Wednesday, February 28, 2007

19 th-century Greek divers paved way for Lake Erie team
In 1884, the Archaeological Society of Athens attempted a survey of the Straits of Salamis.

Using Greek divers, the team attempted to locate shipwrecks associated with the sea battle of 480 B.C. when the Greek fleet defeated the invading navy of the Persian King Xerxes.

The report languished in obscurity for so long probably because it was, according to the society’s secretary, "a complete failure."
Early Europeans unable to stomach milk
The first direct evidence that early Europeans were unable to digest milk has been found by scientists at UCL (University College London) and Mainz University.

In a study, published in the journal 'PNAS', the team shows that the gene that controls our ability to digest milk was missing from Neolithic skeletons dating to between 5840 and 5000 BC. However, through exposure to milk, lactose tolerance evolved extremely rapidly, in evolutionary terms. Today, it is present in over ninety per cent of the population of northern Europe and is also found in some African and Middle Eastern populations but is missing from the majority of the adult population globally.

Dr Mark Thomas, UCL Biology, said: "The ability to drink milk is the most advantageous trait that's evolved in Europeans in the recent past. Without the enzyme lactase, drinking milk in adulthood causes bloating and diarrhoea. Although the benefits of milk tolerance are not fully understood yet, they probably include: the continuous supply of milk compared to the boom and bust of seasonal crops; its nourishing qualities; and the fact that it's uncontaminated by parasites, unlike stream water, making it a safer drink. All in all, the ability to drink milk gave some early Europeans a big survival advantage."
'First' Sicilian woman gets face
The face of a late Stone Age woman who lived in Sicily has been reconstructed by a sculptor working with anthropologists at Palermo University.

The skeleton of the woman, who lived 14,000 years ago, was discovered in a cave near Messina in 1937, along with the incomplete skeletons of six other humans, presumably her family.

The face was reproduced using reconstruction techniques that calculate the appearance of features from the form of the cranium. The same techniques have been used recently to recreate the faces of Egyptian pharaohs and Italy's own Count Ugolino, a 13th-century Tuscan noble whose bones were found in 2001.

Somewhere, a sculptor is being severely haunted by the ghost of a 14,000 year old Sicilian woman.
UNESCO experts tour controversial Jerusalem dig
A team of experts from UNESCO toured on Wednesday an Israeli archaeological excavation that Muslims fear could damage Islam's holiest site in Jerusalem.

Israel says the dig, 50 meters (165 feet) from a religious compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount, will do no harm to the Dome of Rock and al-Aqsa mosques on the plaza, which overlooks Judaism's Western Wall.

Israeli archaeologists began what they called a "rescue excavation" at the site on February 7 to salvage artifacts before planned construction of a walkway leading up to the complex, where the two biblical Jewish Temples once stood.

The dig touched off violent Muslim protests in Arab East Jerusalem, which includes the walled Old City where the compound is located.
Lost Tomb of Jesus update The Washington Post has a story on the brewing kerfuffle wherein William Dever weighs in on the supposed significance of this group of names:
Dever, a retired professor of archaeology at the University of Arizona, said that some of the inscriptions on the Talpiyot ossuaries are unclear, but that all of the names are common.

"I've know about these ossuaries for many years and so have many other archaeologists, and none of us thought it was much of a story, because these are rather common Jewish names from that period," he said. "It's a publicity stunt, and it will make these guys very rich, and it will upset millions of innocent people because they don't know enough to separate fact from fiction."

The fact that Jacobovici is bringing in the James ossuary as a legitimate find really weakens the whole thing from the get-go. Still, I'm not overly concerned about their broadcasting it. Throw it out there and let everyone criticise it.

Dever kinda blew a perfect opportunity for a wicked pun though: "I'm not a Christian. I'm not a believer. I don't have a dog in this fight," said William G. Dever . He really didn't have a. . .god in this fight.

Maybe he's just dyslexic. . . . .

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mummy found

In New York.

But of fairly recent vintage:
Police called to a Long Island man's house discovered the mummified remains of the resident, dead for more than a year, sitting in front of a blaring television set.

The 70-year-old Hampton Bays, New York, resident, identified as Vincenzo Ricardo, appeared to have died of natural causes. Police said on Saturday his body was discovered on Thursday when they went to the house to investigate a report of a burst water pipe.

"You could see his face. He still had hair on his head," Newsday quoted morgue assistant Jeff Bacchus as saying.

And there's video! Not of the stiff though. Apparently his house had a rather low humidity. Probably would have had to have died in winter sometime, else one would presume even the house atmosphere would have not been able to dessicate the body. But, who knows. And, as FFT (hat tip) notes, why was a blind guy sitting in front of a turned-on TV?
Skull man suffered bad toothache
A human skull found in woodland in Buckinghamshire belonged to an 18th Century man with severe toothache.

The skull was found on 7 January by a member of the public walking his dog in Wendover Woods near Aylesbury.

Forensic archaeologists took DNA samples from a tooth and dated the skull between 1757 and 1788.

"Skull Man". Must be one of them Skeleton People.

This is also a strange link at the bottom of that page: The European Constitution returns with this picture:

Looks Egyptian. Can't tell who it is though.
Tourist invasion threatens to ruin glories of Angkor Wat
It has survived the collapse of the sophisticated civilisation that built it, centuries of consumption by the suffocating jungle and the nihilism of the Khmer Rouge, who beheaded its stone Buddhas and used its walls for target practice. Now, Cambodia's awe-inspiring Angkor Wat complex is facing the biggest threat in a millennium - the fastest-growing tourist onslaught of any World Heritage site, which conservationists warn is already damaging its treasures irreparably.
Find of Roman coin shows ancient Britons in a new light
Experts are excited about a rare coin unearthed by an amateur treasure hunter which could change the accepted ancient history of Britain.

The silver denarius which dates back to the Roman Republic — before Julius Caesar made Rome an empire — was unearthed near Fowey in Cornwall.

Dating from 146 BC, it shows how ancient Britons were trading with the Romans well before the country was conquered in AD 43.

"It proves that there was a lot more going on between the continent and ourselves," said Anna Tyacke, Finds Liaison Officer at the Royal Cornwall Museum.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Connecticut housing site could hold ancient graves, artifacts
The Connecticut state archaeologist has asked the private developer of a high-end residential complex to conduct an archaeological survey of the site, which is located near the mouth of a tidal river where indigenous people hunted, fished, grew corn, beans and squash, and buried their dead thousands of years ago.

State archaeologist Nick Bellantoni said the 42-acre Madison Landing site near the Hammonasset River, where LeylandAlliance LLC, of Tuxedo, N.Y., plans to build 127 units of age-restricted houses and condominiums, has a ''high probability'' of being an ancient American Indian site.

A pre-contact Native site located on the property is documented in the state's archaeological site files. The site was reported to the state more than 30 years ago by people who said they had found stone tools there. The property includes a small-plane airport that recently shut down after 60 years of operation.

That's a pretty good article. That publication has seemed to produce some pretty good articles in the past, too.
Campbell Ave. dig unearths Tucson's past
The endless chug, roar and bang of construction wipes out the Tucson of old. But, once in a while, it also turns the clock back to a time long before any modern resident's memory.

Working on her knees in a windblown, bare dirt lot next to a trailer park and across the street from the former Tucson General Hospital, Karen Russo gently scrapes the floor and walls of a shallow trench with a tiny metal trowel. Her eyes constantly scan the seemingly unremarkable, hard, tan earth for signs of the human past.

Each day, thousands of people on their way to and from the Foothills zoom by in fancy cars, unaware of the little Hohokam village where people were eking out a meager existence 1100 years ago. It's known as the CNN Camp Bell Site, the initials of Clayton N. Niles, the developer whose company is footing the bill for the work by Old Pueblo Archaeology Center.
Non-archaeology post One of the best bands you probably never heard of, Dreams So real:

More about the group here.

I have a cassette tape of the Jericho album that I got from an old roomate who had the CD. I've been rummaging through the used racks for years trying to find a CD copy, but to no avail. I was hoping iTunes would have it, but still no dice. Anyway, they weren't all that innovative, mostly just straight-ahead rock, but it was an excellent album, IMO. One of those great compilations where every track is different but they still hold together well. In truth, the post should probably be "One of the best albums you probably never heard of" since the other stuff they did ain't so hot.

I guess there's some vague archaeological connection there, if the whole 'Jericho' thing refers to the Biblical and archaeological site. I haven't listened to the dumb thing in a couple of years now (reason I brought this up: I do, in fact, have their followup CD Gloryline), but I recall the lyrics seemingly having something to do with it.

Funny, I grew up about 20 miles from a little town in Wisconsin called Jericho. Might not even be a town for all I know. Took me a long time to figure that one out. There's actually a "holy land" in Wisconsin, though not near Jericho. Apparently, there are several small towns in and around Holy Hill near Oconomowoc that have Biblical names. You may be familiar with Oconomowoc due to the recent, er, uproar that's been in the news. My family went to Holy Hill once, but I was so small I don't remember a thing.
Archaeologists continue Woodston dig
THE skeleton of an Anglo-Saxon lord has been recovered as the hunt for buried treasure continues at a city allotment site.
The removal of the seventh Century body follows the discovery of a rare ceremonial brass bowl on the site at Palmerston Road, Woodston, Peterborough.

The priceless Coptic bowl, which was made more than 1,300 years ago in the Mediterranean, has led historical experts to conclude they had discovered the grave of an extremely wealthy Anglo-Saxon – probably a prince or a powerful warlord from the ancient kingdom of Mercia.

The title of the page is actually listed as "Skeleton crew digs up the past" which is one archaeological pun I had not heard yet. It is acceptable.
46 tombs of 1,800 years ago found in China
Chinese archaeologists have discovered 46 tombs, some of which date back 1,800 years, in Tangxian County, in north China's Hebei Province.

Thirteen of the tombs belong to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), two to the Eastern Jin (317-420) and the Northern Dynasties (386-581), eight to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), 15 to the Jin (1115-1234), five to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and three to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Not much more there.
Cycloptic princess update Ancient seer’s golden eye glares again
The eyeball the earliest artificial eye found would have transfixed those who saw it, convincing them that the woman, thought to have been strikingly tall, had occult powers and could see into the future, archaeologists said.

It was found by Mansour Sajjadi, leader of the Iranian team, which has been excavating an ancient necropolis at Shahr-i-Sokhta in the Sistan desert on the Iranian-Afghan border for nine years.

Italian archaeologists said earlier this week that the prophetess had also been buried with an ornate bronze hand mirror, which she presumably used to check her "startling appearance."
Columbus' silver mining update A bit more here:
While excavating La Isabela in the late 1980s and early 1990s, archaeologists unearthed evidence of silver extraction. They found more than 100 lb of galena, a silver-containing lead ore, as well as hundreds of pounds of slag, which, upon close inspection, contained tiny specks of silver. This, the archaeologists thought, indicated the settlers' early silver-prospecting efforts.

But one question remained: Why didn't the settlers' records mention any discoveries of ore? Thibodeau decided to compare the lead isotope ratios from galena deposits in the Caribbean with those from the galena from La Isabela. They didn't match. But lead isotope ratios from the La Isabela galena did match those of Spanish samples of the ore, leading Thibodeau to conclude that the settlers brought the material with them, probably to compare with the anticipated local ores for a rough assay of silver content.

Has a couple photos of some of the objects, too.
Bulgaria's Perperikon - Metallurgical Centre 13 Centuries BC
Bulgarian archaeologists announce on Thursday they have made an incredible discovery in the Perperikon area, an ancient living region of Thracians.

The archaeologists said last summer they discovered the missing link in Thracian's history. They have found evidence for the transition from the late Bronze epoch to the early Iron epoch.

At the end of the Bronze epoch, as a result of cataclysms a global system is destroyed. Scientists call the system "East Mediterranean Civilization". After its end, there came the so called "dark ages" - a period, who until recent was a mystery for archaeologists.
Jesus Family Tomb Believed Found
New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world's foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah.

The DNA findings, alongside statistical conclusions made about the artifacts — originally excavated in 1980 — open a potentially significant chapter in Biblical archaeological history.

A documentary presenting the evidence, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," will premiere on the Discovery Channel on March 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The documentary comes from executive producer James Cameron and director Simcha Jacobovici.

Discovery has set up a special Web site,, to provide related in-depth information and to allow viewers to come to their own conclusions about the entire matter.

This is the first I've heard of it, so I'm just passing along the info sans comment.

UPDATE: Okay, one comment: An e-friend (Nick at TPW!) elsewhere pointed out -- which struck me as odd, too, but I didn't do anything about it -- this bit: Judah," whom they indicate may have been their son, could have been the "lad" described in the Gospel of John as sleeping in Jesus' lap at the Last Supper. I/we thought the relevant text makes it clear that this "lad" was a disciple, and generally thought to be John.

Another UPDATE: Some other observations here. Many, many questions.

And yet another UPDATE: A bit here and here and here . This apparently was known about in 1996. As the link directly above notes, they attempt to link this find with the James ossuary, which no one seems to have much faith in.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Missed this Native American populations share gene signature
Kari Schroeder at the University of California in Davis, US, and colleagues sampled the genes from various populations around the globe, including two at the eastern edge of Siberia, 53 elsewhere in Asia and 18 Native American populations. The study examined samples from roughly 1500 people in total, including 445 Native Americans.

The team looked for a series of nine repeating chunks of DNA, known as 9RA, which falls in a non-coding region of chromosome 9.

They found the 9RA sequence in at least one member of all the Native American populations tested, such as the Cherokee and Apache people. The two populations in eastern Siberia, where the Bering land bridge once connected Asia to North America, also tested positive for the 9RA sequence.

If memory serves, the basic model is of three major migrations represented by the major linguistic groups of Amerind, Na-Dene, and Aleut-Eskimo. Ruhlen has posited that these occurred at 11,000, 7,000 and 3,000 BP, which seems about what I had been taught, too.

Also came across this paper by Bonatto and Salzano that came up with something similar: "These results support a model for the peopling of the Americas in which Beringia played a central role, where the population that originated the Native Americans settled and expanded." That paper appears to be freely available.
Ancient Tiles Reveal Complex Geometry
Those wondrously intricate tile mosaics that adorn medieval Islamic architecture may cloak a mastery of geometry not matched in the West for hundreds of years.

Historians have long assumed that sheer hard work with the equivalent of a ruler and compass allowed medieval craftsmen to create the ornate star-and-polygon tile patterns that cover mosques, shrines and other buildings that stretch from Turkey through Iran and on to India.

Now a Harvard University researcher argues that more than 500 years ago, math whizzes met up with the artists and began creating far more complex tile patterns that culminated in what mathematicians today call "quasi-crystalline designs."

And don't forget to check out Lizard Endures World's Worst Pregnancy while you're there!
The feat is equivalent to a woman giving birth to a seven-year-old child.

I dunno, kiwis seem to carry an awful big (relatively) load:
CSI: Green County

Remains found in cave hold ancient mystery
Human remains found in a Southern Kentucky cave may wind up in the ultimate "Cold Case" file.

State police answered a call from southwestern Green County last month after two boys found remains from two bodies while exploring a cave concealed beneath an abandoned house.

"There's an old cabin that is built actually around the cave and a concrete floor that many years ago was poured around the cave opening," Lt. Eric Wolford said.
Clovis update New evidence -- Clovis people not first to populate North America
The belief that the Clovis People were the first to populate North America some 11,500 years ago has been widely challenged in recent years, and a Texas A&M University anthropologist has found evidence he says could be the final nail in the coffin for the Clovis first model.

Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M, is the lead author of the paper "Redefining the Age of Clovis: Implications for the Peopling of the Americas," that appears in the Feb. 23 (Friday) issue of Science.

Waters’ paper revises the original dates for the Clovis time period, suggesting that humans likely inhabited the Americas before Clovis, who have long been considered to be the first inhabitants of the New World.

They retested 25 samples (bone collagen all, apparently) and found that with modern AMS technology the dates cluster closely between 11,050 and 10,800 (or 10,900?) RC years BP. This makes a very short time frame for this particular cultural complex. It's also more recent than the usual 11,500 baseline usually cited for Clovis. That would make it difficult to argue that Clovis spread throughout the New World and thence gave rise to later peoples.

Interestingly, I did a little searching and found this link: Several samples of charcoal were dated, he [CV Haynes] told us, explaining his reluctance to accept the pre-12,000 B.P. date because of its geological nature, with two subsequent populations of dates, one at about 12,000 B.P., and the other at about 10,800 B.P.

Hmmmmmmmm. . . . . .

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Spear-wielding chimps snack on skewered bushbabies
Many chimpanzees trim twigs to use for ant-dipping and termite-fishing. But a population of savannah chimps (Pan troglodytes verus) living in the Fongoli area of south-east Senegal have been seen making spears from strong sticks that they sharpen with their teeth. The average spear length is 63 centimetres (25 inches), says Jill Pruetz at Iowa State University in Ames, US, who observed the behaviour.

And the method of procuring food with these tools is not simply extractive, as it is when harvesting insects. It is far more aggressive. They use the spears to hunt one of the cutest primates in Africa: bushbabies (Galago senegalensis).

"They do WHAT??"

UPDATE: No, I did not make any Britney Spears jokes on purpose.

Not that none occurred to me. . . . .
Extinctions update DNA analysis reveals rapid population shift among Pleistocene cave bears
To investigate the stability of ancient cave bear populations over time, the researchers obtained DNA samples from 29 cave bear teeth from three geographically close caves in the Ach Valley, near the Danube River in modern-day southern Germany. Twenty of the teeth ultimately provided useful mitochondrial DNA sequence (mitochondrial DNA is especially useful for tracking population changes). The findings indicated that while four sequence types (known as haplotypes) corresponded to bears 28,000 to 38,000 years old, a fifth DNA haplotype was found only in bears that were 28,000 years old or younger. These data suggested that what had been a stable, long-established cave bear population became disrupted around 28,000 years ago and was replaced by a new, genetically distinct cave bear group.

They suggest that shortly after the arrival of anatomically modern humans in the area, the local species left to be replaced by this new group. Don Grayson has done some work in France that suggests a possible link to certain cave bear extinctions and humans. Can't recall the actual place/dates off the top of my head though.
Saqqara update Tombs unearthed near Egyptian pyramid
Archaeologists on Tuesday unveiled the tombs of a pharaonic butler and scribe that have been buried for more than 3,000 years -- proof, one says, that Egypt's sands still have secrets to reveal.

Although archaeologists have been exploring Egypt intensively for more than 150 years, some estimate only one-third of what lies underground in Saqqara, site of the country's most ancient pyramid, has been uncovered.

"The sands of Saqqara reveal lots of secrets," said Egypt's antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, as he showed reporters a 4,000-year-old mud brick tomb that belonged to a scribe of divine records, Ka-Hay, and his wife. (Watch as objects buried for more than 3,000 years are seen for the first time.
Neanderthal update Freeze 'condemned Neanderthals'
Small pockets of Neanderthals clung on in the south (Image: Gibraltar Museum)
A sharp freeze could have dealt the killer blow that finished off our evolutionary cousins the Neanderthals, according to a new study.

The ancient humans are thought to have died out in most parts of Europe by about 35,000 years ago.

And now new data from their last known refuge in southern Iberia indicates the final population was probably beaten by a cold spell some 24,000 years ago.
Desperate New World Settlers Stole Christopher Columbus' Silver
A straggling band of New World settlers tried smelting silver they stole from Christopher Columbus' royal cache, new findings suggest.

Archaeologists working at Columbus' La Isabela settlement in the late 1980s discovered deposits of silver slag, which they initially thought represented the first evidence of mining in the New World.

New tests show, however, that the slag matches a kind of ore common in Spain. Frustrated and hungry stragglers probably made a last-ditch raid of a stock Columbus had brought from Europe, the researchers now believe.

I would.
Archaeological intrigue! Danger! Treasure! Heaving bosoms! Gifted Egyptologist, Secret Jewels and Couple of Murders All Add up to New eBook
Ewan Chisholm, despised drunk albeit gifted Egyptologist, is ordered by his curator at the Aspenwall Museum to fetch Sir William Garfield Tate's papers from his widow.

Chisholm stumbles on an envelope containing snapshots of a horde of pharaonic jewelry never seen before. When the Aspenwall governors learn about the jewel hoard they decide to send Chisholm to Egypt to find it for their museum.

In Cairo, he soon discovers Garfield Tate and his Nubian mistress were probably murdered and Lady Garfield Tate might have been involved.
More (semi-)breaking news from the EEF
"French team finds Persian-era oasis temple in Egypt"

"French archaeologists have found a temple dating from the
middle of the 1st millennium BC in Kharga oasis (...)
at Dush. (...) The French Institute for Oriental Archaeology
[IFAO] (...) said that a settlement dating from the Persian period
had revealed a temple, some important documents in the
demotic script current at the time and traces of the irrigation
system which made it possible to settle there, (...) and
also statues and gold coins from the period. "
Fight! Fight! UC Berkeley expert, campus officials refute protesters' latest charges
In response to claims made to the media today (Tuesday, Feb. 20) by protesters camped at the grove outside California Memorial Stadium and by their attorney stating that the grove could be the site of a Native American burial ground, Kent Lightfoot, curator of North American archaeology at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, provided the following statement to the media:

Protests? At Berkeley? Imagine that.

UPDATE: More here.
Aayko from the EEF sends this link to a slide show of. . . .hmmmm. Seems to be of Machu Picchu. Oh wait, you have to scroll through a couple of photos before getting to the tomb of Ka-Hay ones.
A mammoth find in Florida Teen makes mammoth fossil find in Pinellas County

A 16-year-old high school student stumbled upon what archaeologists say could be the biggest fossil find in Pinellas County in nearly a century.

A shiny black rock caught Sierra Sarti-Sweeney's eye as she was taking pictures last month in Boca Ciega Millennium Park.

"I looked down and saw a huge bone that could not be a rock. Most of it was exposed, but we dug and found that it was bigger and bigger. I thought, 'Oh my gosh, what are these? Are they people bones?'" she said.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Easter Island field school update This just in from Terry Hunt:
This coming summer (2007) the University of Hawai`i ARCHAEOLOGICAL FIELD
SCHOOL ON EASTER ISLAND (Rapa Nui) offers one session from 2 July to 1
August. Visit our webpages for details and applications:

The field school is open to undergraduate and graduate students.
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 has been EXTENDED until we fill the last few
positions with qualified students. The final closing date will be 9 MARCH.

For applications go to:

Pass it on to anyone interested.
Kennewick Man update I posted earlier about a paper that argued that perhaps Spirit Cave Man might be eligible for repatriation despite its great age. I checked out the paper and here are a few comments on it.

Heather J.H. Edgar, Edward A. Jolie, Joseph F. Powell, and Joe E. Watkins
Contextual issues in Paleoindian repatriation: Spirit Cave Man as a case study
Journal of Social Archaeology 2007 7: 101-122.

Abstract: Judge John Jelderks found that Kennewick Man cannot be defined as Native American under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. A recent amicus brief in the legal case regarding repatriation of materials from Spirit Cave, Nevada, suggests that the Kennewick case should be used as legal precedent, and that the remains of Spirit Cave Man are also not Native American. We suggest that a precedent in cases of Paleoindian human remains is inappropriate and unnecessary. We provide bioarchaeological, human variation, archaeological, social, and cultural contexts of the Spirit Cave Man remains. These contexts indicate that this case, and likely all of the few Paleoindian cases, is unique. Determinations of repatriation of Paleoindians should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

p. 105-106. Two metric analyses concluded that SCM fell outside the range of any modern NA sample, and the latest had them more related to Norse and Ainu.

Argue that Paleoindians don't resemble modern NA groups because of evolution over time. p. 107:
The remains of some Paleoindians express craniodental phenotypes different from those of contemporary Native Americans because they are not contemporary.

Apparently, those who think otherwise are unscientific and playing into the hands of modern religious conservatives. This seems beside the point.

Nevertheless, they also state that "it is not at all clear that these remains can ever be affiliated with any specific contemporary population" because of the temporal differences.

Main argument for cultural continuity is in the manufacture of the fabrics he was buried with. They argue that many of the techniques and decoration employed have a fairly continuous distribution throughout the area into proto-historic times.

They seem to be arguing mostly against a recent amicus brief that seeks to appy the Kennewick case directly to SCM: that anything this old cannot be NA and thus NAGPRA doesn't apply, a priori. They argue that age is/should not be not the sole determinant of whether any remains are "Native American".

They use an example to illustrate what they call the "absurd" nature of the Kennewick decision, where the last member (Ishi) of a tribe (the Yahi) eventually died (1916) and note that his remains would not be considered NA since there was no existing tribe to which he could be tied. This seems to be their main beef with the Kennewick decision; that the legal definition of NA to determine whether NAGPRA applies is at odds with the commonly understood meaning of the term.

They also state that they do not advocate repatriating the SCM remains to any particular tribe at this time, nor that the remains stay in curation permanently.

Two things: First, I'm not entirely certain that one can state that conclusively that Paleoindians and modern groups are different solely because of the passage of time. They only cite one source for that assertion. I'm not arguing the opposite, but I'd like to see a more detailed argument for that.

Second, that the legal definition of what is or is not "Native American" is different from what we ordinarily think of as "Native American" seems kind of trivial to me. Commonsensically, I am a Native American since I and my parents and their parents were born here. The legal definition serves, it seems to me, only a very narrow purpose: that of determining whether or not NAGPRA applies. Thus, the modern example above isn't at all absurd; if there's no tribe in existence to return the remains to, NAGPRA doesn't apply. It would seem to me equally absurd to argue that if a particular unclaimed modern body (say, a murder victim) can't be shown to have any close relatives, it should be given away to whatever family happens to live closest to the morgue.

That said, it's difficult to disagree with the basic contention of the paper, which is that if remains of a certain age can be linked to some modern group, then NAGPRA would apply, and not to simply assume that remains of a certain age (what that age might be, I don't know) cannot be linked to modern groups. Personally, I think a connection has to be and ought to be very well documented and that this is probably not possible for remains this old.

I think one ought to keep in mind that the whole NAGPRA issue only really applies to repatriation issues. Saying NAGPRA doesn't apply doesn't mean that a given set of remains are not "Native American" in some sense, just that no modern group has a particular claim to them. Kennewick and others are part of the pre-Columbian history of this continent; they just can't be linked to any particular tribe for repatriation.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Practice of farming reaches back farther than thought
Ancient people living in Panama were processing and eating domesticated species of plants like maize, manioc, and arrowroot at least as far back as 7,800 years ago � much earlier than previously thought � according to new research by a University of Calgary archaeologist.

One of the most hotly debated issues in the discipline of archaeology is how and why certain human societies switched from hunting and gathering to producing their own food through agriculture. Dr. Ruth Dickau, a post-doctoral researcher in the U of C's department of archaeology, has used a new technique called starch grain analysis to recover microscopic residues of plants directly off the stone tools that people were using in Panama 3,000 to 7,800 years ago.

Same analytic method as the red hot chili peppers research?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Breaking news from Egypt Via the EEF:

Press report: "Mud Tomb Found Near Oldest Egypt Pyramid":

"A mud brick tomb dating back more than 4,000 years has been
discovered near Egypt's most ancient pyramid in the Saqqara
complex south of Cairo. (...) The tomb, which was found by
an Egyptian-Australian mission, belonged to Ka-Hay, who kept
divine records, and his wife. (..). Excavators found five wooden
statues depicting the tomb's owner and his wife in a niche at
the tomb's forefront. Among the wooden figures was a unique
double statue of a seated and his wife. "
[The report has a photo of one of the statues.]

Press report: "Archaeologists find rare wooden statue in Egypt":
"A rare double wooden statue of an ancient Egyptian scribe and
his wife has been found in their tomb south of Cairo (...) The
double statue, dating from around 2300 BC, was among a total of
five wooden statues found at the tomb in Sakkara. (...)
The official was Ka-Hay, who kept divine records, and his wife,
Spri-Ankh. They lived late in the 5th dynasty or early in the 6th
and were buried in the part of the necropolis associated with the
pharaoh Teti."
Hawks has a thorough review of the Falks paper on H. hobbitus.
Former slave founded town that vanished
With New Philadelphia, McWorter was the first African-American to establish a plat map for a U.S. town and legally register it with government authorities. He called himself Free Frank, declaring his status as a man who had bought his own freedom.

Today, no visible signs of New Philadelphia remain. The blacksmith’s shop is gone, as are the post office and the town’s dwellings. The only trace is a gravel road following the path of what were New Philadelphia’s streets.

Yet fragments of New Philadelphia remain under the grass. Archaeologists from across the country are digging into the earth, trying to reconstruct the story of this black pioneer and his uncommon town.
Torture topped the bill in Roman Chester
A gladiatorial torture block has been discovered in the centre of the arena, which was once the largest in Roman Britain.

The huge stone slab, with an iron fitting fastened into the surface, would have been used for chaining victims during spectacles.

The find has astonished archaeologists, who now realise that two similar stones found in 1975 had been completely misinterpreted until now. They were believed to have simply marked a processional path.

Their real purpose was confirmed by an image of such stones in a mosaic of gladiators found at a Roman villa at Bignor, West Sussex, in the 19th century.
Goodyear is taking volunteers to work at the Topper Site. See the web site for more details.
Non-archaeology post The Inventor Who Deserves a Sitting Ovation
Robert Adler, a prolific inventor, received more than 180 U.S. patents during a lifetime of dreaming and tinkering. But only one of his creations revolutionized an industry, changed the face of modern life, and supplied stand-up comedians with a never-ending source of material.

Adler, who died Thursday at the age of 93, was the co-inventor of the remote control, the device that has bedeviled, edified and otherwise sustained a grateful nation of couch potatoes ever since its introduction. Along with inventor and fellow engineer Eugene Polley, Adler helped bring the first commercially successful wireless TV remote -- the Zenith Space Command -- to market in 1956.

My parents had one of these in probably the late 1960s. They looked something like this:

Ours was less colorful and looked more like a Star Trek phaser -- more "streamlined" if you could use that term. I don't remember what the other two buttons were for besides changing channels; my recollection is that they were On/Off buttons, but they could have been volume, too.

They worked through sound, or ultra-sound. The device had four little rods in it and pushing the buttons caused little hammers to strike the bars which the TV picked up and processed:
The transmitter used no batteries; it was built around aluminum rods that were light in weight and, when struck at one end, emitted distinctive high-frequency sounds. The first such remote control used four rods, each approximately 2-1/2 inches long: one for channel up, one for channel down, one for sound on and off, and one for on and off.

We kids discovered this by accident. One day one of us was jangling a chain around and the TV started switching channels! Couldn't really "control" it, but by jangling the chain all voer the place it would switch channels in random directions. I think that was the first technological device I ever really understood. Somehow, it didn't seem so cool after that.

So anyway, thanks Dr. Adler.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Non-archaeology story Frog in amber may be 25M years old
A miner in the state of Chiapas found a tiny tree frog that has been preserved in amber for 25 million years, a researcher said. If authenticated, the preserved frog would be the first of its kind found in Mexico, according to David Grimaldi, a biologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History, who was not involved in the find.

The chunk of amber containing the frog, less than half an inch long, was uncovered by a miner in Mexico's southern Chiapas state in 2005 and was bought by a private collector, who lent it to scientists for study.

A few other preserved frogs have been found in chunks of amber — a stone formed by ancient tree sap — mostly in the Dominican Republic. Like those, the frog found in Chiapas appears to be of the genus Craugastor, whose descendants still inhabit the region, said biologist Gerardo Carbot of the Chiapas Natural History and Ecology Institute. Carbot announced the discovery this week.

No word on whether giant man-eating frogs have been cloned from it.

Walker "site" update Ancient Stone "Tools" Found; May Be Among Americas' Oldest
"We were certainly very surprised to find these objects here," said Matt Mattson, a biologist and archaeologist who has been working as a contractor for the Leech Lake Heritage Sites program, based near Cass Lake, Minnesota.

But the late Ice Age relics still need to be positively dated and confirmed as human-made before the stones' significance can be established, Mattson and other experts caution.

David Meltzer is an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas. He said that "there's simply no way to gauge the significance of the discovery until some reliable dates are obtained, and until it's shown that these are truly artifacts."

Doesn't say much more than is already known. BTW, I used the quote marks above because it's unknown at this time, not as a big pronouncement.
Greek archaeologists discover ancient theater in Athens
Sections of an ancient Greek theater were discovered on Thursday during construction work in an Athens suburb, archaeologists said.

Until now, only two such buildings were known in the ancient city where western theater originated more than 2,500 years ago.

Fifteen rows of concentric stone seats have been located so far in the northwestern suburb of Menidi, according to Vivi Vassilopoulou, Greece's general director of antiquities.
And now. . . .the news from the EEF

Press report: "Egyptian policeman arrested for
trying to sell four ancient statues"
"The police stormed the guard's house in Negada village
in Qena and found four small pharaonic statues in his
possession. One of the statues is ebony and the three
others are golden. One is in the shape of a bird, another is
a statue of a 16th dynasty (about 1600 BC) king, the
third is of a pharaonic fighter and the fourth is of a noble. "

(RE: Three coffins discovered by the Japanese) A press report that contains a color photo:
"Find may reveal secrets of the dead, 4000 years on"
"The [New Kingdom] coffin... its inscription says it to belonged
to a person called Waya-ly."

-- A press report that gives the names a little less garbled,
namely as Waya-Iy, Sebek Hetep and Snet-It-Ess:

Press report: "Egypt's Child Gods Shown on Artifact"
About the recently found doorway beam found at the
birth house of the Temple Precinct of Mut, with a good
description and a photo of the object.

Press report: "Coin shows Cleopatra's ugly truth"
About the looks of Cleopatra, as 'revealed' by
a silver coin. "She had a pointed chin, thin lips and
sharp nose." [This ''news" pops up about every year...
And do note the size of the coin and consider whether
it could really be an accurate 'portrait'. ]

"Archaeological Mission of the Bologna University at Kkom
Umm el-Atl (Fayyum - Egypt). Preliminary Report of the XV
Excavation Campaign, 2nd-28th November 2006"
"The 2006 Excavation Campaign has been divided in two
phases. In the first one, we brought to light, in the so-called
kôm south, the structures of a church, which is the first one
attested not only in Bakchias, but in the whole northern part
of the Fayyum; in the second phase we carried on the excavation
of the temple of the crocodile god Soknobraisis (Temple E),
which began in November 2005."

Jerome C. Rose, "Paleopathology of the commoners at
Tell Amarna, Egypt, Akhenaten's capital city", in: Memórias
do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, vol. 101, Suppl. II, pp. 73-76
(2006), in PDF (133kB):
Analysis of the skeletal material of the South Tombs
cemetery at Tell Amarna.

[Submitted by Kate Newkirk]
"The Egyptian Crowns and Syrio-Palestinian Deities in the
New Kingdom: Its Meaning and Necessity"
A poster in PDF format by Keiko Tazawa and Dr. Ian Shaw
(470 kB):

"Tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Opened for VR Photographer"
"The tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings -
closed to the public for over 10 years - can now be viewed
for the first time in a stunning series of fifteen panoramas ..."

End of EEF news
Archaeologists: Chili Peppers Cooked, Eaten 6,000 Years Ago
Who says food fads can't last?

Thousands of years before the advent of Tex-Mex, ancient Americans were spicing up stew with red hot chili peppers.

New fossil evidence shows prehistoric people from southern Peru up to the Bahamas were cultivating varieties of chilies millennia before Columbus' arrival brought the spice to world cuisine.

Identified via starch residues.

UPDATE: More here.

UPDATE: And another one here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Discovery of mosaic halts work at Jerusalem walkway
The planned walkway at the centre of the furious dispute over Jerusalem's holiest site could be further delayed by the discovery of a Byzantine mosaic.

The geometric patterned fragment was exposed by archaeological workers yesterday at the bottom of an underground shaft where one of the walkway pillars is intended to go, as The Independent examined excavation work in the area.

"We have a real time discovery," reported Gideon Avni, director of excavations and surveys at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

There's supposedly a webcast live from the site, but I can't find it right now.
Graves of warriors open to the public
Ancient Greek graves holding the remains of warriors slain in the Peloponnesian War, one of antiquity's deadliest conflicts, will soon be accessible to visitors in Athens, an archaeologist said on Wednesday.

"We have the remains of Athenian warriors of the Peloponnesian War carried there from battlefield funeral pyres," supervising archaeologist Haris Stoupa told reporters.

"We're not sure of the exact battle as we were not fortunate enough to find engravings," she added.
Kennewick Man revisited Anthropologists Back Native American Claims
The case of Kennewick Man – or the Ancient One – as Native Americans refer to him, dragged through the courts for years before Judge John Jelderks found that he could not be defined Native American under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

A recent case regarding repatriation of even older remains and artifacts from Spirit Cave, Nev., suggests that the Kennewick Man case should be used as a legal precedent and that the remains of Spirit Cave Man are not Native American.

Four University of New Mexico anthropologists have written an article where they suggest that a precedent in Paleoindian human remains is “inappropriate and unnecessary.” They claim that each case is unique and that repatriation determination should be handled case-by-case.

Haven't read the article yet. It's difficult to see how one could argue for cultural affiliation over several thousand years. Biologically. .. .I dunno how close one could to really specifying and ancestor-descendent relationship.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Etruscan update On the origin of the Etruscan civilisation
One of anthropology's most enduring mysteries - the origins of the ancient Etruscan civilisation - may finally have been solved, with a study of cattle.

This culturally distinct and technologically advanced civilisation inhabited central Italy from about the 8th century BC, until it was assimilated into Roman culture around the end of the 4th century BC.

The origins of the Etruscans, with their own non-Indo-European language, have been debated by archaeologists, geneticists and linguists for centuries. Writing in the 5th century BC, the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the Etruscans had arrived in Italy from Lydia, now called Anatolia in modern-day Turkey.

Bad quoting there. This is the guts of it: The team found that almost 60% of the mitochondrial DNA in cows in the central Tuscan region of the country - where the Etruscan civilisation is thought to have arisen - was the same as that in cows from Anatolia and the Middle East. There was little or no genetic convergence between cows from the north and south of Italy and those from Turkey and the Middle East, the researchers say.

Interesting, but they'll need to show why there's nothing beween there and Italy. The article suggests that they sailed there. Eh.
Lack of blogging update
Sorry about the lack of posting much today, I had to work from home and wait for a plumber. Usually installing a new toilet is a piece o' cake. This time I had trouble getting the old bolts out so I started hacking away at a metal flange that was holding the ring down. Which I belatedly found out was what was holding the ring thing down, rather than the usual screws/bolts into the floor. So anyway, I didn't know how to attach said ring thing to floor and whether the flange thing was indeed necessary or not. So, a call to the professionals was in order. 'Course, there was mention of a "lead bend" along the way, and some (ultimately misleading) Web investigation indicated that a broken lead bend -- which is what said Web search also seemed to indicate the flange thing that I'd busted off -- was way expensive to repair. YEESH.

Turned out the flange was just a way of securing the ring thing in lieu of bolts -- which had rusted away long ago -- and wasn't really needed. So he drilled a couple holes, screwed in the ring thing into the floor and popped in the new terlet.
Semi-breaking newsArchaeologists find Akhenaten-era tomb
Dutch archaeologists have discovered the tomb of the Pharaoh Akhenaten's seal bearer, decorated with paintings including scenes of monkeys picking and eating fruit, Egyptian antiquities officials said on Wednesday.

The tomb belonged to the official named Ptahemwi and was discovered during a Dutch team's excavation in the Sakkara area, the burial ground for the city of Memphis, the state news agency MENA said, quoting chief antiquities official Zahi Hawass.

Akhenaten, the 18th-dynasty pharaoh who ruled Egypt from 1379 to 1362 BC, abandoned most of the old gods and tried to imposed a monotheistic religion based on worship of the Aten, the disc of the sun.
Archaeologist scours region for treasure
ARCHAEOLOGIST Mark Olly will again try to persuade the public to hand over their `valuables' in a new TV series.

The cape-wearing, pistol-packing presenter will hunt for more lost treasures when he returns to our screens in April.

The Granada programme will once again see Warrington-based Mark touring the region in search of interesting items unearthed by anyone with a curiosity for regional history, mystery or archaeology.

Kinda like an Antiques Roadshow for older stuff.
Archaeologists reveal hidden secrets of Hungate for first time in years
Archaeologists have unearthed a well-preserved Victorian street during a massive dig at York's Hungate development.

A five-year project to excavate the area was started before Christmas by Hungate (York) Regeneration Ltd, in association with York Archaeological Trust.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Semi-archaeology story Fossils: myths, mystery and magic
Ancient bones and other fossilised remains have been known to humans for millennia but it is only over the past 300 years or so that their true origins have been revealed. Until then, a rich folklore sought to explain these enigmatic relics from the past. Every culture in every country, it seems, wanted an explanation for the unusual objects and bizarre shapes that often seemed to emerge, as if by magic, from the ground.

Imagine a group of prehistoric hunters, whose trail has brought them to a remote cave in northern Europe. They discover a cave and in it they find the empty skull of a huge, unrecognisable beast sitting on top of a pile of bones. It is easy to how the myth of cave-dwelling dragons who fed on other large creatures might have come about.

Neat article, very long, with many examples of different sorts of fossils and how they were worked into ancient mythology.
Hugging skeletons update Italy won’t split up ancient ‘lovers’
In a Valentine’s Day gift to the country, scientists said they are determined to remove and preserve together the remains of a couple buried 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, their arms still wrapped around each other in an enduring embrace.

Instead of removing the bones one-by-one for reassembly later, archaeologists plan to scoop up the entire section of earth where the couple was buried, they told Reuters.

The plot will then be transported for study before being put on display in an Italian museum, thereby preserving the world’s longest known hug for posterity.

Update: There's a short video segment at the site, too.
Archaeoastronomy update Octagon Earthworks’ alignment with moon likely is no accident
The Octagon Earthworks in Newark is one remnant of the Newark Earthworks, recently listed by The Dispatch as one of the Seven Wonders of Ohio.

Earlham College professors Ray Hively and Robert Horn demonstrated in 1982 that the walls of this 2,000-yearold circle and octagon were aligned to the points on the horizon, marking the limits of the rising and setting of the moon during an 18.6-year cycle.

The implications of this argument for our understanding of the knowledge and abilities of the ancient American Indian builders of the earthworks are astounding. But how can we know whether they deliberately lined the walls up with the moon or whether the series of alignments is just an odd coincidence?

Roman burial ground is uncovered

Skeletons dating back to the 1st Century have been discovered by archaeologists working at an Anglian Water site in Lincolnshire.

The water company called archaeologists after a geographical survey showed The Wong in Horncastle could contain important artefacts.

The archaeologists found coins, pottery, tweezers and 30 skeletons at the site.
Archaeologists find signs of early chimps' tool use
In the rain forest of the Ivory Coast 4,300 years ago, chimpanzees gathered in groups and cracked nuts the best they could, the Stone Age way. Place the nut on a hard, flat rock. Take a heavy hammer rock, and pound the nut. The chimps must have feasted well and often there under the trees by a black-water river.

Archaeologists digging in Tai National Park in Ivory Coast reported Monday the discovery of several sites where such nut-cracking chimps long ago left broken and discarded stones that were used as natural tools. Starch residues from nuts were lodged in crevices of the stones.

Very neat. Read the whole thing for their methods of identification. Don't know how strong their contention is that they didn't learn from humans who were apparently in the area at the time.
The City Hall Park Project
The City Hall Park archaeological project recovered approximately 250,000 archaeological remains that can reveal information about the civic transformation of the eighteenth century. Archaeology uncovered portions of colonial and Revolutionary War barracks where British officers and soldiers were housed both before and during the British occupation of New York; the Almshouse, which housed the ill and impoverished; the Bridewell, a prison; and the New Gaol, another penal institution.

The site provides unparalleled opportunities to combine a rich body of historic documents with archaeological finds to illuminate all facets of public life in New York during these tumultuous times.

Make sure to click on the links at the bottom for more photos and drawings.
A new Medieval view of Stonehenge
Medieval representations of Stonehenge are extremely rare. For generations we have known of only two, dateable to the earlier 14th century. Further views do not appear until the second half of the 16th century, after a complete break in both the spirit and form of imagery. I can now describe, for the first time to the English-speaking world, a newlydiscovered medieval drawing of Stonehenge created in the 1440s. This drawing has a literary association that is identical to one of the 14th century illustrations, and extends the medieval iconography of the site while remaining firmly attached to mythical history. It is also the first known design to represent Stonehenge not just as a symbolic image, but with precise observations on its form and construction techniques. It bridges perfectly the worlds of medieval myth and Renaissance observation. The discovery provides an opportunity to reconsider the two previously known drawings. First, however, we will look at the new manuscript.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Can't remember if I posted this earlier (and too lazy to look): Japanese team finds ancient Egyptian coffins
A Japanese archaeological team has discovered three painted wooden coffins in Egypt, including two from the little-known Middle Kingdom period dating back more than 4,000 years.

The sarcophagi were found in tomb shafts in the vast Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, Zahi Hawass, the director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Saturday.

"It is significant because of the discovery of two sarcophagi from the Middle Kingdom," said Japanese team leader Sakuji Yoshimori.
Cool web site alert Vindolanda Tablets Online

Texts, images, translations, and commentary on a boatload of texts from this Roman site in northern England.
Jimmy Carter: (potential) Felon Intent of 'Carter clause' disputed
Under Section 6, subsection (b), the act states, "No person may sell, purchase, exchange, transport, receive, or offer to sell, purchase, or exchange any archaeological resource if such resource was excavated or removed from public lands or Indian lands" in violation of the act's general restrictions and permitting requirements.

However, with respect to the heavy fines and penalties that can be assessed for violating the law, the act states that "nothing in subsection (d) of this section shall be deemed applicable to any person with respect to the removal of arrowheads located on the surface of the ground."

This language is sometimes called the "Carter clause." President Jimmy Carter, an arrowhead collector himself, was in office when the Archaeological Resources Protection Act passed.

John Fryar, a now-retired Bureau of Indian Affairs criminal investigator, told an Arizona newspaper in March 2005 that's why surface finds were exempt from the stiff penalties.

"We didn't want to make the sitting president of United States a convicted felon," he said. "Also, there was a Boy Scout merit badge for collecting arrowheads, and nobody wants to make Boy Scouts criminals."

I'd never heard of this myself. It mentions further down that other laws are supposedly in place to protect surface finds.
Archaeologists let looters do some of the work
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, goes the old saw. But when you are an archeologist and life gives you looters, often all you can do is make lamentations. Looting afflicts archaeological sites worldwide, from the wide-spread plundering of ancient Sumerian sites in Iraq, to pot-hunters in the American Southwest, to the looting of Inca and other sites in the Peruvian Andes.

However, a few archaeologists have figured out a way to put the looters to work for them, as archaeologist Lisa Lucero of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces demonstrated in a recent talk about her team's study of the ancient Maya ceremonial center at Yalbac in Belize.

. . .

Belize antiquities officials want more information about the archaeological site, but also want as few excavations as possible to limit damage at Yalbac. "So I only have looter's trenches, and I'd rather stick with that than destroy more temples," Lucero says. Making the best of the situation, her team has catalogued the structure and building of the marred temples using the looter's diggings.

It's a pretty good article describing what they've found. I suppose in a way these looter trenches are similar to digging a trench with a backhoe on a new site to determine what the stratigraphy looks like.
Heh. A liking for Vikings
HAGAR THE HORRIBLE and pals have a bad reputation. We picture them as seafaring, bloodthirsty warmongers plundering the North Atlantic and British Isles in longboats, red hair blazing underneath horned helmets, ready to rape and pillage - and that's on a good day.

In reality, the Viking race had a complex culture that defies stereotype.

A new book, Exploring the World of the Vikings, by Richard Hall of York Archaeological Trust, investigates Viking culture from its origins in Scandinavia during the first millennium AD, through the period of raiding, trading and settling known as the Viking Age, to the last surviving settlements in 15th-century Greenland.
Mass grave discovered at Bentonville Battleground
Archaeologists from Wake Forest University and the state of North Carolina believe they have discovered a mass grave of Confederate soldiers at Bentonville Battleground in Johnston County.

The search for the grave began in order to attempt to answer some historical questions of what happened to Confederate soldiers being tended at a field hospital at the site of the battle.

Donny Taylor, Bentonville site manager, said there have always been stories of mass Confederate graves associated with the battle in Johnston County.
Digging in Israel update In Jerusalem archaeology is politics
The very stones of Jerusalem are political weapons in the age-old struggle for possession of the Holy Land.

And nowhere is more sensitive than the great platform built by King Herod, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to the Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary.

To understand the current row over excavation and repair work just outside one of the gates onto the compound, it is important to know that here history, religion and politics meet. Nothing in Jerusalem can be understood without all three.
Archaeologists, historians skeptical about Colonial settlement
Archaeologists and historians are dubious about the recent find of a previously unknown early Colonial settlement in Virginia Beach.
Army archaeologist Randy Amici uncovered the site.

He's agreed to meet on Monday with the group of skeptics.

Friday, February 09, 2007

And now. . . .the news from the EEF

Press report: "Whispers of the past"
Article about John Sarr and his love for ancient Egypt.
"Sarr is perhaps Portland's most enthusiastic scholar of ancient
Egyptian culture and language (..), one of those fabulous Portland
examples of someone who has figured out how to carve a
fully formed second life from his spare time."
"Sarr will give a lecture on the Portland Art Museum's
collection of more than 1,300 scarabs at 2 p.m. Feb. 11 in
the Fields Sunken Ballroom; $5 members, $10 non-members, or 503-226-0973. "

Press report: "It’s Settled, Then"
Lengthy article about the resettlement plans for Qurna
residents; with a history of the Gurnawis.

Subject: Amenemope Dissertation address changed
A number of Egyptological web sites have links to the online
text of my doctoral dissertation, "The Instruction of Amenemope:
A Critical Edition and Commentary--Prolegomenon and Prologue".
The dissertation has recently been moved to a new location, and
the old web address will be going away soon, so all links should
be updated accordingly.
The OLD link was:
The NEW link is:

Online article: Stanley Burstein, "When Greek was an African
Language", Frank M. Snowden Jr. Lectures, Howard University,
Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC. August, 2006
About the role of Greek and Greek culture in ancient and
medieval Nubia (Nubia and Kush during the Ptolemaic,
Roman and Christian periods).

M. Kamel Hussein, "An Ancient Egyptian Treatise on Traumatology,
2800 BC", in: Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, vol. 31 B, no 2
(May 1949), pp. 309-312. In PDF, 614 kB
A look at AE medicine and the Edwin Smith Papyrus.

Philip Salib, "Orthopaedic and Traumatic Skeleton Lesions in
Ancient Egyptians", in: Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery,
vol. 44 B, no.4 (November 1962), pp. 944-947. In
PDF, 432 kB
Looks at skeletal affections in AE corpses.

End of EEF news

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Forensic photography helps researchers collect information from fragile artifacts before using expensive chemical tests, which cause damage during material sampling. The forensic method also helps researchers narrow areas to sample for colorants, ultimately reducing artifact damage and testing costs.

“Normally when you dig artifacts out of the ground, especially stone or ceramic ones, you wash them and they look sexy. But you can't do that with textiles,” said Christel Baldia, Ohio State University doctoral graduate in textiles and clothing. Baldia conducted the study with Kathryn Jakes, professor of textile sciences in the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State, and published their findings in the April, 2007 issue of Journal of Archaeological Science.

Very good. It doesn't reveal the colors but can reveal patterns in the fabric that may contain dyes or other substances of interest. Sampling can then be done more efficiently.

Also, click on the link to the photos.
Yet another article about Tits

As you know, we here at ArchaeoBlog are quite fond of Tits. Especially Great ones. Thus, it is with great excitement that we bring you, dear readers, another interesting news article about Tits and how exceedingly helpful they can be:

Great Tits (Parus major) Reduce Caterpillar Damage in Commercial Apple Orchards
Alternative ways to control caterpillar pests and reduce the use of pesticides in apple orchards are in the interest of the environment, farmers and the public. Great tits have already been shown to reduce damage under high caterpillar density when breeding in nest boxes in an experimental apple orchard. We tested whether this reduction also occurs under practical conditions of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), as well as Organic Farming (OF), by setting up an area with nest boxes while leaving a comparable area as a control within 12 commercial orchards. We showed that in IPM orchards, but not in OF orchards, in the areas with breeding great tits, apples had 50% of the caterpillar damage of the control areas. Offering nest boxes to attract insectivorous passerines in orchards can thus lead to more limited pesticide use, thereby adding to the natural biological diversity in an agricultural landscape, while also being economically profitable to the fruit growers.

Here's a picture of a pair of great tits:

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Archaeologists dig secrets of Lincoln Parish mounds
The Hedgepeth Mounds site, one of seven sites of ancient mounds in Lincoln Parish, has revealed a few secrets to Joe Saunders and his team since they refocused their attention there last December.

The two main mounds, structures believed older than the pyramids of Egypt, have companions. Saunders said that shows a strong relationship to the site at Watson Brake and a larger system of organization in the culture that built them.

Up to four more earthen mounds found in the area by Bayou D'Arbonne could also be man-made, American Indian mounds, Saunders said.
Holy crap Archaeological object seized in biggest swoop
Spanish police have arrested 52 people in one of the world's biggest swoops against archaeological pillaging, seizing 300,000 objects, police said on Wednesday.

The objects included bronze statues, shafts of columns, coins and amphoras measuring up to one metre, among others. They ranged from prehistoric to medieval ones.

The objects had been pilfered from 31 sites. Some were museum standard and would have fetched tens of thousands of euros on the market.

And they were all stored in one of the suspect's 1-bdrm apartment.

Okay, I made that up.
Homo hobbitus update Hobbit Skeptics Split on What a Second Skull Would Mean
A second skull would be especially helpful. Critics of the new species theory have latched onto the Hobbit's measly 400-cubic-centimeter brain as a sure sign of an abnormality called microcephaly in which the brain does not reach normal size. Some prominent advocates of a human Hobbit say that a second skull could settle the debate. "It's the acid test," says primatologist Robert Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago, who contends that the existing Hobbit skull is a malformed human skull. If he is correct, a second skull would be closer to 1,000 cubic centimeters, he says.

. . .

Some other holdouts against the separate species view say the question is less straightforward. "Reopening the cave is great and I am confident that the investigators will find more material similar to that already recovered," says evolutionary biologist Gary Richards of the University of California, Berkeley, who has argued that the Hobbit represents a dwarfed—but healthy—human. "Unlike others, I am of the opinion that this will not confirm that the remains are a [new] species."

Hawks also thinks that a similar second skull would seal the deal for a new species. I tend to side with the other skeptics, in that one needs to -- and this is a logical preference on my part, btw, not a statement of how things are -- establish that these critters exhibit traits well outside expected variation. That would mean demonstrating that inheritance of these characteristics among a relatively isolated population is highly unlikely.
Peopling of the Americas update First Americans Arrived Recently, Settled Pacific Coast, DNA Study Says
A study of the oldest known sample of human DNA in the Americas suggests that humans arrived in the New World relatively recently, around 15,000 years ago.

The DNA was extracted from a 10,300-year-old tooth found in a cave on Prince of Wales Island off southern Alaska in 1996.

The sample represents a previously unknown lineage for the people who first arrived in the Americas.

Not sure about the contention about how transferable maritime skills are compared to purely terrestrial ones. There seems to be an awful lot of difference between the northwest coastal environment and that in California, for example.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Discovered: Britain's very own Colosseum
Archaeologists have discovered that what had been thought to be a relatively small, down-market amphitheatre in Britain was in fact a top-of-the-range, though admittedly more intimate, version of Rome's famous gladiatorial arena.

Indeed, this British Colosseum - in Chester - may well have been built as a replica of the one in Rome, possibly on the orders of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, who was in Britain at the time.

Although it was much smaller than the Colosseum, its outer wall appears to have had a blind arcade of 80 arches, giving it a superficially similar appearance to the one in Rome. If the archaeologists' calculations are correct, Rome and Chester were the only places in the Roman world to have amphitheatres with that number of arches.
Ancient skeleton focus of modern debate
Deep in the dusty, unlit corridors of Kenya's national museum, locked away in a plain-looking cabinet, is one of mankind's oldest relics: Turkana Boy, as he is known, the most complete skeleton of a prehistoric human ever found.

But his first public display later this year is at the heart of a growing storm — one pitting scientists against Kenya's powerful and popular evangelical Christian movement. The debate over evolution vs. creationism — once largely confined to the United States — has arrived in a country known as the cradle of mankind.

"I did not evolve from Turkana Boy or anything like it," says Bishop Boniface Adoyo, head of Kenya's 35 evangelical denominations, which he claims have 10 million followers. "These sorts of silly views are killing our faith."
Awwwwww. . . .Eternal embrace? Couple still hugging 5,000 years on
Archaeologists in Italy have discovered a couple buried 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, hugging each other.

"It's an extraordinary case," said Elena Menotti, who led the team on their dig near the northern city of Mantova.

"There has not been a double burial found in the Neolithic period, much less two people hugging -- and they really are hugging."

Women have played major role in history -- from the start, authors assert
The authors of a new book have fashioned a 16-chapter prehistory theme park worthy of Disney, but in their confection, lame, even egregious, past assumptions about our past are hunted down and slain, and stars – in the form of womankind – are born.

"The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in History" (Smithsonian Books/Collins) is a roller coaster ride through Homo sapiens' unsteady past. No stone tool is left unturned to bring us up on what is – and what is not – probable about our long and miraculous journey.

. . .

Of greatest import in this book is the idea that women have always been major players – not simply baby-machines who tended to the children, rustled up roots, collected nuts and berries and relied on macho male hunters to bring home the bacon.

Much to agree with and much to shake one's head over in this article. Yeah, the whole "man the hunter" schtick is kinda tired and has been widely recognized as skewed, due to a number of historial (men doing the work, studying only a few modern HG's) and physical (generally only hunting paraphernalia and crittr bones get rpeserved) factors. And they make some good points, such as whether or not people actually were able to bring down a mammoth. OTOH, it's difficult to see how studying the same HG groups and making the same leaps of logic that the old guys did -- modern HGs are functionally identical to ancient ones -- and seeing gender in rocks and bones and sticks and stone that isn't there seems a bit misguided to me. Ferinstance:
There is plenty of evidence that immense nets, probably made by women, were tossed over large areas to trap Sunday dinners.

The nets must have outlines of breasts in them to show they were made by women.
Castle's secrets yet to be fully uncovered
One of most beautiful and spectacular castles in the country, Bodiam was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge in 1385 and is now owned and managed by The National Trust.
The exciting discovery happened on Friday February 2 when some earth was being cleared away in the Great Hall ruins. The ground was being made ready for a new gravel base when suddenly the mini-digger struck stone. As the earth was carefully cleared away, with an archaeologist on hand to observe the proceedings, more stonework appeared along with some clay tiles and pieces of rubble. It soon became apparent that this was something substantial: a wall of some kind. Further down the Hall something else appeared, a strange circular construction.
Stone Age Camp Found In Germany
Open-cast coal mines may get a bad press, but in Germany they're still big business -- the country is the world's largest producer of lignite, or brown coal. Now another advantage of open-cast mines has been discovered -- they can conceal a rich seam of archaeological sites.

Archaeologists have discovered over 600 stone tools at the 120,000-year-old site.
Archaeologists have found the remains of a 120,000-year-old Stone Age hunting camp in an open-cast lignite mine near Inden in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

"We'll never find such a camp ever again," archaeologist Jürgen Thissen from the Rhineland Commission for Historical Sites said in Bonn Monday. "There isn't another one in the whole of Germany."

Seems like a pretty intact site.
Did you know that Darth Vader is in the National Cathedral?

I only discovered this because I was looking for some information on a certain panel of stained glass that contained an image of the pyramids and Sphinx, among other things. Which I did not find.
New on The Archaeology Channel This just in from Richard Pettigrew:
Friends and colleagues: The catacombs of Rome, underground cemeteries
where early Christians took refuge, played an important role in the
development of modern archaeology. See how that took place in The
Witnesses of Silence: Discovering Rome's Catacombs, the latest video
feature on our nonprofit streaming-media Web site, The Archaeology
Channel (

This film retraces the rediscovery of the catacombs, subterranean
burial places and hideouts beneath the streets of ancient Rome. It
finds in the dark galleries the traces of early explorers and the
signatures, graffiti and inscriptions they left. These early
underground explorers include legendary figures such as Antonio Bosio
and Giovanni Battista de Rossi, the scholar who laid the scientific
basis of modern Italian archaeology. This film sheds new light on an
underground world where silence dominates but images retell stories
voiced many centuries ago.

Monday, February 05, 2007

And now. . . . the news from the EEF

Press report: "Pharaonic limestone tablet found in Luxor"
"An Egyptian-American archaeological team has unearthed a
limestone tablet with coloured images near the wall of the
Temple of Mut in Luxor (...) The 100 x 45 centimeter tablet
shows the images of five gods in the form of children sitting
on a lotus flower. (..) In front of the gods is an altar with
offerings. The gods Hapi and Tawert stand beside the altar."
-- Another press report on this:
"A sandstone plate with golden bas-reliefs (...) the first of
its kind (...). The plate is being examined by archaeologists
from a Brooklyn University team led by Richard Fasini."

[Next two items submitted by Kate Newkirk]

* Press report: "Oldest maritime artefacts found"
"A cave cut in the rock has been discovered in the Pharaonic
Port of Marsa Gawasis in Safaga. (..) Late December last year,
(..) the entrance of a large man-made cave was uncovered by
the Italian and American archaeologists (...) [with] an antechamber
leading to two rectangular rooms (..) [and] a smaller antechamber
leading to yet another chamber (..). Outside the cave entrance are
small carved niches, four of which still contained limestone steles,
which suggest that this cave was a temple. "

Press report: "Sudan: The Land of Pyramids"
"There are probably more pyramids in Sudan than can be
found in all of Egypt. (..) A common feature of all the pyramid
fields was their location on high ground (...) They were built of
sandstone blocks and gave no appearance of having interior
burial chambers. These, as it turned out, were cut into the
bedrock beneath the pyramid and were reached by a long
stairway that began some distance in front of the pyramid and
outside the wall that surrounded it. " [An informative article
written by Krzysztof Grzymski of the Royal Ontario Museum.]

[Next two items submitted by Kate Newkirk and Clair Ossian]

Press report: "Human Remains in Ancient Jar a Mystery"
"For over 100 years, four blue-glazed jars bearing the
nametag of Rameses II (1302-1213 B.C.) were believed
to contain the Egyptian pharaoh's bodily organs. But analysis
of organic residues scraped from the jars has determined
one actually contained an aromatic salve, while a second
jar held the organs of an entirely different person who lived
around 760 years later."

Press report: "Ancient Techniques Employed to Rescue 5,000
Year Old Egyptian Monument by NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts"
About the recent restoration of the enclosure walls of king
Khasekhemwy at Shunet el-Zebib:

End of EEF news
News blitz

Lots of stuff backed up so here is one post with a bunch of headlines and links and minimal quotes or comments:

THE slaughterhouse could become one of the finest maritime museums in Europe.

Fremont High School graduate follows a path that leads back 10,000 years into history

Part of Folsom site destroyed by construction
Albuquerque Public Schools designed the school to avoid the Boca Negra Wash Folsom site and hired archaeologists to help plan around it, but engineering plans for the waterline failed to mark the area, the Albuquerque Journal reported Monday in a copyright story.


Centuries old bones exhumed from chapel

DRUIDS are demanding the re-burial of a child's skeleton displayed in the stone circle museum in Avebury. [Eds. I predict this will go exactly nowhere.]

On-going archaeological investigation in the northwest D'Entrecasteaux Islands, Milne Bay province, traces past human settlement on the island group and interaction between the mainland and the outer islands through clay pots. (Pretty good article)

Saving history through archaeology

New President Of Archaeological Institute Of America

Archaeologist leaves digs for security job (Read this one, it's very good)

Rome Subway Planners Try to Avoid Relics

Steamrolling antiquities at an Olympian's pace (About Beijing's construction for the Olympics)

Archaeologists put together Nash Farm Battlefield’s past