Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ancient Greenland mystery has a simple answer, it seems
The Greenland Norse colonized North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus "discovered" it, establishing farms in the sheltered fjords of southern Greenland, exploring Labrador and the Canadian Arctic, and setting up a short-lived outpost in Newfoundland.

But by 1450, they were gone, posing one of history's most intriguing mysteries: What happened to the Greenland Norse?

There are many theories: They were starved off by a cooling climate, wiped out by pirates or Inuit hunters, or perhaps blended into Inuit society as their own came unglued.

Now scientists are pretty sure they have the answer: They simply up and left.

"When the climate deteriorated, and their way of life became more difficult, they did what people have done throughout the ages: They looked for a more opportune place to live," says Niels Lynnerup, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark who studies the Norse.

I didn't think there were any real competing hypotheses.
Mark Rose (of Archaeology magazine sends this link on the Hierakonpolis project (via The EEF.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Maya Politics Likely Played Role In Ancient Large-game Decline
A University of Florida study is the first to document ancient hunting effects on large-game species in the Maya lowlands of Central America, and shows political and social demands near important cities likely contributed to their population decline, especially white-tailed deer.

Additional evidence from Maya culture and social structure at the end of the Classic period (approximately 250 to 800 A.D) strongly supports this assertion.

“We’re finding declines specifically in large-game species, and particularly in the species that were politically and socially important to the Maya,” Emery said. “The politically powerful elite Maya had preferential access to large game, and white-tailed deer were especially important to the Maya as food and for their symbolic power.”
NAGPRA update This link to a Nature article is sub-only so most of you can't read it. I'll excerpt a bit:
Anthropologists lobby to retain Native Indian skeletons for study.

Alarm is growing among anthropologists in the United States over a plan that could empty institutions of about 120,000 human skeletons currently stored for research purposes.

Under a new proposal, the bones at museums, universities and federal facilities across the nation could be given to Native American tribes now living in the area from which the remains were excavated, even if the skeletons are not culturally identifiable to the tribes. In October, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) programme, the agency that oversees the handling of American Indian remains, opened a 90-day comment period on the proposal.

It would affect ancient skeletons similar to the Kennewick Man specimen from Washington state. Scientists won a long court battle to keep that 9,000-year-old skeleton for study after attempts to give it to tribes for likely disposal.

This is the first I've heard of this. I can't imagine it will ever be implemented since it specifically goes against the specific wording of NAGPRA which pretty clearly specifies that the will of Congress was to repatriate remains with cearly identifiable relationships to existing tribes. I can't imagine that no suits would be filed within a half-second of its attempted implementation:
“The rules would be disastrous,” says Phillip Walker, an anthroplogist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A former member of NAGPRA's seven-person review committee, Walker helped prepare the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) comments.

Comments are pretty typical with the usual moaning about peoples' "relatives" sitting in museums, others decrying Indian conspiracies, etc.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chinese archaeologists prepare to open 2,200-year-old coffin
Chinese archaeologists are preparing to open a 2,200-year-old, well-preserved coffin in central China's Hubei Province, which may contain large amounts of silk fabrics.

A detailed plan is being drawn up to open the coffin, excavated in the Xiejiaqiao No. 1 Tomb dating back to about 200 B.C. in Jingzhou City, said Yan Pin, director of Jingzhou Cultural Heritage Bureau.

The coffin was transported to a storehouse in the Jingzhou City Museum where archaeologists will open it on Thursday if everything goes well, Yan told Xinhua.
Russian archaeologists find unique mummies in Egypt
Russian archaeologists have found well-preserved mummies in Egypt dating to the country's Ptolemaic era, the head of the Russian Academy of Science's Egyptology department announced on Tuesday.

"Well-preserved mummies of this period are extremely rare," Galina Belova said.

The discoveries were made in the Egyptian oasis of Al-Fayum, where several mummies, combining traits of Hellenic and Egyptian traditions, have previously been found.
Trip through history paves road for future
he young men and women toiling in jeans, bandannas and cargo pants to the side of Ga. 372 in Cherokee County look more like hikers or a Grateful Dead audience than road-builders. Their metal detectors and dirt sifters hanging from bamboo tripods look more like camping gear than the tools of transportation.

The workers are archaeologists, and under federal law, they are as critical to laying asphalt as the machines that make a roadbed or laborers who spread tar.

Georgia's $1 billion-plus a year of federal road-building money hinges on their ability to preserve historical sites before the asphalt hits the ground.
Underwater archaeologists explore wreck from Spanish expedition to Florida Panhandle
When Matthew Kuehne dives to the sandy bottom of Pensacola Bay, he reaches back 450 years to Spaniard Don Tristan de Luna's hurricane-doomed effort to form the first colony in the present-day United States.

Archaeologists say the buried hull of a ship from de Luna's fleet of 11 ships holds crucial clues to the 1559 expedition that sailed from Mexico to Florida's Panhandle. That was six years before another Spanish explorer, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, founded St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the United States.

The ship's discovery was announced in October after lead sheeting and pottery from the wreck site were matched to the de Luna expedition. Another ship in the fleet was found nearby in 1992.
Reburial of Bones at Cinnamon Bay on Hold Pending Hassell Island Work
The excavation of a grave for the reinterment of centuries-old human remains found at Cinnamon Bay over the past several years has temporarily taken a back seat to a large project which is keeping V.I. National Park Archaeologist Ken Wild busy — the restoration of Hassell Island.

An historic floor of the kitchen of a 17th-century house was discovered at the original Cinnamon Bay site where the remains — likely those of men, women and children who died in a cholera epidemic sometime between 1680 and the 1800s — were to be reinterred.

Wild and his interns began digging a second burial pit behind the Cinnamon Bay archaeology lab, and progress at the site has significantly slowed since the Hassell Island project began.
Recent, but cool ‘Lost’ Great War Tank Unearthed In Time For 90th Anniversary Memorial Event
The grandson of a soldier who fought in one of history’s first major tank battles will see his grandfather’s First World War vehicle - unearthed from a French farmer’s field - take pride of place at a 90th anniversary memorial event.

Tim Heap, 55, a University of Derby lecturer from Winster, Derbyshire, will this weekend attend the unveiling of a memorial to all the soldiers who died at the Battle of Cambrai, northern France, in November 1917, in memory of his grandfather Frank Heap; a tank commander in the conflict which saw more than 300 British tanks used to break through the German Hindenburg line.

The 19-year-old soldier escaped death when his tank was shelled three times, killing four of its nine-man crew, only because he had stepped outside the Mark IV ‘Deborah’ vehicle to take compass directions. One shell landed where he had been sitting a minute before.
Breaking news Gene study suggests Native Americans came from Siberia
A US genetic study bolsters claims that Native Americans are descended from one migrant group that crossed a lost land link from modern Siberia to Alaska -- not waves of arrivals from Asia, as rival theories say.

The new study by the University of Michigan, published Monday, examined genes of indigenous people from North to South America and from two Siberian groups, the university said in a report introducing the research.

Analysis found one unique genetic variant widespread across both the northern and southern American continents -- suggesting that all Native Americans were descended from a single group, not various ones as the rival theory holds.

Also: The study also found that genetic diversity increased the further away people were from the Bering Strait -- as would be expected if the migration were "relatively recent," the report said,

All of which (if correct) doesn't negate the idea that there were multiple migrations, just that some of them didn't leave any descendants. Plus there are numerous populations, living and deceased, that need to be sampled; there may be pockets of people without the variant. Should be much more coming on this.

For example, here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

City, tribes work to save original Umatilla site
Crumbling asphalt roads and docks still mark where the town of Umatilla once stood, but even deeper are the remnants of the 2,500-year-old tribal village of matalam.

Almost nothing has been done with the 70-acre Umatilla town site found within 800 acres owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The city was moved to its current site in the mid-1960s to make way for the rising Columbia River behind the John Day Dam.

Now the city of Umatilla and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have started talking about what can be done to preserve the area and its history.
Errrr. . .what? Why a Nile tadpole means a great deal

I'll let y'all read the link to figure that one out.
Biblical archaeology update Scholar sees change in biblical archaeology
Contrary to the quest of many biblical archaeologists in years past, today's "new image" of excavating ancient Near Eastern sites isn't focused on proving that the Bible is an ancient historical document.

Yet there's no reason to shy away from comparing scientific findings to biblical text, either, says a longtime archaeologist.

The challenge is to use caution, rather than leaping to what seem to be "logical conclusions" about findings that go well beyond the actual science involved with high-profile finds, some of which turn out to be forgeries.

. . .

Today, there is a move in some quarters of the profession to "dump the whole premise of biblical archaeology and just look at sites from a clearly archaeological perspective, rather than enmesh it with an ideological, religious or nationalistic perspective," he said. Some are looking to abandon the term "biblical archaeology" in favor of "Near Eastern archaeology."

Now there's a novel idea.
Something future archaeologists will go batty over Eighth wonder of the world? The stunning temples secretly carved out below ground by 'paranormal' eccentric
Nestling in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy, 30 miles from the ancient city of Turin, lies the valley of Valchiusella. Peppered with medieval villages, the hillside scenery is certainly picturesque.

But it is deep underground, buried into the ancient rock, that the region's greatest wonders are concealed.

Here, 100ft down and hidden from public view, lies an astonishing secret - one that has drawn comparisons with the fabled city of Atlantis and has been dubbed 'the Eighth Wonder of the World' by the Italian government.

For weaving their way underneath the hillside are nine ornate temples, on five levels, whose scale and opulence take the breath away.

Several photos are at the link, including this Egypt-o-themed room:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lupercale update If you recall this post on a recently discovered cave in Rome, now we have this: Expert sceptical of sacred Roman cave
A LEADING Italian archaeologist said that the grotto whose discovery was announced this week in Rome is not the sacred cave linked to the myth of the city's foundation by Romulus and Remus.

The Culture Ministry and experts who presented the find said they were “reasonably certain” the cavern is the Lupercale - a sanctuary worshipped for centuries by Romans because, according to legend, a wolf nursed the twin brothers there.

But Adriano La Regina, Rome's superintendent of archaeology from 1976 to 2004, said ancient descriptions of the place suggest the Lupercale is elsewhere - 50 to 70 metres northwest of the cave discovered near Emperor Augustus' palace.

“I am positive this is not the Lupercale,” Mr La Regina told Reuters in an interview.

Has to do with the location the Lupercale supposedly was and the form of the decoration in the newly discovered one.

Bear hunting altered genetics more than Ice Age isolation
Twenty thousand years ago Europe was covered by ice down to Germany, and the climate in the rest of Europe was such that several species were confined to the southern regions, like the Iberian Peninsula and Italy. These regions were refuges, areas where species could survive during cold periods and then re-colonize central and northern Europe when it got warmer. But the brown bear was not limited to these regions­it could roam freely across major parts of southern and central Europe. The current study analyzed mitochondria from bear remains. Some of the fossils are 20,000 years old. The analysis shows that the genetic pattern in these ancient brown bears differed from that of bears living today.

“Previously today’s genetic structure was interpreted as showing that the brown bear was isolated in southern Europe, just like many other species. But our study shows that this was not the case,” says Love Dalén, one of the Swedes participating in the study.

The new findings show instead that the brown bear survived in central Europe, even during the coldest period of the Ice Age. The scientists now believe that the genetic pattern found in today’s brown bears is the result of historical hunting and of human activities in the brown bear’s natural environment. A few thousand years ago, there were brown bears all over Europe, while today there are just a few remaining populations in Spain, Italy, the Balkans, and Scandinavia.
UAB prof uses aerial photos to locate Egypt's ancient sites
In a computer lab on Birmingham's Southside, UAB anthropology professor Sarah Parcak scours satellite images for hidden Egyptian archaeological sites half a world away.

With the help of the new technology, Parcak and collaborators are hoping to map the sites and explore them before urbanization and development destroy them.

In the new $150,000 lab, equipped with 10 computer workstations running a series of geographic information system and remote sensing programs, Parcak can travel the world, zooming in close enough to note the outlines of forgotten settlements, some buried beneath modern cities.

It's about Sarah Parcak who's been doing this for quite a while.
As if we didn't have enough to worry about The Sleep-Industrial Complex
The story of our ruined sleep, in virtually every telling I’ve heard, begins with Thomas Edison: electric light destroyed the sanctity of night. Given more to do and more opportunity to do it, we gave sleep shorter and shorter shrift. But the sleep that we’re now trying to reclaim may never have been ours to begin with. “It’s a myth,” A. Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech, told me. “And it’s a myth that even some sleep experts today have bought into.”

Ekirch’s 2005 book, “At Day’s Close,” described just how frenetic night in preindustrial times was. People slept, or tried to, in poorly insulated buildings that let in the weather and noise. Livestock huffed and mewled and stank just outside — if not inside. Generally, you slept beside a chamber pot of your own excrement, staggering across the room every few hours to keep your fire alive. With physical health comparatively poor, night was when people simmered most acutely in their discomfort. In 1750, one writer described London between the hours of 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. as a ghastly encampment of “sick and lame people meditating and languishing on their several disorders, and praying for daylight.”

Much of the (long) article regards the effects of modern sleep medications and the mattress industry (the history of which is fascinating in and of itself) but some historical stuff begins on p.5 or so, including the excerpted passage. I've not come across much ethnographic research on sleep -- not that there isn't any, I've just not seen it or been interested enough to go looking for it -- but it seems like it would be a fascinating topic, especially comparative analyses among different socio-economic systems. The article probably generalizes too much (duh), but I've seen some of it written about before, notably the "first sleep, second sleep" concept.

Among various other things, we modern folks would be appalled at sleeping arrangements from even a hundred years ago. I recall being mortified when I first visited the Wade House and discovered that travelers -- strangers! -- would often share a bed with one, maybe two, others. Eek! 'Tis one of the dangers of getting one's ideas about history almost solely from movies.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Things I Hate For now, one of them is the feature that ABC/ESPN does in their football broadcasts: introduce the teams by having someone often not related to footbal at all do it. Usually it's lame. Some dork who obviously knows nothing about the team reading a teleprompter badly. Some of the time it's kind of fun, like when they have a celebrity do it. Mostly it's just lame.

Except today for the Colorado-Nebraska game where they had Cartman (South Park) introduce Colorado. Heh. "He's got more interceptions than Boulder has hippies. And Boulder has a loooooot of hippies."

I rarely watch SP, btw. I don't know why, it probably would appeal to my sense of humor.

Sad to see both Colorado and Nebraska not contending for anything. I've always had a soft spot for Colorado for some reason, maybe because I was born there, but other than the Denver airport I've never been there since. The day after Thanksgiving used to be the day Nebraska and Oklahoma played, usually for the Big 8 title. Then Oklahoma fell on hard times and Colorado was good in the late '80s and '90s so Nebraska switched to playing them. I used to go work in the lab these Friday mornings and then work out from 11-noon. I hardly ever watched the game itself, but I have fond memories of checking the score in the student lounge after working out. Always used to like that post-Thanksgiving workout. . .after pigging out the day before (or not, but if not, at least there was drinking) it felt good to sweat like a pig for a while.

No, I didn't stuff myself yesterday. Eating too much just doesn't feel good to me anymore, so I mostly nibble on appetizers all day (YUM) and then eat modestly for the formal dinner portion. And then only the stuff I don't eat the rest of the year.
1491 update Sort of. This article in Smithsonian magazine by Charles Mann was also covered extensively in his book. Good long article which seems to be all nonsub.
Cave May Hold Secrets to Legend of Ancient Rome
Italian archaeologists have inched closer to unearthing the secrets behind one of Western civilization’s most enduring legends.

The Italian government on Tuesday released the first images of a deep cavern where some archaeologists believe that ancient Romans honored Romulus and Remus — the legendary founders of Rome.

The cavern, now buried 50 feet under the ruins of the palace of Emperor Augustus on the Palatine Hill, is about 23 feet high and 21 feet in diameter. Photographs taken by a camera probe show a domed cavern decorated with extremely well-preserved colored mosaics and seashells. At its center is a painted white eagle, a symbol of the Roman empire.

I didn't think too much of this when I first saw it, but it seems to be pretty significant. There's just one picture as it has not apparently been entered yet, except by remote cameras. It will be interesting to see how they handle the conservation of the cave; keep it sealed or find some way in? It should be considered carefully.

Roman skeleton find in farm field

A Roman skeleton dating back 2,000 years has been unearthed after it was spotted by a member of the public in a farmer's field in North Yorkshire.

Archaeologists have dug up a 6ft lead coffin containing the well-preserved remains of a Romano-British adult.

Experts described the find, near to Aldborough, as "rare and exciting".

Archaeologists will now use the skeleton to build up a picture of what life was like for the Romans 2,000 years ago.
Biblical archaeology update Digging Biblical History At 'The End Of The World'

Tel Aviv University archaeologists are studying Tel Megiddo, the New Testament location of "Armageddon," and unearthing truths about King Solomon.

Some come to dig the archeological site at Tel Megiddo because they are enchanted by ancient stories of King Solomon. Others come because they believe in a New Testament prophecy that the mound of dirt will be the location of a future Judgment Day apocalyptic battle. Hence the second, rather more chilling name for the site: "Armageddon."

Tel Megiddo has been the subject of a number of decisive battles in ancient times (among the Egyptian, Hebrew and Assyrian peoples) and today it holds a venerated place in archaeology, explains site co-director and world-renowned archeologist Prof. Israel Finkelstein.
Czech archaeologists find unique Virgin Mary statuette
Czech archaeologists uncovered a unique eight centimeter-long ceramic statuette of Virgin Mary with Jesus from the late 14th century in the center of Usti nad Labem of the Czech Republic, head of the archaeological research Marta Cvrkova said on Tuesday.

Similar finds are very rare in the country, the Czech news agency CTK quoted Cvrkova as saying.

The elaborated artifact, which was probably part of a family alter-piece, is only slightly damaged, CTK said.
Archaeologists ‘on the right track’ at dig
THE archaeological remains of what is likely to have been one of the oldest settlements in New Zealand are continuing to be unearthed in an excavation at Cooks Cove.

A team of archaeologists from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and Otago University have added fishhooks and stone tools to their list of remnants of a small village in the cove. They believe this village could have been established by Maori as early as the 14th Century.

“This is a really exciting development. Given what we know about the history of the area, we were expecting to come across some significant archaeology — this shows we were definitely on the right track,” said co-director of the excavation, Professor Richard Walter of Otago University.
Archaeologist Unearths Ancient Pagan Necropolis In Syria
Syrians have unearthed a 2nd century necropolis in the central town of Palymera. The find, along with statues and several skeletons is reveals how the early tribes of Arabia may have lived.

The inscriptions on a 75 centimeter (30 inch) by 60 centimeter (24 inch) sculptured panel discovered at the site, revealed that the cemetery most likely belonged to a wealthy pagan family and showed two people from the ancient town.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, we here at ArchaeoBlog give thanks for all of you, our loyal readers, for making our humble attempt at doing more than just typing a (relative) success.

I admit Thanksgiving was never a fave holiday of mine. Maybe because I didn't care much for the big family get-togethers when I was a kid; it was mostly a time to be bored for me, and sitting at The Kids' Table until I was like 16 didn't help either. When I moved out to Seattle for grad school I happily did away with doing anything on this day, using the excuse of having no family here and school work to do as a handy excuse. Several times I went into the lab/office to work on Thanksgiving and was quite happy to do so. Nowadays I travel 60 miles south to Gig Harbor to spend the day with the in-laws which thrills me about as much as it did when I was a kid. Me, I'd rather spend the day watching football.

Most memorable Thanksgiving: probably 10 years ago, we packed up the car to make the aforementioned journey south. We left at 11-11:30 that year, later than usual, just for the heck of it. Well. We got to Tacoma (~3/4 of the way) and. . .traffic was backed up at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge for miles. We didn't know this at the time, we just thought it was bad traffic in the city. Tried several different routes to get to the bridge and across and ended up about half a mile away from the closest on-ramp. that's when it completely stopped. At about 1 pm we decided that if we weren't on the bridge in a half an hour, we'd give up and go home. An hour and a half later we'd moved half a block. Eventually we did give up and turned off at the next intersection and started for home. We ended up spending 5.5 hours in the car and never got to where we were going. That year was salmon patties, rice, and green beans for Thanksgiving dinner.

So have a great day. Posting will resume tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ancient jade study sheds light on sea trade
Over 100 ancient jade artifacts in museums across southeast Asia have been traced back to Taiwan, shedding new light on sea trade patterns dating back 5,000 years, researchers said.

Using X-ray spectrometers, the international team of scientists analyzed 144 jade ornaments dating from 3,000 BC to 500 AD and found that at least 116 originated from Fengtian in eastern Taiwan.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Eco-ruin 'felled early society'
One of Western Europe's earliest known urban societies may have sown the seeds of its own downfall, a study suggests.

Mystery surrounded the fall of the Bronze Age Argaric people in south-east Spain - Europe's driest area.

Data suggests the early civilisation exhausted precious natural resources, helping bring about its own ruin.

Kind of interesting, but:
There is evidence conditions were becoming progressively arid from about 5,500 years ago onwards. This is indicated by a broad reduction in forest cover, the appearance of plants adapted to dry conditions and a drop in lake levels.

But it makes good copy.
Women warriors may have battled in ancient Cambodia
Archaeologists have found female skeletons buried with metal swords in Cambodian ruins, indicating there may have been a civilisation with female warriors, the mission head said Thursday.

The team dug up 35 human skeletons at five locations in Phum Snay in northwestern Cambodia in research earlier this year, said Japanese researcher Yoshinori Yasuda, who led the team.

"Five of them were perfect skeletons and we have confirmed all of them were those of females," Yasuda told AFP. The skeletons were believed to date back to the first to fifth century AD.

Artist's conception of what the warrior women may have looked like:
Transatlantic Partnership Puts Major British Library Online, Spotlighting Books Rescued From The Medieval World
"In the beginning was the Word,” the opening page of St. John’s Gospel from an early 8th-century Northumbrian Gospel Book. It’s one of hundreds of manuscripts from the Parker Library at Corpus Christi (Cambridge). The entire library will go online, thanks to a collaboration between Corpus Christi, the University of Cambridge, and Stanford. Courtesy Corpus Christi College (Cambridge)

The eagle that is the symbol of St. John is the frontispiece from the same Gospel Book. One of the biggest cultural earthquakes of the 16th century was the dissolution of the English monasteries under King Henry VIII. His motive was simple: He wanted the land and assets. The effects were long lasting and complicated: The Protestant Reformation was irreversibly launched in England, and so was a period of bitter religious strife.
The "Jesus tomb" revisited Another take on the 'Jesus tomb'
Martin Himel wants to first stress that he and Simcha Jacobovici are friends.

In fact, when Jacobovici's controversial film The Lost Tomb of Jesus was released last March, Himel was invited to the premiere. That's when the trouble started.

"It was a point-of-view documentary," the Canadian-born filmmaker says in an interview from Tel Aviv, where he is based. "I felt the picture was quite limited."

So the maker of such documentaries as End of Days and Confrontation at Concordia, who himself has been accused in the past of taking a strong point of view, set about to take a more balanced look at the tomb around which Jacobovici based his film.

Among the arguments:
-- There were apparently two ossuaries in the tomb with "Jesus, son of Joseph" on them, not just one
-- Ossuaries were reused over generations making DNA tests relating remains virtualy useless
American Rice: Out of Africa
In colonial America, slaves from west Africa made many a plantation owner rich by growing a particular high-quality variety of rice. Now, genetic research suggests the slaves not only supplied the labor and the agricultural skills they'd gained in their home countries but also may have brought the valuable crop with them.

When slaves were brought to the American colonies from west Africa, they often grew various kinds of rice in small gardens to feed themselves. Rice became a cash crop for plantation owners, however, with the advent of a high-quality variety of rice in 1685. The variety came to be known as Carolina Gold, and for good reason. By 1720, rice was South Carolina's most valuable export. But from where did the key cash crop come?
Temple Mount discovery leads to dispute in Jerusalem (what a surprise)
Israeli archaeologists say that ancient remains from the era of Solomon's Temple were discovered last month for the first time on the holiest site for Judaism, reigniting a historical and political debate over an area that also is holy to Muslims.

While doing renovation at the famed Temple Mount, Israeli archaeologists discovered a sealed layer containing fragments of ceramic table vessels and animal bones. The items have been dated by Israeli scientists to the First Temple in the eighth century B.C. - roughly during the reign of the biblical King Hezekiah. The discovery includes fragments of bowl rims and bases, the base of a small jug used for ladling oil, the handle of a small jug and the rim of a storage jar. All are typical of Israelite vessels from that period, scientists say.
Argentine archaeologists discover remains of Tehuelche Indians
Argentine archaeologists have discovered remains belonging to 50 Tehuelche Indians in the central region of La Pampa, it was reported on Monday.

Carbon-dating tests, conducted by experts from the United States, indicate that the remains are at least 500 years old, according to press reports here.

Researchers believe that the site where the remains were found, some 400 km from La Pampa's capita Santa Rosa, could have been used for human sacrifices, as many of the bones have arrowheads embedded in them.
Hmmmmmmm. . . Treasure hunt: Digging for trouble
Backyard treasure hunters beware. A little-known Oregon statute makes it illegal for anyone to intentionally unearth artifacts more than 75 years old without a permit from the state — even on private property.

After local bottle hunter Dale Mlasko was featured in the Mail Tribune and on the Travel Channel show "Cash and Treasures," he received a letter from the state saying he may have run afoul of the law.

The Oregon State Preservation Office informed him that digging up items on private property that are 75 years or older — even with the property owner's permission — must be witnessed by an archaeologist and signed off by the state.

Heh. I like this quote: "I try to do everything in an ethical and legal way," Mlasko said. "Nobody needs to desecrate sacred ground. But these are outhouses."

I'm surprised no one's challenged it in court.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Archaeobooks Review: The Fall of Troy
Peter Ackroyd belongs to an-other age. The author of more than a dozen novels, as well as volumes of poetry, plays and miscellaneous works of nonfiction, he recalls a time when it was commonplace for writers not merely to be prolific but to exhibit a sometimes bewildering catholicity of interest. . . .Now, in "The Fall of Troy," he turns his attention to the 19th-century German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, whose quest to discover the ancient city of Troy becomes the occasion for a novel that is engaging, disturbing, intellectually complex and just a little kitschy.

. . .

"The Fall of Troy" carries this idea one step further. To put the matter in archaeological terms, it exposes three strata. An avid admirer of Homer, Heinrich Obermann (Ackroyd's stand-in for Schliemann) seeks to unearth, literally, the world about which Homer wrote, which was for Homer himself already ancient. "We are not in the 19th century here," he tells a colleague. "We are much further back." Ackroyd's portrayal of Obermann is the triumph of "The Fall of Troy." A wealthy German businessman whose mercantile adventurings have taken him to Russia and America, he has revered the Greek world since his childhood. Archaeology interests him only to the degree that it is a means of finding evidence for the truth of Homer's epics.

Seems like an interesting book. One quote from it struck me: His passion for the ancient world brings it alive for him, and for Sophia, who wonders, upon examining a recently discovered bowl: "What Trojan woman last saw it - last used it, for milk or honey? She would have placed her hands just so, as Sophia placed hers around it. There was a union between them, one living and one dead."

Charming. Often we're too busy doing our regular excavation work and worrying about whatever scientific aspect of research we're doing to engage in bits of fancy like that, but it is one of the niceties of this profession.
Archaeology student finds Roman remains in garden
AN ARCHAEOLOGY student struck lucky when he began digging the garden of his new home - and discovered ancient Roman remains.

Chris Bevan had no idea that a historic find was lurking inches beneath his feet when he moved into the house at Holme-on-Spalding Moor.

Now he and his fellow University of York students are using their spare time to carry out a survey of the garden in High Street and a neighbouring field where the ancient pottery was unearthed.

"I bought the house in July and was just doing some gardening when I found a Roman pot and some Medieval green glaze pottery," says Chris, 24, who is a second year archaeology undergraduate.

There's more to the article on their recruiting of metal-detectorists to do some surveying of the property.
Roman road, bath unearthed near Jewish temple site
Israeli archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a second century terraced street and bath house which provide vital clues about the layout of Roman Jerusalem.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said the 30-metre (90-foot) alley was used by the Romans to link the central Cardo thoroughfare with a bath house and with a bridge to the Temple Mount, once the site of Jerusalem's ancient Jewish temple.

"We find bits of Roman road all the time but this discovery helped us piece together a picture of Roman Jerusalem," Jon Seligman, Jerusalem regional archaeologist, told Reuters at the site. "It was a real Eureka moment."
He's Unbelievably Energetic and He's Raised the Profile of Egyptology Enormously. He Gives It Drama and Cachet ...
t is difficult to overestimate the influence that Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt's secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, wields over his country's stupendously rich ancient heritage. According to Dr John Taylor, assistant keeper at the British Museum, "he's an incredibly influential figure. Nothing happens in Egyptology without his knowledge or support."

Hawass is the outspoken, grandstanding, inflammatory public face of the Tutankhamun exhibition that opened yesterday at the O2 in London and has been touring cities in the US for the past two years. He is a celebrity, particularly in the United States, where he has won an Emmy for his broadcasting on archeology. His personal website, at which scholars might arch an eyebrow, contains an official fan club section adorned with a dozen photographs of himself. In a couple he sports an Indiana Jones-style hat, copies of which are on sale at the King Tut gift shop, displayed beneath a broadly grinning, larger than life picture of the man himself.

Hawass is a shameless self-promoter; but few doubt that he is also a hugely successful promoter of Egypt's antiquities. "He's unbelievably energetic, and he's raised the profile of the subject enormously," said Taylor. "He gives the subject drama and cachet, rather, in fact, as Howard Carter did." Tim Schadla-Hall, reader in public archeology at University College London, added: "He stokes controversy, and that's a good thing. Archeology is about controversy, it's not about single answers." He is also a gifted money-raiser: the Tutankhamun tour, according to Hawass, will bring in $140m (£68m) for Egypt's antiquities: much-needed cash in the devastatingly expensive game of conservation, preservation and museum display.

Pretty good article.
Munich begins work on Egyptology museum
Work officially began Wednesday on what will one day be one of the world's great Egyptology museums, with Cairo represented by ambassador Mohamed al-Orabi at the foundation stone laying in Munich. The German city, which is in a permanent race with Berlin to show off the greatest art treasures, is erecting the 88-million-euro (129-million-dollar) building next to the three Pinakothek museums devoted to western art.

To be completed in 2010, the glass and bare-concrete building will gather treasures currently stored at various sites and also contain a film-studies college.

Sealed inside the foundation stone were objects typically placed in ancient Egyptian graves and a film camera made 40 years ago.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Old album du jour Jethro Tulls's Stormwatch:

It was released in 1979 at the height of AOR (Album Oriented Rock, for you young'uns) radio. I used to hear Tull all the time on Appleton's WAPL which was one of the first AOR stations around. Great station. That was back when Jethro Tull was cool amongst the rock'n'roll crowd. Aqualung was probably their high point, but I prefer this one, probably for situational reasons. That was my last year of high school and I was the only kid at home anymore and for the first time I was kind of enjoying school, mostly because I had finally doing well at it. Probably my junior year or so I finally decided I'd better knuckle down and start doing well so I could follow my brother to UW-Madison which I completely adored.

Oddly, I nearly always play this thing in the winter months which was when I first discovered it; it always reminds me of the first snowy and cold days of winter. No doubt this is because of the cover art and at least one of the songs (Something's On The Move) is about cold and snow. The lyrics capture a lot that was going on at the time, notably North Sea Oil; I remember when bringing that source online was a big deal. Also, note the lettering on the album cover -- LEDs! It's very typical of the period, too, with a couple of loooooong songs. At the time, I used to buy the vinyl albums and then usually decide on an ordering of the songs I liked better and put them on cassette that way. When I finally bought the CD (I still have the tape though!) I immediately stuck it in my iPod and made a playlist for that order and burned it to a CD. SUCH a creature of habit. I did this solely because I read some stereo guy in a magazine who said he did it and I thought that was way cool, but it did make some sense -- album ordering was mostly based around marketing and the idea of playing each side rather than the whole thing. I would try to order them into something that seemed more natural, with a beginning, middle, and end.

Those used to earlier Tull will have to give it some slack at first, as it tends to be more produced and maybe a bit harder rock. Really listenable though.

Play it when it's snowing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sorta not archaeology, but cool WWII P-38 fighter discovered in Wales
Sixty-five years after an American P-38 fighter plane ran out of gas and crash-landed on a beach in Wales, the long-forgotten World War II relic has emerged from the surf and sand where it lay buried.

Beach strollers, sunbathers and swimmers often frolicked within a few yards of the aircraft, unaware of its existence until last summer, when unusual weather caused the sand to shift and erode.

The revelation of the Lockheed "Lightning" fighter, with its distinctive twin-boom design, has stirred interest in British aviation circles and among officials of the country's aircraft museums, ready to reclaim another artifact from history's greatest armed conflict.

And what a cool photo!
I didn't see any China Olympics construction unearths cultural relics
China's multi-billion-dollar building boom ahead of the Beijing Olympics has unearthed hundreds of ancient relics -- some 2,000 years old -- leaving archaeologists to pick up pieces behind construction crews.

The director of the State Administration and Cultural Heritage, Shan Jixiang, has urged local officials to conduct archaeological investigations of sites before construction, the China Daily reported on Tuesday.

But in the rush to finish projects ahead of the August 2008 opening of the Games, the earth movers are driving on.

"Archaeologists in Beijing are following bulldozers," an archaeologist with the Beijing municipal cultural heritage administration, who requested anonymity, told the newspaper.
Mammoth hunters' camp site found in Russia's Far East
Archaeologists have found a 15,000 year-old hunters' camp site from the Paleolithic era near Lake Evoron in Russia's Far East, a source in the Khabarovsk archaeology museum said on Monday.

"The site dates back to the end of the Ice Age, a period which is poorly studied" Andrei Malyavin, chief of the museum's archaeology department said. "That is why any new site from this period is a discovery in itself."

The site, found during a 2007 archaeological expedition to Lake Evoron, is the largest of four Stone Age sites, discovered near the Amur River so far, and was most likely established by mammoth hunters.
Archaeo-fashion update Prehistoric women had passion for fashion
If the figurines found in an ancient European settlement are any guide, women have been dressing to impress for at least 7,500 years.

Recent excavations at the site -- part of the Vinca culture which was Europe's biggest prehistoric civilization -- point to a metropolis with a great degree of sophistication and a taste for art and fashion, archaeologists say.

In the Neolithic settlement in a valley nestled between rivers, mountains and forests in what is now southern Serbia, men rushed around a smoking furnace melting metal for tools. An ox pulled a load of ore, passing by an art workshop and a group of young women in short skirts.

Photo of one of the figurines:

Artist's conception of what the ancient Vincans may have looked like:
Human ancestors: more gatherers than hunters?
Chimpanzees crave roots and tubers even when food is plentiful above ground, according to a new study that raises questions about the relative importance of meat for brain evolution.

Appearing online the week of Nov. 12 in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study documents a novel use of tools by chimps to dig for tubers and roots in the savanna woodlands of western Tanzania.

The chimps' eagerness for buried treats offers new insights in an ongoing debate about the role of meat versus potato-like foods in the diet of our hominid ancestors, said first author Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar, who collected the field data for her doctoral research at the University of Southern California.

I'm not particularly comfortable using chimps as surrogates for early hominids.
More Peruvian mural/temple at NGS.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

China photos #1

Sadly, there wasn't much archaeology to be done or looked at. The Chinese museum of history was closed for renovations. But there are a few sites of interest that I went to. Notably, the Temple of Heaven, Great Wall, and the Forbidden City. Old, but not that old.

I did find out one thing while there, but I'm not sure what it has to do with. . .well, you know. .. .

Archaeology in fiction Dark suspicions mark "The Fall of Troy"
Here's a dating tip: If a suitor proclaims, "You will be my Penelope," run for the hills. Odysseus's long-suffering wife was legendarily faithful, but Homer didn't have much to say about her happiness.

Sadly, Sophia Chrysanthis doesn't get a choice. In The Fall of Troy, it's 1867, and her impoverished parents have arranged a marriage for the young Greek woman with a 50-year-old German businessman who believes he's found the site of ancient Troy in Hissarlik, Turkey. Heinrich Obermann is shopping for a classically trained wife who can help with the excavations, not a second Helen.

Sophia's new husband is a cheerful self-promoter who believes that everything about himself – including his bodily functions – is of tremendous interest to others.

Just y'all wait until I start blogging about every time I visit the commode.
Tombs of 1,800 years ago found in Beijing
Chinese archaeologists have discovered over 290 tombs, some of which date back 1,800 years, in Yanqing County, in the northern outskirts of Beijing.

Most of the tombs were built in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD)or Tang Dynasty (618-907),. Others are believed to belong to the Jin (317-581), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911).

All the tombs, covering an area of 44,000 square meters, had underground chambers built of brick but the shape of their ceilings were unique to their dynasties.
Chocolate origins traced to beverage makers 3,100 years ago
Chocolate appears to have been created at least 3,100 years ago as Central Americans enjoyed a drink brewed for special occasions, according to a report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Evidence found by a group of archaeologists from Department of Anthropology, Cornell University, "pushes back" the earliest known use of cacao, the source of chocolate, by 500 years.

The archaeologists identified residue of the chemical compound theobromine, which occurs only in the cacao plant, in liquid-holding pottery vessels dating from about 1150 BC.

UPDATE: More here.

UPDATE II: More here, too with a picture/drawing of one of the pots.
Discovery might rewrite history of Spaniards in Georgia
What a high school girl found in 6 inches of South Georgia dirt last year may help rewrite the history of Europeans' earliest forays into the great, green New World that greeted them half a millennium ago.

The discovery is a glass bead no larger than a pencil eraser. It and four other beads, plus two ancient slivers of iron, may prompt historians to reconsider the presence of Spaniards in Georgia five centuries ago.

Archaeologist Dennis Blanton of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History considers the finds, which he could easily slip in his pocket, "world history in the making."
1491 update I'm about 1/3 of the way through 1491 (didn't have as much reading time in China as I thought) and so far it's pretty good. I'm agreeing with the reviews I've read so far, in that it's a good primer for much of New World prehistory (and history), but with some details that specialists can argue with. Still, its main value would be in bringing some of the history of the Americas to life in a way similar to that of the Old World. There are some good stories to be told, even apart from the basics of prehistory that people just don't know about.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Peru archaeologists find 4,000-year-old painting
A 4,000-year-old cave painting has been discovered in a northern temple in Peru, an archaeologist said Sunday.

The painting depicting a deer caught in nets marks the beginning of high culture in South America and suggests that there were earlier hunting cultures, said Walter Alvahe, the director of Sipan Royal Tombs Museum, who lead the excavation work.

The painting was found on the wall of a temple close to the Lord of Sipian tomb, on a hill in the Ventarron area of Chiclayo, the capital of Lambayque province, 780 km from Peru's capital Lima.

UPDATE: More here.
Egypt to restrict visits to Tutankhamun tomb
Egypt will limit the number of visitors to the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun to 400 a day from December 1 and close it from May 2008 for restoration work on the wall paintings, the government said on Sunday.

A statement from the Supreme Antiquities Council said the aim was to preserve the tomb, but it gave no details.

The face of the boy pharaoh went on display in the antechamber of the tomb last week when his mummified body was moved from his stone sarcophagus to a sealed Plexiglas case.

That doesn't make a lot of sense. If the container is sealed, how can external moisture affect it?
Field school on Easter Island This from Terry Hunt:
This coming summer (2008) we will again offer a University of Hawai`i
2008. For details, please visit our updated web pages:

The field school is open to undergraduate (ANTH 381) and graduate
students (ANTH 668). Students will participate in survey, mapping,
excavation, geophysical survey, museum/laboratory analyses, and
training Native Rapanui high school students and community members on
the island.

Applications should be made through the U.H. Study Abroad program.
The application DEADLINE is 17 February 2008.
Walker "site" update Walker archeological dig unearths more finds
This summer, the LLHS crew has been back, joined at times by Sue and Steve Mulholland, archaeologists with the Duluth Archaeology Center; David Mather, National Register Archaeologist with the State Historic Preservation Office; and Dr. Howard Hobbs with the Minnesota Geological Survey.

All this year’s excavations have been on land owned by WACC; previous digs were on adjacent land owned by the city of Walker; but LLHS was unable to get permission to continue digging there. Living Water Church also owns property adjacent to the dig sites.

There's a photo of the supposed artifact at that link.
Neanderthal update Stone Age feminism?
The Neanderthal extinction some 30,000 years ago remains one of the great riddles of evolution, with rival theories blaming everything from genocide committed by "real" humans to prehistoric climate change.

But a recent study introduces another explanation: Stone Age feminism. Among Neanderthals, hunting big beasts was women's work as well as men's, so it's a safe bet that female hunters got stomped, gored, and worse with appalling frequency. And a high casualty rate among fertile women - the vital "reproductive core" of a tiny population - could well have meant demographic disaster for a species already struggling to survive among monster bears, yellow-fanged hyenas, and cunning Homo sapien newcomers.

Not much to this particular bit except on the second page:
The University of Arizona's Steven L. Kuhn and Mary C. Stiner, use archeological evidence to argue that Neanderthal females - unlike Homo sapien women of the Upper Paleolithic period - joined men in hunts at a time when stabbing giant beasts with a sharpish stone affixed to a stick represented the cutting edge of technology.

That's courageous, but probably bad practice for a population that never numbered much more than 10,000 individuals. The loss of a few males to a flailing hoof or slashing antler is no big deal, in the long run. But losing females of child-bearing age could bring doom to a hard-pressed species.

Which still isn't much. Division of labor is notoriously difficult to get at archaeologically (even though many think just by making a nice analogy you're done) so it will be interesting to see what they used.

UPDATE: Hawks has an extended entry on the red hair and FOXP2 stuff.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blogging update Back from China. Too dead tired to post. Will resume tomorrow (Monday). Out.

Friday, November 09, 2007

New search for Aztec King's tomb

A team of archaeologists has begun exploring a site in the heart of the Mexican capital that might lead to the first discovery of a tomb of an Aztec king, according to Spanish news agency EFE.

Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said in a communique that a 12-tonne monolith dedicated to Tlaltecuhtli, the Aztec earth goddess, was removed from the site Tuesday.

Scientists hope to uncover the tomb of King Ahuizotl, who reigned from 1486-1502.

The monolith and the possible tomb were found a year ago in the area known as Las Ajaracas, a spot where the new official residence of the Mexico City mayor is being built.

Upon detecting the archaeological remains, the government donated the land to INAH to explore.

Red-headed Neanderthals were like us, and now they're gone

The idea of Neanderthals with red hair and freckles is just plain charming. But it's also scary because it underscores the fact that Neanderthals were so much like us, and now they're gone.

Ever since their fossils were first discovered in 1829 (and later called "Neanderthal Man" by William King, who was part Irish, by the way), these hominids have been relegated to the status of cave men and women. Neanderthals were shorter and more muscular than the other humans living at the same time, had bigger noses and projecting brow ridges, and no chins. Not a pretty picture.

But these ancient fellow Europeans were also culturally sophisticated. They buried their dead, built shelters, made tools, used fire and hunted. The may have had language (DNA sequencing has also revealed they carried the FOXP2 gene which is linked to language ability). And they had brains 100 cubic centimeters larger than people today.

And so why have these interesting people been relegated to second-class citizen status?

Because they threaten us.

Neanderthals are chronologically the closest, and the most familiar, example that we have of our kind disappearing off the face of the Earth, and that means we can go too.

Remains of Rum distillery discovered in Bristol, Rhode Island (U.S.)

Archaeologists digging at the site of a future condominium complex on Thames Street have discovered the remains of a rum distillery that likely played a role in Bristol's portion of the infamous Triangle Trade in the early 19th century.

Digging several feet below street grade in a vacant lot just north of Gillary's Tavern, researchers over the past five weeks have found approximately 17 molasses fermentation vats and the remains of a brick still base that would have helped fuel the distilling operation. Now, the state is working with developer James Roiter to come up with a plan to document the site before development begins.

. . . .

Bristol's close ties to the slave trade have long been known, and historians have also known for years that at least five rum distilling operations flourished in Bristol during the years the trade was active, the mid-1700s through the early 1800s.

Pompeii - a prototype ground zero

Shelley Hales is a lecturer in Art and Visual Culture, in the Department of Classics and Ancient History. Dry stuff, you might imagine. On the contrary, Hales is currently researching the enormous impact Pompeii has had on popular culture since its rediscovery in 1748.

. . . .

In order to further explore modern reactions to the remains of Pompeii, Hales devised the Casts Project, a national competition for school children, in which students were shown images of the body casts and asked: Does Pompeii matter today? Can we have any connection with the victims of Vesuvius? How should we treat their remains? Should we encourage sentimental connection or look on as objective, scientific observers? As an illustration of Pompeii’s enduring appeal, she was inundated with over 200 entries, including stories, poems, essays, models, paintings, casts, plays, songs and broadcasts. The winning entries will be displayed at a conference Hales is holding later this year.

Called Ruins and Reconstructions: Pompeii in the Popular Imagination, the conference brings together academics and policy-makers with artists who have made use of the theme of Pompeii, such as the novelists Robert Harris and Lindsey Davis, and the artist Victor Burgin.

Ironically, whilst the recent surge of popular interest in Pompeii has seen the city find a wider audience than ever before, the site itself has reached a critical state of decay, and the key players are seriously considering drastic action, including closing large parts of the site to the public and possibly even reburying it. Through the conference Hales is hoping to show the policy-makers of this World Heritage Site how Pompeii continues to be a major source of inspiration to western imaginations, and that it represents far more than just an expensive ruin.
Don Jail, Toronto (Canada), under investigation

A piece of the city’s history was unearthed last month when archaeologists conducting a dig at the old Don Jail discovered three human skeletons in what was likely a former prisoners’ cemetery.

In late September, archaeologists digging a trench in the parking lot just north of the jail found skeletons lying face up about one metre under the pavement.

Since the discovery, speculation has arisen that the remains are likely those of more than 20 prisoners who were hanged in the jail’s gallows during an era where capital punishment was common place.

Located near Broadview Ave. and Gerrard St. East, the jail is the subject of an assessment proposed by Bridgepoint Health, who purchased the site in 2002 and has plans to convert a portion of the land into a hospital.

This was also reported upon on in September 2007, with photographs and a video.

Biblical bad girl was a powerful ancient figure

Jezebel, the queen whose name became synonymous with all things lewd and wicked, probably wielded a fair bit of power in ancient Israel, suggests a stone document seal newly traced to the Biblical "bad girl."

Originally discovered in Israel in 1964, the intricate seal was suspected all along to belong to Queen Jezebel, but confusion over the letters engraved on the stone left some uncertainty. Recently, closer scrutiny of the seal's engraving revealed markings characteristic of royal objects.

"The lion-sphinx with female head and female Isis-Hathor crown, which is unique, this clearly points to a queen," said Marjo Korpel, an Old Testament scholar at the University of Utrecht who conducted the research.

The above story is accompanied by a large photograph of the seal under discussion.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blogging update
Greetings from China! Minor post with little content. Still here for another couple of days. Conferencing is done so the next couple days is touristy stuff. So far I've seen the Great Wall, the Lama temple, Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. Today is the museum of Chinese history. Oh yeah, and I found the Peking Man remains under a bush outside the hotel here. *yawn*

Most of the sights so far haven't been that old, with the temples and what not being mostly Ming-Qing Dynasties. The museum supposedly has a lot of the older paleontology fossils and older cultural stuff. Hopefully, I'll get a lot of photos of that stuff while there.

Beijing's not bad. Much cleaner and less noisy than Cairo, but more polluted. I'm not sure of the geography in detail but the city seems to be sitting in a basin with mountains to the west which looks like it makes temperature inversions likely and thus trapping all of the pollutants in, ergo, smog, and lots of it. It cleared out magnificently yesterday and today seems clear as well. Food. . . .eh. We stopped at a local placed on the way back from the Wall which was excellent, but we went to a banquet at the Great Hall of the People (very swank) but I didn't like much of that. Haven't had Peking duck yet, which is supposedly the local thing to eat when here.

A colleague flies out today to see the terracotta army, but I'm staying put. I think I am catching a cold, too. Dang it. Weather's been great, low 60s and sunny. I hope this is just thre dry weather and lack of sleep last night. . . . .

Will post more probably Sunday or Monday.
Coastal geology tracks prehistoric people

For many students, a research project means a weekend in the library sifting through dusty textbooks. For Denise Brushett, it means a week on a ship digging up 2,000-year-old sea floor samples off the coast of eastern Newfoundland.

It’s this seafaring experience that landed the MUN geography master’s student a spot on the Russian cruise ship Akademik Ioffe, where she worked alongside different kinds of scientists from all over the world, trying to figure out if and how climate change affected the lives of Newfoundland’s prehistoric people.

The Iceman cometh amid debate over how he went

For 10 years Angelika Fleckinger has had an intimate relationship with a most unusual man.

Her partner? Otzi - the world famous Iceman whose mummified body was found in an alpine glacier on the border of Italy and Austria in 1991.

Fleckinger is the director of the Italian museum built in 1998 to house Otzi, who is 2000 years older than Tutankhamen. She has written three books about him. While other scientists might know more about their own specific areas of research, Fleckinger says, "I may be the person who is closest to the Iceman."

To her, Otzi is neither anonymous nor a scientific freak, but a human being with personality. "Sometimes I think it is so strange. He died 5000 years ago, yet this person, this Iceman, has become an important part of my life."

More than 240,000 visitors a year travel to Bolzano to see Otzi's mummy in a special refrigerated chamber at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. But Fleckinger is in Sydney to launch Iceman - The Story of Otzi, which opens at the Australian National Maritime Museum tomorrow.

Next Kennewick Man will need protection

The court decision to allow scientists to study the ancient skeleton known as Kennewick Man has aided humankind's quest for knowledge.

Unfortunately, it also spawned a congressional effort to change federal law to keep science from learning anything about the next Kennewick Man.

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings is trying to thwart the move with proposed legislation of his own. Good for him.

With so many unanswered questions about man's future, we've never had a greater need to understand our past.

The Kennewick Man ruling, upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004, went against Northwest Indian tribes, which hoped the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act would prevent scientific examination of the skeleton.

The court ruled Congress had intended NAGPRA to apply to remains only if a significant relationship could be shown to present-day tribes.

That's an appropriate interpretation of the law, one that protects the interests of science and still respects Indian culture.

Good riddance to archaeologists robbing the graves where the grandparents of contemporary Indians were buried.

And thank goodness for efforts to get human remains and cultural artifacts back to their original tribes.

But the Indians' claim to the 9,300-year-old Kennewick Man is based on the belief that no one other than tribal ancestors could have been in the Columbia Basin back then.

That can't be proved and may not be true.

Legacy of the New Seven Wonders: The Battle of Chichen Itza

I wish that this had come as a big surprise, but of course it hasn't. More bashing of the head on the nearest brick wall:

Since being named as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, the Mayan temple has been the focus of an ownership dispute between a local family and those who want it to be returned to the people. David Usborne reports from Yucatán

Even before the sun has begun to heat the pale stones of the Temple of Kukulkan pyramid and the adjacent Great Ball Court, the daily invasion of the Chichen Itza, the archeological jewel in the heart of Mexico's Yucatán peninsula that – 1,000 years ago – was one of the largest city-states of the Mayan world, has begun.

They traipse in not via the visitors' entrance but via litter-strewn paths through the surrounding woods. By the time the actual tourists arrive, either from their rooms in the few nearby hotels or on day-trip buses from the beaches of Cancun two hours away, this first human onslaught will be complete. They are the hundreds of vendors who every day erect their stalls all across the site, hoping to scrape a living selling so-called handicrafts which, in fact, are mostly kitsch souvenirs made in China.

Even the barely aware visitor will sense that all is not quite as it should be at Chichen Itza. Its 100 acres can, on some days, feel like a seething bazaar of hawkers and child beggars. Serenity is elusive as you try to conjure in your mind the magnificence of what once stood here, or appreciate the ancient skills involved in placing the temple in direct correlation to the rays of the sun during the spring and autumn equinoxes, or in erecting the El Caracol Observatory to track the movement of the stars. The problem is partly one simply of Chichen Itza struggling to cope with its newfound fame.

China tries farmers for fighting over fossils

Seven farmers from central China face trial for fighting officials who tried to take control of a lucrative lode of dinosaur fossils, state media reported on Wednesday.

The seven were accused of mobilizing residents of Shaping Village in Henan province to trash a police vehicle and fight officials after authorities tried to seize the fossils, the official China court news Web site reported.

After the big dinosaur bones were discovered in March 2006, the government told the farmers to hand over any rare and valuable fossils they had already hidden away.

Archaeologists find major pre-Columbian site

U.S. and Puerto Rican archaeologists say they have found the best-preserved pre-Columbian site in the Caribbean, which could shed light on virtually every aspect of Indian life in the region, from sacred rituals to eating habits.

The archaeologists believe the site in southern Puerto Rico may have belonged to the Taino or pre-Taino people that inhabited the island before European colonization, although other tribes are a possibility. It contains stones etched with ancient petroglyphs that form a large plaza measuring some 130 feet by 160 feet, which could have been used for ball games or ceremonial rites, said Aida Belen Rivera, director of the Puerto Rican Historic Conservation office.

The petroglyphs include the carving of a human figure with masculine features and frog legs.

The story is accompanied by a photograph of the petroglyphs

Italy regains looted artefacts

Italian authorities claimed another victory in their campaign against the illegal antiquities market Tuesday, unveiling eight Etruscan or Roman artifacts they say were looted from the country and returned by a New York art dealer.

The ancient treasures, including a Roman statue, bronze figurines, and exquisitely painted vases, were worth more than half a million dollars and were bought at auctions by New York dealer Jerome Eisenberg, Italian officials said.

Eisenberg was not aware that the pieces were stolen from Italian museums during the 1970s or illegally dug up, said Gen. Giovanni Nistri, who heads the art squad of the Carabinieri paramilitary police.

Collapse of the northeastern turret of the Jahangir’s Quadrangle at the Lahore Fort

Yet another example of neglect:

Traffic, rain and poor repair have resulted in the collapse of the northeastern turret of the Jahangir’s Quadrangle at the Lahore Fort, said a Punjab Archaeology Department (PAD) report.

The turret had collapsed on September 24. The collapse had started a blame game between the PAD and the Federal Archaeology Department (FAD). Both departments had blamed each other of negligence in the repair of the turret. The FAD had handed over the control of the Lahore Fort to the PAD in 2004.

A report compiled by three officials of the PAD has recommended a complete documentation of the inaccessible areas of the Lahore Fort.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites wins Preservation Merit Award

At the annual meeting of the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Association of Historical Societies & Museums, held Sept. 29 in Columbus, the Ohio Historic Preservation Office presented the University of Cincinnati's Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites with a Preservation Merit Award for 2007.

At its fall meeting Nov. 3, the Ohio Archaeological Council, Ohio's association of professional archaeologists, presented John Hancock, co-founder of the reconstruction center, with its Board of Directors Award.

These awards recognize the remarkable achievements of the center in creating computerized renderings of ancient sites that either have been obliterated over the centuries or are difficult to appreciate because of their imposing scale.

Hancock is a professor of architectural history and associate dean of research at the University of Cincinnati. He directs the reconstruction center's EarthWorks project, which focuses on the monumental earthen architecture of the Adena and Hopewell cultures.

The detailed and accurate digital re-creations of Ohio's earthworks that he and his team have developed allow the public, as well as archaeologists, to experience these sites as part of the landscape. This makes them effective tools for both education and research.

Prisoners or slaves? New row over wreck's bones

For a decade the curious case of the Rapparee Cove bones has caused diplomatic tension and fierce academic argument.

Found during an archaeological dig on the rocky coast of north Devon, the discovery of the remains seemed to confirm that a boatload of slaves was shipwrecked off the British coast and the survivors possibly sold on.

Ten years on, a row over the bones has reignited with one historian criticising a former colleague for not publishing the results of tests on the remains and a notable black campaigner claiming that the dearth of information on the bones showed a lack of respect for the black people who died on board the ship.

Cultic City and Fortress unearthed in Western Turkey

New excavations conducted by the University of Tübingen (Germany) and the Onsekiz Mart University of Çanakkale (Turkey) at the site of Sirkeli Höyük near Adana (southern Turkey) have revealed the remains of a massive bastion fortification dating to the Hittite Imperial Period (ca. 1300 BC). Sirkeli Höyük, one of the largest settlement mounds in Cilicia during the Bronze- and Iron Ages, was already known to archaeologists and historians because of two Hittite rock reliefs located at the site.

The better preserved rock relief of the two shows the Hittite King Muwatalli II (ca. 1290–1272 BC), opponent of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the famous Battle of Qadesh in Syria and is thus the oldest Hittite rock relief known so far.

On the upside of the rock, just above the reliefs, various shallow pits or basins are found which apparently are to be connected with the reliefs and were used for libations in the course of cultic activities.

These pits were part of a larger cultic installation which also included a building to the west of the rock reliefs. This ensemble is thought to be a cultic installation for the Hittite King.

Archaeologists dig Jiroft for more inscriptions

A team of archaeologists led by Yusef Majidzadeh returned to Jiroft yesterday in order to renew digs of the 5000-year-old site in the hope of finding further artifacts bearing inscriptions.

The team was accompanied for this excavation season by several French and Italian archaeologists along with a number of Iranian students.

During the past five phases of excavation Majidzadeh’s previous team had discovered four brick inscriptions which they unearthed in one of the present-day villager’s homes. Majidzadeh hopes to find another collection of brick inscriptions at the site.

Located next to the Halil-Rud River in the southern Iranian province of Kerman, Jiroft came into the spotlight nearly six years ago when reports surfaced of extensive illegal excavations being carried out by local people who went on to plunder priceless historical items.

Pakistan's heritage at risk - is it too late to close the door?

Mark Rose has updated the Archaeology Magazine Online Features section with an article which consideres what can be done, if anything, to save Pakistan's heritage from further damage. This article most usefully puts the situation into its political context and goes on to consider what the results of the political upheavels have been:

The turmoil in Pakistan, especially the situation in Swat, has scholars concerned about the safety of the country's artistic and archaeological heritage. Relatively peaceful until recently, Swat was a tourist resort with spectacular mountain scenery. It also has a rich cultural heritage, especially Ghandaran art and Buddhist monuments. Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Curator of Traditional Asian Art, at the Asia Society in New York explains, "This area of what is today northern Pakistan was along a major route of the Silk Road. Gandhara was one of the major sites of the Kushan period (first through third centuries). The art of the Gandhara area is extremely important because it shows the impact of Hellenistic and Roman influence ushered in through the conquests of Alexander the Great. The stylistic impact of Gandharan Buddhist art traveled vast space and time, reaching places as far away China, Korea, and Japan. The Gandhara region became part of the Sasanian Empire (224-642), which preceded Islamic rule in Persia, and consequently the arts of the region also influenced artistic developments in the Middle East."

The consequences of prolonged political infighting in Pakistan, leaving Taliban-like militants unchecked may have dire consequences for this heritage. On Monday, October 8, dynamite was used to obliterate the face of a of 23-foot-high seventh-century seated Buddha carved into a rock face near the village of Jehanabad in the Swat Valley. The attack on the Buddha, according to police chief Mohammad Iqbal in an AFP story, "appears to be the work of the local militants who condemn these relics as being un-Islamic. It looks more like a symbolic attack to embarrass the government internationally."

See the above page for the full story, which makes for grim reading.
What did Peruvian mummies eat?

Research undertaken by Trent University assistant anthropology professor Jocelyn Williams into the diets of recently unearthed mummies has revealed fascinating insights into the lives of the ancient Inca of Peru.

An ancient cemetery containing the remains of 500-year old mummies was discovered underneath the coastal town of Tupac Amaru, located near Lima, Peru. Due to the extreme dryness of this coastal desert, the people buried there were exceptionally well preserved and many still retained their skin, hair, fingernails, eyelashes, and even tattoos.

Prof. Williams sampled different tissues from the mummies, such as bone, skin, hair, nail, tendon and muscle to test for chemical signatures left behind by the various foods consumed by these people.

Egyptology Update

There is an absolute spaghetti of items concerning Egypt in the press at the moment, particularly in the UK, partly because of the unveiling of the mummified remains of Tutankhamun in his tomb at Luxor, but partly because of the impending visit to London of the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of Pharaohs exhibtion. I am doing my best to filter them sensibly over on my own blog, but there is nothing of great earth-shaking note emerging publicly from Egypt at the moment. If you want more details about the main events, the following may be of interest

If you are interested in Egyptology and travel in Egypt you shouldn't miss the Times Online: Egypt Travel Special, which links to a large number of excellent articles written by some well known writers. All of the articles concern Egypt, whether it is about visiting the lesser known pyramids or tackling a visit to the Cairo Egyptian Museum in a day.

Philip Hensher's article in the Irish Independent asks the question Where is the dignity in the display of this corpse? He considers whether or not the matter of respect and dignity should be taken into account when putting individuals like Tutankhamun on display for the benefit of the curiosity of onlookers.

There's a spine-chilling look at rubbish left by foreign tourists in the beautiful and unique White Desert of Egypt, near the oasis of Farafra, where three tons of trash has recently been collected.

Last week a CT scan was carried out on an anonymous adult mummy from the Royal Ontario Museum collection and is described on the above page. Three previous mummy scans are also described on the above page, including two infants and the female musician Djedmaatesankh who was based at the Temple of Amun at Luxor.

The Archaeology Magazine website has been updated with an article entitled Zombie Attack at Hierakonpolis by Renée Friedman, and more helpfully subtitled Weighing the evidence for and dating of Solanum virus outbreaks in early Egypt.

And if you're not pulling your hair out about being able to read little else about Egyptology which doesn't have the name of Tutankhamun involved, you might be interested to know that according to the Egypt State Information Service, the Tutankhamun exhibition is being opened next week by Susanne Mubarak. The exhibition has already sold 132,000 tickets.

Finally, hundreds of unpublished photographs taken by Lord Carnarvon during the discovery and excavations of the tomb of Tutankhamun have been discovered at Highclere Castle during research for a book. Unfortunately, only one of these photos that appears to have been released so far, which is the one on the above page.