 13,000 years ago.

Driving the theory is a carbon-rich layer of soil that has been found, but not definitively explained, at some 50 Clovis-age sites in North America that date to the onset of a cooling period known as the Younger Dryas Event. The sites include several on the Channel Island off California where University of Oregon archaeologists Douglas J. Kennett and Jon M. Erlandson have conducted research.

The theory is being discussed publicly, for the first time, today in a news conference at the 2007 Joint Assembly of the American Geophysical Union being held this week in Acapulco, Mexico.

No negatives introduced in this article.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Women's role in history inaccurately reflected by archaeological record
A button I purchased at an archaeological site that my wife and I visited on our honeymoon says, "Love is fleeting, stone tools are forever."

["True love an sometimes fade, but money stays green forever." -- Cary Grant]

In nearly every hunting-and-gathering society studied by anthropologists, there is a fairly strict division of labor between the sexes: men hunt and women gather. If this were true for ancient groups, then the archaeological record would be dominated by the hunting activities of men. The gathering activities of women, on the other hand, would be nearly invisible.

University of Wyoming archaeologist Nicole Waguespack, in the December 2005 issue of the journal American Anthropologist, acknowledges the problem but argues that it's not as simple as it seems.

I actually read the title and thought "Great, another post-modern feminist interpretation" but it's pretty good.
Ancient Maya Tomb Found: Upright Skeleton, Unusual Location
Archaeologists working in Honduras have discovered an entombed human skeleton of an elite member of the ancient Maya Empire that may help unravel some longstanding mysteries of the vanished culture.

The remains, seated in an upright position in an unusual tomb and flanked by shells, pottery, vessels, and jade adornments, suggest a surprisingly diverse culture and complex political system in the influential Maya city of Copán around A.D. 650.

. . .

he remains belong to a 50-year-old man with various illnesses. He had poor use of his left arm, poor arterial flow through his upper spinal cord, and a chronic infection of the skull known as mastoiditis, according to a bioarchaeological analysis by Katherine Miller of Arizona State University.

Okay, that's just weird.

Chinese writing '8,000 years old'
Chinese archaeologists studying ancient rock carvings say they have evidence that modern Chinese script is thousands of years older than previously thought.

State media say researchers identified more than 2,000 pictorial symbols dating back 8,000 years, on cliff faces in the north-west of the country.

They say many of these symbols bear a strong resemblance to later forms of ancient Chinese characters.

Scholars had thought Chinese symbols came into use about 4,500 years ago.
Slavery archaeology update Cemetery for Civil War-Era Freed Blacks Rededicated
Living in crowded, unsanitary conditions, many of the freed blacks were disproportionately affected when illnesses swept through the area. "They had extremely poor housing after the Civil War," said Gadeken, a student at West Springfield High School, as she stood on the burial grounds, once forgotten and abandoned. "They had no property. They were free. What were they freed into? Nothing."

A road construction project and research by historians led to the cemetery's discovery.

Alexandria city officials and others gathered at the site Saturday to rededicate the cemetery. The beats of the African Heritage Drummers provided the backdrop for a ceremony that included the pouring of libations and singing of traditional spirituals by the City of Alexandria Choir. Alexandria poet laureate Mary McElveen read a poem written for the occasion. The luminarias were individually decorated by people in the community, including schoolchildren and others who attended community workshops.
Non-archaeological post Mars Rover Spirit Unearths Surprise Evidence of Wetter Past
A patch of Martian soil analyzed by NASA's rover Spirit is so rich in silica that it may provide some of the strongest evidence yet that ancient Mars was much wetter than it is now. The processes that could have produced such a concentrated deposit of silica require the presence of water.

Members of the rover science team heard from a colleague during a recent teleconference that the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, a chemical analyzer at the end of Spirit's arm, had measured a composition of about 90 percent pure silica for this soil.

"You could hear people gasp in astonishment," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the Mars rovers' science instruments. "This is a remarkable discovery. And the fact that we found something this new and different after nearly 1,200 days on Mars makes it even more remarkable. It makes you wonder what else is still out there."

This whole rover project is probably the grandest story to come out of NASA in years, maybe decades. Whenever something goes wrong, it's on the front page for days. But here we have a couple of rovers whose initial mission was supposed to last 3 months, and here it is over three years later and they're still cranking out data -- and you rarely hear about it. This is mostly due to good design, but they have also had some incredible luck. Ferinstance, the solar panels were expected to get a coating of dust and eventually become inoperable, but for whatever reason, dust buildup has turned out not to be a problem.

If you find the book Rovin Mars by Squyers, it's an excellent read. And you'll be amazed at how big and complex these rovers really are.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Howell to speak on the archaeology of music
In the visually motivated field of archaeology, inroads into musical anthropology are turning some heads and honing new senses of the past.

Mark Howell, director of Winterville Mounds Park and Museum near Greenville, is coming to Natchez to present a program on ethnic music findings that are making ripples in the archaeology world.

The program, 6:30 p.m. on May 31 at Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, will focus on Howell’s discoveries in Maya music found during research in Guatemala.

This bit caught my eye: “To be honest, we don’t really know what Gregorian chants sounded like. Probably the ones you hear today are not rhythmically correct,” Howell said. My first thought was "Rhythm? They have rhythm?" and my second thought was something along the lines of "Oh my God, what if they rapped them???"

But interesting. We really don't know what some of that old music is supposed to sound like. Are there any Maya paintings showing musicians, as in Egypt?
Bosnian (non)pyramids update Bosnian archaeologists 'dig in' to struggle with looters
Archaeologist Snjezana Vasilj was busy digging through piles of paper last year when a self-styled Bosnian explorer made global headlines after discovering "Europe's first pyramids."

A year on, Vasilj's fortunes turned around when her battle with the forms that go with Bosnian bureaucracy paid off and she secured the research grant needed to continue her own treasure hunt.

Vasilj and her small team of volunteers used the $9,400 in funding to help make an extraordinary discovery at the Hutovo Blato marshlands in southern Bosnia.

The archaeologist said she cried when divers she could only afford to pay in "sandwiches" surfaced from a small lake in the nature reserve to confirm what lay on the bottom - Illyrian ships dating back some 2,200 years.

It's actually a good article not really about the (non)pyramids, and a sad one at that.
Putting the "Arrrrr. . ." in Archaeology A PIRATE WITH A PH.D.
We don't know what's more delightful, that a shipwrecked 19th century Maine clipper is making one of its periodic reappearances from the sand in which it's been interred along the San Francisco coast for more than a century, or that the incident has allowed a maritime archaeologist who's studying the wreck to engage in the most wonderful flights of 19th century-sounding language.

"She could have sunk deep or she could have been burned," said James Delgado, executive director of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, sounding either like a good scholar, or folk singer Gordon Lightfoot. "But because ... she buried herself, we have an exciting and tangible reminder of ships long past and the days of wooden sail."

Do people really talk this way? If they spend their days romancing the 19th century, we guess.
Lost civilization ditches. . . .found Discovery of Iron Age ditches adds to history of the Castle
SOME of the earliest Iron Age defences at Edinburgh Castle have been unearthed during excavation work for the attraction's new visitor centre.

Archaeologists discovered two huge, 2000-year-old ditches underneath the Castle Esplanade, which would once have protected the ancient hill fort on the site.

A team of experts drilled a series of small bore holes through the Castle's car park and analysed soil samples from many metres below the ground.
Remains of mystery man, an Iowa pioneer, laid to rest
The skeletal remains of a 19th-century pioneer discovered one year ago today returned to rest Thursday in an empty corner of a Dallas County cemetery.

A local developer and funeral director buried the remnants of bone, clothing and casket at the Booneville Cemetery, less than six miles from their original location in West Des Moines.

Burying the remains in a child's casket capped an investigation that offered hints about the life of a man who lived around the time of Iowa's birth in the 1840s.
Roman burial grounds found under road
"We knew from archaeological excavations along the line of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, that there was a Roman enclosure on the route, but previous discoveries had simply suggested a rural farmstead.

"At first we found very little, but at the bottom of a pit we came across the metal handles of a wooden board, and later a set of 23 glass counters and two bone dice, suggesting that we had found a gaming board.

"These finds are rare, and mostly occur in graves, so we carefully took down the other half of the pit, and sure enough, it was full of grave offerings. These include the skeletal remains of half a pig, presumably offered as food for the afterlife."
Indian village study shows multiple sites in county
Two years ago Beaman was tapped by Wilson County officials to find Toisnot Village, what was commonly thought to be a large reserve of Tuscarora Indians during the colonial days of North Carolina. Beaman's search is an updated attempt at tracing known Tuscarora villages through eastern North Carolina.

In the late 1990s, two East Carolina University archaeologists embarked on a two-year study of Tuscarora communities in eastern North Carolina. The archaeologists examined sites in Pitt, Lenoir, Wayne and Greene counties, however their time limit ran out before the duo could search in Wilson County.

"Historically people have looked for one site called Toisnot Village," Beaman told the Wilson County Historical Society Thursday afternoon. "Sometimes when we're looking for one thing, we discover something we didn't expect."
Archaeologists sift through ashes to uncover plantation's past
Archaeologists digging inside the towering ruins of historic Rosewell Plantation have discovered a provocative assortment of artifacts hidden within the charred debris of the fire that gutted the structure in 1916.

Working in the northwest corner of the exposed basement, the scientists have probed through a jumbled deposit of fallen bricks, burned floor joists and twisted metal roofing that measures as much as 7 feet deep. The dig has uncovered the remains of at least three different stoves and an old metal bedstead--all of which came crashing through the floors of the three-story structure when the interior collapsed in the blaze.

Pueblo opens dig to public
The stock image of archaeology, that of a learned professional using a small trowel and paint brush to methodically uncover artifacts, seems at odds with this fact: The great unwashed masses are invited to a working archaeological site near Flagstaff where they may dig away.

The Elden Pueblo site is believed to have been home of hundreds of Sinagua people about 800 years ago. Today, the ruins sit just north of the Flagstaff Mall and butt up against a state highway.

A few times a year, the public is invited to help dig up artifacts at the site in the Coconino National Forest. Free public field days are scheduled for Sunday, June 24, July 28 and Aug. 18.

Kind of neat, although it doesn't seem like they'd find much of anything, digging for an hour or so.
Breaking news: Intact tomb found in Egypt The Tomb of Henu, ca. 2050 BC
A team from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium) directed by professor Harco Willems has discovered a completely intact tomb dating to about 2050 BC at the site of Dayr al-Barsha in Middle Egypt. The burial was located in a rock cut shaft in the tomb of Uky in a vast necropolis on the southern hill of Dayr al-Barsha. This area has been under investigation since 2005 by Marleen De Meyer, who carried out the excavation of the tomb.

The tomb of Uky consists of two consecutive rooms,of which the shafts in the entrance chamber had already been excavated in 2005-2006. This year the two shafts in the rear chamber were the object of research. The fill of one of these shafts, a square one in the rear of the chamber, soon turned out to be entirely different than that of robbed shafts. It consisted of almost sterile limestone debris that formed the original backfill of a shaft after a burial had taken place in ancient times. Already on the second day a small hole emerged in the north wall of the shaft, and through it an entirely intact burial chamber could be seen. Even though the burial took place over four thousand years ago, the colours on the painted objects were very fresh, and no dust even covered them.

Late First Intermediate or very early Middle Kingdom. Lots of good photos of the contents at that link. It's not a big glourious chock-full-o-treasure tomb, but interesting.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Colorado River streamflow history reveals megadrought before 1490
An epic drought during the mid-1100s dwarfs any drought previously documented for a region that includes areas of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The six-decade-long drought was remarkable for the absence of very wet years. At the core of the drought was a period of 25 years in which Colorado River flow averaged 15 percent below normal.

The new tree-ring-based reconstruction documents the year-by-year natural variability of streamflows in the upper Colorado River basin back to A. D. 762, said the tree-ring scientists from The University of Arizona in Tucson who led the research team.

The work extends the continuous tree-ring record of upper Colorado streamflows back seven centuries earlier than previous reconstructions.

Smack in the middle of the Medieval Warm Period. I believe. . . .the Anasazi collapse was later than this. I recall that this Great Draught was supposedly blamed for the Anasazi collapse, but in recent years explanations have turned more towards social explanations. If they were this severe for an extended period of time, one might think that no social structure could keep things going for that long in such difficult conditions, so perhaps it was draught after all and the Anasazi just couldn't cope whatever they tried.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Alexander's dike update (no snickering) How geology came to help Alexander the Great
An elongated region of sandstone reefs acted as a 6-kilometre natural breakwater in the area 8,000 years ago. By 6,000 years ago, rises in sea level had reduced the length of the island from 6 to 4 kilometres. This, combined with an increase of sediment supply due to agricultural activity and a rise in inland rainfall, particularly after about 3,000 years ago, created a natural sandbar that sat an average of 1-2 metres below mean sea level in Alexander's time, they report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1

So, there was a natural sandstone at some location (not shown?) that had been increasing sedimentation between the island and mainland, increasing after 3k BP. Thus, Alexander only had to build in 2-3m of water.
Walk like an Egyptian -- or a Roman -- experience what the past really looked like
What was it like to walk round the Colosseum when the Roman Empire was at its height" How would the experience have differed from that of a tourist today"

Our understanding of what life was like in bygone eras could be boosted, thanks to a new initiative aiming to depict more accurately and realistically how heritage sites may have looked in their heyday.

Computer scientists and cultural heritage researchers are assessing whether today's increasingly sophisticated 3-d computer technology can be combined with the most recent historical evidence to produce significantly improved visual reconstructions of churches, palaces and other ancient sites.
20,000 Aboriginal artefacts found at Defence HQ site
The discovery of thousands of Aboriginal artefacts has forced a construction company to alter the design of the new Defence headquarters complex at Bungendore.

About 20,000 Indigenous tools from at least 5,000 years ago have been unearthed at the site along with the remains of mid-19th century hotel.

Consulting archaeologist Doug Williams says roads within the facility have been redirected to retain the heritage values.
Ancient "Royal Temple" Discovered in Path of Ireland Highway
The discovery of a major prehistoric site where experts believe an open-air royal temple once stood has stalled construction of a controversial four-lane highway in Ireland.

A large circular enclosure estimated to be at least 2,000 years old was exposed at Lismullin in County Meath, by road-builders working on a 37-mile-long (60-kilometer-long) road northwest of Dublin (see map of Ireland).

The find is located just 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) from the Hill of Tara, once the seat of power of Ireland's Celtic kings, and likely represents a ritual site, according to government archaeologists attached to the road project.

Hmmmm. Do a search of this blog on "Tara", there will probably be several stories on this over the past couple of years.
Did comet start deadly cold snap?
A comet or some other extraterrestrial object appears to have slammed into northern Canada 12,900 years ago and triggered an abrupt and catastrophic climate change that wiped out the mammoths and many other prehistoric creatures, according to a team of U.S. scientists.

Evidence of the ecological disaster exists in a thin layer of sediment that has been found from Alberta to New Mexico, say the researchers, whose work adds a dramatic and provocative twist to the decades-old debate about the demise of the mammoths, mastodons and sloths that once roamed North America.

The sediment layer contains high concentrations of iridium, fullerenes and other compounds associated with space rocks and impacts, says Luann Becker, a geologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has been analyzing the sediments.

Interesting, but I remain skeptical. For one thing, mammoths seem to have gone extinct over time from south to north rather than north to south as one would expect from a far-northern impact (or from overkill; don't have the refernece handy though).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Archaeologists believe remnants of Fort Duquesne unearthed
About two weeks ago, archaeologist Tom Kutys thought he'd found a stone wall when he came across mortared capstones in a trench at the state park that once was the site of French and British forts.

Instead, archaeologists at Point State Park believe they very well might have uncovered long-buried remnants of Fort Duquesne, Pittsburgh's original fort.

"If we are correct about this, we are looking at the earliest example of European masonry in Pittsburgh," said Brooke Blades, an archaeologist with A.D. Marble and Co., which is working on the $35 million renovation of the park in downtown Pittsburgh.

After excavating around Kutys' discovery, workers found what they believe to be a drainage system that once served the fort in the mid-1700s, he said.
Archaeologists unearth 4th century marvel
Archaeologists have discovered a 4th century Christian church in southern Serbia, the Blic newspaper reported on Tuesday.

"It's an exceptional discovery," Gordana Jeremic, the lead archaeologist at the Mediana site near the city of Nis, was quoted as saying.

The ruins were located only several metres from another church that was discovered in 2000, the paper reported.

Seen a couple of stories on it, but none are very detailed yet.
Archaeologists discover ancient tools in Auburn
An archaeological survey made necessary by an airport construction project has uncovered parts of ancient tools that are thought to date back 9,000 to 11,000 years.
When an archaeologist pulled a pointed brown stone -- an inch long and part of an ancient tool possibly used to clean animal skins -- from the ground west of the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport in December, it was enough to bring a full archaeological excavation to the site.
Last week, a member of a digging team found another piece of stone tool that dig organizers said matches the first piece.
Battlefield archaeology update ?For Antietam archaeologists, spent bullets tell a story
A team of archaeologists from the National Park Service is uncovering bullets and shrapnel that paint a grim picture of the carnage at the battle of Antietam.

It was the single bloodiest day in the Civil War, and the archaeologists are getting plenty of reminders why.

The team used metal detectors to find more than 400 objects, mostly bullets and shrapnel, in a section of the battlefield recently.

Short article but there's a pseudo-link to the NPS web site.
Archaeologists to study antebellum UA dorm site
Archaeologists will begin digging in the spot of the university’s original dormitories today, a site long since covered in asphalt as part of Capstone Drive on the north side of the Quad. They plan to find out whether any artifacts remain underground.

The initial work should take less than three weeks and cut only through parking spots. The street will remain open to traffic.

In the fall, the university will begin a campus transit system, altering traffic flow on some streets and closing others to make way for buses.
How Alexander the Great used 'Mother Nature'
Archaeologists have known for some time that Alexander used the debris of the abandoned mainland city to build a causeway 3,000 yards long and up to 180 yards across. Once within reach of the city walls, he used siege engines to batter and finally breach the fortifications.

But building a causeway in deep water would have meant raising the level of the sea floor considerably - an impossible feat in such a short space of time. However, researchers in France who analysed the coastal sediment record for the past 10,000 years have discovered how Alexander's engineers exploited a natural underwater "sandbridge".

The ''sandbridges'' are formed when sediment is deposited rapidly at a spot behind an island.

I'm still not sure how it worked.
Archaeologists uncovering Magnolia slave artifacts
Before starting restoration work on several of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens' slave cabins, the owners hired Craig Hadley to dig into the past and find out more about how the slaves lived and worked.

It was a wise move.

Hadley, director of the Living History Group, has overseen a team of archaeologists and others who have spent about three months excavating areas where the plantation's slaves spent most of their time.

"All of these things tell of a story of the people who lived out here," he said. "Archaeology doesn't lie. It may be pretty obscure to read sometimes, but it doesn't lie. The things we find are telling the story of their lives."
Bulldozing update There's been some commentary here regarding the use of heavy earth-moving equipment in archaeology. Seems to be second only to Oak Island in generating comments (I guess the next Internet sweeps week I need to post something about bulldozing Oak Island. . . .)

No, it's not something you'd ordinarily see on National Geographic, yes, sometimes (I don't think very often) it's used to remove uninteresting/not-significant deposits (itself a controversial topic), but no, it's not used all that often.

Ideally, if we had unlimited time and money, we could spend our entire careers carefully doing everything by hand trowel, dental pick, and the ubiquitous brush and thus never miss a thing. But, like everything, there are a thousand different priorities and proxies demanding we do this or that one way or another. Mitigation work has its own set of requirements -- time, money, results -- as does purely academic work. Funding institutions, whether private or public, have their priorities and demands, as do departments that require publications based on original research. It's not always a simple or easy decision to decide how to proceed.

It's tempting to get all Ivory Tower and just say "Trust us, we know what we're doing", but that just makes us look arrogant, and not terribly tactful politically, especially when we're feeding at the public trough. So, I for one welcome the criticism, if applied judiciously and politely (no complaints so far, y'all are remarkably civil for the Internets).

We may need more discussion within the ranks on conservation, which I've pointed out on several occasions. There's an awful lot of junk sitting in museum basements and countless storage buildings scattered around the world, and we still do destructive analyses that may not be warranted. In some cases, that "some day" everybody talked about coming when we could scan an object and see everything inside of it -- e.g., mummies -- without having to bust it open is here. Watching Zahi Hawass (not to pick on him personally) open an Egyptian sarcophagus on international television and while we watched have said mummy literally crumble to dust was an eye opener.

I'm not taking a position here. Really. (Really!) But asking the question and having to justify ourselves and our actions shouldn't be off limits.
Archaeology Channel video This from Pettigrew:
Digital laser imaging technology is not only
very cool, but it is also much faster and more accurate than hand
drawing for architectural features found at archaeological sites.
This fact is made obvious in Mesa Verde: A CyArk Case Study, the
latest video feature on our nonprofit streaming-media Web site, The
Archaeology Channel (

The complex World Heritage site of Mesa Verde is a good challenge for
CyArk, a Kacyra Family Foundation project that is preserving the
world's most valued cultural heritage sites in three-dimensional
digital form. Ancestral Puebloans at Mesa Verde built cliff
dwellings in AD 1200-1300. A field team in 2005 visited one site
there, Spruce Tree House, to test CyArk's advanced documentation
techniques. This video shows how CyArk is preserving the site in
digital imagery through laser scanning and the most accurate 3D
models possible today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Shaveblogging update

In the mail: A free Schick Quattro Titanium razor. It looks very official. Says it's the "Property of Schick Shave Lab" and promises to put "More Strut in [My] Giddy-Up".

I'm a-gonna have a go with it in a couple of weeks or so. Last weekend I picked up a 1950s Gillette adjustable double-blade like this one:

For only 75 cents! Obviously, the Pacific Northwest is not a bastion of shaving technology.

It's a LOT heavier than my ladies' Gillette and, to be honest, I have no idea yet what is actually being adjusted. But, you know, at 5 am I don't have much presence of mind to analyze these things in detail.

Anyway, I guess Schick has finally noticed what a connoisseur of shaving implements I am and has started sending me product to review.

Okay, I probably made it onto a random mailing list.

Or maybe. . . .it's poisoned! Sent to me under the guise of a product sample, only to hold a hidden vial of cyanide ready to pour itself into any little nick or cut that I may experience during use! No doubt by a secretive group of post-modern sociocultural anthropologists striking a blow against the heteronormative patriarchy!

Well, I've said before I've always wanted a nemesis.
Geico cavemen sitcom update: Not lookin' good Someone named Derek Flint thinks the pilot stank:
“Cavemen” is literally a thirty second commercial expanded to twenty-two minutes. But… it’s actually much worse than that. Just like their source material, the origin of these domesticated Cro-Magnons is never explained. I guess “Encino Man” is part of the prequel trilogy.

A while back I predicted difficulty: The writers will also have to be very clever working in the predjudice angle.

Seems I was prescient:
The creators have tried to infuse social satire by making the show an allegory for prejudice. They draw astoundingly leaden parallels to every minority group in the world without a laugh in sight.

Seems they missed the 'clever' part.

I still think it'd be a neat idea, but tough to pull off.

UPDATE: Looks like ABC is going ahead with it.
Researchers learn why tar pits are bubbly
Like many other visitors to the La Brea tar pits, sisters Samantha and Katie Salazar watched a basketball-sized bubble emerge from dark, slimy gunk Sunday and wondered, why are the tar pits bubbly?

For years, educators at the Hancock Park site could only guess that methane gas was being released as the byproduct of oil creation 1,000 feet below the surface.

Researchers at UC Riverside have finally found the answer: Hardy bacteria embedded in the natural asphalt are eating away at the petroleum and burping up methane.

One of these days I'm going to fly down there just to see this.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Work begins to uncover secrets of Silbury Hill
Work began yesterday to save an ancient landmark in Wiltshire from collapsing.

Silbury Hill, which at 130 feet high is the largest prehistoric man-made construction in Europe, continues to mystify archaeologists.

English Heritage is to spend £600,000 this summer trying to preserve the mound.

Specialist engineers will enter the mound through a tunnel which was dug in 1968 by a team led by the archaeologist, Prof Richard Atkinson. That tunnel was the last of three made over two centuries by archaeologists.
Group gets rare archaeological tour if nuclear research area
Visitors to the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho received a rare tour of archaeological sites within the 890-square-mile federal nuclear research area on Friday.
The Olympian - Click Here

For the last 10 years the INL has allowed one group per year to tour the archaeological sites.
Say, speaking of bulldozers Archaeologists say ancient Big Island site was bulldozed
Two archaeologists say an ancient Big Island site listed on the National Register of Historic Places has been bulldozed.

Paul Rosendahl's firm surveyed the North Kona property for its owners in 2005.

He says the site included a suspected heiau, agricultural terraces and other features.

According to Rosendahl, it was likely destroyed between 1985 and 2005.
Egypt's top archaeologist says he will fight for Nefertiti bust in Germany
Egypt's antiquities chief told The Associated Press in an interview that if persuasion does not work, he will fight for an ancient bust of Nefertiti now in a Berlin museum that Germany says is too fragile to loan to Egypt.

Zahi Hawass rattled the world's museums last week with requests to hand over masterpieces of ancient Egypt, including the Rosetta Stone — some for loans, others permanently.

Hawass said in the interview Wednesday that the goal is to display the pieces in two new museums, particularly the Grand Museum, which is opening in 2012 next to the Great Pyramids of Giza and it to be Egypt's main antiquities showcase.
400-year-old weapons found at Jamestown
Archaeologists working at the site of historic James Fort have unearthed the first pieces of what appears to be a large cache of armor and arms buried in an early 17th-century well.

The artifacts include numerous tassets - small pieces of armor used to protect the wearer's thighs - as well as a rapier hilt, an iron pole and a nearly complete broadsword with an intact basket hilt.

William Kelso, director of the Jamestown Rediscovery excavation, believes the objects may have been discarded by the colonists as early as June 1610, when the survivors of a particularly brutal winter known as the "Starving Time" trashed much of the settlement's armory before temporarily abandoning the fort.
The Abu El-Haj controversy continues An alert reader sends along a link to this article: Bulldozer archaeology?

The notion of bulldozer archaeology is so shocking largely because the classic image of archaeologists at work is one of painstaking care, precision and slowness: the earth delicately probed with hand-held trowels, soil gently cleaned from each find with brushes, every stage of the excavation carefully recorded with notes, drawings and photography. As an arena of human activity an archaeological dig would seem to be conceptually closer to an operating theatre than to a construction or demolition site. Yet large-scale as well as small-scale operations have their place in archaeology, and the carefully planned archaeological use of mechanized earth moving techniques, including bulldozing, is an established and accepted practice.

It's largely critical of Abu El-Haj. It provides a plausible explanation of the whole bulldozer controversy, which seemed kinda hinky to me from the start, being a 3rd-party report in the first place. Harrington provides this quote by David Usshiskin on the origin of the Bulldozer Incident:
I believe the use of a JCB to determine the line of the rock-cut Iron Age moat was justified. It was essential to establish the size of the Iron Age enclosure in order to understand properly the site … A JCB with a long arm working delicately under archaeological supervision was the right solution: it can do useful work without damaging ancient remains, and I believe that this was the case here.

I think I mentioned in previous posts on this that large earth-moving equipment is not unknown archaeologically, though not often used for obvious reasons. It could feasibly start an urban legend of heinous archaeologists ripping up valuable archaeological remains. But, you know, that's the danger when you throw out "I heard from someone that. . . ." as part of an academic treatise.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Car-blogging update
As I mentioned below, I recarpeted my Mustang this weekend. I suppose all totalled it took about 7 hours. That includes going to the hardware store for various wrenches that I didn't have. Anyway, this is what it looked like prior to beginning:

You can see it's all chewed up on the driver's side and the backing is poking through. Also faded. It's the original carpet put down in 1978 so it really hasn't worn too badly.

These two are after I pulled it all out:

The wire going across to the left is the seat belt warning. Which I disconnected. The plate on the passenger side was put in when I put the new EFI engine in it (see here).

Then I laid the old one on top of the new one and traced the openings in the center console. Note the color difference.

Note: Only do the front three holes this way. Those are the ones that have to be open before you can put it down; the other ones can be cut once you get it laid in place. I discovered it needed adjusting and the back hole -- where the little compartment is -- was cut a little too far back and I needed to cut some more. Fortunately, the console cover went over the excess hole, as in this picture:

This next one just shows it almost done, with the driver's side all in:

Unfortunately, I'll probably have to buy another carpet and do it again, or rather, have it done by a professional. It looks okay, but there are a few (large) wrinkles in it. Worse, however, the side parts that go onto the door sill are too short so they don't go under the panel and stick out. This is apparently something with the manufacturer because two other people had the same thing happen. Oddly, they are okay in the front where I didn't fit it too well, but in the back where it did fit well, it's too short. So, eh.
Blogging update Sorry about the lack of posting. I've been putting new carpet in my Mustang. It went okay, except I discovered too late that the pattern makes the side flaps by the door sill too short so it's kind of sticking up there. So, it's either buy new stuff from a new company or find some way of fixing it. Pictures to follow.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ancient Peruvians Used Dismemberment as Power Tool
Ancient Peruvian aristocrats dismembered their less well-off neighbors as a scare tactic, new archaeological finds suggest.

Several deformed corpses were found during recent excavations at the burial necropolis of El Trigal, a once-downtrodden community located in the Nazca province of Peru and dating to the 1st century A.D.

Members of nearby, wealthier communities looking to send a message about their power may have been responsible for the mutilations, say archaeologists.
The Ahmes code
The mathematical system in ancient Egypt was application-oriented, devised -- complete with fractions -- to manage practical matters. Assem Deif sums up the old methods

It's a long article on Egyptian mathematics.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

And now. . . .the news from the EEF

Press report: "Archaeological Find in Southern Sinai"
"Egyptian archeologists have uncovered a 2200-year old
port in the Red Sea city of Dahab (..) At another section
of the port, archaeologists found what looks to have
been 24 storage rooms."
-- Another press report, with the same scanty details:

Press report: "Prehistoric stones unearthed in Aswan"
"An archaeological team from Belgium, working in the Upper
Egyptian town of Kom Ombo, near Aswan, have unearthed
three stones engraved with inscriptions 15,000 years ago.
"There are engravings of cows, hippopotami, giraffes and fish
on the stones, as well as other symbolic and abstract inscriptions"."

Press report: "A pictorial dream: ‘Saqqara Under Sand’
will tour the world"
"In cooperation with the Cultural Development Fund, the
Alexandria Library, the Ars Latina Society and the Louvre
Museum's Egyptian Antiquities Department, "Saqara Under
Sand" that was staged in Jan. 2007 at the Alexandria Library
and last month at the French Cultural Center, Cairo, is currently
on at Prince Taz Palace. However, due to the significance of
the exhibition that showcases the fruit of 16-years' excavations
conducted by the Louvre's French archaeological team, "Saqara
Under Sand" is scheduled to tour the US as well as many Arab
countries and South America."

Press report: "Spanish museum said to be exhibiting stolen
Egyptian antiquity"
"The limestone artwork — a 43-centimeter-tall (17-inch)
depiction of a princess named Nefert — is on display at the
Egypt Museum of Barcelona, which says it will return the
piece if it turns out to have been stolen (..) before being
purchased legally by the museum."

Trivia in the category of the more bizarre kind of 'Egyptomania'
(if not plain 'maniacal'):
1) Press reports: "Egyptian goddess inspires a psychedelic
burst of Czech creativity"
"Bromová's (..) current exhibition at Hunt Kastner Artworks
[till May 22], “HaHathor’s Handbag,” was inspired by her
travels in Egypt, and in particular by the mythical goddess Hathor.
In 2003 Bromová (born in Prague in 1966) was traveling around
Egypt, where, at the ancient temple of Dender[a], she was struck
by the visual and spiritual mystery of Hathor (..). There was a
relief on a stone that especially captivated her: It showed a
woman carrying something resembling an amphora, but of
an unusual shape — it resembled a woman’s handbag, and
looked as if it had mushrooms sprouting out of its sides. This
image became the basis of five digitally manipulated psychedelic
self-portraits, or inner journeys."
-- Exhibition photos [not really 18+ rated]:

Press report: "Egyptians, not Greeks were true fathers of medicine"
"The research team from the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology
at The University of Manchester discovered the evidence in medical
papyri written in 1,500BC – 1,000 years before Hippocrates was born.
"When we compared the ancient remedies against modern pharmaceutical
protocols and standards, we found the prescriptions in the ancient
documents not only compared with pharmaceutical preparations of
today but that many of the remedies had therapeutic merit." "
[For this project, see also EEF NEWS (447) and (443).]
-- Another press report on this:

Press report: "French theory on Pyramids building refuted"
"Egyptian, US and German experts have refuted French archaeologist
Jean-Pierre Houdin's theory about how the Pyramids were built."
[According to the Egyptian Gazette, Mark Lehner and Rainer
Stadelman. were two of the experts.]

Abdel-Hafez, Tarek Mahmoud Mohamed, Geophysical
and geotechnical studies in pharaonic and urban Egypt.
Diss. phil.nat. Bern, 2004
"(..) Geophysical, geotechnical and geochemical investigations
in the urban center of 15th May City and Al-Mokattam area in
great Cairo and in the Osireion of Abydos. Ground penetrating
radar (GPR) with 100 MHz antenna was applied in both areas.
In Abydos the radargrams show a channel underneath the
Temple of Seti I. (..)"
text: 7,57 MB
-- Gerber, Manuel, Predictive site detection and reconstruction:
a data-driven approach to the detection, analysis, reconstruction
and excavation of ancient Near Eastern monumental architecture
Diss. phil.hist. Bern, 2003
text: 11,4 MB

Digitized book from the Internet Archive
-- E. A. Wallis Budge, A Guide to the Egyptian Collections in
the British Museum, Printed by Order of the Trustees, [London],
1909. xiv, 325 pp., 53 pls. - pdf-file (245 MB)
"The Collection of Egyptian Antiquities in the British Museum
comprises nearly fifty thousand objects, and many of its sections
are unrivalled in completeness ... The present Guide has been
prepared with the view of providing the visitor to the British
Museum with information of a more general character than can
be conveniently given in the Guides to the several Galleries and
Rooms of the Department. An attempt has here been made to
present a sketch of the origin, the manners and customs, the
language, the writing, the literature, the religion, and the burial
rites of the peoples of Egypt, and of their history under the
successive dynasties; embodying references to the several
objects of the Collection which illustrate the different branches
of the subject. The text is supplemented by an abundant selection
of cuts and plates of the most important of the antiquities."

Anthony J. Cagle, "Human Burials at Kom el-Hisn" (2004),
15 pp. (PDF, 107 kB) [Hey, I didn't know that was there. . .Ed.]
-- The dissertation of the author was mentioned in EEF NEWS (359):
Anthony J. Cagle, The Spatial Structure of Kom el-Hisn: An Old
Kingdom Town in the Western Nile Delta, Egypt. Online at:
-- Some other online material on the author's site:
---"University of Washington 1994 Fayum Project. NARCE Report"
"The purpose of this research was to study certain aspects
of artifact variability during the so-called "Epipaleolithic-
Neolithic transition" in the Fayum region of Egypt."
--- "Differential Consumption of Pig vs. Sheep/Goats at the
Old Kingdom Site of Kom el-Hisn"
"Recently, I performed an extensive spatial analysis of the
material recovered from two seasons, 1986 and 1988 and
I was able to clarify the structure and function of a good
portion of the excavated areas. This paper deals with one
aspect of that structure, the differential distribution of faunal
remains and its implications for social differences in subsistence;
namely, the role of pig versus sheep/goat in the diet of different
segments of Kom el-Hisn’s residents."
--- "Kom el-Hisn monograph: Tentative Table of Contents"
Some sections are online.

End of EEF news
Another article on Jamestown.
Fight! Fight! Antiquities Authority manhandled Leviticus scroll, says archaeologist
Professor Hanan Eshel, the archaeologist who two years ago uncovered scroll fragments of the Book of Leviticus, says the Israel Antiquities Authority, which now has the finds, has cut out large chunks of the scroll on the pretext that its dating needed to be examined.

This was not a necessary procedure, says Eshel, since "experts say it was possible to test the dating without an intrusive examination and in the worst case scenario by cutting a tiny, peripheral portion of the scroll."

Relying on internal sources in the Antiquities Authority, Eshel says "there had even been plans to cut letters from the scroll but the employees that were asked to do so refused."
Greek archaeologists discover rare example of 2,700-year-old weaving
Archaeologists in Greece have recovered a rare section of 2,700-year old fabric from a burial imitating heroes' funerals described by the poet Homer, officials said Wednesday.

The yellowed, brittle material was found in a copper urn during a rescue excavation in the southern town of Argos, a Culture Ministry announcement said.

"This is an extremely rare find, as fabric is an organic material which decomposes very easily," said archaeologist Alkistis Papadimitriou, who headed the dig. She said only a handful of such artifacts have been found in Greece.

True dat. My first tomb was in the wet wet wet Delta of Egypt, but the lady inside had a copper/bronze mirror that preserved some of the burial material.
Ruins identical to Mohenjodaro, Harappa possibly exist in Pakistan
A team of American, Pakistani and Japanese archaeologists has claimed the discovery of rare objects in the Cholistan Desert, raising hopes of the presence of ruins identical to the civilisations of Mohenjodaro and Harappa.

Archaeologists from Wisconsin, the Research Institute of Humanities and Nature, Tokyo and the Department of Archaeology, Punjab University, say they have discovered a rare copper seal, a terracotta block, three wedge-shaped bricks, pottery with distinct potter marks and four unicorns from the dried-out channel of the Hakra river.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Herod's tomb(?) update

More from the LA Times and EurekAlert. The latter has more detail on the dig and why they think it really is Herod's. The main documentary evidence that he was buried there is Josephus: The body was thus conveyed for a distance of two hundred furlongs to Herodium, where, in accordance with the directions of the deceased, it was interred.

Probably doesn't seal the deal quite yet, but it's a good start.
Inca Leapt Canyons With Fiber Bridges
Conquistadors from Spain came, they saw, and they were astonished. They had never seen anything in Europe like the bridges of Peru. Chroniclers wrote that the Spanish soldiers stood in awe and fear before the spans of braided fiber cables suspended across deep gorges in the Andes, narrow walkways sagging and swaying and looking so frail.

Yet the suspension bridges were familiar and vital links in the vast empire of the Inca, as they had been to Andean cultures for hundreds of years before the arrival of the Spanish in 1532. The people had not developed the stone arch or wheeled vehicles, but they were accomplished in the use of natural fibers for textiles, boats, sling weapons — even keeping inventories by a prewriting system of knots.

So bridges made of fiber ropes, some as thick as a man's torso, were the technological solution to the problem of road building in rugged terrain. By some estimates, at least 200 such suspension bridges spanned river gorges in the 16th century.
Critters drifting the ocean!
. . .one frog washed ashore in Scotland, and a duck turned up near Maine. However, most of the drifters have remained stuck in the Pacific Subarctic Gyre, a set of deepwater and surface currents spanning an area the size of the continental United States that generally flows counterclockwise around the northern Pacific Ocean.

Poor things, drifting alone in the middle of the ocean. . . .

Actually, it's a pretty cool article.
Pocahontas update Back in this post I linked to an article that didn't think much of the NOVA program "Pocahontas Revealed" that aired last night. Turns out, I must disagree with its assessment.

I really liked it. As that reviewer noted, there isn't a whole lot one can say about Pocahontas the person, since no new documentary evidence has come to light recently that relates specifically to her. Nevertheless, the program's intent was clearly devoted to providing more context to the entire Pocahontas story that recent archaeological work has helped to uncover. In this, it succeeded quite well.

They didn't really overdramatize what new! exciting! stuff they were going to divulge, which is the usual schtick for these sorts of things. The dramatizations weren't too cheesy and overdramatized either, which is a complicated way of saying I never cringed while watching. The archaeology was straightforward and again, not overdramatized. We're all familiar with what can be done -- "Is THIS a lock of Nefertiti's hair??? We'll never TRULY know, but archaeologists say that this might indicate that she was. . . .MURDERED!" -- but they kept it low key. Ferinstance, they explained the problem of agricultural re-use of sites, and how even with the top 12" or so of disturbance -- they did use the term "plow zone"! -- you can still usually find postholes and undisturbed soil beneath it. They also did a fair job of showing how certain pottery traits -- cord stamping and temper -- are used to tie ceramic collections to particular groups, in this case the Powhatans.

Most of the Pocahontas-specific stuff was probably not new to anyone who has studied this bit of history in any detail, but to those of us who just have a vague recollection of what we were taught in school and what has made it through to popular culture, it did away with some of the mythology and produced a more complex, but believable story. It seems likely that there wasn't a romantic relationship between the two, more like a brother-sister sort of thing. Otherwise, Smith probably would have gone back to get her after being sent back to England to recuperate. But, who knows.

So, I give it a thumbs up and recommend seeing it the next time it comes on.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Here lies the start of her Commonwealth
Standing on the site of America’s birthplace, scraped clean by archaeologists, Queen Elizabeth II peered down at a well shaft that revealed the beginnings of the British Commonwealth.

Fifty years ago, when she was last on Jamestown Island, no one knew evidence existed of the first permanent English settlement in the New World. The queen came Friday to stand where Englishmen in 1607 built a fort and to see what had been unearthed there by the team of archaeologists at Historic Jamestowne directed by William M. Kelso.
"Bring out yer dead. . . mammoth!" An ancient bathtub ring of mammoth fossils
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory geologists have put out a call for teeth tusks, femurs and any and all other parts of extinct mammoths left by massive Ice Age floods in southeastern Washington.

The fossils, in some cases whole skeletons of Mammathus columbi, the Columbian mammoth, were deposited in the hillsides of what are now the Yakima, Columbia and Walla Walla valleys in southeastern Washington, where the elephantine corpses came to rest as water receded from the temporary but repeatedly formed ancient Lake Lewis. PNNL geologists are plotting the deposits to reconstruct the high-water marks of many of the floods, the last of which occurred as recently as 12,000 to 15,000 years ago.
TV Review: Nova - "Pocahontas Revealed"
Archaeology is not a hard science. It is speculation melded with myth, legend, wishes, hopes, and a few facts tossed in for good measure. Nothing makes this more clear than Nova’s latest episode, “Pocahontas Revealed.”


It is not that the uncovering of these two sites isn’t interesting. It is not that hearing that the truth about Pocahontas’s life might be more mundane than novels, films, songs, and other forms of communication might lead us to believe is uninteresting. But, the fact of the matter is that this episode does not reveal anything about Pocahontas that was unknown (save that we may now know the exact site of two towns she lived in).

Actually, the defining quote seems to be: It does not however, as one might have hoped, reveal terribly much new information, but rather dispels clearly incorrect mythology that has sprung up around her story.

Which will probably turn out to be correct. In the absence of extensive documentation, it's tough to get anything really definitive. But dispelling some myths is productive anyway.

The NOVA site has more. The Images page has a bunch of representations of Pocahontas.

But who needs that anyway, I met her: