Sunday, September 30, 2007

Stone tool reveals lengthy Polynesian voyage
The discovery of an adze fashioned from Hawaiian basalt on a Tuamotu atoll in French Polynesia provides the first material evidence that ancient voyagers made an 8,000-kilometre round trip from the South Pacific to Hawaii and back again.

More than 2,000 years ago, seafarers from Samoa and Tonga ventured eastward to settle on more remote archipelagos in the Pacific Ocean, including the Cook Islands, Tahiti, and the Marquesas Islands, colonizing most of these places by 900 AD. Eventually, the travellers set foot on Hawaii.
Life was the pits 4000 years ago
BRONZE Age pits have been unearthed that shed fresh light on life on the banks of the Forth 4000 years ago.

Archaeologists carrying out a routine inspection found pottery and eight small pits in a routine inspection of a site in South Queensferry.

Melanie Johnson, project manager for archaeologists CFA, said the discovery off Echline Avenue came out of the blue.

She said: "It didn't look too promising when we started out on this site. But we then found pottery which we could tell was around 4000 years old buried in small pits which were around half a metre deep.
Bones Likely Belong to Czar's Children, Experts Say (Update1)
Forensics experts in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg said bone fragments unearthed in July probably belong to the missing son and daughter of Russia's last czar, Nicholas II.

Experts concluded ``with a high degree of probability'' that the bones belong to Czarevich Alexei, heir to the Russian throne, and Grand Duchess Maria, Vladimir Gromov, deputy head of the Sverdlovsk Regional Bureau for Forensic Medical Analysis, which examined the remains, said by telephone today.
Archaeologists discover portable altar
Archaeologists have uncovered a one thousand-year-old portable altar at an excavation site in Varnhem in western Sweden.

The stone object was found resting on the skeleton of a heavy set man believed to have been a priest.

Archaeologist Maria Vretemark from Västergötland's Museum describes the miniature altar as "a fabulous find".

It's not what you think it is.
Metro excavation rewrites history
Schoolchildren have always been taught that Bishop Absalon founded Copenhagen in around 1160 AD, but those history lessons could rest on unstable ground, much like the capital city itself.

Initial samples from the Metro system�s expansion indicate that the area known as Copenhagen was in use as a harbour around 300 years before Absalon moved the capital from Roskilde.

Archaeologists are left with few clues, however, as to why people initially might have settled in the area which was swampy and ill-suited for farming or habitation.
Blogging update No posting (or much of anything else) for the last couple of days. I had mouth surgery last Wednesday and it kinda knocked me out. Yesterday was full o' (late) football and recuperation, too.

Went to the UW-USC game last night. They don't do many night games here, for whatever reason; usually only when television requires it. UW played really well, and USC didn't, but they (UW) still lost. They could have won, but they're still not poised enough to not make the small mistakes that the really good teams don't often make. Locker (QB) had a guy wide open in the end zone and just had to toss him the ball but he way overthrew it. And there was a fumbled punt, and a pretty easy interception in the end zone that was flubbed. That latter one set the crowd off because at regular speed, it looked obvious that it was an interception (we only saw it twice at regular speed on the big screen) but on replay it was also obvious that the ball hit the ground first. So, a few golden opportunities that were missed.

Not a good day to be in the top 10 though. Half were upset yesterday (except Wisconsin, woo hoo!).

Today we start the rainy season in the NW, and it's raining most of today. This is a La Nina year which usually means we have a cool and wet winter that lasts into June. OTOH, last year was an El Nino winter which usually means we have a nice pleasant, pretty dry winter; except it was cold and rainy and lasted until, well, pretty much July this year. So who knows.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Army of Davids update Amateurs pick up search for 'Lost Colony'
After trudging for two hours through thick vegetation to a blurry mark found on Google Earth, George Ray started making up a song: “If you’re lost, I’ll find you tomorrow,” he sang in a thick Southern drawl.

Or, perhaps, he’ll find you four centuries later.

Ray is one of the many amateur archaeologists entranced by the Lost Colony — the 117 English settlers who disappeared from North Carolina’s Outer Banks in the late 1500s, having left behind only a single clue to their fate. In all the years since, no one has found much of anything else.

An academic kinda dissed the whole business, but I -- just looking over the web site -- think it's a pretty good amateur site.
National Geographic has more on the temple found within Luxor temple.
Ancient Fishermen Lured Fish With Fire
Fishermen around areas mentioned in the New Testament worked the night shift, suggests fishing gear found in a 7th century shipwreck off the coast of Dor, Israel, west of Galilee, where Jesus is said to have preached.

The standout item among the found gear is a fire basket, the first evidence for "fire fishing" in the ancient eastern Mediterranean. Early images and writings indicate fires were lit in such baskets, which were suspended in giant lantern devices from the end of fishing boats.

Light emitted from the fire both attracted and illuminated fish, as well as other sea creatures, like octopus, which men then speared or captured in nets.
80 Ancient "Cloud Warrior" Skeletons Found in Peru Fort
The remains of 80 members of an ancient civilization have been unearthed in the ruins of a fortress high in the Peruvian Andes, an archaeologist has announced.

The skeletons bear evidence of extremely quick deaths, the bodies having been found where they fell, without burial, reported Alfredo Narváez, director of Peru's Kuélap Archaeological Complex Restoration and Conservation project.

The remains were discovered in the fortress of Kuélap, a mountain stronghold of the Chachapoya, a culture known as the "cloud warriors" that thrived in Amazonian cloud forests from the 9th to the 15th century A.D.

I thought for sure I'd posted about this earlier, but I can't locate the post. It will be interesting once the forensic work is done.
Stone Age rice farms found in China
Stone Age Chinese began cultivating rice more than 7,700 years ago by burning trees in coastal marshes and building dams to hold back seawater, converting the marshes to rice paddies that would support growth of the high-yield cereal grain, researchers plan to report today.

New analysis of sediments from the site of Kuahuqiao at the mouth of the Yangtze River near Hangzhou provides the earliest evidence in China of such large-scale environmental manipulation, experts said.

"It shows people were changing the environment, actively manipulating the system, and well on their way to having an agricultural way of life," said University of Toronto anthropologist Gary Crawford, who wasn't involved in the study.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Peter the Viking!
HE WAS an ordinary father-of-two who ran his own laundry business – but Peter Adams rewrote the history books when he found a Viking burial site under a farmer’s field near Carlisle one Sunday afternoon.

The hoard of 10th century swords, spears and ornate jewellery at Townfoot Farm, unearthed in Cumwhitton in 2004 was the first formal burial ground of Viking bodies discovered in England, and it attracted attention from around the world.

Experts said it was the most significant find since those unearthed at York and lined up to examine the six Viking graves.
Whoops Blame game begins after fort turret collapse
A blame game has started between the Punjab Archaeology Department (PAD) and the Federal Archaeology Department (FAD) after the northeastern turret of the seventh century Jahangir’s Quadrangle at the Lahore Fort collapsed on Monday.

PAD director general Shahbaz Khan started an inquiry soon after the turret collapsed and barred the public and the press from the spot. PAD officials said the turret collapsed because of rain. Culture secretary Ashfaq Gondal visited the Lahore Fort on Wednesday, inspected the turret and ordered the PAD DG to look into the issue and submit a report within seven days.
Modern archaeology If it's in the bag, women feel prepared
"Women get a kick out of being prepared. A handbag makes her feel emotionally and physically prepared and feeds her self esteem," Styring told Reuters.

The study, detailed in a book "In Your Purse: Archaeology of the American Handbag," found the average woman owns about 10 handbags but only uses two to three on a regular basis.

The average purse weighed 3.4 pounds (1.5 kgs) including its contents and contained 67 items.

"While women buy a lot of bags because they are pretty, the ones they use most are the functional ones," said Styring.
The Death of Blogs
"A lot of people have been in and out of this thing," Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer told reporters. "Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they're put on stage and asked to say it." Given the average lifespan of a blogger and the current growth rate of blogs, Gartner says blogging has probably peaked.

Which isn't to say that blogging is dead. Quite the opposite. Blog aggregator Technorati estimates that 3 million new blogs are launched every month. The site's tongue-in-cheek slogan: "Zillions of photos, videos, blogs, and more. Some of them have to be good."

I'm not bored yet.

Or tired.

(Via Insty)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Breaking news Tutankhamun was not black
Egyptian antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass insisted Tuesday that Tutankhamun was not black despite calls by US black activists to recognise the boy king's dark skin colour.

"Tutankhamun was not black, and the portrayal of ancient Egyptian civilisation as black has no element of truth to it," Hawass told reporters.

"Egyptians are not Arabs and are not Africans despite the fact that Egypt is in Africa," he said, quoted by the official MENA news agency.

Hawass said he was responding to several demonstrations in Philadelphia after a lecture he gave there on September 6 where he defended his theory.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Field photo(s) du jour We switch from the Valley of the Kings to the Delta. This set is from Kom el-Hisn in the western Delta (read all about it here). These are from the 1988 and last season there. This was Room 4 where Jenny Stone was excavating. This wasn't the first burial found in these excavations, nor the first infant. There was a large cemetery at KeH (as it's known) from probably First Intermediate and Middle Kingdom date that was excavated in the late 1940s and 1950s by Hamada and Farid. We were exploring the largely intact mud brick architecture that hadn't been excavated earlier. This was mostly Old Kingdom, with some areas of Middle Kingdom structures.

Within Room 4 Jenny was excavating next to one of the room walls and found the skeleton. This is of Richard Redding doing some of the initial excavation of the skeleton:

Full image here.

He started them and then let us finish pedestalling them. The water table here is very near the surface -- only like 1.5 meters down in the dry season, so the bones were fairly soft and friable. Hence, great care was needed to clear away the sediment and expose the skeleton without damaging it. Here are two more after it was finished:

Full image here.

Full image here.

The sediment indicated that the wall had been partly hollowed out to make a small space for the body and then it was covered up by wall collapse material. There were no grave goods with the body; there are a few rib bones of probably a sheep/goat right above it, but the excavator determined these were not part of the burial. Sex was indeterminate, and age was probably 1-2 years old. We didn't employ a forensic anthropologist since we weren't particularly interested in the burials.

As I said, there were several of these and other adult burials within the architecture. A few of the adults had mud brick or wooden coffins, but the children were mostly just buried. They have mostly been put in the First Intermediate Period because they were intrusive into the Old Kingdom deposits, but I'm not so sure. I wrote a paper on the burials that will probably go into the monograph, and I argue that some/many may be Old Kingdom. Unfortunately, only one had any artifactual material that could possibly be dated, so it's tough to tell.
3,500-year-old baby is unearthed
ARCHAEOLOGISTS have unearthed the tiny skeleton of a 3,500-year-old baby at a quarry near Peterborough.
The discovery was made close to the centre of a Bronze Age burial mound at Pode Hole – a sprawling gravel quarry west of Thorney.

Coming two months after the well-preserved remains of a Bronze Age man were found 50 metres away, experts are convinced they have uncovered an ancient cemetery.

The stunning discovery of the baby – which was under a year old, or possibly a still-born birth – was made by Phoenix Consulting Archaeology during routine excavation work.

Photo of the kidlet here:

Which makes me think of a field photo du jour to do. . . . .
Snake-bird gods fascinated both Aztecs and pharaohs
Ancient Mexicans and Egyptians who never met and lived centuries and thousands of miles apart both worshiped feathered-serpent deities, built pyramids and developed a 365-day calendar, a new exhibition shows.

Billed as the world's largest temporary archeological showcase, Mexican archeologists have brought treasures from ancient Egypt to display alongside the great indigenous civilizations of Mexico for the first time.

The exhibition, which boasts a five-tonne, 3,000-year-old sculpture of Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II and stone carvings from Mexican pyramid Chichen Itza, aims to show many of the similarities of two complex worlds both conquered by Europeans in invasions 1,500 years apart.

There's a bit of stretching going on. I think the only vaguely "feathered serpent" is maybe the Wadjet cobra that is very occasionally pictured as winged. Not that there aren't interesting parallels . . . .
Archaeological find rewrites Tasmania's history
In the early 1980s, Australia was embroiled in a bitter environmental battle, centered on the Franklin River valley, an ancient rainforest wilderness that was due to be dammed in a massive hydro-electric scheme. The issue attracted worldwide attention, divided families and ultimately brought down the Federal government.

For a long time everyone thought that this remote area was uninhabitable and had never been inhabited by humans. When the Hydro-Electric commission justified the dam project it assumed that no archaeological remains were at risk. But then the discovery of a limestone cave revealed a hoard of human treasure.

UPDATE: Also from Tasmania. Wonder if this is the same thing they're talking about.
Indiana Jones IV update 'INDIANA' BLABBER FACES DOOM (heh)
A BIG-mouthed extra working on the new "Indiana Jones" flick has blown his fledgling movie career to smithereens by spilling the film's major plot points.

Director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas made the entire cast and crew of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" sign nondisclosure agreements. But Tyler Nelson - cast as a "dancing Russian soldier" - gave an interview to his hometown newspaper, the Edmond Sun in Oklahoma, in which he revealed that:

* Indy, played once again by Harrison Ford, and the Soviet army are both . . . .

Yeah, I censored that, Spielberg. In return, I should get a cameo.
Megafauna impact event update Research team says extraterrestrial impact to blame for Ice Age extinctions
“The detonation either fried them or compressed them because of the shock wave,” said Ted Bunch, NAU adjunct professor of geology and former NASA researcher who specializes in impact craters. “It was a mini nuclear winter.”

Bunch and Jim Wittke, a geologic materials analyst at NAU, are co-authors of the paper, which fingers an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago for the mass extinctions at the end of the Ice Age. The paper was just released online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research team includes several members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and researchers from Hungary and the Netherlands.

No one has found a giant crater in the Earth that could attest to such a cataclysmic impact 13,000 years ago, but the research team offers evidence of a comet, two and a half to three miles in diameter, that detonated 30 to 60 miles above the earth, triggering a massive shockwave, firestorms and a subsequent drastic cooling effect across most of North America and northern Europe.

About the only new thing here is the multi-impact angle. Still doesn't explain why some large herbivores (e.g., mammoth) would go extinct because of it while others (e.g., bison) didn't. But, that's pretty secondary; they've still got to convince people it actually happened the way they say it did. Then it's a whole other ballgame.
Semi-breaking news Actually, old, but I never really saw it when it initially came out. Links passed on via EEF

"New find in King Tut's tomb",,2-11-1447_2189507,00.html
" Intact clay pots sealed with cartouches of King Tutankhamun
and eight baskets have been discovered in his treasure room in
the Valley of the Kings (...) the team discovered eight baskets filled
with almost 60 cartouches printed with the king's stamp. (..)
Hawass said those cartouches had previously been found by
Howard Carter in 1922, but he left them inside the treasure room.

"New discovery found in Egypt's Tutankhamun tomb"
"An Egyptian archaeological mission has discovered some
20 intact clay pots sealed with cartouche of boy pharaoh
Tutankhamun. (..) "

"Ancient Egyptian fruit hamper found in King Tut's tomb"
"Eight baskets filled with fruits preserved for more than
3,000 years have been discovered by Egyptian archaeologists
in Tutankhamun's tomb. "The eight baskets contained large
quantities of doum fruits, which have been well preserved,"
Hawass said in a statement. The fruit baskets are each 50cm
(nearly 20 inches) high, the antiquities department said.
The sweet orange-red fruit, also known as the gingerbread fruit,
comes from the Doum Palm, a native of southern Egypt, and
was traditionally offered at funerals. Twenty pear-shaped
containers, one metre (three feet) in height and bearing
Tutankhamun's official seal were also discovered. "

"Baskets, pots found abandoned in Tutankhamun tomb"
"One of the baskets contains dried fruit and eight others hold
almost 60 small limestone plaques also inscribed with
Tutankhamun's name in the traditional cartouche format. "

Monday, September 24, 2007

It makes the past come alive' Archaeologists discover preserved well casement dating to the 1600s
A discovery near Rehoboth Bay has archaeologists across the state buzzing with excitement.

At first glance, what might look like an unimpressive bit of black and wet kindling is a "rare and wonderful" find, said archaeologist Dan Griffith. What he and others recently found below the surface is the remains of a well casement dating to about 1675.

Roughly two and a half feet square and almost three feet tall, the water-logged wooden frame was found so beautifully preserved that workers were able to knock out trunnel pins or "pegs" in the mortise and tenon joints that held the oak structure together so that it could be easily moved to a conservation lab.
The first Helenans
[S]ome histories are written on paper. Others are revealed by landscapes, rocks, bones and human memory.

Now new computer technologies and archaeological investigations in the past decade are revealing data and discoveries that have historians rethinking the early history of the Americas, including that of the Helena Valley.

“The canon (of history) is being rewritten,” said historian Nicholas Vrooman, who is also interim director of the Helena Indian Alliance.

“Much of American history can be found by looking at one place on the face of the Earth and watching it transform over time. The Helena Valley is such a place,” he said.

It's not a bad article. Much of it is summarizing Clovis, but the last bit is on the post-contact Kootenai, which I really don't know much about, I'm afraid.
The Simpsons' homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark

I've never actually seen the clip that this is based on. Had a friend of mine rolling on the floor, but I've never managed to actually see it.

There's also one for 2001 but he/they neglected one episode where Homer went into space and there was a section from 2001 in that one, too.

UPDATE: Well, okay, here's the video. Is there anything you can't find on the Internets?

Update II: And I just went on iTunes and bought the Indy soundtrack. Actually, it's this one if that link works. Oddly, I'd never gotten any of the Indy soundtracks before. Always liked the music though.

And the only time I've ever let the theme flit through my mind was on a few occasions while studying for my comps when I'd be heading over to the library to read a bunch of references on some arcane archaeological subject and the absurdity of it all would strike my fancy.
Breaking news Report: Herod's Temple quarry found
Israeli archaeologists said they have discovered a quarry that provided King Herod with the stones he used to renovate the biblical Second Temple compound — offering rare insight into construction of the holiest site in Judaism.

The source of the huge stones used 2,000 years ago to reconstruct the compound in Jerusalem's Old City was discovered on the site of a proposed school in a Jerusalem suburb.

. . .

"This is the first time stones which were used to build the Temple Mount walls were found," said Yuval Baruch, an archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority involved in the dig.

Which is neat. I found this of interest as well:
But researchers said the strongest piece of evidence was found wedged into one of the massive cuts in the white limestone — an iron stake used to split the stone. The tool was apparently improperly used, accidentally lodged in the stone and forgotten.

"It stayed here for 2,000 years for us to find because a worker didn't know what to do with it," said archaeologist Ehud Nesher, also of the Antiquities Authority.

Often, the screw-ups are some of the more interesting items found. In our 1996 season at Memphis (ARCE Field School) the only intact ceramic vessel we found was a nifty little bowl that had misfired and was misshappen. That area was probably a dumping ground for various ceramics manufacturing activities, so I'm always tickled that that reject came down as the only intact survivor.

Also, there is a particular type of Predynastic pottery called black-topped brown/red war. The way they made it was (probably) by taking the vessel out of the kiln and inverting it into some organic debris (sawdust maybe) and letting the top get blackened. Anyway, I was in the Petrie Museum and saw one jar that had no black on the top, but had a big spot of it on its side. Apparently, someone had dropped it before they could get it into the proper upside down position. I still wonder what word Egyptians used when they botched something up.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jerusalem tunnel update See the comment by David Sanders in this post for a link to an article by Norman Golb of U Chicago.
Honoring the Bones
Cracked and yellow with age, sealed in zippered plastic bags and large cardboard boxes, the bones are believed to be the remains of more than 50 19th-century European immigrants, among them victims of the Irish potato famine. There are about 10 intact adult skeletons, most of them men in their 20s and 30s. There are smaller skeletons too, but none complete; children’s bones tend to disintegrate in acidic soil.

Dr. Amorosi is a physical anthropologist. On an overcast August day last year, he and a team of archaeologists dug up the bones from beneath the fractured asphalt of a municipal parking lot in St. George, Staten Island. The bones had been found during excavation for a $109 million courthouse complex.
Archaeologists found a Thracian tomb near the town of Ivailovgrad, at the Bulgarian-Greek border.

The tomb was discovered during excavations, led by the Thracian archaeology expert Georgi Nehrizov, Bulgarian Academy of Science’s National Institute of Archaeology and Museum said.

Treasure-hunters destroyed the antechamber of the tomb with a digger in the autumn of 2006, but the burial chamber is completely preserved, two m high and two to 1.8 m wide.

Not much on what was actually in it, I'm afraid.
Archaeologists unearth ancient city in Turkey's south-west Aegean province
Ankara, Sept 19: Archaeologists are unearthing the ancient city of Tabea in the Aegean province of Denizli in south-west Turkey.

Governor Hasan Canpolat said excavations have started at three parts of the ancient city in Denizli's Kale district.

Canpolat visited the excavation area with Kale provincial administrator, Ömer Dagdeviren, Kale mayor, Abdullah Karaayvaz, and Denizlli Culture and Tourism provincial director, Mehmet Korkmaz.
Yet another Abu el-Haj article. Some of the comments are worth reading as well.
Archaeology experts 'thrilled' by discoveries
MORE fascinating finds have been unearthed in the second week of a major archaeological project in Fort William.

Experts are "thrilled" by discoveries made in the town's Parade area, while fresh digs at the Old Fort have also uncovered more exciting links to Fort William's military history.
Mystery boy in iron coffin identified
Researchers have solved the mystery of the boy in the iron coffin. The cast-iron coffin was discovered by utility workers in Washington two years ago. Smithsonian scientists led by forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley set about trying to determine who was buried in it, so the body could be placed in a new, properly marked grave.

The body was that of 15-year-old William Taylor White, who died in 1852 and was buried in the Columbia College cemetery, they announced Thursday.

"The mystery of this young boy's life and a strong sense of responsibility to properly identify him kept me and the entire team focused and determined. This was not a one-person project. It took more than three dozen people nearly two years to make the ID," Deborah Hull-Walski, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said in a statement.

That's actually a pretty neat bit of detective work. There's a photo there and it shows how tightly the body was packed into the coffin.
More on the Hobbit wristbones at New Scientist. There's a photo but it's not altogether clear:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Homo hobbitus update Hobbits of Indonesia were different human species
Ever since there has been debate whether or not the bones were actually from pygmies - even today there are pygmies on the island - and not a new species of human that lived between 120,000 and 10,000 years ago. One idea is that they suffered from microcephaly, a disorder that limits brain growth.

Today in the journal Science an analysis of three wrist bones of one of the fossil specimens (called LB1) led by Matthew Tocheri of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and including Prof Morwood and colleagues in Indonesia and America shows that the bones are primitive and shaped differently compared to both the wrist bones of both humans and of Neanderthals, suggesting they do represent a different kind of human.

No comments on it yet.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dept. of unfortunate acronyms SLUT -- Streetcar's unfortunate acronym seems here to stay
There's a story going around South Lake Union, but a spokeswoman for Vulcan, Paul Allen's development company, says it's just an urban legend.

That aside, the story that the neighborhood's streetcar line now under construction was called the South Lake Union Trolley until the powers that be realized the unfortunate acronym -- SLUT -- seems here to stay.

Officially, it's now the South Lake Union Streetcar. But the trolley name already has caught on, and in the old Cascade neighborhood in South Lake Union, they're waiting for the SLUT.

At the Kapow! Coffee house on Harrison Street, they're selling T-shirts that read "Ride the SLUT."

This quote seems fairly typical for around here: "There was a meeting with representatives from the city several years ago," Johnson recalled. "They asked us what we could do for you. Most people raised their hands and said 'affordable housing,' " he said. "Then the people from the city huddled together -- 'whisper, whisper, whisper,' -- and they said, 'How about a trolley?' "

Sad to say, I probably won't ever ride the SLUT. I mean, this SLUT will be like the village bicycle, everybody will have a ride. But then, you don't ride a SLUT just because it would be fun. I don't have much cause to go through that part of town, and so if I did at some point, everyone would know it was only to ride the SLUT. Besides, I'm a pretty experienced rider of these sorts of SLUTs, having ridden some in London and Cairo and Paris often. I'm afraid this SLUT probably won't compare very favorably with those more established ones. Still, a brand new, young SLUT does have a certain allure. Everything's still all nice and clean, the hardware all works, and everyone will be enthusiastic. But youthful enthusiasm only goes so far; sometimes having had a lot of riders makes a SLUT just plain more experienced. You know, one that's been around the block a few times will probably get you going faster and more efficiently. But who knows, I'll find out from other people of this SLUT is worth a ride and maybe I'll end up trying it.

Okay, stopping now.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Philistines! Archeology: Serendipity in the Negev
In late July, archaeologists and students from four universities in three countries - Israel, Germany and Canada - converged on a remote, blisteringly hot hilltop in the northern Negev. Their goal was to perform the first ever archaeological excavation of a Philistine agricultural village, as compared to an urban area or a tel.

"We had a surprise," says co-director Prof. Steve Rosen of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). "Based on prior surveys and test excavations of the site, Qubur al-Walaydah, we believed we'd find a Philistine farming village - an early Iron Age, transitional Bronze Age, farming community. Well, it was there and we found it - with evidence of lots of Philistines. Unfortunately, not much of it was left. It was situated very high up and most of it had been destroyed long ago by plowing."
History Rewritten on Cherokee Collapse
The date of the Cherokee society's collapse is often cited as 1785, when several tribes signed the Treaty of Hopewell and came under the jurisdiction of the new United States of America. Resource scarcity was the major factor in the dissolution, many historians have thought, based on an eyewitness narrative of sparse settlement patterns.

But the Cherokee of the Southeastern United States actually had plenty of land, crops and animals to go around, the new land-usage research indicates. The collapse was more likely instigated by a series of events that occurred over a period of a few decades, said University of Georgia anthropologist Ted Gragson.

He's arguing that it was a series of events including an inability to produce enough through farming because of warfare.
More paleoanth Lost in a Million-Year Gap, Solid Clues to Human Origins
Sometimes the maturity of a field of science can be measured by the heft of its ambition in the face of the next daunting unknown, the mystery yet to be cracked.

Neurobiology probes the circuitry of the brain for the secrets of behaviors and thoughts that make humans human. High-energy physics seeks and may be on the verge of finding the so-called God particle, the Higgs boson thought to endow elementary particles with their mass. Cosmology is confounded by dark matter and dark energy, the pervasive but unidentified stuff that shapes the universe and accelerates its expansion.

In the study of human origins, paleoanthropology stares in frustration back to a dark age from three million to less than two million years ago. The missing mass in this case is the unfound fossils to document just when and under what circumstances our own genus Homo emerged.

Good long article.

UPDATE: Related.
Local historians locate Lake Michigan shipwreck
An Illinois-based group named for a local historian thinks it has found the remains of a ship that once carried escaping slaves to freedom before it was destroyed by slave hunters on the shore of Lake Michigan in Ogden Dunes.

Roger Barski, an underwater photographer and ex-Hollywood lighting technician, presented the findings of the Briggs Project to a spellbound audience of two dozen history buffs at a meeting of the Portage Community Historical Society on Tuesday night.

Barski is a Project leader and a member of the underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago. He served as official photographer for the Kankakee Valley Historical Association's 2005 excavation at the Collier Lodge near Kouts.
New monuments discovered near Luxor temple
A collection of new kingdom pillars, lintels and reliefs were accidentally found by Egyptian restorers from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouk Hosny said Thursday.

The monuments were discovered within the internal walls of Abul Haggag El Loxory mosque, built on top of the open court of Luxor temple during restoration operations, Farouk added.
Hmmmmmmm. . . . Japan's Ancient Underwater "Pyramid" Mystifies Scholars
Submerged stone structures lying just below the waters off Yonaguni Jima are actually the ruins of a Japanese Atlantis—an ancient city sunk by an earthquake about 2,000 years ago.

That's the belief of Masaaki Kimura, a marine geologist at the University of the Ryukyus in Japan who has been diving at the site to measure and map its formations for more than 15 years.

. . .

"The largest structure looks like a complicated, monolithic, stepped pyramid that rises from a depth of 25 meters [82 feet]," said Kimura, who presented his latest theories about the site at a scientific conference in June.

There's a few photos of the underwater site and a couple comparative ones of terrestrial features. One can certainly see how they could appear man-made, but it will take far more conclusive evidence than this.
Treasure trove of Homo erectus found
A trove of the oldest human skeletal bones outside Africa is reported in Nature this week — a find that will help researchers to improve their understanding of the biology of the 1.8-million-year-old hominins.

The work, led by researchers from the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi, describes three-dozen fossils from the skeletons of four primitive Homo erectus individuals found in recent years at Dmanisi in Georgia, central Asia.

H. erectus is thought to have migrated across Asia after coming out of Africa, where the oldest relative of man is traced to nearly 7 million years ago. H. erectus fossils have been found from Africa across Asia as far as Indonesia. Typically there are only a few scattered fossils at one location. A single site with so many bones from so many individuals is rare. And they date back to very soon after H. erectus's exodus from Africa.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Field photos du jour This is actually sort of an update to this post on the Fayum. I have a couple more photos of the northern escarpment. This first one was taken in 1994 from the first escarpment near the western edge of Birket Qarun (the lake) near Qasr Qarun (map here). I went up here because the 1905 maps indicated that there were chert/flint deposits on top of that first bench. This is a view facing back eastwards:

Full image here.

And another from the same spot looking east but a little further south as well:

Full image here.

We came up from the bottom along that wadi going down. Most of it was filled with sand, and about halfway up we spied this little critter:

Full image here.

A desert fox! He's dead center running across.

Lastly, we come to something that illustrates one of the great dangers of archaeology. . .not to life and limb, but. . . .wait, it is to life and limb:

Full image here.

We were driving out to Wadi Rayan which is southwest of the Fayum. It was a nice new road so we were bombing along at like 60 wen we rounded a curve and found that a sand dune had covered most of the road. So the driver swerved and over the embankment we went, rolling over about 3.5 times and ending up as you see there. The only thing I was thinking as we were rolling was "So this is what a real rollover accident looks like. . ."

Nobody was really hurt (odd since seat belts are virtually unused). The horn still worked!
Bronze Age burial site unearthed
A Bronze Age burial site has been unearthed by archaeologists working at a quarry in Cambridgeshire.

The find was made at Pode Hole Quarry, in Thorney, near Peterborough, where a child's skeleton has been uncovered.

Teams had already discovered the 3,500-year-old remains of a man at the quarry, in July.

Archaeologist Andy Richmond said the find was significant as it helped to piece together the history of life on the edge of the Fens.
Abu el-Haj update Columbia Spectator editorial, with comments. Some are worthwhile reading.
Ethics and archaeology Tricky Ethics
Archaeologists have a dark history. Dogged by their 19th century predecessors who thought nothing of essentially looting artifacts, exploiting First Nations people, ignoring laws regarding access to sites and grave robbing, today's archaeologists and anthropologists are still trying to repair their tarnished reputation.

So what to make of the story, recently published in the New York Times, of the "maiden, the boy, [and] the girl of lightning?" These children, ritually sacrificed 500 years ago on a volcano near the border of Chile and Argentina, were removed in 1999 by archaeologists. The cold, dry air in their burial chamber preserved them remarkably well; their features are as recognizable as the last open casket funeral you attended. After several years of extensive study and testing, a decision was made to display "La Doncella," the oldest of the children, at the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology in Salta, Argentina.

Doubtful they'll ever be returned because they'd be looted within a week, probably. Unfortunately, part of archaeology these days is getting the goods out before the looters do. Whether to display them is another issue. Whether to even look for them in the first place -- thus letting potential looters know where the stuff is -- might also be an issue.
Just when you thought personal care had gone everywhere Now comes. . . .Anal bleaching!:
The first thing you need to know about Anal Bleaching is that it is REAL! Anal Bleaching is a growing trend started as a response to waxing salon customers who were concerned that their anal and vaginal areas were dark.

Featured on E! Network's program Dr. 90210 which highlights interesting and unusual cosmetic procedures, a recent episode showcased customer and porn star Tabitha Stevens having the treatment done.

Originally, anal and vaginal lightening was discovered by adult film stars, dancers, models, beauty-concious celebrities and others on the forefront of the waxing trend who were "exposed" and wanted to enhance the appearance of the anal, vaginal and other areas. However, they had to go to special salons and use harsh chemicals that could have potentially harmful side effects. As the popularity of bikini waxing grew, more waxing customers began noticing that their genital areas were darker than normal. It became a genuine concern from regular housewives and people in general. And the requests were coming in more and more.

So there you have it. And y'all thought just brushing your teeth was enough. . . .

Regular archaeological programming will resume shortly.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Cairo. . . .city of the living. . .a paradise on earth" Andie has a post up on houseboats of the Nile. They're apparently becoming a dying breed. Which is kind of a shame because they're probably the most pleasant manner of habitation in Cairo. ARCE maintained a houseboat for visiting guests and the Cairo director for many years, finally abandoning it in the early 1990s. It was a classic 1930s-style thing, just like you see in the movies. You reached it by going down a walkway bounded by a lot of plant life to the boat and then crossed a short gangplank onto the boat. It had bedrooms, an office, kitchen, bathrooms, the whole shebang. It was very quiet, on the west shore just south of the University bridge. I think they called it the Fustat.

I first stayed on it in 1988. The next time I went back, in 1991, it was in a sad state of disrepair. I imagine it must have been expensive to maintain, and it was quite a distance from the main ARCE offices downtown by the Museum. They eventually decided to buy more space in their existing building, refurbish everything with some guestrooms for visitors, and just sell the old houseboat. It's too bad they couldn't have kept it for some purpose because it really was a treat to stay on it. I'll have to dig up some pictures of it if I have any.
Do We Really Know What Makes Us Healthy?
Once upon a time, women took estrogen only to relieve the hot flashes, sweating, vaginal dryness and the other discomforting symptoms of menopause. In the late 1960s, thanks in part to the efforts of Robert Wilson, a Brooklyn gynecologist, and his 1966 best seller, “Feminine Forever,” this began to change, and estrogen therapy evolved into a long-term remedy for the chronic ills of aging. Menopause, Wilson argued, was not a natural age-related condition; it was an illness, akin to diabetes or kidney failure, and one that could be treated by taking estrogen to replace the hormones that a woman’s ovaries secreted in ever diminishing amounts. With this argument estrogen evolved into hormone-replacement therapy, or H.R.T., as it came to be called, and became one of the most popular prescription drug treatments in America.

By the mid-1990s, the American Heart Association, the American College of Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists had all concluded that the beneficial effects of H.R.T. were sufficiently well established that it could be recommended to older women as a means of warding off heart disease and osteoporosis. By 2001, 15 million women were filling H.R.T. prescriptions annually; perhaps 5 million were older women, taking the drug solely with the expectation that it would allow them to lead a longer and healthier life. A year later, the tide would turn. In the summer of 2002, estrogen therapy was exposed as a hazard to health rather than a benefit, and its story became what Jerry Avorn, a Harvard epidemiologist, has called the “estrogen debacle” and a “case study waiting to be written” on the elusive search for truth in medicine.

Many explanations have been offered to make sense of the here-today-gone-tomorrow nature of medical wisdom — what we are advised with confidence one year is reversed the next — but the simplest one is that it is the natural rhythm of science. An observation leads to a hypothesis. The hypothesis (last year’s advice) is tested, and it fails this year’s test, which is always the most likely outcome in any scientific endeavor. There are, after all, an infinite number of wrong hypotheses for every right one, and so the odds are always against any particular hypothesis being true, no matter how obvious or vitally important it might seem.

I post this in part because it's a good article and explains in good laymen's terms many of the problems with epi research, and because it goes into why most research is probably wrong (though see a counter argument here). Gold standards are tough to come by, even case-controlled double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials. Definitely read the whole thing closely, even when it gets a bit techy.

Ought to provide a corrective to much thinking in archaeology when what is itself a "gold standard" research methodology is called into broad question; and archaeologists usually have more problems with sample size and representativeness, and far less control over measurement adequacy.

I like to think we're somewhat more immune to "consensus" thinking, given that finding consensus on nearly anything is virtually impossible anyway, given the rebelliousness of anthropologists in general. Even when "Clovis First" was something one might be considered "consensus", by far the majority of archaeologists would readily concede that it was only so because evidence of previous habitations weren't there (of course, there were rebels on both sides, some arguing that the standards of evidence were too high, others that they were too low). But still, I would argue that what consensus there was had more to do with data absence than presence. The same strictures would apply to Overkill, though outside of archaeology proper, it's probably "consensus" that humans killed off the megafauna.

Some of this isn't strictly applicable to the archaeological question, obviously; you wouldn't need a large sample of pre-Clovis sites to demonstrate pre-Clovis occupation, just one that was securely dated. On the converse, a hundred poorly dated sites don't add up to one good one. But the correlation <> causation warning should probably be given far more credence that it usually is.

Eh, that's going a bit far afield. It's a good article.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Field photos du jour These are from a little side trip I took to the Fayum in 1991 while doing other work in the valley of the Kings. The area is the northern part of the depression near the Qasr el-Sagha temple. This s a photo of the temple:

Full photo here.

It's kind of a funny little temple. Its construction has been variously described as Old or Middle Kingdom and most often thought to be dedicated to Sobek. The blocks making up the structure are of various sizes and shapes and fit together without mortar.

But that's not what this post is about. The temple sits at the base of a spectacular series of cliffs known as the Qasr el-Sagha escarpment. The northern rim of the depression is lined with escarpments of late Eocene (ca. 33.7-40 mya) and Oligocene (33.7 to 23.8 mya) age. The Qasr el-Sagha Formation is probably one of the most extensively studied of the Tertiary sequences in the Fayum, partly because of the escarpment (QeS is the formation's type site) and also because it is the equivalent of the Upper Mokattam (Ma’adi Formation) beds of the Gebel Mokattam near Cairo which also forms spectacular cliffs there.

Full photo here.

The formation itself is around 200m thick and is made up of a series of alternating crossbedded sand, sandstones, clays, marls, and limestones with abundant Ostrea, Carolia, and Turritella, along with numerous vertebrate species (Beadnell 1905:50-51). The environment throughout most of the sequence was a nearshore and estuarine or delta environment or as Bown and Kraus put it, a "retreat of shallow seas coupled with a concomitant advance of lagoonal and lowland coastal alluvial plain envronments" (Bown and Krauss 1988:48). The specific section here was probably a marine bar or estuary, perhaps lagoonal or the lee side of barrier islands. The temple member, shown above is one of the shallow (<20m) nearshore environments. A closeup of part of the formation:

Full photo here.

reveals the base of one stratum containing numerous burrow casts. Traversing up the various escarpments is geology at its finest, where one is able to note the changing environments and fossil contents with almost every step.

Beadnell, H. J. L. (1905). The topography and geology of the Fayum Province of Egypt. Cairo., National Printing Department.

Bown, T. M. and M. J. Kraus (1988). Geology and paleoenvironment of the Oligocene Gebel Qatrani Formation and adjacent rocks, Fayum Depression, Egypt. Washington, United States Government Printing Office.
Caves reveal thousands of years of history
While scrambling around on Huxley Island doing an archeological survey in August, grad student Jenny Storey made an exciting discovery - a new cave under the roots of a blown down tree. Upon entering the cave she found an ancient stone knife blade lying on top of bare rock. "A drip of water coming down from the cave roof had washed away the dirt and exposed the knife blade," said Daryl Fedje, Parks Canada coastal archeologist and leader of a team working on a project to uncover evidence that people inhabited Haida Gwaii more than 14,000 years ago. "It is in an area that was surveyed before but a tree blew down and under the roots was the cave."
Ancient Scots Mummified Their Dead
The ancient Egyptians were not the only ones to mummify their dead, according to a study in this month's Antiquity Journal that claims prehistoric Scottish people created mummies too.

The researchers do not think the Egyptians influenced the Scots, but that mummification arose independently in the two regions.

Initial evidence for Scottish mummies was announced in 2005, when archaeologists unearthed three preserved bodies — an adult female, an adult male and an infant — buried underneath two Bronze Age roundhouses in South Uist, Hebrides, at a site called Cladh Hallan. The bodies date to between 1300 and 1500 B.C.

Interesting. Maybe that's what bog bodies are: "Where'd we put him again?"
Hedgehogs on menu for ancient Brits
A meal of hedgehog or stinging nettle sounds like a recipe for the world's worst mouth ulcer. However, these were once the ingredients of choice in Britain.

The country's 10 oldest recipes were unveiled yesterday, following extensive research into the history of Britain's eating habits.

Nettle pudding, which dates back to 6000BC, was declared the oldest recorded recipe in the study from the Food Science department of the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff.
Settlers' history rewritten: go back 30,000 years
It is the oldest evidence yet found of humans occupying what is now metropolitan Sydney. Aboriginal burial sites at Lake Mungo, in south-western NSW, have been dated at 40,000 years, The archaeologist who led the dig, Jo McDonald, said the previous oldest evidence of human habitation around Sydney had been found in the Blue Mountains (14,700 years), at Kurnell (12,500), and near the old Tempe House on the Cooks River (10,700).

"We have always thought that humans arrived much earlier in Sydney, having made their way down the coast from northern Australia and moving inland up major rivers like the Hawkesbury and Parramatta rivers. But most of that earlier occupation evidence was drowned on the coastal plain when the sea level rose to its current height around 7000 years ago."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Blogging update Comment moderation turned back on for a bit. We've gotten a couple of spams from 'Celia' so I'm going to nip it in the bud.

Friday, September 14, 2007

NAGPRA. Again. Archaeology is a necessary science
These enthusiastic visitors, and more than 1,000 students in local schools who every year visit the campus archaeology center or are visited by graduate students committed to serving the public, would be surprised to learn, as Corbin Collins' asserted ("Who owns the past?" Open Forum, Sept. 5) that archaeology is "luxury endeavor for a limited audience." They might even question whether the most relevant standard is whether the pursuit of knowledge will "cure disease, prevent global warming or solve other problems of vital consequence," a standard that would rule out all but utilitarian research.

And if they did agree with this characterization, they would be completely wrong, because archaeology today makes a profound emotional impact on the public.

It's an Op-Ed piece, apparently in response to this Op-Ed piece (note to newspapers: PROVIDE LINKS). The latter is largely polemical, so I won't comment on it (much).

Archaeology has generally had a touch time justifying its existence. True, we haven't traditionally had a lot of immediate relevance and the examples provided are only a few of the relatively slim pickings available. It's been changing though, what with increasing genetic and biochemical tests that are now available on ancient remains, be they human or other. Archaeologists are probably on much firmer ground when they adopt a rigourous scientific methodology as their primary explanatory model, since logical and empirical falsifiability remains one of the great equalizers in civil discourse.

We ought to be careful what we wish for. I don't think anyone wants North American archaeology to be so politically involved that we end up like a bunch of Israelis and Palestinians trading charges of conducting bad archaeology for political purposes. Again, maintaining rigorous scientific standards will go a long way towards alleviating those sorts of concerns.
Hopefully a car-blogging post

I don't know if this link is going to work or not, but here goes: In Defense of Ugly Cars
In the last few weeks, there have been a flurry of related articles about cars--more specifically, what the authors are calling "ugly cars" or "nerd cars."

The prime offender is this BusinessWeek article, which publishes reader comments trashing cars like the Yugo, the Chevette, and the Gremlin.

Witness quotes such as "Absolute garbage BEFORE it was built" about the Chevette, and "You couldn't get scrap-metal money even if it was running" about the Yugo.

All of that is true--but it misses the mark. Not because those cars aren't terrible, but because their terribleness makes them interesting. At the very least, they're not boring.

We now live in a world of near-universal automotive excellence. Exotics abound. More common sports coupes and sedans perform like supercars of past years. Family sedans boast 250 horsepower--all while modern technology marries decent fuel mileage and emissions with this scorching performance.

Even subcompacts are depressingly competent. I've driven the Chevy Aveo and Kia Spectra, both of which look on paper as if they are terrible cars. Neither are.

This is all tremendously exciting, I suppose, but I miss the terrible cars.

It's a nice little article, although one could certainly find disagreement in it. I think he's perfectly right in claiming that we "live in a world of near-universal automotive excellence". Even a humble bottom-of-the-line Honda Civic is quieter, handles better, and has a better suspension than my old Mustang. Styling is, of course, another issue altogether. But really, this is a golden age of automobiles. We have a raft of small, excellent roadsters (Solstice, Miata, etc.), big-ass powerful sedans (Chrysler 300 and Charger, anything from BMW, Audi, etc.), small, fuel-efficient sedans and coupes, and everything in between. Heck, 300+ horsepower is not that hard to find, nor is it expensive or abominably fuel-inefficient.

Still, a point or two. First, one should indeed judge these older cars by their peers. For example, it's been said often enough that the Mustang II wasn't anything like the classics of the '60s and early '70s (or like today's either), but in its time it stacked up pretty well and in a LOT of ways was a far better car than the originals. Matter of fact, a lot of those later-'70s cars drove a whole lot better than the ones that came before.

Many even compared favorably with the new Japanese models coming in. Let's face it: you hardly see any of the original Honda Civics or Accords because they rusted out almost as soon as you drove them off the lot.

Besides, most people have pretty good memories of their youth and, as the linked articles in that one imply, a lot of them are starting to increase in value simply because of their rarity and the fond memories people have of that time. I had an old blue AMC Hornet that I still have fond memories of just because I drove it in high school and college.

So, you know, go out and bid on some of these things. Increase the prices dramatically. Especially 1978 Mustang IIs. MAKE ME RICH, DAMN IT.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

'nother non-archy post I'll take this opportunity to plug a forum I post to a lot: The Perfect World. It started after some rebels jumped ship from Salon's 'Table Talk' a few years ago. I was a charter member of TT, having followed Marybeth Williams over from the C|Net forums (I even had my own Harem!) and stayed there from, oh, about 1996 to early 2002(?) whenever they went pay-to-play. Perfect World (or TPW) had several of the nerds that I hung out with at TT. People may or may not like the forum software, but I do. It's more of the conversational style than a nested list.

Anyway, it's not only entertaining, but not chock full o' posters who hit the keyboard every five minutes with their latest political revelation like lab monkeys on crack. I use it a lot for getting answers to nerdy questions, from statistics to American history to evaluations of published psych papers. Or how to bake the perfect loaf of bread! Feel free to check it out, and make sure to buy stuff through the affiliates.
Non-archaeology story I wanted to pass this story along:
It's a familiar story, of course, because the headlines have been flooded with the so-far-unsuccessful search for millionaire aviator Steve Fossett, who took to the air Sept. 1 and remains missing in northern Nevada.

But this one isn't a week old; it happened 43 years ago. And the massive hunt for Fossett may help resolve the enduring mystery surrounding Charles Ogle, then 41, who lifted off from Oakland in August 1964 but vanished en route to Reno.

The search for Fossett across a 17,000-square-mile swath of the Sierra Nevada has revealed the wreckage of eight other small planes that had never, until now, been discovered. And each of those crash sites holds clues to the fates of other fliers who went missing in what is starting to look like the Bermuda Triangle of the western United States.

No real comments, I just found it to be fascinating. None of the wrecks have apparently been examined on the ground. Odd that hikers haven't found these things yet. Hope for DB Cooper yet!
Powerful x-ray to unravel fragile Dead Sea scrolls
Ancient writings from the Dead Sea scrolls are to be read for the first time by British scientists using powerful x-rays.

The team will examine rare and unread fragments of the scrolls, which are believed to shed light on how the texts came to be written in caves along the north-west coast of the sea nearly 2,000 years ago.

The technique will give scientists from Cardiff University a first opportunity to read ancient texts considered too fragile to open.
Cat (dead) blogging Ancient Egyptians Mummified Their Cats With Utmost Care
Examination of Egyptian mummies has shown that animals such as cats and crocodiles were given a far more careful and expensive trip to the afterlife than previously thought.

The mummification process, which was crucial to the ancient Egyptians so their bodies survived and they could become immortal, is being investigated by Dr Stephen Buckley at the University of York. He was speaking on September 11, 2007 at the BA Festival of Science.

His work uses modern chemistry techniques to look at exactly what was used to mummify humans and animals.

No comment.
Native Americans and Subsistence in the Great Plains of North America 10,000 Years Ago
When the ancestors of today’s Native American, Alaskan Natives, and First Nation peoples migrated to the North American continent, the variety and types of animals encountered were very different than those of northeast Asia. In North America these early migrants had to learn how to hunt and subsist not only in a new land, but also on new plants and animals. Yet, as is well established, these early Native Americans were excellent innovators, and shortly after migrating to North America had learned how to flourish in their new land. What these early Native Americans hunted, how they moved across the land, and what their general lifeway pattern looked like has always been of interest to archaeologists, anthropologists, and others researching the peopling of the Americas. To investigate these questions, researchers have come up with several ingenious methods, one of which is called “prey choice.” Prey choice is the examination and analysis of the animals found in archaeological sites (the prey) in order to gain insights into the diet, subsistence technologies, and general lifeway patterns (the choice) of these early Native Americans.

It's actually a pretty good summary of the evolution of views on Paleoindian subsistence.
Neanderthal update New evidence on the role of climate in Neanderthal extinction
The research was led by Professor Chronis Tzedakis, a palaeoecologist at the University of Leeds, who explained: �Until now, there have been three limitations to understanding the role of climate in the Neanderthal extinction: uncertainty over the exact timing of their disappearance; uncertainties in converting radiocarbon dates to actual calendar years; and the chronological imprecision of the ancient climate record.�

The team�s novel method � mapping radiocarbon dates of interest directly onto a well-dated palaeoclimate archive � circumvented the last two problems, providing a much more detailed picture of the climate at the possible times of the Neanderthal disappearance.

More here. The upshot is that they looked at three dates for the disappearance of Neanders, and none of them corresponded to dates of climatic instability or rapid change. It's only in one site, however.
Piecing together the past
Exchanging a shirt and tie for dirt-covered clothes and sunscreen, and trading in pens and Power Point for trowels and survey equipment, Towson professor Bob Wall doesn't have the typical college professor job description.

Wall, who teaches anthropology classes part-time, has been working at an excavation site in Allegany County since 1993, digging up artifacts from as early as the Ice Age.

"This site is an archaeologist's dream site. There is no shortage of research questions to look at and things to explore," Wall said.

Kind of an Archaeology 101 article. Sounds like a neat site though.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Really, it's not a joke Why did the monkey pee on his feet?
It may seem strange, but many monkeys wash their hands and feet with urine. Researchers now think they know why.

Since this odd behaviour was first observed, explanatory theories have varied wildly from suggesting that it helps monkeys improve their grip when climbing to saying it is a method of cleaning.

Aha, but wait. . . .

Miller and her team noticed a link between urine washing and attention-seeking.

Alpha males, for example, doubled their urine washing rates when being solicited by females. The researchers think this might be how males encourage females to continue paying attention once they've started.

I might try that next time I'm out.

The sad part is, it would probably not hurt. . . . .
Inca mummy update Here's a longer NY Times article on the "Inca maiden" from this post.
Clear Blogging: How People Blogging Are Changing the World and How You Can Join Them
Almost overnight, blogging has become a social, political, and business force to be reckoned with. Your fellow students, workers, and competitors are joining the blogosphere--and making money, influencing elections, getting hired, growing market share, and having fun--to the tune of 8,000 new bloggers a day.

Clear Blogging sets out to answer in nontechnical terms what blogging has to offer and why and how you should blog. If you've never read a blog, but you keep hearing that term on the news, Clear Blogging will show you why blogging has shaken up mainstream media, and how a blogger can end up on CNN.

1) I've already been on CNN.

2) I just do it for the chicks anyway.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The best piece of music ever written? Yeah, yeah, an unanswerable question, but I pose it thus anyway. Certainly one of the lesser-known classics and probably one of the best pieces most of you have never heard of: Allegri's Miserere:
With its soaring soprano parts (sung for centuries by castrati) and compelling melodic style, the work enjoyed almost immediate popularity. So impressed was some subsequent pope that the work thereafter was protected and a prohibition was placed on its use outside the Sistine Chapel at the appointed time. Chapel regulations forbid its transcription; indeed, the prohibition called for excommunication for anyone who sought to copy the work. In spite of this, by 1770 three copies were known to exist. One was owned by the King of Portugal; another was in the possession of the distinguished composer, pedagogue, and theoretician Padre Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784); and a third was kept in the Imperial Library in Vienna.

Video and sound:

I only really discovered it about ten years ago, though I had heard it on classical radio here a couple of times before. I suppose stating something like "it's the best" is bound to cause endless arguments, but it remains one of my absolute favorites. It's not complex; mostly it's the same basic stuff repeated a few times. That's the most common complaint I've read about it. Then again, since when does good = complex?

But it captures. . .something so well. It soothes, it inspires, it's sad and reflective and joyous, melancholy, hopeful, uplifting and glorious all at the same time. If I could, I'd have it sung at my funeral. If I could take my last breath as the last note of it fades away I would surely enter the next world complete.

My favorite recording thus far is on the Gimell label, sung by the Tallis Scholars (also on this CD, which I would link to except that Amazon is refusing to load, is Palestrina and Mundy, both also excellent works). Also try anything by Victoria, and Anonymous 4 does a fabu "100: A Mass for the end of time."
And here's a bit longer article on the Oseberg longboat burials.
Gotland and Easter islands struggle to preserve heritage
You might not think that a small island in the Baltic could have much in common with even smaller islands in the Pacific. But when it comes to archaeological heritage, there are plenty of issues to share. Approaches to research and conservation, of course. But also, and increasingly, how to protect landscapes rich in ancient artifacts from the onslaught of tourism.

Landscape was an essential underlying theme at the 7th International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific held last month on Gotland, a 4,500-square-kilometer, or 1,740-square-mile, landmass a 3-hour ferry ride from the Swedish coast.

"While every monument is individual, we need to take into account the connections between them. How they came about, and what they signify. That's what we mean by landscape," explained Paul Wallin, associate professor of archaeology at Gotland University.

I doubt Easter Island would have been nearly so mysterious and popular had the Moai statues been presented with their hats on. . . .

Medieval women 'had girl power'
"We found women running priories, commissioning books, taking early package tours to visit the Holy Land," she said.

She added women were also defending their property and property rights.

Dr Niebrzydowski's research involving middle aged women in the middle ages will be discussed at a conference at the university on Wednesday.

The medievalist at Bangor's Institute of Early and Modern Studies, studied legal records, literature and songs to build up a picture of life for women between the 12th and 15th Centuries.

First thing I thought was that a lot of them were widowed, which is something brought up in the article. I'd wager you'd find much the same thing elsewhere and at other periods.
Prehistoric find located beneath the waves
Archaeologists have discovered traces of Switzerland’s oldest known building, but it will never draw tourists: it lies underwater in the middle of a lake.

Since it was made of wood scientists used dendrochronology – the technique of dating by tree rings – to give a precise figure of 3863 BC.

The find in Lake Biel, northwest of the Swiss capital, Bern, was described as “sensational” by Albert Hafner, who is in charge of underwater archaeology in the region.
In Lebanon DNA may yet heal rifts
"Whenever I use the word 'Phoenician', people say 'this guy is trying to say we are not Arabs'," said Zalloua, himself a Christian. But after five years of research, the scientist says his work has shown what Lebanese have in common. "We had a great history -- let's look at it," he said.

The genetic marker which identifies descendants of the ancient Levantines is found among members of all of Lebanon's religious communities, he said. "It's a story that can actually unite Lebanon much more than anything else."

The marker, known as the J2 haplogroup, was found in an unusually high proportion among Lebanese, Palestinians and Syrians tested by Zalloua during more than five years of research. He tested 1,000 people in the region.

I'm not seeing the specific proportion in the Lebanese population that have the J2. Interesting piece though.
More on the Jerusalem tunnel.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Heh Shortcuts: How to make it as an archaeologist
Following news that archaeologists in Rome have discovered a sarcophagus containing what they believe to be the mortal remains of St. Paul the Apostle, we offer a few tips on how to get in on the world of excavation.

Forget the bull whip

It might have got Indiana Jones out of a scrape or two, but then Indiana Jones has little if anything to do with real archaeology. Excavators these days are far more likely to be armed with a theodolite and laptop than a whip and pistol, so if you are working on the assumption that archaeology = glamour you're going to be sorely disappointed. Mind you, if you find yourself digging somewhere hot then an Indiana Jones Fedora might come in useful.

Not bad (though I prefer a hardhat to a fedora; more air circulation). I like the "trowel fodder", too.
Lost civilzation drain segment. . . .found Historical drain segment found in Israel
The Israel Antiquities Authority Sunday found a nearly 230-foot-long segment of a historical drain system in Jerusalem.

Archaeologists found the drain section between Jerusalem's Temple Mount and the Pool of Siloam. It is thought to be part of a lengthy drain system that reached from Jerusalem to the Kidron River, Haaretz reported.

The drain system is thought to have cleared rainwater from numerous regions in and around the Israeli capital before A.D. 70.
Grave Transcribing—Urban Archaeology At Its Best
Reed and a team of Toronto Branch volunteers are currently working on the 89,000 graves located in St. James cemetery in Cabbagetown. After six years labouring, the hardworking group has managed to transcribe half of the cemetery—but it is clear these urban archaeologists have their work cut out for them.

Working in bi-weekly shifts from April to October, Toronto Branch volunteers work from a record of the cemetery’s plots which provides a sense of who was buried when and where. However, despite having this rough guide with them, stones are often difficult to find or missing entirely.

Surprisingly, the hardest part of the job is not in the transcribing but “finding one that’s deep and digging it the heck out!” Reed says. For this physical hurdle, OGS volunteers depend on a host of tools to help them including heavy duty probes, edgers, spades, and trowels.

More cemetery archaeology! I've wondered about this while wandering a cemetery nearby: there are a lot of older stones that are barely legible now and in another hundred years will no doubt be completely barren of text. Trouble is, there's probably little money in it.

A TV archaeologist is to probe the history of Fort William, it was announced yesterday.

Dr Tony Pollard, who presented BBC Two's Two Men In A Trench, will head a team of experts aiming to reveal how the town helped shape the modern Highlands.

A group of volunteers will help with the dig in the town's Parade and Old Fort areas.

Dr Pollard, of Glasgow University, said: "There has been little opportunity to look at the growth of towns in the Highlands but Fort William provides that.
This has been making the rounds of various blogs: Viking queen exhumed to solve mystery
Archaeologists exhumed the body of a Viking queen on Monday, hoping to solve a riddle about whether a woman buried with her 1,200 years ago was a servant killed to be a companion into the afterlife.

As a less gruesome alternative, the two women in the grass-covered Oseberg mound in south Norway might be a royal mother and daughter who died of the same disease and were buried together in 834.

"We will do DNA tests to try to find out. I don't know of any Viking skeletons that have been analyzed as we plan to do," Egil Mikkelsen, director of Oslo's Museum of Cultural History, told Reuters at the graveside.

They're planning on doing more than just DNA testing.
Indiana Jones IV update True? False? Who knows, but I feel obligated to pass on the rumor: Shia LaBeouf Leaks 'Indiana Jones' Fourth Title At VMAs
"If adventure has a name ... it must be Indiana Jones," a publicity campaign announced in 1984. Now we know that the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones series has a name, and it will be "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

Shia LaBeouf, one of the franchise's new castmembers, announced the title of the much-hyped, long-awaited flick in dramatic fashion at MTV's Video Music Awards. . .In addition to the winning name, there was "Indiana Jones and the City of Gods," "Indiana Jones and the Destroyer of Worlds," "Indiana Jones and the Fourth Corner of the Earth," "Indiana Jones and the Lost City of Gold," and "Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Covenant."

That's the only part of the VMAs I will comment upon. Mainly because, you know, I don't watch them.
Blogging update

No, you are correct, there was no posting Sunday. Why, you ask? Was there little news anywhere of archaeological import? Did the Great Internet Crash finally occur, depriving the world of news that we all so desperately need?

No, your host was recovering from a porn binge.

Football porn, that is. Did you know that on the west coast college football starts at 9 am? And that it will usually continue until almost midnight? So my day was:
9-11 am: West Virginia vs Marshall and Oklahoma vs Miami
11 am - 5 pm: Watching Washington defeat Boise State.
5 - 7 pm: FLipping between Penn State/Notre Dame (yay!) and South Carolina/Georgia (yay!).
7 pm - Wisconsin/UNLV and Arizona State/Colorado.

Gawd. Whether it was that or something else, I couldn't get to sleep Saturday night and then woke up at 4 the next morning and never got back to sleep.

Good day altogether, for me anyway. Washington looked pretty good, although the offense sputtered in the second half. I don't know, I'm thinking maybe they ought to get rid of the offensive coordinator, Lappano. He seems very good at diagnosing problems, but they still haven't done much in the way of fixing them. Were it not for the new QB, Locker, they'd be floundering around like they have been for the last few years. Ohio State will have their hands full though. The stadium was CROWDED, more so than any time in the recent past. Partly, I think, because Boise State fans showed up in droves (good fans, too. Even the Husky people more or less behaved themselves).

Note regarding cheerleaders: At halftime, the UW ones always come over to the visiting team's squad and bring them treats or something, talk, take pictures, etc. I like that. I haven't been in other stadiums too often; does this happen elsewhere?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Antiquities market update Cultural heritage: Whose deep sea treasure is it really?
The United Nations 2001 convention on protecting underwater cultural heritage was right to oppose the plundering of sunken archaeological treasures for profit. Unfortunately, only 15 countries have ratified the agreement, and the plundering has begun.

In what may become the biggest underwater find ever, Odyssey Marine Explorations, a commercial operation from Tampa, Florida, has reportedly hauled 17 tons of gold and silver from a ship widely believed to be the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes that was sunk by a British warship off the coast of Portugal in October 1804.

The company claims ownership of its find. And, of course, Spain is hiring lawyers and preparing its legal claim to the trove, claiming a sovereign nation's right over its cultural heritage.

Yet another twist! Peru is also staking a claim because the ship contains stuff taken from their country. That is noted as kind of dubious because Peru ddn't exist as a country at the time. Still, it makes it rather analogous to other claims of antiquities.
Mummy update

Bog Mummies Yield Secrets: Prof's Research in National Geographic
Physical anthropologists draw conclusions from the eerily preserved hair, leathery skin and other features that emerge from the bogs. During the Iron Age from approximately 500BC to 500AD, bodies were often cremated, often leading experts to believe that mummies uniquely preserved by the bogs were people who met their demise through particularly violent means or were used as sacrifices, although there are numerous possible other explanations. A violent demise was thought to be the case for a mummy known as Windeby Girl, studied by Dr. Gill-Robinson. Discovered in northern Germany in 1952, experts thought she may have been an adulteress whose head was shaved, after which she was blindfolded and drowned in the bog.

As noted in the National Geographic article, “the theory unraveled after Heather Gill-Robinson of North Dakota State University took a close look at the body … Windeby Girl was likely a young man” and may have lost his hair when archaeologists’ trowels dug up the body. The article further notes that physical examination of the mummy showed that growth interruptions in the bones of the specimen indicated a sick young man who may have died from natural causes.

Link in this one to a NG article on bog mummies in general. Interesting how they say she was "likely" a young man.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Widely held beliefs about early Cherokee settlement patterns likely incorrect, according to two new studies, says University of Georgia anthropologist
The new research focuses on the year 1721, which is the first point after the earliest contact between the Cherokee and the British but before major economic and social changes the tribe underwent in the late Colonial and early American periods.

Researchers had believed for more than a century that one reason for the towns’ ultimate demise was a steadily declining abundance of natural resources. In particular, the trade of deerskins from the Cherokee to the British for goods increased dramatically as the eighteenth century progressed. Many who studied the settlement patterns deduced that the distance between towns was because of natural resource limitations.

The new studies, using historical data, mathematical models and statistical inference, imply that an overall lack of natural resources was never the problem, with the possible exception of deer, as the 1800s approached. The new information may help explain subsequent settlement patterns in the South as well.
Archaeology Takes Flight as Teams Up With Albatross Aerial Photography, the world's only photo and video bank devoted entirely to archaeology has teamed up with Albatross Aerial Photography to add aerial photos and video to their already comprehensive library.

. . .

Currently offers 180,000 archeological photos and 6,400 video for sites from around the Mediterranean including Greece, Israel, Turkey, and Italy. With the addition Albatross they now offer aerial photos and videos for Greece, Israel and Malta. The two companies will now work together on future projects bringing both their archeological and aerial expertise to expand the every growing media bank.

Just a PR release. There's a link to the company site though, and they have some of their photos online to look at. Not full size, and they all have a watermark on them, but they're previewable.
A New Palaeolithic Revolution
For decades archaeologists have rightly respected the Neolithic period c. 8500 BC as a revolutionary era of the most profound change, when the wiring of mankind’s brain shifted from transient hunter-gathering to permanent settlement in farming communities. Hearths, temples, articulated burials, whistling ‘wheat’ fields and security replaced the uncertain ravages of seasonal running with the pack. Or so stereotypes maintain.

Now, from the remote shores of Budrinna on Lake Fezzan in Libya, and Melka Konture on the banks of the River Awash in Ethiopia, a series of stunning discoveries are set to challenge the originality of the Neolithic Revolution. After 39 years of surveys and excavations, Professor Helmut Ziegert of Hamburg University presents his results as a world exclusive in Minerva (pp. 8-9). In both African locations he has discovered huts and sedentary village life dating between an astonishing 400,000 and 200,000 Before Present - if correct, literally a quantum leap in our understanding of man’s evolution.

Yeah, that would definitely be exceptional, all right. . . . .
Cannibalism update 'Battle rage' fed Maori cannibalism
Pre-European Maori practised cannibalism but not to consume a dead enemy's mana, says a historian and author.

Professor Paul Moon, who is writing a book on cannibalism, believes the practice had more to do with what he calls "post-battle rage".

In his inaugural address as a professor at Auckland University of Technology he said some believe cannibalism never took place in New Zealand.

Too difficult to tell from the article what the basis for it is, so I shan't offer up any critique.
Mummified Inca maiden wows crowds
A mummy of an Inca girl, described as "perfect" by the archaeologists who found her in 1999, has gone on display for the first time in Argentina.

Hundreds of people crowded into a museum in the north-western city of Salta to see "la Doncella", the Maiden.

The remains of the girl, who was 15 when she died, were found in an icy pit on top of a volcano in the Andes, along with a younger boy and girl.

Same one that caused a stir a few years ago. There's a bit of controversy noted about indigenous groups protesting (? criticizing at least) it.