Saturday, June 30, 2007

Best shortest album ever

According to the Amazon review it was inspired by their Live Aid performance in 1985 and subsequently released with two outtakes. Before you go out and buy/download it, remember that IT'S ONLY 4 SONGS.

The version of "Bad" on this is possibly one of my favorite songs ever. It's live and it absolutely rocks. It's impossible to turn it up loud enough. Trust me on this; it is one track that needs an 11. The other live track is similarly rockin', and the two studio tracks are both excellent. The recordings on the live tracks are very well done also, often a rarity. I think if I could ever see "Bad" performed live I could die happy immediately thereafter.

Which I guess virtually guarantees that I should never actually go see it if presented with the opportunity.

U2 is one of those rare bands that never really tails off in either popularity or quality, though I suppose Zooropa and Pop can be used persuasively to argue against the latter point (I certainly would). When they get away from the basics, I tend not to like it very much. For me, they reached a high point with Achtung Baby which, were it an old vinyl LP, would probably be worn smooth by now. Every stinking song on that album is good. I played it a lot in Egypt so it still brings back memories of, um, well, food poisoning and car accidents. But also wandering the Fayum, sipping papaya juice by the water, etc.

My first trip to Egypt is also made memorable by Pink Floyd's The Wall which I only really listened to for the first time while there. Weird. I also have REM's Green burned into my memory associated with the Metropolitan Hotel in Alexandria for some reason. Yes, back in the oooooold days, we were forced to spend 2-3 months in Egypt with nothing but whatever cassette tapes (CDs later) we could/would carry over. I would have absolutely killed for my 30 gig iPod back then.

UPDATE: Gotta admit, I'm listening to Pop at the moment and it's an excellent recording no matter what you think of the content. Everything is absolutely clear and the stereo separation makes the speakers seem to disappear. No matter what, those guys are perfectionists.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Team of archaeologists from Bath has helped uncover an ancient stone circle in one of Britain's most remote locations.

Members of the Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society (Bacas) have taken part in a two-week excavation on Foula, part of the Shetland Islands.

The team was previously involved in an extensive geophysical survey on the island in May last year.

They were invited back to investigate the possibility that an early Bronze Age ceremonial enclosure, aligned to the midwinter sunrise, had been discovered.
Earliest-known evidence of peanut, cotton and squash farming found
Anthropologists working on the slopes of the Andes in northern Peru have discovered the earliest-known evidence of peanut, cotton and squash farming dating back 5,000 to 9,000 years. Their findings provide long-sought-after evidence that some of the early development of agriculture in the New World took place at farming settlements in the Andes.

The discovery was published in the June 29 issue of Science.

The research team made their discovery in the �anchoc Valley, which is approximately 500 meters above sea level on the lower western slopes of the Andes in northern Peru.

They seem to base "domestication" or agriculture on a lack of wild species of the plants in the area they were found. If true, that will probably be the arguable point, if they haven't gone a long way towards demonstrating that it never grew there. But, I should get a look at the article over the weekend.
More Hatshepsut Al-Ahram article, mostly summarizes the Hawass article posted earlier, but with additional background information.
Fight! Fight! After losing contract on site, archaeological firm sues Marana
A local archaeological firm that accuses Marana officials of sabotaging a contract and damaging its reputation has filed a lawsuit against the town.

The complaint, filed in Pima County Superior Court earlier this month, says town officials caused Aztlan Archaeology Inc. to lose a job and harmed the firm's reputation and ability to do business. The complaint seeks unspecified damages.

The town hasn't received a copy of the lawsuit or responded, Town Attorney Frank Cassidy said.
This blog is rated PG

Probably all of the hedonism and smut.
More old stuff that I own

F Anyone's I, for those following the continuing saga of my 1978 Mustang II, I have also started restoring my old 1970-something Schwinn bicycle. Looks something like this:

(with handlebars though)

Typical drop-handlebar bike from that era. Mine is dark blue and doesn't actually have any stickers on it marking what it is.

Why, you may ask?

Because it's a replacement frame.

Why, you may ask?

Because one time I was racing my brother and another guy, head down, pumping away, NOT LOOKING WHERE I WAS GOING, when I looked up and saw a parked car coming straight at me. This was in the days before helmets, you understand. So anyway, I hit the brakes, but it was too late and I smacked into it at almost full speed. Happily, I had toe clips so I didn't go flying all the way over the car, I just did a 180 and ended up bouncing off the trunk and flopping down next to the rear tire.

Luckily, I landed on my head.

Broke the stupid frame almost in half, but both I and the car emerged largely unhurt. I eventually got the new frame and it's been schlepped with me everywhere. I tried commuting with it in Seattle for a couple of months, but the streets here would not be out of place in, say, the back country of Namibia, and the amount of cars makes a daily bike ride into a Death Race 2000 kind of ordeal.

Yes, I could just get a new one. But, you know, I like old things, and I won't ride it that much, and besides, bike technology hasn't really gone off on any great cosmic leaps since then. It's a bit heavy, but otherwise entirely functional.

And now that you all know that my audio system is from the 1970s, my car is from the 1970s, and now my bicycle is as well, you may well be wondering "ArchaeoBlog, are you really stuck in the 1970s?"

"Why no. No, I'm not. Why do you ask?"
Why Do Cats Hang Around Us? (Hint: They Can't Open Cans)
Your hunch is correct. Your cat decided to live with you, not the other way around. The sad truth is, it may not be a final decision.

But don't take this feline diffidence personally. It runs in the family. And it goes back a long way -- about 12,000 years, actually.

Those are among the inescapable conclusions of a genetic study of the origins of the domestic cat, being published today in the journal Science.

The findings, drawn from an analysis of nearly 1,000 cats around the world, suggest that the ancestors of today's tabbies, Persians and Siamese wandered into Near Eastern settlements at the dawn of agriculture. They were looking for food, not friendship.

They found what they were seeking in the form of rodents feeding on stored grain.

Sum: They sampled various wild cat species from all over the globe, but found that modern domestic cats were descended not from a lot of local species, but from a single species native to the Near East. That implies that domestication occurred throughout the world by migration of already-domesticated cats rather than local in situ domestication of local species.

They explain this as a new habitat/resource having been developed through agriculture and its concomitant concentrations of stored grain which attract concentrations of rodents, etc. This, they say, led to cats hanging out around people and eventually selecting those characteristics that allowed the cats to be more tolerant of human presence.

I tend to think their angle on it is a little misleading. One could argue, as David Rindos has, that all domestication is a form of co-evolution. That is, the critters get as much evolutionary benefit from the relationship as the humans do. This is at odds with our notions of both evolutionary benefit -- it doesn't refer to the individual's well-being, but the reproductive success of the population -- and the domestication process. The latter we tend to view as more of a conscious act by people to actively domesticate plants and animals for our benefit. This leads to all sorts of explanatory problems, most notably "Why didn't they do it earlier then?" So, it may not be all that different from any other domesticate.

At any rate, the results were still interesting. At first, I thought the whole grain-attracting-mice-attracting-cats idea was a just-so story -- I guess it still is -- but it makes some sense. Agriculture seems to have spread out from the Middle East by actual movements of people rather than ideas or products (at least to Europe) and rats and mice seem to follow wherever people go (e.g., island hopping with Polynesians), so one could easily see the cats simply following the food source.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more neat this seems. Are there cat remains associated with New World agriculture? If not, why didn't a similar domestication occur there in conjunction with agricultural development? What sort of archaeological association is there with cats and early agriculture? Can you map domestic cat remains alongside the spread of agriculture?

So, very neat article I think.

"Interesting theory. Now, get me some fish flakes while you're up."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hedonism at ArchaeoBlog Ancient Rome's Forgotten Paradise
It was Malibu, New York and Washington, D.C. all rolled into one. Before A.D. 79, when the erupting Mount Vesuvius engulfed it along with Pompeii and Herculaneum, the small port town of Stabiae in southern Italy was the summer resort of choice for some of the Roman Empire's most powerful men. Julius Caesar, the emperors Augustus and Tiberius and the statesman-philosopher Cicero all had homes there.

. . .

Stabiae is about to be wrested from anonymity, thanks in no small measure to a local high school principal and one of his students. Large-scale excavations are scheduled to begin this summer on a $200-million project for a 150-acre Stabiae archeological park—one of the largest archeological projects in Europe since World War II.

Thomas Noble Howe, Coordinator General of the non-profit Restoring Ancient Stabiae Foundation (RAS) and art history chair at Southwestern University in Texas, describes the villas, believed to number at least six or seven, as "the largest concentration of well-preserved elite seafront Roman villas in the entire Mediterranean world."

Long article, all free access it seems.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Trip Report II: Recent geology

This will be a relatively short entry since by this time I was feeling pretty lousy and going out to look at this stuff would have taken a lot of tme and energy. But I still managed a couple of personal photos while on the way to and from various places.

First of all, an omission from yesterday: The below is a photo of the same Niagara rock that I showed in the photos from High Cliff Park but this time about 60 miles south of there along a road between Fond du Lac and Eden:

So you really can trace this stuff a long way just by paying attention as you drive around.

Now, on to the Late Pleistocene!

Wisconsin marked the terminal extent of the last major glaciation called, not coincidentally, the Wisconsin glaciation. This page will give a better overview of it than I can. Suffice it to say there are numerous glacial geomorphologic features within just a few miles of Fond du Lac.

My family used to drive from FdL north along the Ledge (151) for about 20 miles and then up and over said Ledge and east over to Chilton where my maternal grandmother lived. I noticed early on that once we got over the Ledge the road crossed over numerous small hills. Turned out we were entering a drumlin field. For a good description of these see here. Years later when I would ride my bike up into the farmland after work during the summer I stopped at the crest of a hill and looked over to see an enormous ovoid hill, which ended up being part of an equally enormous drumlin field:

(from the web age above)

These things are very regular in their directionality and I had a geology prof in undergrad school who said he used to use them as navigation aids while flying. Well, while I was driving to Widmer's Cheese in Theresa to grab some fine Wisconsin cheese products, I found this absolutely ideal drumlim sitting in the distance over a marsh:

It's absolutely classic having its blunt end towards the northeast. It's hard to see these things clearly most of the time since they're usually covered with trees and other hills get in the way.

The other feature we see a lot of are glacial erratics which are stones that the ice carried down and dumped. The farmers around Wisconsin used to pull these things out of their fields all the time. I have something of a personal stake in this as my mother's father was killed while pulling one out of a field when she was a young girl, so I never knew him. They would have to regularly keep pulling them out because frost heave would keep pushing them up from lower down. They used to pile them up alongside their fields and create rock fences out of them; I tried to find some to photograph, but could not. I really remember them as a kid, but maybe they're all grown over with weeds in the summer. At any rate, I did find one good picture of a classic erratic:

Sorry about the focus in the second one. I took a close-up to show that it is probably a granite and thus obviously from elsewhere, as we have already seen that the buk of rock in SE Wisconsin is dolomite.

Check out the links pointed to above for other stuff related to Wisconsin glacial geology. There's a lot of cool stuff out there.
Another vacation pic
I could have sworn I'd seen this place before. . . . .

Posting update

By the way, I'm in the process of screwing with the settings of this thing, so expect it to be virtually unreadable at times.
Not less filling? 9,000-Year-Old Beer Tastes Great
Of the more than 1300 breweries in the U.S., Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware stands out for its uniqueness.

Owner Sam Calagione says the 26 kinds of beer brewed at his microbrewery cater to different people's tastes, but have one thing in common.

"Our motto since the day we've opened has been 'off-centered ales for off-centered people',” says Calagione. “Just by virtue of that definition it's obvious that we are not planning on brewing light lagers, boring beers. The ideas for beers that come out of our brewery Dogfish Head either usually come from my own inspiration; a feeling for a style that doesn't exist yet that I think it would work well."

Calagione's latest concoction, Chateau Jiahu, made headlines in the National Geographic News and other media. But more importantly, it is a hit with many of the brewer's customers.

Pretty good article on the making of the beer.
Dig planned for Lakes beauty spot
Archaeologists are hoping to unearth ancient treasures during excavations in a Cumbrian valley.

Volunteers are needed to join archaeologists during the digs in the Duddon Valley in the south west of the Lake District beginning on 30 June.

Much of the work will focus on the cairn at Seathwaite Tarn - a mound of landmark and burial stones.
Ancient Midwestern Mysteries
When it comes to the New World's pre-Columbian architecture, glamorous Aztec and Mayan sites such as Tenochtitlán and Chichén Itzá bask in attention. In the U.S., Southwestern cliff-dwellings and pueblos such as Mesa Verde in Colorado and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico are tourist magnets. The earthworks of eastern North America, by contrast, aren't well understood or appreciated.

. . .

Yet the vast majority of these sites are isolated and unvisited. Over the years, I've laid eyes on two- or three-dozen of them, in parks from Minnesota to Mississippi. On just about every occasion, I've had the mounds virtually to myself.

Even the grandest of them suffer from the stubborn fact that they're essentially heaps of dirt.

That is a problem. Still, when I took my mom up to see some mounds in Wisconsin last week she was quite moved by it, and these were little ones that you could barely make out. Maybe they just need more/better PR.
Slavery archaeology update A different diversity
Under blue tents in Cockeysville, archaeologists scrub shards of pottery with toothbrushes. Nearby, small flags jut from the grass and a hole reveals a stone foundation and steps.

It might seem an unlikely place for an archaeological project, just a short distance from Interstate 83 and a light rail stop. But it's where a team of archaeologists working with the Maryland State Highway Administration is unearthing the remnants of a small plantation where slaves, free blacks and European immigrants once labored side by side, an arrangement historians say was more common in Maryland than in other slave states.

The archaeologists are seeking to uncover how the diverse group lived and interacted on the plantation, a 20-acre site once known as the Marble Valley Farm.
Posted without comment
A story straight from Emergency: True Tales from the Nation's ER's compiled by Mark Brown, M.D.

The story is titled "The Wish"

In an upper-income community hospital Emergency Department, a fifty-year-old matron complained of mild abdominal pain and fever. The patient was on an antidepressant, but she had no other significant medical history. Her physical exam was unremarkable. Lab tests did little to further the diagnosis. I decided to proceed with a pelvic exam. A female nurse set the patient up in the GYN room.

As I approached the room, the nurse shook her head in disbelief suggesting we were getting close to a diagnosis. The pelvic exam revealed that the patient's labia were pinned together with three large, rusty safety pins.

The patient apparently had a long psychiatric history, including obsessive behavior focused on her inability to bear children. Two weeks earlier, the patient had purchased a small chicken at the market and had inserted it, piece by piece, into her vagina. She had pinned her labia to keep the chicken in place and was waiting for it to develop into a baby.

The patient was subsequently admitted to the psych unit, but not before she was washed out with two liters of Betadine and the entire chicken was accounted for.

HT to Lisa Bursini at TPW.
Inca in Norway An alert reader sent in this link: Archaeological sensation in Oestfold
The remains of two elderly men and a baby were discovered during work in a garden, and one of the skulls indicates that the man was an Inca Indian.

- There is a genetic flaw in the neck, which is believed to be limited to the Incas in Peru, says arahaeologist Mona Beate Buckholm.

The Norway Post suggests that maybe the Vikings travelled even more widely than hitherto believed? Why could not the Viking settlers in New Foundland have strayed further down the coast on one of their fishing trips?

That's practically the whole thing. I can't imagine what "genetic flaw in the neck" they're referring to. And the chronology is all wrong.

Aha, but wait! I found this:
And it was the skull of one of the men that puzzled the forensic archaeologists. "A particular bone at the back of the head was not fused. This is an inherited trait found almost exclusively among the Incas of Peru," Buckholm added. To this day, no other example of this trait has been found in Norway.

I did a little searching and it seems there are "Wormian" bones which are "extra-sutural" in that they are bone that grows between sutures such as those in the skull. A couple of sources also referred to them a "Inca bones":

No indications that they're found only among the Inca though. Maybe they were initially defined as such based on a somewhat higher prevalence among the Inca?
Bigfoot update Group to Look for Evidence of 'Bigfoot'
Researchers will visit the Upper Peninsula next month to search for evidence of the hairy manlike creature known as "Bigfoot" or "Sasquatch."

The expedition will center in eastern Marquette County, following the most recent Bigfoot eyewitness account, said Matthew Moneymaker of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.

"We'll be looking for evidence supporting a presence. ... We hope to meet local people who might have seen a Sasquatch or heard of someone else who had an encounter," Moneymaker told the Daily Press of Escanaba.

I am going to make a bold and fearless prediction right here and now and say that they will find nothing of any consequence.
Hatshepsut mummy update Hawass has posted a long article on his Hatchepsut theory: The Search for Hatshepsut and the Discovery of her Mummy

The last thing that we scanned was the wooden box bearing her cartouches that was found inside the DB320 cache.
It turned out that this box held the key to the riddle. To our surprise, in addition to mummified viscera, there was a single tooth inside the box. We know from other “embalming caches” that anything associated with a body or its mummification became ritually charged, and had to be buried properly. Therefore, it seemed that during the mummification of Queen Hatshepsut, the embalmers put into the box anything that came loose from the body during the mummification process. The other surprise in the box confirmed this: it contained not only the liver but other, unidentified organic material, probably from the queen’s body.

. . .

Not only was the fat lady from KV60 missing a tooth, but the hole left behind and the type of tooth that was missing was an exact match for the loose one in the box from DB320! We therefore have scientific proof that this is the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut.

Reading this, it seems more like he is confirming what Elizabeth Thomas and Don Ryan have suggested: That the obese woman found in KV60 is that of Hatshepsut. That is:
-- The "obese woman" with the crooked arm that Ryan found lying on the floor of the tomb was missing a tooth
-- They found a box inscribed with Hatshepsut's cartouches in DB320 (mummy cache) containing various body parts including a tooth which fit the "obese woman" in KV60.

Ergo, the mummy of the "obese woman" is Hatshepsut. The earlier article seemed like he was suggesting otherwise. But read the whole thing.

(via EEF)

UPDATE: Artist's conception of the "obese lady" from KV60:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Trip report part I: Geology

So last week I went to my ancestral home of Fond du Lac, WI. I had big plans of visiting all sorts of cool places, takng lots of photos and coming back here to regale y'all readers with the story of SE Wisconsin history and prehistory.

But I caught a cold on the flight back, so that put a damper on much traveling. Or visiting for that matter. Nevertheless, I bravely soldiered on and at least did a bit of running around. I learned a few things myself so it was good for me, too. Well, you know what they say, if you want to learn a lot about any subject, teach a class on it. So here goes with a bit on the local geology.

First, consult this map of the bedrock geology of the state (from Schultz 2004, Plate 1, I believe). The area in question is the eastern border of the state comprising the gray and narrow pink bands there, the former making up the entire peninsula. Fond du Lac is located at the bottom of the smaller lake there in the middle. The primary rock unit controlling the geology is Silurian (443-417 mya) resulting from a shallow sea that covered the area. The original rock was limestone, butsome was replaced by magnesium over time creating dolomite. It's still highly calcareous which accounts for the hard water that we got used to as kids; tea kettles (and coffee makers) periodically need to be cleaned with an acidic solution because the lime deposits build up. FdL gets its water from wells, tapping into water stored in the dolomite.

Growing up there, I used to think Wisconsin was boorrrrrring as far as geology went. The action was really happening out west where there were mountains! and volcanoes! and dinosaurs! and stuff like that. Wisconsin was mostly flat. Yawn. But it turns out, it's pretty interesting. As I mentioned, and as that map indicates, much of WI is underlain by very old rocks of Precambrian and Phanerozoic rocks. For whatever reason, deposition either ceased after the Devonian or was eroded away (probably the former). So, no dinosaurs or mountains, but some of the oldest rocks on the continent. On top of all this is some of the most classic glacial deposits found anywhere and in fact, many textbooks use features fom around there as examples.

Now, the Silurian dolomite (gray) is part of the Niagara Escarpment:

It makes up the rocks Niagara Falls goes over. In FdL we call the escarpment -- also called a cuesta -- The Ledge. Actually, it's only fairly recently that I discovered what exactly the Ledge was made out of. For a long while we were told it was a terminal moraine (which is kind of true, it's covered by gacial moraine). But no, it's a hard, resistant rock which is also responsible for the Door Peninsula. The Ledge runs up all along the side of Lake Winnebago there. We went up to High Cliff State Park which is about 45 miles north of FdL on the east side of the lake near the top. You can't actually see any "high cliffs" in these pictures because I didn't have the energy to hike more than one tral, but they're there. A trail runs along the top and through some indian mounds (later post):

Looking out over the bluff. Notice how flat that is. Not necessarily "manufactured" that way. Like most limestones it tends to fracture along planes, both vertically and horizontally:

And because it's so hard, it tends to look almost like poured concrete at times. In fact, the parking lot by the trail head is almost misleading because the concrete in it blends almost insensibly into the natural rock. You can see this really well in this picture of an old quarry:

(which is a bit overexposed, sadly). But that flat area is dolomite. The small cliffs there show the typical fracture pattern of limestone.

Here's another pic of the eroding and collapsing rock coming off in other horizontal sheets:

There used to be a lime kiln in the park at one point, but that was the trail I hadn't the energy to go hiking down. In truth, I'm not sure exactly how much building was done with Niagara dolomite; certainly a lot of lime was used for mortar. I've seen a couple pictures of buildings that may have used the dolomite itself as a building material and Schultz (2004) notes that it's fairly easy to work despite its hardness. But, I'm no geologist so just walking around looking at finished buildings doesn't tell me much. A lot of buildings in FdL look as if they were built of the stuff, but it could be something else, too.

Some of it is highly fossiliferous, as this indicates:

You can see it's chock full o' bivalves. I collected this years and years ago and it's been sitting on our porch ever since. t's neat stone and many, if not most, houses have some of it sitting around as decoration:

So that's the old stuff. Next up will be a bit of glacial geology and geomorphology.

Schultz, G. (2004). Wisconsin's Foundations: A review of the State's geology and its influence on geography and human activity. Madison, The University of Wisconsin Press.
Unsolicited product endorsement

Well, maybe "endorsement" is too strong. Let's say I'm just passing along a positive experience. While on vacation to my ancestral home, I ordered an urn for my dad for Father's Day from Mainely Urns. He'd been sitting in the plastic box from the crematory for over a year now and I thought it was about time his mortal remains got a suitable container.

I was quite pleased. I got this one:

The price seemed far more reasonable than what I'd seen in the funeral homes and they delivered it to said ancestral home in about 4 days. The inscription was nicely done as well. The urn itself was okay, I guess, though it's not like I've done lots of hands-on comparisons. It was made in India. No obvious flaws or anything, nice finish, etc. So we were all very pleased.

Indeed, I used my profound sense of time depth to choose said urn as well. Several places had really neat wood ones, but I didn't like those because, as we know, wood decays and by God I'm thinking of the eons here. I also discarded ceramic because, while stable, it breaks too easily. That left stone or metal. There are some nice manufactured stone ones for a reasonable price, but, eh, none of the designs really floored me, or seemed what he would have wanted. So I looked at simple metal ones. I chose pewter because it won't (?) oxidize like brass and doesn't seem like it would ever be valuable enough to be worth stealing (people are nowadays stealing copper ornamentation from gravesites for the money). I figured the design was simple yet classic enough that he wouldn't think it too ostentatious. If I had control over the inscription, I'd have made it deeper, but that's kind of a backup anyway because the niche will have an inscription as well. Plus, it's got a screw top so it can be sealed quite tightly for the ages.

So, hopefully dear old dad can now rest through the ages secure in his little pewter home.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hatchepsut's mummy found. . . . .again Has Hatshepsut's mummy been found?
Egyptologists think they have identified with certainty the mummy of Hatshepsut, the most famous queen to rule ancient Egypt, found in a humble tomb in the Valley of the Kings, an archaeologist said on Monday.

Egypt's chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, will hold a news conference in Cairo on Wednesday. The Discovery Channel said he would announce what it called the most important find in the Valley of the Kings since the discovery of King Tutankhamun.

The archaeologist, who asked not to be named, said the candidate for identification as the mummy of Hatshepsut was one of two females found in 1903 in a small tomb believed to be that of Hatshepsut's wet-nurse, Sitre In.

Not really again. As the article notes, speculation around these two mummies has been going on for a while. Don Ryan worked in this KV 60, as did I for a couple of seasons and he has some pics of the one mummy with the folded arm at his web site (about 1/3 of the way down).

The idea is that KV 60, which is a crudely cut thing nearby Hatchepsut's deep (and empty) tomb, was prepared for Sitre, and then Hatchepsut's mummy was placed there for safekeeping after it (the mummy) had been ransacked, rather like the cache mummies discovered earlier. Hawass thinks it's the other mummy. So, eh. We'll see what he says Wednesday.
Founding family's home found
County archaeologists think they have uncovered a key piece of Anne Arundel's history near Herring Bay.
Historians know that Samuel Chew, one of the county's founding fathers, built one of the first large brick homes in the area, but they'd never pinpointed its location.

The Chew clan came to control thousands of acres in south county beginning in the 1650s and built several large homes on tracts called, Poppinjay, Ayres, Maidstone, Sanetly, and Chew's Right or Poplar Ridge, among others.
Recovering lost kingdom on the Nile is matter of time
On the periphery of history in antiquity, there was a land known as Kush.

Overshadowed by Egypt to the north, it was a place of uncharted breadth and depth far up the Nile, a mystery verging on myth. One thing the Egyptians did know and recorded - Kush had gold.

Scholars have come to learn that there was more to the culture of Kush than was previously suspected. From deciphered Egyptian documents and modern archaeological research, it is known that for five centuries in the second millennium B.C., the kingdom of Kush flourished with the political and military prow ess to maintain some control over a wide territory in Africa.

(Did Andie post this already?)
Archaeology Channel video This just in from Pettigrew:

The African origin of humanity clearly is a
subject of profound interest. What better way to explore this topic
than through the eyes of the latest generation of the renowned Leakey
family? We did just that in Exploring Human Origins: An interview
with Louise Leakey, the latest video feature on our nonprofit
streaming-media Web site, The Archaeology Channel

In this interview, conducted on May 1, 2007, by Rick Pettigrew of
ALI, Dr. Louise Leakey discusses the subject of human origins and her
life as a paleoanthropologist. Dr. Leakey, who grew up in Kenya as
the daughter of paleoanthropologists Richard and Meave Leakey, was
the Keynote Speaker for the 2007 edition of The Archaeology Channel
International Film and Video Festival, hosted by ALI in Eugene,
Oregon. On the day of her address to the Festival, she and Dr.
Pettigrew paused in the lobby of the Hilton Eugene Hotel to have a
conversation on her favorite subject. The discussion included both
personal reflections on her life as a Leakey and issues of human
evolution and its relevance to people today. With remarkable candor
and warm personality, Dr. Leakey demonstrates that exploring the deep
human past is much more than a purely academic subject.

Haven't seen it yet, but I wanted to pass it along.

UPDATE: Ew. Sorry about the formatting. Copied straight from email.
Non-archaeological post right off the bat!
Blade Runner at 25: Why the Sci-Fi F/X Are Still Unsurpassed
I worked on Star Wars Episodes I and II, on the Matrix films, on AI and Terminator 3; yet 25 years later there are ways in which Blade Runner surpasses anything that's been done since. Watching the theatrical release DVD at home with PM reminded me of Scott's genius for creating stunning effects with simple technology.

It's written by Adam Savage ("Mythbusters"). I guess one could throw in the obvious archaeo-connection with Harrison Ford. He was in his absolute hey-day then, with Star Wars, Bladerunner, Indiana Jones, etc. all coming out.

You know, this is a movie I've never quite gotten that into, but it still gives me powerful memories of the 1980s. Apparently, the biggest controversy involving the film is the director's cut vs the theatrical release. The latter apparently added the voice-over by Ford and a happy ending. I've only seen it a handful of times, but it's really quite spectacular. It owed a lot to both Star Wars (the original) and Alien in that The Future was pretty grimy and, as Savage points out, "lived in". It's the sort of future most of us can identify with. The sound track is really neat, too. I've been meaning to buy the DVD and will look for the director's cut myself.

There's one other big controversy that has supposedly recently been settled, but giving that away would be kind of a spoiler.

A note on Alien: I read the book first and it scared the crap out of me so I didn't go see the movie figuring it would be a letdown. I saw Aliens before I saw the original. I prefer the latter as a movie, but that's a minority opinion I'm sure.
I. . . . .am back

Posting by yours truly will resume shortly. Many, many THANKS to Andie and Kat for filling in. I must now redouble my efforts at creating entertaining and informative posts to live up to their standards.

Vacation was so-so. Nice to be at home, nice to relax and all, but. . . . I caught a stinking cold on the flight over. Grrrr. I can't prove it but some dumb kid was sitting behind me coughing. So, Friday and Saturday were healthy, but by Sunday I knew I had something and Monday was a full-blown disease. Bad sucker, too. Not one of those colds where you feel bad for a couple of days then and start to get better; it just hung on and on. Today is the first day I've felt noticeably better in the past week. Yippee.

Thus, not only did I not go and see people -- not wanting to talk a lot or spread the disease to them -- but I also didn't go see a lot of stuff I could take pictures and post about. So, all you get is a few photos of Silurian and Wisconsin glacial geology. Probably tomorrow. I have about a thousand emails to wade through. . . .
Tony's back!!
Wooooo hoooooo! Cheering in the streets, accompanied by fanfares and fireworks.
Treat him gently - he's not feeling too well.
This truly is my last batch of posts - apologies for any information overload, and thanks again to Kat for all the help.
Bye, and all the best
Rise of man theory out by 400,000 years

Our earliest ancestors gave up hunter-gathering and took to a settled life up to 400,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to controversial research.
The accepted timescale of Man’s evolution is being challenged by a German archaeologist who claims to have found evidence that Homo erectus — mankind’s early ancestor, who migrated from Africa to Asia and Europe — began living in settled communities long before the accepted time of 10,000 years ago. The point at which settlement actually took place is the first critical stage in humanity’s cultural development.
Helmut Ziegert, of the Institute of Archaeology at Hamburg University, says that the evidence can be found at excavated sites in North and East Africa, in the remains of stone huts and tools created by upright man for fishing and butchery.
Medieval Gold Jewellery Found in Thracian Mound in Bulgaria

A total of eleven gold rings, three bracelets and a pair of ear-rings have been found in a Thracian mound between Bulgaria's villages of Topolchane and Kaloyanovo.

The artifacts were discovered in the tombs of three women by one of Bulgaria's best-known archaeologists, Professor Georgi Kitov." In 13th-14th century BC there was a medieval settlement near the mound," professor Kitov explained.

There's not much more on the above page about this story.
It is thought that George Washington's former office has been uncovered in Philadelphia.

The archaeological dig at Independence Mall has uncovered another historical treasure.Archaeologists have been working furiously in Old City for the past couple months, revealing the foundation of George Washington’s former office.
“We could never have expected to find a find like this. Things that have such cultural value,” said Ed Lawler of the Independence Mall Association.A foundation fragment from the first president’s office can now be seen protruding from the ground.“We think that may be the corner where the north wall of the office met the west wall of the office,” said Lawler.
The uncovered office is where Washington met with his Cabinet, and generals discussed military strategy.
More on north African Upper Palaeolithic Bead story

In Europe, amongst the oldest known symbolic ornaments are perforated animal teeth and shell beads, found in Upper Palaeolithic contexts that date to no more than 40,000 years ago. Such finds are apparently associated with both modern human and late Neanderthal sites. Together with cave paintings and engravings they offer the strongest indications that European societies of those times were capable of thinking in an abstract manner, and symbolising their ideas without relying on obvious links between a meaning and a sign.

But, now, a growing body of evidence indicates symbolic material culture consisting of engravings, personal ornaments and systematic use of beads had emerged much earlier in Africa. In a recently published paper in PNAS (Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences of America) archaeologists from Morocco, UK, France and Germany, including researchers (M. Vanhaeren and F. d'Errico) funded by the origin of Man, Language and Languages programme of the European Science Foundation, have been able to show that some of the earliest examples of bead making may date back as far as 82,000 years ago in North Africa.

Also on EurekAlert and, with a photograph of one of the beads, LiveScience.
Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition: The sweep of history
Quite a detailed look at the organization and thinking behind a blockbuster exhibition

If you decide, like thousands of others, to visit the much-anticipated “Dead Sea Scrolls” exhibition that opens at the the San Diego Natural History Museum Friday, you're unlikely to pay much attention to the environment that surrounds the landmark artifacts. And the museum's exhibition designers are happy you won't.
Jim Melli, exhibit preparator and artist, created vessels simulating artifacts from Qumran, the ancient town near caves that housed the Dead Sea Scrolls.“We want people to notice objects more than the walls, for the installation not to be overpowering. There's a lot of information to soak up in a certain period of time,” says Duke Windsor, former exhibit designer for traveling exhibitions at the museum, who oversaw the team that has given shape to the show.
Some exhibitions featuring famed artifacts lean on flash and visual theater. . . .“The Dead Sea Scrolls,” though it is a big-budget show ($6 million), is a different kind of blockbuster. Visually, the ambition is to create surroundings that complement what you see rather than steal the show.
Saar settlement holds a 4,000-year secret about the Dilmun civilisation?

A SAUDI archaeologist is back in Bahrain to promote his theory that the Saar settlement holds a 4,000-year secret about the Dilmun civilisation. He claims the Dilmun civilisation marked the first day of the year by the summer solstice, which falls today and every year on June 21. The theory is based on a discovery made by Dammam Regional Museum archaeologist Nabiel Al Shaikh in 1996, while he was conducting an excavation with a British team of archaeologists.

At the site, he found an ancient temple with an oddly positioned triangular corner room, which he claims was used as an astronomical device to measure the position of the sun.

. . .

The main obstacle to the archaeologist's theory is that the sun no longer sets over the corner of the temple, but is off by about 10 degrees. However, Mr Al Shaikh says the discrepancy could be explained by the movement of tectonic plates, erosion and soft sand beneath the settlement.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

6000 year old burials discovered at Gelabar Dam in Zanjan, Iran

“Following the archeological excavations in this prehistoric site, and after removing architectural layers, 4 burials belonging to 6000-year ago were discovered. It is believed that probably all skeleton found in these graves belong to children,” told CHN, Abulfazl Ali, head of archeological team working behind Gelabar Dam.

According to him based on traditions of people living in prehistoric period these burials have been done without putting any gifts in the graves and children were buried in the floor of the houses.”

A cemetery belongs to Iron Age I (1550-1250BC) have also been discovered, announcing this news, Ali told CHN: “More than 4 graves have been discovered in this cemetery which in all of them earthen vessels in red or grey have been found intact.”

There's a photo of one of the burials on the above page.

Another article on the same website, dating to the 9th June, discusses excavations also behind the Gelabar Dam which revealed that the existing fortress which was supposed to date back to Islamic period belongs to Parthian dynastic era. There's a photo of the dam on that page.

Preservationists try to acquire an important Hopewell site in Ohio

Just a few weeks ago, Spruce Hill, one of the most important archaeological sites in Ohio, was in danger of being auctioned off to paper companies eager to profit from its premium forest timber. A sacred stone hilltop fortification enclosing 150 acres of land, Spruce Hill was built by the Hopewell Indians nearly 2,000 years ago. Although it was surveyed in the mid 1800s, few archaeologists have investigated the site because it was privately owned up until now. Had Spruce Hill been auctioned off, the site's structures and artifacts, along with their valuable evidence about the Hopewell culture, could have been lost forever. In a heroic effort, four preservation groups joined together to purchase the land just one day before it was set to go to auction.

Although preservation groups raised enough to convince officials to remove the site from auction, they are still far short of the total sale price: $612,000. An additional $245,000 must be raised before the closing day scheduled for July 16, 2007.

More re Masada

Tehre's nothing much here that wasn't in yesterdays reports about the new conclusions made by Israeli anthropologist Joe Zias, but there's a terrific photograph of the site.

Once a pillar of Israeli identity — army units used to be sworn in on the mountaintop, shouting the sentence "Masada will not fall again!" — the Masada story fell out of favor as Israelis became less comfortable with glorifying mass suicide and identifying with religious fanatics.

The very story of the suicide, as recounted in dramatic detail by the 1st century Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius, also has come increasingly into doubt. Many scholars now believe it was either greatly exaggerated or never happened at all.

The original archaeologists at the site, Zias said, "had the story and went around trying to find the proof." No concrete evidence for the Zealot suicide has been found, he said.

Kenyans fete repatriated relics

Repatriation is a much-discussed topic in archaeology at the moment, and this article on the BBC website is just one of many articles that look at some of the issues. It looks at repatriation from the point of view of the villagers from whom the items were stolen.

For the last 22 years, a village along Kenya's picturesque coast has blamed its ill fortune on the theft of two memorial wooden statues known as vigango. Earlier this week, Chalani village in Kilifi District was the scene of joyous celebration as villagers received two vigango which had been repatriated from the United States.

Chalani villager danced as the vigango were returned to the graves. Vigango are wooden statues which are considered sacred by Kenya's Mijikenda ethnic group and erected on the graves of revered elders. Hundreds of vigango have reportedly been stolen and exported to Europe and the US, where they are sold to private collectors hungry for ethnic African art.

Entitled simply The Possessed, this article by Arthur Lubow on the New York Times website looks at the dispute over the fate of finds from Macchu Pichu (Peru), and the role of politics in the emotive world of heritage and cultural identity. This is a HUGE article - 10 pages of it, and is accompanied by a short but super slideshow of photographs from Hiram Bingham's excavations. If you are asked for a username and password you can enter egyptnews into both fields. Here's a tiny extract:

If you have visited Machu Picchu, you will probably find Bingham’s excavated artifacts at the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven to be a bit of a letdown. Mostly, the pieces are bones, in varying stages of decomposition, or pots, many of them in fragments. Unsurpassed as stonemasons, engineers and architects, the Incas thought more prosaically when it came to ceramics. Leaving aside unfair comparisons to the jaw-dropping Machu Picchu site itself, the pottery of the Inca, even when intact, lacks the drama and artistry of the ceramics of earlier civilizations of Peru like the Moche and Nazca. Everyone agrees that the Machu Picchu artifacts at Yale are modest in appearance. That has not prevented, however, a bare-knuckled disagreement from developing over their rightful ownership. Peru says the Bingham objects were sent to Yale on loan and their return is long overdue. Yale demurs.

Related articles referred to on the page are:
The Other Machu Picchu (June 3, 2007)
IN TRANSIT; A Bridge to Machu Picchu Runs Into Problems (March 11, 2007)
Taking the Back Roads to Machu Picchu (November 12, 2006)
Inca Show Pits Yale Against Peru (February 1, 2006)
UAE: Draft law on tourism and archaeology
I found this short item interesting as it looks at the prssures upon heritage caused by an increase in tourists. Marketing for tourism and planning for the preservation of heritage are brought together under one roof.

The Federal National Council has discussed the drafting of a new federal law setting up a National Council for Tourism and Archaeology, said the Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs.

. . .

Abdul Rahman Mohammad Al Owais, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community development, said that archaeology, currently managed by local authorities, should also be brought under a federal umbrella. The FNC members decided to re-evaluate the draft law by a special FNC committee to further develop these new goals. "In a changing world of opportunity, we need effective tools to manage our needs and resources within the tourism sector on a national scale. We have to adopt a holistic approach towards the tourism sector on both the local and international scale."

"The main purpose of the new law is to give a federal umbrella to all aspects of our economy, which currently does not include tourism and archeology," Al Owais added.

Book Reviews from Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.06.32
Peter Green, The Hellenistic Age. A Short History. New York: The Modern Library, 2007. Pp. xxxvi, 204. ISBN 978-0-679-64279-4. $21.95.
Reviewed by John Bauschatz, Swarthmore College (
In The Hellenistic Age: A Short History, Peter Green (hereafter G.) offers the nonspecialist reader a concise, well-written introduction to three centuries of political, economic and social history. The book has its flaws, but is nevertheless a welcome addition to the ever-expanding corpus of works on the Hellenistic Age

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.06.37
Christina Riggs, The Beautiful Burial in Roman Egypt: Art, Identity, and Funerary Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. xxiii, 334 . ISBN 978-0-19-927665-3. $150.00.
Reviewed by David Frankfurter, University of New Hampshire (
How Egyptian was Roman Egypt? The question has dominated quarters of Classics,
Art History, and Ancient History for over a century. The perpetuation of classical Egyptian iconography on temples suggests a fundamental religious conservatism, while papyrological documentation reflects extensive Hellenism.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.06.36
Elizabeth Blyth, Karnak. Evolution of a Temple. London/New York: Routledge, 2006. Pp. 258. ISBN 0-415-40487-8. $46.95 (pb). Reviewed by Peter C. Nadig, RWTH-Aachen (

Blyth's (hereafter B.) book is a very well written account of the history, development and function of the temple of Amun-Re at Karnak (Jpt-swt), one of the largest and surely most complex religious sites not only in ancient Egypt but the ancient world as a whole. It was founded in the Middle Kingdom about 4,000 years ago and parts of it were even in use for Christian worship after the closing of pagan cults under Theodosius I.

Exhibition: Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797

New York -- A new exhibition that examines the blending of Western and Islamic cultures through the art of Venice is drawing large crowds to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797, explores the exchange of ideas and art objects between the great Italian maritime city and her Islamic neighbors.

. . .

The exhibition demonstrates the blending of cultures through trade and diplomacy as reflected in textiles, carpets, arms and armor, ceramics, sculptures, metalwork, furniture, paintings, drawings, prints and manuscripts. The three-month show, which includes nearly 200 works of art from more than 60 public and private collections around the world, closes on July 8.

A related exhibition, Europe and the Islamic World: Prints, Drawings and Books, is showing in adjacent galleries through July 15.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Third Century man preserved in salt

During the Roman Empire period, just after the fall of Parthia, a salt mine worker from northwestern Iran lost his life following a catastrophic rock collapse. Approximately 1,800 years later, the man's body — preserved in salt — was discovered in the very spot where he died, according to ecent Iranian news service accounts and to a report issued by the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies.
Since salt prevents bacterial growth and acts as a drying agent, the unfortunate accident victim became a rare natural mummy. He is the sixth "salt man" to be found at the Chehr Abad mine in Zanjan province. Removal of the body from its salty environs could damage it, so archaeologists hope to keep the mummy on site for now. Hassan Fazeli Nashli, director of Iran's Archaeology Research Center, explained that he and his colleagues still face "a lot of problems for preserving the other five ones" that have been unearthed over the past 14 years.

Two-page article with a photograph of the poor man.
Some Masada remains questioned by study
An article that picks up on a paper by anthropologist Joe Zias and forensics expert Azriel Gorski published in the June issue of the journal Near Eastern Archaeology, which has created a a bit of stir with the site's original excavators.

An Israeli anthropologist is using modern forensics and an obscure biblical passage to challenge accepted wisdom about mysterious human remains found at Masada, the desert fortress famous as the scene of a mass suicide nearly 2,000 years ago. A new research paper published Friday takes another look at the remains of three people found at the site and given a state burial by Israel as Jewish heroes. The remains, the study says, could actually be those of the Jews' Roman enemies.

. . .

Zias concluded the hair belonged not to a Jewish woman but to a foreign woman who fell captive in the hands of Jewish fighters. In his scenario, the woman was attached to the Roman garrison at Masada in A.D. 66 when the Zealots seized the fortress and killed the soldiers. Jewish fighters threw two Roman bodies into the bathhouse, which they then used as a garbage dump, judging by other debris found inside. The Zealots treated the woman captive according to Jewish law, cutting off her hair, which they threw in with the bodies.

Also covered at The Scotsman website and on the International Herald Tribune.
Tibet returns stolen idols to Nepal
Kathmandu - The Tibetan authorities Thursday returned 27 ancient idols and a miniature shrine stolen from a remote monastery in north-west Nepal. The return of the statues followed a decision of a Tibetan court recently to return the artifacts to their original location. The statues were brought to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu Thursday from Lhasa by a Nepalese government team. 'The idols and the shrine known as Chorten arrived in Kathmandu in good condition. They are now under police custody and will be handed over to proper authorities on Friday,' archeologist Prakash Darnal said.
According to Darnal, the idols were mainly of Buddha, Buddhist priests and sages. All the statues were between 600 and 800 years old. The statues were reported stolen by Tibetans from Yetser Jangchubling monastery in the remote Nepalese district of Dolpa, about 350 kilometres north-west of the capital Kathmandu, in 2005.
Saving History for the Public by James Delgado
Another disturbing feature on Archaeology Magazine's website about underwater archaeology.

Glorifying treasure hunters and denigrating archaeologists is a poor apology for the destruction of our underwater heritage.
In a June 8 New York Times Op-Ed piece, Robert Kurson, author of the popular book Shadow Divers, attacks archaeologists as pirates, calling us a "new breed of raiders." By contrast, he praises treasure hunters: "Without them...many of these wrecks would stay lost forever. Without the lure of a big and romantic payoff, no one
would even look." Moreover, Kurson paints archaeologists as ivory-tower academics and the treasure hunters as larger-than-life men-of-action: "it's a good bet that a grizzled, lifelong salvage diver has better real-life, tight-squeeze shipwreck experience than an archaeologist who writes up guidelines for this work from his office near the student union." This is a response from a grizzled lifelong archaeologist who has plenty of real-life, tight-squeeze experiences, as do many of my colleagues.
The recent controversy over the discovery of the "Black Swan" treasure off the coast of England by the company Odyssey Marine has ignited more than just a debate between scholars and treasure hunters. The key question of who owns the treasure has involved diplomats and lawyers, led to legal action, and a stand off at Gibraltar that has stoked longstanding tensions between Spain and Great Britain. Lost in the rhetoric of these battles is the question of the relevance of the archaeologists' arguments. Whether Odyssey Marine is doing careful work that meets archaeological standards remains unknown.
Human Nature Rubs Off on Chimps

A bit of human nature can apparently rub off on chimpanzees. Chimps nurtured by humans since birth have a far better chance of figuring out ow to use new tools, a new study shows. The findings highlight untapped potential within chimpanzees that can get uncovered "by studying them when they have been raised under very comparable conditions as our own children," said Ohio State University cognitive primatologist Sally Boysen.
The research suggests that early human ancestors may have been far more sophisticated in their mental capacities than previously thought, she added. "The emergence of higher order thinking, as well as motor skills that would permit complex tool use and construction and other cultural features of human social interaction, may have been part of our human ancestry much earlier than otherwise predicted by the fossil record of artifacts and human remains," Boysen told LiveScience.
A new cultural heritage forum has been formed by to support the International Journal of Cultural Property (Cambridge University Press). The Discussion forums of the International Cultural Property Society has been set up as a source of cultural heritage news and events information, as well as a place in which to express opinions about cultural heritage issues such as art theft, repatriation, relations between source nationsand collectors/museums, illicit excavations, and the use of digitalization to increase access to cultural heritage.

Registration is simple and free of charge.
Mass grave of Quakers uncovered in UK
A mass grave believed to contain the bodies of followers of the Quaker religious movement has been uncovered in Cambridgeshire. Environment agency workers found the rare Quaker burial site while carrying out work for flood defences at St Ives. Sixteen bodies were in the unmarked grave dating back to the late 1600s. Archaeologists described the find as "remarkable and unusual" as it gave an insight into Quaker burial practices just after the movement started.
The Story of the Archimedes Manuscript

This article doesn't actually consider the results of the decoding of the manuscript. There is also a bit about who Archimedes was, what he acheived and how he died, but it mainly takes a long and disapproving look at what happened to the manuscript over the course of its existence until today.

The texts, formulas and drawings by Archimedes, executed in brown ink, were erased in the Middle Ages and overwritten with a religious text. Specialists at the museum irradiated the pages, made of goat leather, with UV light. Then they were bombarded with X-rays in the particle accelerator at Stanford University to bring out the traces of iron in the Byzantine ink. NASA experts were also involved in analyzing the work. What, if any, are the fruits of all this labor? Has it revealed Archimedes "in a completely new light," as the Beck publishing house has proclaimed? Absolutely not.

. . .

It is, of course, not entirely accurate to claim, as the Beck publishing house does, that "the history of mathematics must be completely rewritten" based on the information gleaned from the analysis -- especially since the work was discovered in the academic world long ago. One hundred and fifty years ago, Konstantin von Tischendorf, a scholar in the German city of Leipzig, found the unsightly little book in the monastery library at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and recognized its "mathematic" content.
Saturday seems like a good day to round up the highlights of the latest news from the world of Egyptology. This was not an earth-shaking week.

The The Art Newspaper reports that the Supreme Council of Antiquities have asked the British Museum (London, U.K.) for the return, on three month loan, of the Rosetta Stone in 2010, when the Egyptian Grand Museum is opening to house Egypt's most important artefacts (currently in the disorganized and old fashioned Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Cairo).

Saqqara Technologies have released the beta (trial) version of their new font set, which has been submitted to the World Wide Web committee for approval as a recognized font set, meeting the Committee's formal standards. For a more formal description see the Specification Page. For more details go to the EPGZ website.

For those of you who speak French, there's a nice piece on the CNRS website about the School of Scribes at the Ramesseum in Luxor.

Quite a bit of interest seems to have been generated by the announcement that the search for the "true" mummy of Hatshepsut will be assisted with DNA testing. For anyone interested in seeing some of these discussions, Donald Ryan discusses some of the evidence with respect to the identification of the mummy of Hatshepsut. Donald Ryan ( Donald P. Ryan, Ph.D., Division of Humanities, Pacific Lutheran University) rediscovered and documented KV 60 in the Valley of the Kings in 1989, and here he offers some clarifications on the discussion that has been taking place on that forum, including some history and the current state of play. His post is currently third from the bottom of the page.

Prensa Latina reports that the Cairo Islamic Art Museum is to re-open in December 2007 after a four year restoration.

Details of a new publication have been posted on the British Academy's website: Regime Change in the Ancient Near East and Egypt – From Sargon of Agade to Saddam, edited by Hussein Harriet Crawford (Proceedings of the British Academy No. 126). A contents listing with sample pages can be found on the British Academy website.

The Centro de Estudios de Historia del Antiguo Oriente (CEHAO), Argentine Catholic University, has published a paper from Volume 1 of its electronic Monograph Series on its website, with later additions to follow as these become available: Centro y periferia en el mundo antiguo. El Negev y sus interacciones con Egipto, Asiria, y el Levante en la Edad del Hierro (1200-586 a.C.). By Juan Manuel Tebes. CEHAO Monograph Series Vol. 1, Buenos Aires, 2007. It is in Spanish, with maps, diagrams and photographs and is in PDF format.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I think that today's set of posts may be my last lot before Tony's return. I could be wrong, and perhaps it would have been sensible to have saved the email that gave me details of his holiday timings somewhere safe, but it seems to have become lost in the labyrinthine nightmare of Outlook folders and sub folders. I really must sort the whole thing out. One day. Not today.

But I'll wish you all a fond farewell now, just in case.

I also want to say a huge thanks to Kat Newkirk, who is one of my chief lifesavers on my own blog, for forwarding me items of interest that she has found.

I will be very glad to see Good King Anthony returned to his rightful place at the throne of the Kingdom of ArchaeoBlog - I never realized just how much archaeological news there is out there, and how difficult it is to select which bits to exclude for fear of overloading visitors with data. I don't think that I always managed to get a good balance (today, for example, was just a bit busy, but what to reject??)

Tony, come and take this sceptre out of my hand before I do some damage with it.

All the best to everyone, and thanks for bearing with me :-)
Of Bricks and Boats
A recently discovered tomb found in Egypt is described on the Al Ahram Weekly website.

Archaeologists from the Katholicke Universiteit Leuven working at the Middle-Kingdom (2066-1650 BC) tomb of Uky, a top government official, have discovered an intact tomb chamber, complete with funerary goods.

While removing the debris out of a rock-cut shaft found inside the chamber of Uky's tomb, the archaeologists came across a huge limestone block indicating that a major find was imminent, in line with the ancient Egyptian custom of blocking their burial chambers with such a barrier. Through a hole in the block, they could see what they described as a beautifully-carved wooden statue of a man with large, staring eyes. After only an hour the block had been removed, and the team discovered a small but intact chamber richly stuffed with well-preserved wooden objects and containing a
decorated sarcophagus.

"Even though the burial took place more than 4,000 years ago, the colours on the painted objects are very fresh, and there was even no dust covering them," mission director Harco Williams said.

To see all three photographs that accompany this piece, click on the single image shown on the page. All three photographs will then be shown in a new window.

Not wishing to labour the Egyptological point, but anyone interested in Tutankhamun might be interested in this useful review of an exhibition in Cairo which features the contents of the Pharaoh's mummy wrappings (with photographs).

Jewel of the Jungle
The Smithsonian Magazine is offering an article online about Angkor (Cambodia), somewhere that is on my list of the top five places I really must visit in the next few years. It isn't really a news item, but it is a good and informative read.

The temple's precise, symmetrical beauty was unmistakable. The other tourists all faced the sun, watching in stillness and whispering in foreign tongues, as hundreds more arrived behind them. Angkor Wat at sunrise is a wondrous spectacle, one that I would return to several times during my stay in Cambodia.

. . . .

Although Angkor Wat is the largest and best known of these temples, it is but one of hundreds built by the kingdom of Angkor. Huge stone monuments scattered across hundreds of square miles of forest in northern Cambodia, the temples are the remains of a vast complex of deserted cities—which included manmade lakes, canals and bridges—that were astonishing in their size and artistic merit.

But piecing together information about the ancient Khmers who built them has not been easy for archaeologists and historians. The only written records that still exist are the inscriptions on the temple walls and the diary of a Chinese diplomat who visited Angkor in 1296. All administrative buildings and the homes of kings and commoners alike were made of wood; none have survived, leaving only the religious creations of brick and stone.

The article is accompanied by some good photogrpahs. Click on any one of the thumbnails, and then navigate through the others using the Previous and Next links to the bottom right of the image.
20,000 people meet for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

England - Thousands of modern-day druids, pagans and partygoers converged on Stonehenge early Thursday to cheer the dawn of the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere — the summer solstice.

Clad in antlers, black cloaks and oak leaves, a group gathered at the Heel stone — a twisted, pockmarked pillar at the edge of the prehistoric monument — to welcome the rising sun as revelers danced and yelled. . . . Dancers writhed to the sound of drums and whistles as floodlights colored the ancient pillars shades of pink and purple, and couples snuggled under plastic sheets.

Solstice celebrations were a highlight of the pre-Christian calendar. People in many countries still celebrate with bonfires, maypole dances and courtship rituals. In more recent years, New Age groups and others have turned to Stonehenge to celebrate the solstice, and the World Heritage Site has become a magnet for those seeking a spiritual experience — or just wanting to have a good time.

But the celebrations also can attract their share of troublemakers. Police closed the site in 1984 after repeated clashes with revelers. English Heritage, the monument's caretaker, began allowing full access to the site again in 2000. Police were deployed early Thursday to keep the hedonists from getting out of hand, and to prevent revelers from climbing the stones.

And no, I wasn't there, not writhing under pink lamps, not wearing antlers and not snuggling under a plastic sheet! I know - I'm getting old.

For those wanting more information about Stonehenge, see the official Stonehenge website.
Slave quarters unearthed at historical state park

An excavation by Jack Bergstresser, resident archaeologist and director of Tannehill's Iron and Steel Museum, at Tannehill Ironworks and Historical State Park in Birmingham, Alabama (U.S.) has produced evidence of possible slave quarters.

"We're investigating what people here at the park have believed for years," Bergstresser said. "We know that slave labor was used in construction and also probably a part of the labor force at times, but there has been no evidence to this point." In addition to flat construction nails, the items found so far include bits of ceramics, an iron fork, a piece of a cup, a piece of a clay pipe, a green glass bead, a copper ring and a child's marble. For the scientists, those tiny tidbits are proof that the sites were houses.

. . .

When Tannehill furnaces were built in 1858, it is estimated that as many as 600 slaves might have been used both for construction and as part of the work force. Many were probably leased from nearby slave owners, but others apparently lived on site, walking a trail that still exists about 200 yards from the cabin sites to the furnace.

The furnace was destroyed by Union soldiers in 1865. That and the emancipation of the slaves triggered a new element in the local work force.

UNESCO launches reerection project of Ethiopia's ancient Axum obelisk

The UNESCO World Heritage Center has signed a contract with an Italian construction company, funded by the Italian Government, to begin the reerection of the Axum obelisk, the 1700 year old monument that has become a symbol of Ethiopian heritage. The work is due to commence in mid July. The total budget for the project is over 2.8 million U.S. dollars.

The works will take place in two segments throughout a period of 18 months, according to the UNESCO press release. During the first segment, a foundation for the obelisk will be built as well as a temporary steel tower for lifting the separate parts of the obelisk. In the second phase, the steel structure will be put in place and the obelisk lifted and placed in position. Finally, the surface of the obelisk will be cleaned and restored, and the steel support structure dismantled and removed.

The Ethiopian government plans to mark the end of their Ethiopian calendar year 2000 celebrations, held on Sept. 12, 2007, by inaugurating the standing obelisk, it said.

Also known as Stela 2, it is the second largest stela on the Axum World Heritage site in Ethiopia. Transported to Rome by the troops of Mussolini in 1937, it was returned by the Italian government in April 2005. Weighing 150 tons and 24 meters high, the obelisk was cut into three pieces and transported by Antonov airplanes to north Ethiopia's Axum town.

For those interested in the obelisk and how it is perceived in Ethiopia, there's a Special Report on Archaeology Magazine by Ian Limback, entitled The Axum Obelisk Returns, But Some Still Grumble (July/August 2005).

Comprehensive details of the 1974 excavation at Aksum are provided by Stuart Munro-Hay at

Scribbling notes as the expedition leader crawls along under those tremendous stones, calling out what he sees... ‘another chamber.. ten in all... enormous… seems to be plaster on the wall... another shaft coming down here... roots between the stones... ouch!... at the end, the top of a brick arch... it's blocked…’ This was Dr. Neville Chittick, leader of the 1974 British Institute in Eastern Africa’s expedition to Aksum in Ethiopia, recorded in my notebook as we entered for the first time the great tomb dubbed ‘the Mausoleum’ for its unexpected size and architectural impressiveness. The slow unfolding of my own particular discovery as part of Dr. Chittick’s team, the Tomb of the Brick Arches, also had moments of suspense. First, a staircase going down. A granite lintel appeared. Then, totally unexpected, a brick. The diggers clear
the top of an arch; I recalled the received dictum; ‘the arch was unknown in Aksum’. More clearing. The arch was horseshoe shaped — a new page to be written in the history of architecture. Then the blocking... broken or still intact...?
An article about Isthmia in Greece by Elizabeth R. Gebhard, Director of the University of Chicago Excavations at Isthmia, has been reproduced on the Spero News website. Isthmia was the seat of the Isthmian Games - one of four ancient Greek athletic contests. The article provides a history of discovery and excavation at the site.

One significant discovery was the early Archaic temple lying beneath the Doric building of Classical times. A catastrophic fire reduced the building and its contents to a mass of smouldering ruins amongst which Broneer recovered a host of small dedications brought by pilgrims to Poseidon's shrine.

. . .

Small and finely decorated oil vessels (aryballoi) were favoured dedications. A man who had been victorious in the pentathlon gave a jumping weight suitably inscribed. Its early letter-forms provide the first evidence for the pentathlon as an event in the games. A wheel from a chariot was dedicated, presumably in gratitude for a victory won at the Isthmian Games. Then there were arms and armour, dedications made by those who had been victorious in war. Humbler forms of dedication were the small terracotta figurines of horses and riders and of bulls, the animal sacred to Poseidon. As god of the sea, he also received small replicas of ships for a safe voyage.

The University of Chicago have an official section dedicated to the site, with every season's annual excavation reports, and study season reports. There are also 3-D site reconstructions and contour plans.
British Museum revamps Prehistory section
This is such good news - and not before time, either. The BM (London, U.K.) has some fabulous prehistoric artefacts, from the mundane to the extraordinary, and their storage facility contains staggering quantities of prehistoric items. It is terrific that their value is to be highlighted in an appropriate way.

There is no denying the beauty of prehistoric artefacts. You can disguise it, though, by displaying hundreds of arrowheads in cases that don't seem to have been dusted since the 1950s - which is why this new set of modern and gracious galleries comes as a joy. The real test of the dynamic new British Museum is how well it does its basic job of displaying the ancient past. Very well, is the answer from looking at this new suite. It's simple and smart, so as you walk along, you perceive changing time as a succession of colours: the neolithic becomes a room full of widely spaced white objects, the Bronze Age oxidised green, the Iron Age warm, earthy brown.

This is a satisfyingly long article by Jonathan Jones, which looks at many aspects of British prehistory and how it has been perceived, and includes a description of Lindow Man, the bog sacrifice.

Details for visitors to the museum can be found at the British Museum website.
This news that playing cards showing antiquities have been sent by the Pentagon to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has been bouncing around the Internet for a few days now. Here's an extract from one version of the story from the International Herald Tribune. I figure that if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for Tony, although it does somewhat fry my logic circuits:

The Defense Department is sending another deck of playing cards to troops in Iraq — this time showing some of the country's most precious archaeological sites instead of the most-wanted former regime officials.

Some 40,000 new decks of playing cards will be sent to troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan as part of an awareness program so troops can help preserve the heritage of those countries, said Laurie Rush, archaeologist at Fort Drum in New York.

It is aimed at making troops aware they should not pick up and take home artifacts and to avoid causing damage to historic sites, such as an incident after the 2003 invasion of Iraq when U.S. troops built a helicopter pad on the ruins of Babylon and filled their sandbags with archaeological fragments from the ancient city. Each card in the deck shows an artifact or site or gives a tip on how to help preserve antiquities.

Prospector finds shipwreck in Lake Erie

VERMILION, Ohio -- The wreckage of a steamship that sank in 1850 after its boilers exploded has been discovered at the bottom of Lake Erie.Thomas Kowalczk, an amateur shipwreck prospector, used sonar on his boat to discover the General Anthony Wayne in 50 feet of water, about eight miles north of this northeast Ohio city, the Great Lakes Historical Society announced Wednesday.

The side-wheel steamship, named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne, sank in April 1850 while en route from the Toledo area to Buffalo, N.Y.

Experimenting with prehistoric arrowheads is the topic of this article on the University of Wyoming website.

In the Stone Age, prehistoric peoples created weapons by making stone projectile points and affixing them to arrow and spear shafts. Until now, no one has researched the technological advantage or disadvantage of the arrowhead to prehistoric culture. With the help of Discovery Channel MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, two University of Wyoming archeologists pledged to find out about the arrowhead’s significance to ancient cultures.

Nicole Waguespack and Todd Surovell, both in the UW Department of Anthropology, a few years ago began to question the purpose of arrowheads. The objects had long been accepted in their profession as an important component of prehistoric weaponry.The concept that projectile points were used to advance hunting has been perpetuated throughout history, but wasn't based on any meaningful evidence, according to the UW researchers.

Unfortunately, although the article explains the experiment, it does not reveal the results.

So, how did the arrowhead fit into the technology of prehistoric peoples? To discover whether superiority of an arrow with an affixed projectile point was busted as a myth or confirmed as fact, tune into MythBusters. Visit for a program schedule.

A travel piece about Guantajo in Mexico which gives details of the Las Momias (The Mummies) museum.

It’s not the most well-organized museum you’ll find in Mexico, but what it houses proves to offer far more than morbid novelty.

. . .

Many of the mummies are said to have perished in a cholera outbreak here in 1833, though, due to rigorous taxes placed on keeping bodies in the limited local cemetery space, bodies are continually being dug up and appropriated by the museum, though only a fraction are ever on display. If one desired to become a mummy, your best bet would probably be to die in Guanajuato and simply wait a while. Sooner or later, you’d have a good chance of winding up in here. The mummies of Guanajuato—amongst them the smallest mummy in the world!—are one of the most uncanny manifestations of Mexico’s obsession with death, a strange conspiracy between the elements, the folklore and the tourism industry.

For official, albeit brief, details about the Las Momias museum see the museum's page on the city's website.
Museum explores medicine's impact on life

A new medical museum featuring oddities such as a Peruvian mummy, 16th century dissection tables, and a robot used to sequence the human genome opened in London on Wednesday. The Peruvian mummy is coiled up with its knees to the chest.(CBC) The $63 million permanent exhibit is dedicated to medicine and its impact on life. Curators selected the 1.5 million artifacts from the collection of Sir Henry Wellcome.

Wellcome, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector, travelled the Victorian world looking for treasures such as a lock of George III's hair, Napolean's toothbrush, Charles Darwin's walking stick with a skull-shaped handle, and Lord Nelson's razor. The national museum combines medicine and art, and is a place for people interested in what it is to be human, said curator Ken Arnold.
See the Wellcome Collection website for more details.
I don't know whether I have just been very unobservant in the past, or whether there are actually a remarkable number of fossil animals turning up, but here is yet another finding from Palaeontology: the sudden appearence of shrew-like mammals following the demise of dinosaurs.

The discovery of a primitive, shrew-like mammal fossil in Mongolia has revived the view that its modern mammal cousins arrived just as the dinosaurs made their dramatic exit about 65 million years ago, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

Recent studies have placed the arrival of modern mammals at anywhere from 140 million to 80 million years ago, long before an asteroid crashed into Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. "The fossil itself is the least interesting part of the story scientifically," said John Wible of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, whose research appears in the journal Nature.

He said the discovery of a new shrew-like mammal in 1997 -- Maelestes gobiensis -- led to an exhaustive analysis of the fossil record that dates the emergence of modern mammals at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago.