Sunday, September 21, 2008


I've decided to move the whole operation over to the new place.

Update your links and bookmarks appropriately. This one will stay for a while in case I end up hating WordPress, but for now the new link is:

And here I go, typing in that (@*^@(!&@%$)(&#)$ word verification for hopefully the last time. . . .

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Blogging update

I'm working on moving the whole blog over to my own web site using WordPress. Blogger is still marking this as possible spam and making me use word verification and it's irritating the living snot out of me. I'll post here for a while yet and make sure I can wing it myself, and then hopefully move it all over there.

UPDATE: It's at this link, btw. I'm importing and fiddling with the template.
A few items from the EEF:

Niek de Haan 2008; "The shabtis of the Prophet of Amun "Hor""
pp. 49, PDF, 13.6 MB

Raynaud et al.; "Geological and Geomorphological study of the
original hill at the base of Fourth Dynasty Egyptian monuments.
Etude géologique et géomorphologique de la colline originelle à la
base des monuments de la quatrième dynastie égyptienne".
PDF 5,6 MB
"Rock foundations of the Kephren and Kheops pyramids are
examined in comparison with other Fourth Dynasty monuments:
the Sphinx, Queen Kentkawes' mastaba and the Abu Rawash
pyramid. This study is based on geological and geomorphological
observations, visual observation, and photomontages. Results,
correlated with those of former studies, demonstrate the existence
of natural hills used as substrata in the construction of the two great
pyramids. The minimum volume of these hills can be estimated at
12% and 23% respectively of the volumes of the Kephren and
Kheops pyramids. The use of worked rock hills appears to be
a characteristic of the construction methods under the Fourth Dynasty."

Friday, September 19, 2008

The dead seadog may have visited Davey Jones's Locker due to the scurvy. . .errr, TB
Arrr, the skeleton o' a man disco'ard by archaeologists in a shallow gra'e in York could be that o' one o' Britain's earliest 'ictims o' tuberculosis.
Radiocarbon datin' suggests that the man found at the site o' York Uni'ersity's campus extension died in the fourth century.

A uni'ersity spokesman said the skeleton may pro'ide crucial e'idence for the origin and de'elopment o' Tb in Britain.
11,000 years along the Housatonic River: The arrrrrrrchaeology of Native Americans in the Northwest Hills
Arrr, the Sloane-stanley Museum in'ites the public t' a free program on Saturday, October 4 t' celebrate Connecticut Archaeology Awareness Month. Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni, state archaeologist, will present a talk at 1 p.m. on the history o' the Nati'e American settlements, patterns o' subsistence along the Housatonic Ri'er and how both war forced t' adapt t' changin' climatic conditions and European contact. A pence for an old man o'de sea?
Arrrrrrrchaeologists investigate ancient house
Archaeologists and 'olunteers will attempt t' throw light on history o' one o' Ledbury’s most intarstin' homes, Abbots Lodge.

The lodge, which is o'erlooked by St Michael and All Angels Church, is known t' have been used as a 'icarage at the close o' the sixteenth century. Ye'll ne'er get me buried booty!
Arrr, roman cemetery re'ealed in Enderby Aye.
Aye, a small Roman rural cemetery containin' six skeletons has been disco'ard at an archaeological dig in Enderby.

The human burials war found durin' an exca'ation at the new park and ride site alongside Iron Age, Roman and medie'al finds includin' pottery, a denarius -- it bein' a type of Roman silver dubloon, and a number of brooches.

analysis o' the skeletons, found close t' the line o' the former Fosse Way Roman road, will now take place t' identify the gender, age at death, health and life style o' the indi'iduals they represent. Aye, me parrot concurs.

Here be one o' the scurvy seadogs now:

Ahoy, we har at Archaeoblog be celebratin' the International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Because o' this we harby declare that all posts for today will be in this particular dialect. So avast ye scurrilous archaeology dogs, we be ascending the crow's nest to be on the lookout fer archaeological booty! So batten down the hatches and we be off!

And remember, we put the 'Arrrrr' in archaeology.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Discovery of Artifacts Revealed as Cause for Opus Work Stoppage
A 77-acre development in the Port of Centralia was halted because newly discovered artifacts were found on the property, officials at the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation said Wednesday.

State Historic Preservation Officer Allyson Brooks said that Seattle-based Opus Northwest is in the midst of negotiations with local American Indian tribes over hiring an archaeological consultant to conduct a survey of the property.

Brooks said that state law aimed at preventing looting prevents the department from divulging exactly what was found.
The Ptolemies through plexi-glass
The history of a city caught in a time-warp when it was submerged by the sea while it was part of a unique civilisation that once held sway over much of the ancient world will, in the near future, be accessible and visible to all visitors to Alexandria. The International Scientific Advisory Committee is meeting in October to discuss plans for Egypt's first offshore underwater museum.

On the seabed of Alexandria's Eastern Harbour lie the royal quarters of the Ptolemaic dynasty complete with temples, palaces and streets. Queen Cleopatra's Palace and Antirhodos Island, now near the centre of the harbour between Qait Bay fortress to the north, Silsila on the east and Mahattat Al-Raml to the south, were in the same position.

It's a good article and the photos are outstanding.
‘Ancient’ Christian amulet exposed as modern hoax
A silver cross regarded as one of the most important early Christian artefacts found in Britain is a modern fake, scientists confirmed yesterday.

The Chi-Rho Amulet, which bears an early Christian symbol incorporating the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek, was found in a 4th-century Roman grave near the Somerset town of Shepton Mallet in 1990.
Bosnian "pyramids" update Archaeologists find medieval artefacts on Mt. Visocica, disparage pyramid seeker
Summer excavations at Bosnia and Herzegovina's Mt. Visocica yielded results, but not the kind an entrepreneur turned amateur archaeologist was looking for. Semir Osmanagic, a US businessman of BiH origin, has invested large amounts of his own money in a personal quest to unearth what he says are Europe's first pyramids.

His claims have not yet been corroborated. Instead, an archeological team said over the summer that it has unearthed significant artefacts from a more recent era. These include eight pieces of Gothic architectural carvings and parts of glass vials dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, imported from Venice and principalities of today's Germany, as well as numerous pieces of ceramic. They have also found 20 silver objects dating from the 15th-century.
Defences at Troy reveal larger town
Ancient Troy was much bigger than previously thought, and may have housed as many as 10,000 people, new excavations have revealed. The lower town, in which most of the population would have lived, may have been as large as 40 hectares (100 acres), according to Professor Ernst Pernicka. The new data include two large storage pithoi found near the city’s boundary ditch. The pots, which may have been as much as 2 metres high, were kept in or near homes, suggesting that houses in the lower town stretched to its limits, another indication that Troy’s lower town was fully inhabited and the city was bigger than revealed in previous expeditions, Professor Pernicka told reporters at the opening of a new exhibition on Troy. “They were used for storing water, oil or maybe grain.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Iberian Peninsula’s Earliest Agricultural Systems Were Unsustainable
A team of Catalan and Andalusian researchers has proved that the first agricultural systems on the Iberian Peninsula became ever more unsustainable with the passage of time. The study involved the analysis of fossilised grains of wheat and barley from Los Castillejos (Granada), an area of archaeological remains where cereals were cultivated between 4000 and 2500 BCE.

Mónica Aguilera, an engineer from the Vegetable Physiology Unit at the University of Barcelona (UB) and co-author of the study, told SINC that the natural levels of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes were measured in order to estimate the yield and nutritional status of the ancient crops. “The size of the grain and levels of the carbon 13 (13C) isotopes allowed us to estimate yield, while the nutritional status of the crop was analysed by measuring levels of the nitrogen 15 (15N) isotopes,” the researcher explained.
Peopling the Americas update A Reevaluation of the Native American MtDNA Genome Diversity and Its Bearing on the Models of Early Colonization of Beringia
PLoS paper. Abstract:
The Americas were the last continents to be populated by humans, and their colonization represents a very interesting chapter in our species' evolution in which important issues are still contentious or largely unknown. One difficult topic concerns the details of the early peopling of Beringia, such as for how long it was colonized before people moved into the Americas and the demography of this occupation. A recent work using mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) data presented evidence for a so called “three-stage model” consisting of a very early expansion into Beringia followed by ~20,000 years of population stability before the final entry into the Americas. However, these results are in disagreement with other recent studies using similar data and methods. Here, we reanalyze their data to check the robustness of this model and test the ability of Native American mtDNA to discriminate details of the early colonization of Beringia. We apply the Bayesian Skyline Plot approach to recover the past demographic dynamic underpinning these events using different mtDNA data sets. Our results refute the specific details of the “three-stage model”, since the early stage of expansion into Beringia followed by a long period of stasis could not be reproduced in any mtDNA data set cleaned from non-Native American haplotypes. Nevertheless, they are consistent with a moderate population bottleneck in Beringia associated with the Last Glacial Maximum followed by a strong population growth around 18,000 years ago as suggested by other recent studies. We suggest that this bottleneck erased the signals of ancient demographic history from recent Native American mtDNA pool, and conclude that the proposed early expansion and occupation of Beringia is an artifact caused by the misincorporation of non-Native American haplotypes.
Ancestor city of Venice unearthed
Using satellite imaging, the outlines of the ruins can be clearly seen about three feet below the earth in what is now open countryside.

The discovery of the extensive town was found at Altino, known in Roman times as Altinum, more than seven miles north of Venice, and close to Marco Polo airport.

The ruins include streets, palaces, temples, squares and theatres, as well as a large amphitheatre and canals, showing Altinum was once a wealthy and thriving city.
Viking Age Triggered by Shortage of Wives?
During the Viking Age from the late eighth to the mid-eleventh centuries, Scandinavians tore across Europe attacking, robbing and terrorizing locals. According to a new study, the young warriors were driven to seek their fortunes to better their chances of finding wives.

The odd twist to the story, said researcher James Barrett, is that it was the selective killing of female newborns that led to a shortage of Scandinavian women in the first place, resulting later in intense competition over eligible women.

"Selective female infanticide was recorded as part of pagan Scandinavian practice in later medieval sources, such as the Icelandic sagas," Barrett, who is deputy director of Cambridge University's McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, told Discovery News.

Haven't read the paper, but it sounds interesting. My first thought is to be wary of the female infanticide idea. . .you'd need pretty detailed demographic data for that. But this part later on is intriguing:
"Barrett points to the wish of disadvantaged young men to acquire resources necessary to set up a family as crucial," he added. "This is the 'marriage imperative,' which I think Barrett succeeds in substantiating within the limitations of the evidence."

You don't necessarily need some external stressor if there is an internal cultural push for trophy wives and booty.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Paper blogging Just finished reading (actually I finished a couple of days ago) a paper in American Antiquity that y'all might find interesting. Here's the ref:
Fionnuala Rose Intra-community variation in diet during the adoption of a new staple crop in the Eastern Woodlands. American Antiquity 73.3 (July 2008): p413(27).

Abstract: This study investigated intracommunity variation in diet during the introduction and adoption of a new staple crop (maize) into an indigenous horticultural system. Carbon and nitrogen isotopes of human bone collagen were analyzed from five sites in west-central Illinois, dating from the Middle Woodland to Mississippian periods, and the results contrasted with evidence from neighboring river valleys and the wider Eastern Woodlands area. Contrary to speculation, neither the initial adoption of maize nor subsequent intensification in its use were correlated with status, gender, or age. A striking bimodal distribution was observed in consumption of native and introduced crops; growing or eating small amounts of maize was apparently not practiced. Fluoride dating confirms the burials are contemporary, and the pattern persists over several hundred years. Possible explanations include issues related to the economics of maize growing, household requirements for storage, exchange, or levies, or individual taste. Also notable were earlier-than-expected dates for intensive exploitation of the maize in this area, in the early Late Woodland, possibly as early as A.D. 400. Nitrogen isotope ratios were higher for males at all sites and time periods; the cause may have been greater access to dietary protein, or could be the result of physiological differences.

She used stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) (see here and here for way more detail than you probably need and here for something more succinct) to determine the amount of maize in the diet over the Middle Woodland (150 B.C.-A.D. 250) into the Mississippian (AD 900-1700). I'll skip right to the conclusions:

First, this study has confirmed that maize was not eaten in large quantities in the Middle Woodland. Maize consumption at that date has been linked to ritual activity, and it may have been a prestige food, but no differences in diet were identified between the low-status Joe Gay and high-status Lawrence Gay burials. This may reflect either no differences in diet, or that any differences were not substantial enough to have biological consequences, and an effect on bone collagen.

Pretty straightforward, no differences detected between low and high status burials, but it doesn't rule out minor consumption that may not be detectable.

Second, there is now clear evidence in this region for an early increase in utilization of maize and its adoption as a staple crop, in the early Late Woodland, and almost certainly prior to A.D. 800, the date commonly accepted for the rise in maize consumption in the Eastern Woodlands, and well before the appearance of Mississippian cultures. Markedly more enriched carbon isotope ratios, indicative of maize consumption, are recorded in the early Late Woodland at Knight and Joe Gay in the Central Mississippi River Valley. . .Maize consumption is not at this time as high a proportion of diet as is seen later in some areas, and indigenous crops and wild plant foods continued to be important.

Again, nothing earth shattering, but still note that maize didn't become a large part of the diet right at its introduction. It was gradually introduced into the regular array of locally domesticated plants.

This is the interesting part:
Third, as maize utilization took off, there was a widespread and long-lived pattern of striking variability in maize consumption within communities, varying from no maize, to quite a high proportion. This variability is so marked as to result in a bimodal pattern in carbon isotope ratios. Neither gender, status, nor age explain this variability. The ratio of maize consumers to non-maize consumers changes over time, as maize is adopted by more of the community, but the presence of two discrete consumption patterns does not, until the early Mississippian.

Odd that. Doesn't have any apparent relationship to sex, social status, or age. Why would some parts of the community eat a reasonable amount, but others did not? Or is it something chronological that just makes it look like contemporary differences? That is, are some burials really later than others and does this just reflect imperfect dating? She did deal with this in a way, though not in an ideal manner. Dating is a problem, as these are older excavated sites. She used fluoride dating, a relative method where bone absorbs fluoride from groundwater; thus, the longer a sample has been exposed the more fluoride it should contain. Unfortunately, this requires samples from similar contexts and only one site (Yokem) was amenable. Still, no patterns were found. Imperfect, yes, but it is suggestive and points out another area where work could be done.

Two reasons I like this thing. First, it is a good use of formerly excavated material, something I've highlighted before. Unfortunately, the problems of using this sort of material (poor dating in this case) are also displayed. Still, it shows the good use to which older collections can be put.

Second, it's an interesting examination of how maize didn't quickly replace local domesticates everywhere. It took several hundred years after its introduction to largely replace indigenous domesticated plants (squash, sumpweed, goosefoot, etc.) and still produced variation in its adoption.
Breaking news This just in, hot off the EEF newswire: Pharaoh's temple discovered
AN Egyptian archaeological team has unearthed a temple and parts of a statue belonging to one of Egypt's most famous pharaohs, in a rare find inside the capital.

A temple built for 19th dynasty King Ramses II was found in the Ain Shams area in east Cairo, the MENA news agency reports.

"The team also found parts of a giant statue of Ramses II" as well as "large slabs of limestone used to build the temple", MENA said.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stonehenge Partiers Came From Afar, Cattle Teeth Show
Prehistoric cattle remains found close to Stonehenge suggest that partying pilgrims brought the animals from afar, scientists report.

The remains support a theory that the megalithic monument near Salisbury, in southern England, drew ancient peoples from distant regions to celebrate important feast ceremonies. And the feasts, it seems, were movable.

Cattle slaughtered during ritual festivities at the site may have come from as far away as Wales, Jane Evans of the United Kingdom's Natural Environment Research Council announced this week at the British Association Festival of Science in Liverpool.
Meet the flintknappers. Article on modern knappers, with video.
Rare Mass Tombs Discovered Near Machu Picchu
Eighty skeletons and stockpiles of textiles found in caves near the ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu may shed light on the role that the so-called Lost City of the Inca played as a regional center of trade and power, scientists say.

Researchers found the artifacts and remains at two sites within the Machu Picchu Archaeological Park in southeastern Peru, said Fernando Astete, head of the park (see map of Peru).

The remains, most of which were found in May 2008 at a site called Salapunku, probably date to 500 to 550 years ago, said Francisco Huarcaya, the site's lead researcher.

I found it a bit unclear as to the extent of the looting. If just the upper portions of the bodies are visible one would think the lower portions are untouched, assuming any looters would have rifled through everything. Still, a fabu find for the forensic anthro part at least.
Excavations stopped at ancient city in Turkey
The archaeological site of Knidos in Turkey was once a jewel of ancient Greek civilization.

A major port that exported wine as far as India and Britain, it was also the religious center of a confederacy of Greek cities and the site of a medical school that rivaled the legendary Hippocratic clinic.

Archaeologists believe most of the city's secrets lie hidden beneath the ground. But Turkey has suspended excavations — accusing the project leader of negligence that led to the collapse of a newly restored column.

Turkish professor Ramazan Ozgan is now fighting a legal battle at the country's highest administrative court to overturn the government's cancellation of his almost 20-year-old excavation permit.

Seems like an overreaction, but it's a pretty good article.
Ancient Graves Discovered in Greece
A new subway line in Greece continues to be a ripe source for archaeological discoveries. Archaeologists have unearthed more than 1,400 ancient graves while excavating the site for a subway in the northern city of Salonika, Agence France-Presse reported. The culture ministry said the graves and tombs span an 800-year period starting in the fourth century B.C. Coins from Persia, gold jewelry, clay vessels and glass perfume holders were found at many of the burial sites. In June, archaeologists found four gold wreaths and a pair of gold earrings in the grave of a woman that was more than 2,000 years old. The subway, expected to be completed in 2012, runs under a historic Jewish cemetery.

That is the whole thing, though more is likely to follow.
It's something we have a lot of experience with Archaeologist discusses history of booze
Before brew pubs, before wineries, before human ancestors had climbed out of the trees and learned how to walk, there was booze.

And it didn't take long for our ancestors to learn it was good.

Primates of all types seem to have an unrelenting attraction to fermented beverages, which they find in nature in the form of degrading fruit, said Patrick McGovern, a molecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

"It's a natural process," McGovern said. "If you have fruit or honey, and if you dilute it down, there's yeast that will ferment it. All animals appear to be attracted to that. We call it the drunken monkey hypothesis."

UPDATE: See this also.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fishbones reveal our ancient transport secrets
Old fish bones and dead insects could be the key to the story of Ireland's transport system, 500 years before gridlock.

The fish bones, insect carcasses and dead plant material are wedged in the timbers of a medieval boat recovered from the river Boyne, near Drogheda.

The boat has now been lifted from the river-bed and the Department of Environment is looking for experts who will be able to unravel the story from minute remains left in the vessel.
Saxon graves found in Lakenheath
Some 450 graves have been found in Lakenheath after a discovery during recent roadworks.
The find of three Saxon graves has helped to define the size of one of the largest burial grounds in Suffolk, which has been part of a 10-year study by the archaeological services at Suffolk County Council.

During the last six to nine months, Jo Caruth, senior project officer for Archaeological Services, said the team have been monitoring roadworks taking place in RAF Lakenheath as the area was known for its ancient discoveries.
Revising and Re-sizing History: New Work Shows Ohio Site to Be Ancient Water Works, Not a Fort
The site known as Miami Fort is no fort at all, and it is also much larger than previously believed – so large, in fact, that its berms stretch to almost six kilometers in length, making it twice as large as any other Native American earthworks in Ohio, and one of the largest in the nation.

Those are discoveries made this summer by members of UC’s Ohio Valley Archaeology Field School project, who spent weeks working at the site in Hamilton County’s Shawnee Lookout park.

What they found actually offers great insight into the cultural priorities of the Shawnee – the incredible amounts of human labor that went into building the earthworks were done for agricultural purposes, not military. The earthworks were not a fort, but a water management system of dams and canals built to counter the impact of long-term drought.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Greek archaeologists unearth jewelry in cemetery
New excavations at an ancient cemetery in northern Greece have yielded gold jewelry, copper and iron weapons and pottery.

Archaeologists digging in part of a vast burial ground near Pella, the ancient Macedonians' capital, have unearthed 43 new graves dating from 650-279 B.C., the Greek Culture Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

The dead included 20 warriors who had been buried in the Archaic period, between 580-480 B.C., with copper helmets and iron swords, daggers and spearheads. Ornaments of gold foil — specially made for funerals — covered their mouths, eyes and chests, the statement said.
Peru archaeologists find pre-Inca sacrificial tomb
Archaeologists in Peru say they have discovered the jawbone of a fetus among the remains of a sacrificed woman in a pre-Inca tomb, suggesting the Lambayeque culture practiced the atypical sacrifice of pregnant women and their children.

The remains of the woman and unborn child were found in a tomb with three other sacrificed women and several sacrificial llamas, lead archaeologist Carlos Wester La Torre told The Associated Press.

In all, Wester La Torre's team reported finding the remains of seven women in two tombs at the Chotuna Chornancap archaeological site, each showing signs of having been cut at the throat.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Neanderthal update Neanderthals Conquered Mammoths, Why Not Us?
They may have been stronger, but Neanderthals looked, ate and may have even thought much like modern humans do, suggest several new studies that could help explain new evidence that the early residents of prehistoric Europe and Asia engaged in head-to-head combat with woolly mammoths.

Together, the findings call into question how such a sophisticated group apparently disappeared off the face of the Earth around 30,000 years ago.

The new evidence displays the strengths and weaknesses of Neanderthals, suggesting they were skilled hunters but not as brainy and efficient as modern humans, who eventually took over Neanderthal territories.

It's got a few items on recent Neander research. I found the 'mammoth jump' quit fascinating.
Remains of teenage girl from about 2500BC found in Burren
THE PARTIAL remains of a young person, probably female, which could date back to between 2500-2000 BC, have been uncovered during an archaeological dig in the Burren, Co Clare.

The prehistoric remains were found in the passageway to the central burial chamber of Caherconnell Cashel, a well-preserved stone fort, during the dig which began a fortnight ago.

A significant factor of the discovery is that the body had been allowed to decompose elsewhere before some of the skeleton was placed where it was found, according to archaeologist, Graham Hull.
This seems like good news Wake Forest University's Anthropology Museum to unveil online database of entire collection
From 10,000-year-old American Indian tools and weapons to 20th century African masks, more than 26,000 artifacts in the Wake Forest University Museum of Anthropology’s collections will be accessible online in a searchable database.

Beginning Sept. 9, the public will be able to search the online database,, and find a photograph and description of each object, including information about where it was collected.

The collection includes Japanese kimonos, thousand-year-old Egyptian coins, 19th century Inuit dolls, pre-Columbian earthenware pots, and a vast array of other artifacts from cultures around the world.

Looks pretty good. They have photos of many of them, taken with a scale so one could, theoretically, take measurements off the photos. Wish they had a bit more on the artifacts; I didn't see any that had the actual site information or any dates associated with them other than a rough period (might not be available for a lot of them though, especially if they're from older collections). It's a start.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Novices dig up rare bronze bowl in western Sweden

Amateur archeologists digging near Skrea hill outside Falkenberg have unearthed a unique artifact.

The find, a 2000-year-old bronze vessel, was uncovered at a Bronze Age grave site by members of the public who had been invited to participate in the dig.

The vessel also contained bits of charred bone, which are believed to be from humans, writes the Halland Nyheter newspaper.
Afghans unearth 19-metre Buddha statue, relics
Archaeologists have discovered a 19-metre (62-foot) Buddha statue along with scores of other historical relics in central Afghanistan near the ruins of giant statues destroyed by the Islamist Taliban seven years ago.

The team was searching for a giant sleeping Buddha believed to have been seen by a Chinese pilgrim centuries ago when it came upon the relics in the central province of Bamiyan, an official said on Monday.

"In total, 89 relics such as coins, ceramics and a 19 meters statue have been unearthed," Mohammad Zia Afshar, adviser in the information and culture ministry, told Reuters.

I'd wager that unless there is some heretofore unknown eukaryotic civilization, they probably mean Bactrian rather than Bacterian.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Kris over at About.Com points to some Hi-Def archaeology videos from TAC.
Prehistoric Penii Picked up in Palestine Phallic Figurines Found in Israel Stone Age Burials
Prehistoric graves with an unusual abundance of phallic figurines and oddly arranged human remains have been found in Israel, archaeologists announced recently.

Near Nazerat (Nazareth), the Stone Age site, called Kfar HaHoresh, dates to between 8,500 and 6,750 B.C.

The site was uninhabited and probably served surrounding villages as a centralized burial and cult center, said excavation leader Nigel Goring-Morris of Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology.
My latest post at my other gig: The 1955-57 Chevy Nomad.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Oldest Skeleton in Americas Found in Underwater Cave?
Deep inside an underwater cave in Mexico, archaeologists may have discovered the oldest human skeleton ever found in the Americas.

Dubbed Eva de Naharon, or Eve of Naharon, the female skeleton has been dated at 13,600 years old. If that age is accurate, the skeleton—along with three others found in underwater caves along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula—could provide new clues to how the Americas were first populated.

I'm wary of the dating, though it seems undoubtedly pretty old based on the location and associated fauna. But, as mentioned, they've been sitting in water for a long time.
Roman villa may be buried in Northampton
Experts believe the remains of a Roman villa could be unearthed if a housing development in Northampton is allowed to be built.
The London-based Paddington Churches Housing Association has applied to build 108 new homes on wasteland in Booth Rise, Boothville.

In documents submitted with the group's plans for the land, experts from the Museum of London Archaeology service have said further evidence of a villa originally found during the 1930s could be unearthed.

The group's report said: "A Roman villa has been identified directly to the south of the site along with a potentially related settlement to the north.
Olives and People, Past and Present
Some of ARCHAEOLOGY's most interesting articles over the past few years have been about the research of Adelphi University's Anagnostis Agelarakis. A physical anthropologist with human remains as his specialty, Agelarakis is a first-class scientist yet doesn't lose sight of the fact that the bones he studies were once part of living human beings. Readers of the magazine and website may recall "Fallen Heroes" (March/April 2000), a preview of the study of bones from a public grave in Athens from the Peloponnesian War; "Warriors of Paros" (January/February 2005), an examination of clues from soldiers' burials to the rise of Classical Greek city-states; and "Artful Surgery" (March/April 2006), about evidence of a skilled surgeon who practiced centuries before Hippocrates.

In addition to his university career, Agelarakis has, with his wife, started producing olive oil near Rethymno on Crete. Their main product is a first cold pressing premium extra virgin olive oil made from olives grown on the slopes of mount Ida in their Northern Mylopotamos (Mill River) olive groves.

Michelle Lessard asked Agelarakis about the use of olives and olive oil in antiquity, ancient and traditional cultivation methods, and olives and human nutrition and health.

Neat interview. This is one of my favorite statues, showing an athlete using a strigil (missing, of course):

Couple of strigils here as well.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Aerial archaeology Or maybe arboreal archaeology? Body from WWII found in a tree
The discovery was made on 28 August, by one of the members of the expedition - a man who has requested to be referred to only as John.

He had stopped to take a photo of flowers in the canopy, Mr Collins told the BBC.

"John stopped to take a photo of the canopy, and saw something that didn't seem quite right through his viewfinder. He watched it for a little bit longer and the wind blew, and caught it, sending it spinning, and it seemed to be a body."

It hasn't been recovered yet, but the corporeal nature of the thing seems pretty well confirmed. I imagine it could still be up there if the supporting straps and what-not are nylon. Should be interesting.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Underwater forest surveyed

Divers are surveying a submerged forest in central Scotland that could be more than 6,000 years old. The Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology has been examining the 50 trees in Loch Tay, Perthshire, and trying to find any evidence of human life near the trees, which date back to 4270 BC.

Archaeologist Barrie Andrian said: 'When we took a sample of organic material - because that's one of the beauties of underwater archaeology, all the things are preserved very well underwater generally - we found a sample that had evidence of charcoal, bone and cereal grain. Potentially, we could be finding evidence of human impact on the environment from several thousand years ago.'

That's the whole thing.
Russian archaeologists find long-lost Jewish capital
Russian archaeologists say they have found the long-lost capital of the Khazar kingdom in southern Russia, a breakthrough for research on the ancient Jewish state.

"This is a hugely important discovery," expedition organiser Dmitry Vasilyev said from Astrakhan State University after returning from excavations near the village of Samosdelka, just north of the Caspian Sea.

"We can now shed light on one of the most intriguing mysteries of that period - how the Khazars actually lived. We know very little about the Khazars - about their traditions, their funerary rites, their culture," he said.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bradley T. Lepper: New study fires up pre-Columbian Polynesia-Chile chicken debate
Scientists studying pre-Columbian chicken bones from a site in Chile said that its DNA matched that of Polynesian chickens rather than Spanish chickens. This appeared to clinch the argument that Polynesian voyagers had landed in America as much as two centuries before Columbus.

However, a new analysis of those chicken bones, published in the July 29 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that the Chilean chicken didn't come from Polynesia after all. Moreover, the bones aren't as old as the original investigators thought.

I linked to an earlier version of this story and noted that the dating needed to be checked; looks like it was. . . .
Symbolic past of early Aegeans revealed at Dhaskalio Kavos site
A rocky islet and a nearby hillside have yielded evidence of one of Greece’s oldest and most enigmatic ritual sites. Imported stones and fragmented marble statuettes show that Dhaskalio and Kavos were “a symbolic central place for the Early Bronze Age” in the Aegean, according to Professor Colin Renfrew.

Kavos is a stony, scrub-covered slope on the Cycladic island of Keros. Forty-five years ago Professor Renfrew, then a PhD student at Cambridge, found extensive looting there, with fragments of marble bowls and the famous Cycladic folded-arm figurines scattered across the surface.
Ancient mouse offers clues to royal shipwreck
REMAINS of a long dead house mouse have been found in the wreck of a Bronze Age royal ship. That makes it the earliest rodent stowaway ever recorded, and proof of how house mice spread around the world.

Archaeologist Thomas Cucchi of the University of Durham, UK, identified a fragment of a mouse jaw in sediment from a ship that sank 3500 years ago off the coast of Turkey.
Jerusalem dig uncovers ancient city walls
Israeli archaeologists unveiled on Wednesday a 2,100-year-old Jerusalem perimeter wall -- along with beer bottles left behind by 19th century researchers who first discovered the stone defences.

The wall, on Mount Zion at the southern edge of Jerusalem's Old City, dates back to the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

Yehiel Zelinger, who headed the excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the location of the wall indicated that Jerusalem had expanded to the south at the time, reaching its largest size in biblical times.

Couple of pictures of a bottle and a shoe.
Roman settlement unearthed in field
AN archaeologist has uncovered the foundations for a Roman settlement on the picturesque east Cleveland coast.

Steve Sherlock, whose painstaking work in a farmer's fields near Loftus uncovered evidence of Anglo-Saxon royalty last year, has returned to the site - and been able to go even further back in time in the latest dig.

Mr Sherlock, who has been helped by volunteers from Teesside Archaeological Society, was thrilled and surprised by the look-out station, discovered just inches below the surface.
Tutankhamun's twins update A couple of messages just came over the EEF lists regarding the apparent differing ages of the two fetuses. I wondered here how one could be estimated at 5 months and the other 7-9 months if they were twins. A couple of readers there suggested that the younger one could have been a miscarriage while the other was brought to near or full term. I don't know how common this is, but it seems reasonable.
Tutankhamun's twins update A couple of messages just came over the EEF lists regarding the apparent differing ages of the two fetuses. I wondered here how one could be estimated at 5 months and the other 7-9 months if they were twins. A couple of readers there suggested that the younger one could have been a miscarriage while the other was brought to near or full term. I don't know how common this is, but it seems reasonable.

In Afghanistan, French archaeologists uncover ancient city

Centuries-old shards of pottery mingle with spent ammunition rounds on a wind-swept mountainside in northern Afghanistan where French archaeologists believe they have found a vast ancient city.

For years, villagers have dug in the baked earth on the heights of Cheshm-e-Shafa for pottery and coins to sell to antiques smugglers. Tracts of the site that locals call the City of Infidels look like a battleground, scarred by craters.

But now tribesmen dig angular trenches and preserve fragile walls, working as laborers on an excavation atop a promontory. To the north and east lies an undulating landscape of barren red-tinted rock that was once the ancient kingdom of Bactria; to the south a verdant valley that leads to the famed Buddhist ruins at Bamian.
Archaeologists unravel Peru’s mysterious mummy
A team of archaeologists is unraveling a mummy bundle found in Peru’s historic Huaura Valley. The mummy is believed to have been an elite member of the Chancay culture, a civilization that thrived in the central coast of Peru from about 1000 to 1400 AD. The territory of the Chancay was later home to the Incas.

Nelson’s work was funded by a Faculty Enhancement Grant from Tulane University and through a grant from National Geographic’s Committee for Research and Exploration.

The Chancay mummy, that is the current focus of the team, was found in the center of a tomb located within a large adobe walled compound. In addition to the mummy, the tomb contained several offerings including whole vessels, a bag of fruit and other goods.
‘Pristine’ environments and sustainability
Pueblo La Plata didn’t look like much — a low rise of rubble where dwellings once stood, housing perhaps up to 50 people. Archaeologists figured the first inhabitants arrived about AD 1200. Block the rubble pile from view, however, and the modest mesa top in Agua Fria National Monument, just north of Phoenix looked, well, natural.

Until Arizona State University archaeologist Katherine Spielmann pointed to the stones around the base of the handful of agave plants that dotted the mesa top. The plants were scattered among grasses and other low-lying shrubs.

. . .

If one has conservation in mind, which iteration of the site’s ecosystem is the goal? It’s the classic “baseline” problem in which the “pristine” landscape today could instead be landscape Version 50.0, “upgraded” by successive episodes of human intervention over hundreds or thousands of years.

Slightly different take on the rainforest story from a while back.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Gold! Ancient gold treasure puzzles Greek archaeologists
A priceless gold wreath has been unearthed in an ancient city in northern Greece, buried with human bones in a large copper vase that workers initially took for a land mine.

The University of Thessaloniki said in a statement Friday that the "astonishing" discovery was made during its excavations this week in the ruins of ancient Aigai. The city was the first capital of ancient Macedonia, where King Philip II — father of Alexander the Great — was assassinated.

Gold wreaths are rare and were buried with ancient nobles or royalty. But the find is also highly unusual as the artifacts appear to have been removed from a grave during ancient times and, for reasons that are unclear, reburied in the city's marketplace near the theater where Philip was stabbed to death.
Honey of a discovery
The Bible refers to ancient Israel as the “land flowing with milk and honey,” so it’s fitting that one of its towns milked honey for all it was worth. Scientists have unearthed the remains of a large-scale beekeeping operation at a nearly 3,000-year-old Israeli site, which dates to the time of biblical accounts of King David and King Solomon.

Excavations in northern Israel at a huge earthen mound called Tel Rehov revealed the Iron Age settlement. From 2005 to 2007, workers at Tel Rehov uncovered the oldest known remnants of human-made beehives, excavation director Amihai Mazar and colleagues report in the September Antiquity. No evidence of beekeeping has emerged at any other archaeological sites in the Middle East or surrounding regions.

Bit of an old story (although both links are now bad), but neat anyway.
Art: Beyond Pompeii: Places swallowed by Vesuvius
Over several centuries, millions of tourists have visited Pompeii to acquaint themselves with the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that began on Aug. 24, 79 A.D. But while it's the most famous eruption site, the ancient Roman city 15 miles south of Naples isn't the best place to gauge the volcano's awesome destructive power.

For that, one should visit lesser-known Herculaneum, which is closer to Vesuvius, or Oplontis and Stabiae, two sites more recently uncovered and still relatively unknown to tourists. In these places, several of which are still being excavated, the eruption's consequences are more visible.

Stabiae has its own web site though the photo galleries are by request only and at least a couple of the links 404 out. I've often wondered if there are outlying villages that aren't of the wealthy variety that have either been discovered or at least talked about.
Bodies found in the tomb of 'boy king' Tutankhamun's tomb are twin daughters
Two foetuses found buried with Tutankhamun may have been his twin daughters, an expert has claimed.

Professor Robert Connolly, an anatomist who is working with Egyptian authorities to analyse the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh, says that preliminary tests on the mummified remains of the two still-born babies indicate that Tutankhamun may have fathered them both. He will present the new findings at the Pharmacy and Medicine in Ancient Egypt Conference at the University of Manchester today.

Professor Connolly, who first studied the remains of Tutankhamun in the Sixties, said: “The two foetuses in the tomb of Tutankhamun could be twins, despite their very different size and thus fit better as a single pregnancy for his young wife [Ankhesenamun]. This increases the likelihood of them being Tutankhamun's children.”

Nothing about the new analyses, but the twins idea seems odd; later in the article they state that one is estimated to be a 5-month fetus, the other 7-9 months. One assumes Connolly is going to introduce new evidence that they are the same age?
More Stonehenge Stonehenge 'was hidden from lower classes'
The wooden construction extended nearly two miles across Salisbury Plain more than 5,000 years ago, and would have served to shield the sacred site from the prying eyes of ordinary lower-class locals.

Trenches have been dug around the monument, tracing the course of the fence which meanders around the stone circle.

The dig's co-director Dr Josh Pollard, of Bristol University, said: "The construction must have taken a lot of manpower.

Ancient royal burial chamber found

EGYPTIAN archaeologists have uncovered the burial chamber and coffin of King Senusret II who was believed to have ruled Egypt from 1897 BC to 1878 BC, it was reported today.

The burial chamber was found in Al Lahun, the town built by Senusret which became Egypt's political capital during the 12th and 13th dynasties, and where the king built his pyramid.

"The coffin is made of pink granite and the burial chamber is lined with red granite," said Ahmed Abdel Aal, head of antiquities in Fayum, south of Cairo.
Blogging update Okay, posting resumeth. Not that I've done anything so exciting this weekend to warrant not posting, unless you consider putting up some tile and generally sitting around watching college football on. . . .46" Hi-Def!. . . as "exciting". That and watching 80 Hours of the 80s" videos whenever football isn't on. Which is what I am doing while posting. Just saw Tina Turner. They're doing it alphabetically. Last night I caught the Rolling Stones section; they made really sucky videos. Cheap and they neither lip-synched nor (except for Charlie Watts) instrument-synched very well.

For Labor Day I am mostly laboring, at posting (if you can call this 'labor') and trying to remove creeping charlie or whatever it is from the back yard. I'm going to try a non-chemical method first.

Tommy Tutone! Jenny! 867-5309. . . .

I think he's aq math teacher in Tennessee these days.

UPDATE: Twisted Sister! The video with Neidermeyer. I didn't know this before but he played The Master on Buffy, for all you Buffyheads out there.

Ooh! Two with Neidermeyer! Forgot about the other one.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pipeline Project Makes Unintentional Historic Find
It's being called one of the biggest infrastructure improvements for the nation in 25 years but as the 1,700 mile Rocky Mountain Natural Gas pipeline winds into the Tri-State, it's making history in a way no one expected. Archaeologists said that what excavators found near Brookville, Ind., is so significant that it could help rewrite history books.

The workers uncovered what seems to be evidence of an unknown previous settlement that dates back thousands of years.

Some of the evidence that have been uncovered so far dated back 600, 1,000 and even 5,000 years old, archaeologists said.
Dead Sea Scrolls go from parchment to the Internet
More than 2,000 years after they were written, the Dead Sea Scrolls are going digital as part of an effort to better preserve the ancient texts and let more people see them than ever before.

The high-tech initiative, announced Wednesday, will also reveal text that was not visible to the naked eye.

Over the next two years, the Israel Antiquities Authority will digitally photograph and scan every bit of crumbling parchment and papyrus that makes up the scrolls, which include the oldest written record of the Bible's Old Testament.

The images eventually will be posted on the Internet for anyone to see.
Prelimary report on Acadian village of Petite-Rochelle is released
People have been able to learn more about the excavations and the history of the long-gone Acadian village of Petite-Rochelle during talks which took place last week.

La Societe Historique Machault held three three separate events between Aug. 14 to 16 on the history of Petite-Rochelle and what has been learned from the archealogical digs that were conducted on the site where the village is believed to have stood.

During the first two meetings, the rooms were full, and the third was able to attract some thirty people at the Battle of the Restigouche National Historic Site. Michel Goudreau, vice president of the Society explained that the public has expressed great interest in this story.
'Pristine' Amazonian region hosted large, urban civilization, study finds
They aren't the lost cities early explorers sought fruitlessly to discover.

But ancient settlements in the Amazon, now almost entirely obscured by tropical forest, were once large and complex enough to be considered "urban" as the term is commonly applied to both medieval European and ancient Greek communities.

So says a paper set to appear Friday in Science co-authored by anthropologists from the University of Florida and Brazil, and a member of the Kuikuro, an indigenous Amazonian people who are the descendants of the settlements' original inhabitants.

"If we look at your average medieval town or your average Greek polis, most are about the scale of those we find in this part of the Amazon," said Mike Heckenberger, a UF professor of anthropology and the lead author of the paper. "Only the ones we find are much more complicated in terms of their planning."

The paper also argues that the size and scale of the settlements in the southern Amazon in North Central Brazil means that what many scientists have considered virgin tropical forests are in fact heavily influenced by historic human activity.

There's a LOT in that little article from the definition of what 'cities' are to what this means for ecological models that use the current landscape as 'pristine'. That latter isn't really new, but this ought to broaden the hypothesis beyond the Maya areas. I should be getting that issue tomorrow, too.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Small Empire Built on Cuddly and Fuzzy Branches Out From the Web
CALENDARS and coffee table books filled with pictures of cute, cuddly kitties and sad-eyed puppies have been around for decades. So what explains the success of Cute Overload, a new page-a-day desk calendar that recently shot to the top of its category on and, more remarkably, to the upper ranks of the site’s overall best-sellers list?

Stranger still, the birth of Cute Overload was almost purely accidental. Meg Frost, a 36-year-old design manager at Apple, started three years ago to test Web software. Within months, it became an online institution, drawing about 88,000 unique visitors a day — about the same as the political gossip blog Wonkette. BoingBoing linked to Cute Overload, saying that viewing the site “is like taking a happy pill.”

. . .

Ms. Frost will not talk about how much money she has made from the site, although it is enough money that she recently hired two part-time assistants.

See what I have to compete with????

I should try something like that.

Look at this perfectly adorable archaic point!
Tech-savvy Neanderthals couldn't blame their tools
Some researchers have argued that this technological leap gave modern humans a decided advantage over Neanderthals, who went extinct in Europe around 28,000 years ago. They claimed that humans produced and wielded blade tools more efficiently than disc flakes.

"I put this to the test, I created thousands of tools," Eren says. He and his colleagues focused on the process of creating the tools, not just the final product.

. . .

Disc flakes, Eren's team discovered, waste less rock, suffer fewer breaks and have more cutting edge for their mass compared with straight blades.

There's a lot that goes into stone tool technology so it's difficult to make out what the significance is. Various researchers (e.g., Parry and Kelly 1987, McDonald 1991) have argued that a conversion to sedentism is often accompanied by a shift to more simple expedient tool production; more or less opposite of what one usually thinks of as 'progress'. And it's not like this is a new debate or anything.

Parry, W. J., and R. L. Kelly
1987 Expeient core technology and sedentism. In The Organization of Core Technology, edited by J. K. Johnson, and C. A. Morrow. Westview Press, Boulder and London.

McDonald, M. M. A.
1991 Technological organization and sedentism in the Epipaleolithic of Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. The African Archaeological Review 9:81-109.
Pictured: Divers discover amazingly preserved shipwreck of HMS London on bottom of Thames
The largest-ever post-war salvage operation on the Thames has discovered seven shipwrecks up to 350 years old.

They include a warship that was blown up in 1665, a yacht converted to a Second World War gunboat, and a mystery wreck in which divers found a personalised gin bottle.

The vessels, in the Thames Estuary, are just some of about 1,100 ships which went down in the whole of the river.

There are pictures at the link which appear to be #D renderings of sonar images or otherwise computer-generated.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Unearthing long-buried secrets
The more dirt archaeologists clear away, the more old secrets they uncover.

Crews have discovered 58 whole and partial skeletons behind the old Broadway School and expect that number to climb easily past 60. They're uncovering an old graveyard, cut through and ravaged by periodic construction during the past century.

A team from Landmark Archaeology spent the past two weeks unearthing more than a dozen people buried on either side of a thick concrete wall on the western edge of the site. Archaeologists found skeletons cut off at the ankles by the wall on the Robinson Avenue side and cut off just above the shoulders on the eastern side.
Night-Vision Dogs and Underwater Pyramids: Bad-Ass Archaeologists Discover. . uhhh. . . .wait a minute. . ."Bad-Ass Archeologists"? There's a new one! Portal to Maya Underworld
Even though real archaeology isn't remotely like the way it's portrayed in the movies, it still sounds like a pretty cool way to make a living. What adventure-loving soul wouldn't have enjoyed working alongside Guillermo de Anda as he found fourteen caves filled with temples and pyramids in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula? National Geographic (of course) brings us the news of de Anda's recent discovery, which reveals much about what the Mayan people believed about death and the afterlife.

Not much there, but anything with that title had to be posted.
Mounds supporters hope for a takeover
Timothy R. Pauketat, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign archaeology professor, has spent close to 25 years poking around the earth near Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville looking for relics of the centuries-old village that once dominated the site.But with a state budget crisis, massive cost concerns and reduced staffing, Pauketat and others who support the ancient ruins are asking why state leaders don't hand Cahokia Mounds over to a new, better-funded owner: the federal government.

"Given the recent efforts with state economy and the cuts, yes, I think that would be a good idea," Pauketat said.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fort Caroline: History buried in mystery
Where is the ground on which the French tried to get a toehold in the New World - before St. Augustine, before Roanoke, before Jamestown, before Plymouth?

Where were they slaughtered, on that miserable rainy morning almost 443 years ago? Do traces exist under the thin North Florida soil, or is it all lost under the waters of the St. Johns River?

The questions pull at those who look for the old French settlement, whose brief life - it was wiped out after less than 15 months by a brutal Spanish invasion from upstart St. Augustine - has been featured in at least three books this summer from best-selling authors: A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz, Painter in a Savage Land by Miles Harvey and America's Hidden History by Kenneth C. Davis, author of Don't Know Much About History.
Alpine melt reveals ancient life
Melting alpine glaciers are revealing fascinating clues to Neolithic life in the high mountains.

And, as a conference of archaeologists and climatologists meeting in the Swiss capital Berne has been discussing, the finds are also providing key indicators to climate change.

Everyone knows the story of Oetzi the Ice Man, found in an Austrian glacier in 1991. Oetzi was discovered at an altitude of over 3,000m.

I did not know other stuff not related to the Iceman had been found.
Huge statue of Roman ruler found
Parts of a giant, exquisitely-carved marble sculpture depicting the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius have been found at an archaeological site in Turkey.

Fragments of the statue were unearthed at the ancient city of Sagalassos.

So far the statue's head, right arm and lower legs have been discovered, high in the mountains of southern Turkey.
Blogging update Okay, I'm going to do a few posts and try to swallow my irritation at having to type in a frickin' word verification AFTER EVERY ONE.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blogging update Sorry about the lack of posting. The geniuses at Blogspot have decided that ArchaeoBlog MAY JUST BE SPAMBLOG and are making me do a word verification on each post. Besides being really irritating, I can barely figure out what the letters are ("Is that a 'u' or a 'v'?"). So, limited for the time being.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An image of Dashur (Egypt) from the ISS. Doesn't seem too much better than what you get from Google Earth though. . . .
Not archaeology but cool Manes, Trains and Antlers Explained
In his struggle to explain why such extravagant and seemingly burdensome features existed, the great English naturalist struck upon the idea of sexual selection -- that showy traits such as the Peacock’s ornamentation were an advantage in the mating game that outweighed other disadvantages.

A team of Wisconsin scientists has turned from the question of why such male traits exist to precisely how they evolved. They have worked out the molecular details of how a simple genetic switch controls decorative traits in male fruit flies and how that switch evolved. By extension, the work explains the mechanics of how the male lion got his mane, how the bull moose acquired such an impressive set of antlers and, yes, how the peacock got its magnificent tail.

Writing in the latest edition (Aug. 22, 2008) of the journal Cell, a team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison molecular biologist Sean Carroll describes the regulation and evolution of a genetic circuit in fruit flies that permits the male to decorate its abdomen. The work also shows how the regulation of the same genetic circuit in females represses such ornamentation.
Archaeology: Fire lays bare prehistoric secrets of the moors in Yorkshire
A catastrophic fire which "skinned" a precious moorland to its rocky bones has unexpectedly revealed some of the most important prehistoric archaeology found in Britain.

The uncontrolled six-day blaze on Fylingdales Moor in North Yorkshire has exposed a lost landscape dating back 3,000 years which is now to be made accessible to the public by English Heritage.

Unique rock art and unprecedentedly clear bronze age field boundaries have emerged from the soot and cinders which were all that was left of two-and-a-half square miles of the North York Moors national park when fire crews and heavy rain finally swamped the area in September 2003.
1,200-year-old home found
For a nearly 1,200-year-old home, it's held up pretty well.
"Amazing" and "pristine" were the words archaeologists used to characterize the site of the ancient settlement just north of Kanab in southern Utah. It is believed that the single-family dwelling belonged to the Virgin Anasazi, who once flourished in the region, said Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Kitchen. The Virgin Anasazi was a prehistoric American Indian culture that lived along the Virgin River.

Very neat.
Why I Don’t Use the Socratic Method
With the start of the new law school semester looming tomorrow, I thought it was time to revisit a favorite issue. From my Rutter Award for Teaching Excellence speech last spring:

When I joined the Illinois faculty 20 years ago, I began a long struggle with the problem of pedagogy. Like a lot of newly minted law professors of a certain age, I thought Professor Kingsfield was the standard to which I had to aspire.

Good for you.

It's law, not archaeology, but those of you who have sat through 4-16 years of a university education can relate. Well, especially grad school. I wasn't particularly enamored of the Paper Chase movie or series, but I watched it a few times prior to entering grad school and kinda thought that was what I was in for. Happily, that turned out (almost) not to be the case.

True, the first class I ever took in graduate school was taught by a Kingsfieldian prof -- I won't mention any names, but his initials are Robert C. Dunnell -- who really rather terrified first-years. He had a typical Indiana Jones-type office (albeit on the top floor of the building; he used his perks as department head well) chock full of boxes of artifacts and equipment. On his desk, where he greeted you sometime prior to the first day of class to let you know what you'd be in for, stood two items that most students could not take their eyes off of: a resin-encased rattlesnake head paperweight, and a fake (I hope) pile of dog poop.

He wasn't ('isn't' actually; he's still around) all that Kingsfieldish in many respects. Definitely not old-money eastern, more like hillbilly academic. But he was still incredibly serious about getting his ideas into our waifish brains and demanded an incredible amount of work. We were required to take his two theory courses our first two quarters (10 weeks, not semesters). FEAR. Especially when we had to do our presentations. Just sitting there reading our papers as he sat at the other end of the table. . . .doodling. You can imagine all sorts of young, green graduate students sitting there propounding on our given topic, all the while glancing over there wondering what could he be writing about?. We finally figured out that the more actual doodling he did -- and he could make some pretty complex doodles -- the better you were doing. OTOH, if he slowed down or, God forbid, stopped altogether and stared at you, you knew you were in trouble.

I had the great fortune (not) of getting both his second theory course and his lab course in my second quarter. Lawdy. Every nightmare that I ever had about grad school came true that quarter, especially the last two or three weeks when we had several finals, a couple of papers, a lab project, and Lord knows what else all due. I practically lived in the lab. Even on the weekends during that period, it was the same routine: Get up at 6 or so, go to the lab, classes, etc., come home and eat something for dinner, go back to the lab or the library until 11, fall into bed, lather, rinse, repeat. Our TA in the lab course even bought each of us a bottle of wine at the end, he felt so sorry for us (he'd been through the same grinder).

Still, he was one of the best profs I had, though to be honest his lecturing style left something to be desired. He was a ruthless editor; by the time you were done with him (or vice versa) you couldn't write a single sentence without analyzing every word and its position to determine its absolute necessity. A lot of people don't like his writing; it tends to be dense, but really it's just sparse, without much waste. You have to read closely, and if you do, you know exactly what he is saying. His writing, I think, lives up to my favorite quote which he pronounced: Ambiguity is a hedge against being wrong.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention one other aspect of our own Kingsfield. Every year around Christmastime he would "invite" (a formality; it was more or less required) all of his graduate students to his house for a party. Among the festivities, all the grad students would drink cheap beer ("Empty bottles filled up in the back yard by Rhinelander the horse") while he drank the good stuff. He also put out various snacks, including at least one plate of dog biscuits. Which would be bad enough, except that two people actually ate a couple.

I believe I may have the distinction of being the only first-year to ever fail to attend. I made it out, so I guess it didn't ruin me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Second Native American canoe found in Oconee
A second canoe believed to date back hundreds of years to early Native American residents of Oconee County has arrived at the Oconee Heritage Center.

It will now join the canoe found in the Chattooga River in 2002 in a preservation process and eventual exhibits at the museum, according to Nick Gambrell, the center’s curator and director.

The latest canoe, found in the Keowee River, was discovered last month by three young boys, Gambrell said.

. . .

“Their neighbors, Mike and Diana Stafford, having read about the Chattooga Canoe a few years earlier, made sure that the canoe remained in the water-- knowing that keeping the wood wet would help to preserve the artifact. . ."

Good for them.
Bigfoot update

Breaking news! Now, I want you all to sit down before reading this, as I realize that it will come as a complete and total shock. . . .so totally unexpected and out of left field that I daresay the more delicate among you may literally faint away at the news. And yet, with the full sincerity of my iron convictions, I must post this incredible news:

Bigfoot Body Revealed to Be Halloween Costume
"Within one hour we were able to see the partially exposed head," Kulls continues. "I was able to feel that it seemed mostly firm, but unusually hollow in one small section. This was yet another ominous sign."

Then came the clincher.

"Within the next hour of thaw, a break appeared up near the feet area. ... I observed the foot which looked unnatural, reached in and confirmed it was a rubber foot."

I am speechless.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Great Moments in Cinematic Archaeology I just realized that 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of Planet of the Apes:

Why particularly archaeology? Why, because one of the main characters, Dr. Cornelius (played by one of my faves, Roddy McDowall), was an archaeologist! The actual archaeology doesn't come in until the end, when Cornelius ("Oh, yes -- the young ape with a shovel"), Zira, Dr. Zaius, and Taylor and Nova, are in a cave site where Cornelius is describing the results of his excavations:

It was at this level I discovered traces of an early ape creature -- stage of primitive barbarism, really -- dating back roughly thirteen hundred years. It was here I found cutting tools and arrowheads of quartz and the fossilized bones of carnivorous gorillas. (Ed. !!!)

But the artifacts lying at your feet were found here, at this level. And that's the paradox. The more ancient culture is the more advanced. Admittedly, many of these objects are unidentified, but clearly they were fashioned by beings with a knowledge of metallurgy.

Indeed, the very fact that these tools are unknown to us could suggest a culture in certain ways almost equal to our own. Some of the evidence is uncontestable ...

(ZAIUS, interrupting)
Don't speak to me in absolutes. The evidence is contestable.

I apologize.

To begin with, your methods of dating the past are crude, to say the least. There are geologists on my staff who would laugh at your speculations.

One figures the "dating" they're talking about is some form of relative dating based on sediments, seriation, etc. Note that throughout the film, Cornelius's work is an attempt to go beyond the Sacred Scrolls which pretty much mirrors the development of archaeology/geology to reconcile Biblical history with the budding of the earth sciences in establishing the antiquity of both humans and the planet.

It's pretty unilineal in its view of evolution, depending as it does on a straight-line evolution from apes -- not just apes, but modern apes -- to Man and vice versa. This was dated even at the time in academic circles at least, but such a view was probably still widespread in popular culture. By then, it had been well established that the precursors to both humans and modern apes were a common ancestor, not actual gorillas, chimpanzees, etc.

I vaguely remember seeing it in the theater when it came out, but I can't be sure. I have a memory of seeing it along with Vanishing Point at a drive-in, but those films were three years apart. OTOH, it might have been something like a re-release double feature that we went to. I have a hard time believing that I could remember something from when I was, you know, six. Errrr, mostly what I remember of Vanishing Point was the car crash at the end and seeing NAKED FEMALE BOOBS for the first time.

I haven't sat through and watched the whole thing in a while, probably 10 years ago when its 30th anniversary was being celebrated. I bring it up now because I think the Biography Channel is running the 1998 documentary on the series. They spend most of the time on the first one, but go into the later ones as well. I do remember watching the TV series religiously; I really liked that.

One other tidbit of perhaps some anthropological interest: In interviews, Charleton Heston remarked that during filming, the actors playing the various species of ape -- gorilla, chimp, orangutan -- would tend to cluster by themselves with their own 'species' on the set. Could be from a number of factors, of course, and Heston himself stated that he wasn't sure if it meant anything or not, but I always found that interesting.
Diggers find Cinnabar history
There's a good yarn in the old privy at the abandoned town of Cinnabar, a few miles north of Gardiner.

An archaeology field school from the University of Montana and Montana State University has spent parts of the past two summers excavating the town, which was abandoned in 1903. One of the first places they started poking around was the outhouse.

UM graduate student Dave Dick rattled off a list of curious objects he found clustered at one level of the loo. There were whiskey and beer bottles, of course. But there was a girdle cinch, too, alongside a suspender clip. And most curious of all was the stopper from a vial of holy water.
Fight! Fight! Archaeologists in dig over standards
A GROUP of archaeologists who carried out a headline-making excavation at Cardiff Castle blew the whistle on under-staffing, poor procedures and lax supervision, it has emerged.

Their work grabbed the spotlight after uncovering evidence the Welsh capital may be thousands of years older than initially thought.

But several workers who took part later alleged it was riven by dissatisfaction at perceived poor standards and pressure to work overtime with poorly trained, inexperienced staff.
'Virtual Archaeologist' Reconnects Fragments Of An Ancient Civilization
For several decades, archaeologists in Greece have been painstakingly attempting to reconstruct wall paintings that hold valuable clues to the ancient culture of Thera, an island civilization that was buried under volcanic ash more than 3,500 years ago.

This Herculean task -- more than a century of further work at the current rate -- soon may get much easier, thanks to an automated system developed by a team of Princeton University computer scientists working in collaboration with archaeologists in Greece.

The new technology "has the potential to change the way people do archaeology," according to David Dobkin, the Phillip Y. Goldman '86 Professor in Computer Science and dean of the faculty at Princeton.

Kind of a Holy Grail of archaeology. A couple of years ago I talked with another researcher who had developed a system that supposedly would reassemble pot sherds together, theoretically taking a bunch of scanned sherds and digitally reassembling them into whole vessels. Unfortunately, it didn't work quite as well as it seemed. I broke up a pot I had sitting around, scanned them in, sent him the scans of three fragments that fit together (fresh breaks, mind you, not even worn like you usually find) and it was unable to reassemble them. Don't know if he's made any additional progress since then though. I should probably contact him again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Non-archaeological post (sorta) I found this article on Olympic sportswear fascinating: Olympic Uniforms: Less Clothing Means Better Results
With their toned bodies and sun-kissed skin, beach volleyball players have more to show off than their lightning quick serves and powerful blocks. Especially if the players are women.

Beach volleyball is one of the most glaring examples of uniform discrepancy, with men and women wearing strikingly different outfits to play the same sport.

Men jump and dive into the sand wearing loose-fitting tank tops and shorts that hit mid-thigh. Women wear bikinis, the kind that make waxing oh-so-crucial.


It's a fairly lengthy article and goes into some detail on the whys and wherefores of various Olympic attire. I've wondered about this for some time, especially in the last several years as the female outfits have become smaller and smaller. IIRC, the original Greek athletes would compete entirely in the buff. Apparently, the bikini-wear favored by some of the track and beach volleyball women are extremely non-restricting and don't, ummmmmm, ride up or, in the case of the volleyballers, let sand get into all the nasty little nooks and crannies. So one is left with the impression that these things are, to get all Darwinian, being selected for because of their function.

BUT. One would also assume that the same functional constraints would apply to the men, albeit without having to wear anything on top. It seems as if only the male swimmers conceded to physics and wore tiny little Speedos (until recently of course). They seem to forgo the functional advantages and stick with relatively bulkier and more restrictive clothing. Style trumping function?

In yet another twist, the article also goes into the basketball teams, in which the women have tended towards emulating their male counterparts and wear the long baggy stuff. Is the clothing less of an issue in b-ball than track and field? I suspect so; clothing seems to be far more specialized when time is the determining factor rather than points. Swimmers seem to do whatever it take to grab an extra tenth of a second or two while different clothing won't make much of a difference when shooting a basket.

Of course, there's also the whole marketing angle as well. I have a feeling a bikini will bring in a lot more advertising reps than baggy shorts and a tank top.
Developers no longer haunted by historical discoveries
Digging an eight mile, $3bn (£1.6bn) tunnel linking Europe to Asia beneath the Bosphorus, a few miles from one of the world's most active seismic faults, was never going to be easy. But in 2005, a year after the project started, engineers working for the Turkish authorities were surprised by a discovery: the remains of the 4th century port of Constantinople, hailed as the greatest nautical find in a century.

Archaeologists were understandably thrilled. Yet the engineers were frustrated by the delays, which at their worst cost $1m a day. The project is still two years behind schedule.
Compare and Contrast Bigfoot vs. Indiana Jones

Local author's new history blog aims to bring past to life
A new blog, "Chronicles of the Comstock," that discusses historical topics pertaining to Virginia City and the Great Basin, is now available for viewing online.

Created by Northern Nevada author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, the weekly blog includes topics ranging from silver mining in the Comstock to the early Italian ranchers of Dayton, to the Virginia City fire of 1875.

The blog is available by logging on to Cassinelli's Web site at Click on the "Chronicles of the Comstock" link on the menu at the left. A new article is scheduled to appear each Sunday.

Sort of a blog. More like a plain old web site with regular articles. Interesting though.
Archaeologists to recall '61 dig
It was 48 summers ago when Oscar Brock and Edward Kurjack dug deep into a prehistoric Colbert County site and pulled out an abundance of findings.

This weekend, the retired archaeologists return to the Shoals to reminisce about those findings and, they hope, dig up more interest in the site.

Their dig was at the Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter near Barton in 1961. Another dig occurred two years later, although they weren't involved in that one. They found evidence left by Paleo-Indians who once occupied the rock shelter some 10,000 years ago, said Ninon Parker, who is chairwoman of the Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation.
More on the Gobero site in the Sahara including a video and more photos.

I read through the paper listed in the earlier post, but didn't see any habitation detail other than to say they excavated some "midden". No post holes, hearths, etc.
Historic Environment Record goes online
AN online database of over 50,000 historic buildings and archaeological sites across Highland was launched today at Highland Council's Planning, Environment and Development Committee meeting.

Members were given a demonstration of The Highland Historic Environment Record by HER development officer, Sylvina Tilbury. The records cover the whole range of human activity in Highland and include prehistoric houses, clearance townships, churches, bridges, notable gardens and shipwrecks.

Neat. I checked out a couple of sites bu the servers were slow and at least one of the Related Links was a 404.
Earth still ‘best trustee’ for Achaemenid palace
Once again the earth itself is the best trustee for cultural heritage, as archaeologists reburied the ruins of an Achaemenid palace due to lack of an appropriate plan necessary for the protection of the site.

“Protecting the ancient and historical sites is our most important task,” Fars Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Department (FCHTHD) director Alireza Barzegar told the Persian service of CHN on Tuesday.

“Thus, if we don’t have any appropriate plan to protect the excavated site, the sites should be once again covered by earth after the experts carry out studies on them,” he added.

Can't say I disagree with the sentiment, even if it's because of lack of an aletrnative.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sharks and the Chumash
A sleek, mysterious, and occasionally vicious species, the shark has long stoked the fire of human fascination. In Polynesia, the shark god Kamohoali’i is credited with bringing volcanoes and surfing to Hawai‘i. In ancient Greece, the goddess Lamia (or “Lone Shark”) was given by Zeus the power to eat children at night. In Australia, the aborigines believe the movement of mystic sharks gave contours to the natural world. In West Africa, young men seek strength by dressing as hammerheads and dancing. And in the Aztec tradition, the Earth was laid upon the back of a shark-like beast named Cipactli who guaranteed fertile soil only with the sacrifice of blood and bodies.

So it may be surprising to learn that no such legends persist in the oral tradition of the Chumash, the people who’ve inhabited the Santa Barbara coastline (and far beyond) for the past few millennia. But that’s probably because the Chumash had a practical, rather than mythological, relationship with the shark: According to the archaeological record, sharks (and rays, their close relative) were the number two source of protein for coastal Chumash after sardines, at least for the past 1,000 or so years.

I did not know that this was part of the diet there. Interesting that it has no mythological significance, too.
Portal to mythical Mayan underworld found in Mexico
Mexican archeologists have discovered a maze of stone temples in underground caves, some submerged in water and containing human bones, which ancient Mayans believed was a portal where dead souls entered the underworld.

Clad in scuba gear and edging through narrow tunnels, researchers discovered the stone ruins of eleven sacred temples and what could be the remains of human sacrifices at the site in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Not much detail, but two photos.
Status of mystery skull a bone of contention
The status of Wairarapa's mystery skull remains in limbo, with the national coroner's office effectively saying it's no longer its problem.

In response to a Times-Age query about who now has responsibility for the skull, which has generated worldwide news media interest, Glenn Dobson, southern regional manager for the Coronial Services Unit of the Ministry of Justice, said officially the case is closed and the coroner no longer has jurisdiction over it.

The skull, believed to be that of a European woman, was found in the Ruamahanga River four years ago by Sam Tobin and has created a stir because radiocarbon tests showed it is over 300 years old.

That has attracted interest from news media around the world because Europeans were not believed to have landed in New Zealand before 1770.

Doesn't seem to be much as to how it was determined to be European, apart from a phys anth examination, and no indication what the carbon source was for the C14 test. The skull itself?
Ancient stone chamber unearthed in garden
An ancient underground chamber which could date back 2,000 years has been unearthed near Clonmany in Inishowen.
Discovered by Clonmany man Sean Devlin, the previously unrecorded structure appears to be an underground tunnel or souterrain.

Mr Devlin revealed yesterday that he first discovered the underground chamber several years ago while landscaping his front garden, but didn’t make much of a fuss about his amazing find at the time. The historic significance of the tunnel only became apparent recently after Mr Devlin showed it to amateur archaeologist friends.

Very cool. Apparently, not a tomb either.

Geez, the only things I find when gardening is usually the neighbor cat's potty. . . .