Thursday, January 31, 2008

Non-archaeology post A few updates from your personal ArchaeoBlogger:

1) ArchaeoWife update: Unfortunately, after two weeks her jaw is still banded shut and will be until Feb. 18th. Sucks. The surgeon said the x-ray looked better than he thought, but he's still concerned that if the bands come off too soon it won't heal in the right position and she'll end up having to have it fixed. Which would totally suck, having to go through that again. So we are stuck with creating exciting and tasty meals that one can suck through a straw for over a month.

2) I have a new best friend in the morning:

Bought that sucker for like 50 cents at an estate sale a few months ago but didn't like it right off the bat. But I have tried it again this week and it's been great. That and the Alba works a wee bit better than my twin blade. Most excellent.

3) One CD note and a Dirty Little Secret. I downloaded "John Denver's Greatest Hits", the one from like 1973. It was a famous one:

I don't recall a lot from around that time, but I remember what a splash Denver made and I recall most of those sings on the radio all the time. I wasn't that much into him then -- too young -- and never really thought too much about him later either. I thought he got kind of silly with the "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" song and some other stuff he did later in the '70s. Still, last year PBS had a show on with interviews and the stories behind some of the songs and some performances from television from that time and also some later ones. This was, of course, several years after he died.

I really liked it. I think a lot of people may have dismissed him as kind of a country-pop guy, but he could really craft a fine song. It really captured the time, too.

Dirty Little Secret: I really love. . . . .a Neil Diamond album. *gasp* Yes, "Hot August Nights". I never cared too much for him either back then, but in the late '70s when I was discovering stereos and music for the first time, my hi-fi salesmen friends told me about this album. Said forget what you think about Diamond and just listen to it. They were right, it's a marvelous album. It's all live and really a brilliant recording, both technically and musically. I only have an old tape of it now, and my tape deck doesn't work, but a purchase is in the offing. I was going to get it from iTunes but I want to play it on my big home system and iTunes tracks don't scale up well. Take this as another suggestion to try something out.

I realized this morning that I only blog about old stuff. Really, I'm not living in the past! Partly I do this because, well, hey, this is a blog about old stuff. Also I've developed a bigger appreciation for 1970s music lately. I think it's been kind of dismissed as pop fluff from that fluffy self-absorbed decade. There was some great stuff though. I appreciate it much more nowadays and want to promote it some.

I do keep current, but for some reason I haven't been liking a lot of more recent stuff. The whole grunge thing was like heaven, but after that petered out. . . .eh, I dunno. I really like Jet and Evanescence. Mostly I get my recent stuff from radio (KEXP in the car) and staring at VH1 or MTV in the gym.

No, I never met any of the Seattle grunge people. Had a friend who used to party with a lot of them though. Before they got big. Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) lived his final years not too far from my abode at the time but I never saw him.
Flood project dig unearths artifacts, human remains
Archaeologists gave a presentation last week of the results of their dig at the future site of the flood project, which unearthed numerous artifacts and 65 sets of human remains associated with the Wappo American Indians and other tribes who inhabited the area.

The survey involved excavation of four sites in Vineyard Valley Mobile Home Park and the adjacent vineyards, as well as one site on the opposite side of the Napa River. The work was required as part of the flood project’s environmental review.
Berlin Dig Finds City Older Than Thought
An archaeological dig in downtown Berlin has uncovered evidence that the German capital is at least 45 years older than had previously been established, authorities said Wednesday.

During excavation work last week in the Mitte district, archaeologists uncovered a wooden beam from an ancient earthen cellar, said Karin Wagner of the city-state's office for historical preservation.

It was in exceptionally good condition, having lain under the water table for centuries, and scientists were able to determine from a sample taken that it had been cut down in 1192.
Trove from Fort San Juan delights archaeologists
Archaeologists are a patient lot who count time by eons and measure progress in inches.

But even Rob Beck can't contain his excitement that word is getting out -- finally -- about a dig in Burke County that indicates Spanish explorers were in the interior of North Carolina two decades before the English attempted to settle Roanoke Island. Tonight, UNC-TV will air a half-hour documentary about the failed Fort San Juan being excavated north of Morganton.

"This is wonderful," Beck said Wednesday. "It's extraordinarily gratifying for all of us."
BLM provides land for state archaeology center
The state is moving forward with a planned Center for Archaeology after Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman signed an agreement to acquire the site from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The agreement transfers 25 acres in Santa Fe.

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Office of Archaeological Studies began negotiating for the land in 2005.
Ancient Mass Sacrifice, Riches Discovered in China Tomb
A 2,500-year-old tomb containing nearly four dozen victims of human sacrifice has been excavated in eastern China, yielding a treasure trove of precious artifacts and new insights into ritual customs during the era of Confucius, archaeologists say.

The tomb was discovered in January 2007 after police caught looters plundering the site in the province of Jiangxi (see map), said Xu Changqing, who heads the excavation team.

Click on the sword photo and it shows part of the excavation.
Antarctica's Mawson's Hut gets heritage boost
Construction work on a new laboratory for conservation work on Mawson's Hut in Antarctica has been completed.

A team of Australians has just returned from the icy continent, where Sir Douglas Mawson led Australian expeditions between 1911 and 1914.

The team of eight included two builders, an electrician, an archeologist, a doctor and a conservator.

Recent archaeology.
Bonn Square skeletons to be reburied
Hundreds of skeletons could be buried beneath Oxford's Bonn Square, according to the archaeologist overseeing redevelopment work.

Earlier this month the city council launched a £1.5m redevelopment of the square in a bid to tidy up a run-down part of the city centre.

This week, as construction firm English Landscapes started digging up the site with bulldozers, skeletal remains, which could date back to the 12th century, were found on the former burial site.
Surprise Egypt Tombs Yield Ornate Coffins, Dog Mummies
Four ancient tombs containing well-preserved mummies, ornate painted coffins, and mummified dogs have been unearthed in El Faiyum, an oasis about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Cairo (see map).

One female mummy was found wearing a gilded mask, a rare treasure at the site known as the necropolis of Deir el-Banat. The burial complex is a frequent target for modern-day grave robbers and was thought to have been looted of its riches.

"An important point is that these mummies are almost untouched," said Galina A. Belova, a Russian Egyptologist who led the excavation.

The Fayum is where it's at these days, baby!
Find may shed light on Roman era
A team of archaeologists from the University of Exeter has found a Roman fort dating from the 1st Century AD in fields in Cornwall.

Several items of pottery have been excavated and a furnace which may have been used to smelt minerals.

Researchers said the find at Calstock, close to a silver mine, could show for the first time the Romans' interest in exploiting Cornish minerals.

The way they found it is worth reading. Neat bit of detective work followed by some remote sensing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Coincidentally: Clues to Black Plague’s Fury in 650-Year-Old Skeletons
Many historians have assumed that Europe’s deadliest plague, the Black Death of 1347 to 1351, killed indiscriminately, young and old, hardy and frail, healthy and sick alike. But two anthropologists were not so sure. They decided to take a closer look at the skeletons of people buried more than 650 years ago.

Their findings, published on Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the plague selectively took the already ill, while many of the otherwise healthy survived the infection.

I have a memory tickle about hearing this somewhere before, that Europe was so heavily impacted because a lot of the people were already in poor health due to poor nutrition, overcrowding, and the Little Ice Age in general.
Breaking news Ruins of 7,000-year-old city found in Egypt oasis
"A team of US archaeologists has discovered the ruins of a city dating
back to the period of the first farmers 7,000 years ago in Egypt's
Fayyum oasis, the supreme council of antiquities said on Tuesday.
"An electromagnetic survey revealed the existence in the Karanis region
of a network of walls and roads similar to those constructed during the
Greco-Roman period," the council's chief Zahi Hawwas said. (..)
"The artefacts consist of the remains of walls and houses in terracotta or
dressed limestone as well as a large quantity of pottery and the foundations
of ovens and grain stores," he added.
The remains date back to the Neolithic period between 5,200 and
4,500 BC. The local director of antiquities, Ahmed Abdel Alim, said
the site was just seven kilometres (four miles) from Fayyum lake and
would probably have lain at the water's edge at the time it was inhabited."

Pretty important if it pans out. I'm a bit suspicious that it seems to be only discovered via an electromagnetic survey and in the area of a substantial Greco-Roman occupation. Nevertheless, the link has a photo of people excavating at the site and the article does mention that it has been dated, so one should probably assume it's reasonably secure to this period.

Most (actually all) of the Neolithic remains in the Fayum show no architecture at all, let alone in mud brick/terracotta/limestone so this would certainly be something new. Kom W, excavated by Caton-Thompson, had grain silos, but the only structures present were probably light structures supported by poles (she found post holes, but no actual structures). This site implies a much higher level of organization. So we'll see. Via EEF.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cemetery database update Referring back to this post, I emailed Allyson Brooks of the Washington State DAHP and she verified that said database would primarily be used to notify developers on the location of known human remains and that some ground truthing would be required. You can view various documents relating to the actual bill here. The bill itself makes interesting reading, especially the changes being made to the existing law. The analysis document describes it in more detail.
Archaeologist 'Strikes Gold' With Finds of Ancient Nasca Iron Ore Mine in Peru
A Purdue University archaeologist discovered an intact ancient iron ore mine in South America that shows how civilizations before the Inca Empire were mining this valuable ore.

"Archaeologists know people in the Old and New worlds have mined minerals for thousands and thousands of years," said Kevin J. Vaughn, an assistant professor of anthropology who studies the Nasca civilization, which existed from A.D. 1 to A.D. 750. "Iron mining in the Old World, specifically in Africa, goes back 40,000 years. And we know the ancient people in Mexico, Central America and North America were mining for various materials. There isn't much evidence for these types of mines."

"What we found is the only hematite mine, a type of iron also known as ochre, recorded in South America prior to the Spanish conquest. This discovery demonstrates that iron ores were important to ancient Andean civilizations."
Search for Lost Colony takes a high-tech turn
An innocuous-looking golf course tractor pushing a platform on wheels could help illustrate the nation's oldest mystery.

In the quest for the Lost Colony, the vanished 1587 English settlement on Roanoke Island, archaeologists have conducted numerous explorations in Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, digging and surveying and scanning and scoping.

But they've never used high-tech radar tomography that can produce 3-D images out of data collected from 6 feet, more or less, under ground.

Update on this post.
Initial tests show mounds contain remains hundreds of years old
Initial tests on bone fragments found in mounds in North Smithfield show they are 500 to 600 years old and belonged to a young girl.

Conservation Commission Chairman Donald Gagnon presented the results to the town council last week. The town is looking for more information about more than 100 stone mounds discovered last year near where a housing development had been scheduled to be built.

The preliminary carbon dating testing on the remains appears to support the belief of a local archaeologist that the mounds are American Indian burial grounds.

The town council approved money for more extensive testing that will help pinpoint the age of the other remains on the site.

That's the whole thing.
Privy digging has its detractors
Many archaeologists and historians discourage hobby privy digging, and some condemn the practice outright. Here's what some of they say about it:

Untrained privy diggers are doing more to hurt history than to honor it.

"Privies contain a wealth of information about people's lifestyles and their diets and their health, and all that information gets lost when these guys go in and just churn the stuff up. It may stay better underground and preserved for future generations to study," says David Pollack, the site protection program manager for the Kentucky Heritage Council and director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tribes seeking return of remains
Locked away in a museum safe near Escondido are perhaps the oldest skeletal remains found in the Western Hemisphere.

More than 30 years after the relics were unearthed during a classroom archaeological dig at UC San Diego, the county's Kumeyaay tribes are fighting to reclaim the bones that anthropologists estimate are nearly 10,000 years old.

“We think it's the oldest multiple burial in the New World,” said UCLA anthropology professor Gail Kennedy, who participated in the 1976 dig with a University of California San Diego professor. “We don't know anything about these people other than they lived on the coast and they were fishermen.”

First-century Lindow Man goes back to his roots

Lindow Man is to return to close to the spot where he met an appalling death almost 2,000 years ago, skull smashed in, strangled, stabbed, and finally dumped face down into the bog pool which preserved the evidence of his last terrible hours.

He has been one of the star exhibits at the British Museum since his discovery in 1984 by peat cutters at Lindow Moss in Cheshire, transfixing visitors who gaze into his leathery, contorted face and startlingly preserved hair and eyelashes. The museum is now sending him on a year-long loan to Manchester Museum.
Bill aims to protect tribal grave sites
Nearly three years ago, state construction crews who were working on a road project in Arlington accidentally dug into graves that held the remains of four American Indians, ancestors of Stillaguamish tribal members.

The discovery was one in a series that, over time, has revealed the vast numbers of Indian graves spread throughout the region.

Now, a bill in the Legislature could result in a database of every known site of buried human remains throughout the state. The database would be exempt from public disclosure laws in order to protect the sites from looters and vandals. The bill would also protect property owners and contractors who have followed state guidelines from criminal and civil charges if they accidentally uncover skeletal remains.

Sounds like a reasonable plan and one that could save a lot of hassles. One problem I see is how the locations would be verified. Would tribes have to provide photographic or other evidence demonstrating the existence of remains? Otherwise, how would anyone know that there are really remains at the reported location? Or perhaps this is just something of a notice for developers that they could find remains and need to plan for possible mitigation. One can certainly see developers avoiding locations where there is a high probability of human remains being found.
Fossil show offers glimpse of Stone Age
It's only natural that the Sunshine State Archaeological Society decided on the Alachua Women's Club as the site of its first annual Alachua Stone Age Fair.
Continue to 2nd paragraph

The building's exterior is made entirely out of chert, a fine-grained sedimentary rock similar to flint that was often used by native peoples to carve tools for hunting and fishing.

"When I saw this building, I knew it was the perfect place, because it's so appropriate," said Bob Knight, an amateur archaeologist and SSAS president.

Anybody go to this? We posted an alert about it so I expect hundreds showed up.
Ancient glass mosaic restored to original state
Experts have restored a one-of-a-kind 1,400-year-old glass mosaic glowing in gold, recovered from a site next to the Sea of Galilee, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

The mosaic panel is believed by the Israel Antiquities Authority to be the only one in the world due to both the quality of its preservation, given its age, and its gleaming, gilded craftsmanship indicating Christian origins.

Photo of the mosaic at the link.
Fight! Fight! Hawwas chides anti-akhenaten statements
Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme council of Antiquities(ESCA) Zahi Hawwas slammed statements by British Professor Barry Kemp and Professor Jerry Rose, of the University of Arkansas, USA, distorting the history of pharaonic King Akhenaten and the construction of his city in Amarna.

"The bones reveal a darker side to life, a striking reversal of the image that Akhenaten promoted, of an escape to sunlight and nature" says professor kemp who is leading the excavations.

painted murals found in the tombs of high officials from the time show offering-tables piled high with food.But the bones of the ordinary people who lived in the city reveal a different picture, reported the BBC.

Badly written article with not much really said from Hawass.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What I'm listening to right now
Anthologyland by The Motels

This is a true early 1980s collection. Many might not remember Martha and The Motels, but they were one of the first to appear on MTV. They had probably two hits, Suddenly Last Summer and the bigger one Only The Lonely. They never really made it to superstar status and aren't really one of the major bands of the period, but I recommend grabbing this collection for a good '80s hit anyway.

Only the Lonely is one of the classic videos from that time, IMO because it captured that early '80s fascination with the 1930s and 1940s. Several videos from that time toyed with that era, probably because of the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark. In fact, I've always liked the music from that period in large part because a lot of the music used really classic melodies and song structures from the pre-rock era. Apart from the synth-pop that many of the especially British New Age Fashion Bands (think Spandau Ballet, ABC) used, there was a really classic sense of making a good song. The video:

gives that whole smoky club vibe. I loved it back then. I SO wanted to just up and leave school, move to the Keys, and work in a bar. Yes, that was me in the white smoking jacket behind the bar. I wonder if that's the same set they used for Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf? At about :28 in you see a table with a white panama hat and at some point they tip over a table, too.

The Motels were mostly something of a punk/new wave band but made a lot of this sort of music, though without all the synthesizer stuff. The CD linked above has a lot of their earlier punk stuff plus the later popular songs. It's got some studio and some live stuff. Martha Davis has a really stunning voice, worth listening to even if you're not really into this genre. They still play clubs in southern California, or so I hear. Go see them if you're down there.
Mystery ‘mound’ to be saved from the sea
RCHAEOLOGISTS plan to save a fine example of a Bronze Age burnt mound from disappearing into the sea in a unique £70,000 removal operation on Shetland this coming summer.

Islanders discuss the burnt mound project on Bressay - Photo: Courtesy Council for Scottish Archaeology.Historic Scotland has given permission for the site at Cruister, on Bressay, to be shifted to the islands’ heritage centre.

The unprecedented project will see the prehistoric version of a water heater, a third of which has already been eroded by the sea, dismantled and rebuilt in fully functional order.
Cemetery looting robs archaeologists of DNA link to past
FEW of us realise we carry around in our bodies the seeds of our most distant past. But recent developments in science indicate that the analysis of the DNA of living people can shine a light on the earliest history of the human race.
Professor Colin Renfrew, a leading archaeologist, will describe how advances in molecular genetics in the past ten years have improved our understanding of human origins in a lecture in Edinburgh on Monday, part of celebrations of the Society of Antiquities of London's tercentenary.

Lord Renfrew has been described as having "an almost unequalled influence in the world of western archaeology". A former Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University, his recent books include Figuring It Out: What Are We? Where Do We Come From? and Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind.
Archeology and the Super Bowl? Phoenix: Beyond the Super Bowl
More than 600 years ago, native people known as the Hohokam built an agricultural civilization on a stretch of desert known today as Arizona's Valley of the Sun. Some archaeologists believe the brutally arid climate forced the people to scatter in search of milder environs, leaving behind miles of irrigation channels, stick-figure pictographs and no forwarding address. From the ashes of that civilization rose one of America's fastest growing assemblies of planned urban developments, golf courses and cactus, and it will host Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3. But maybe the Hohokam had good reason to skip town.

That's about it for the archaeology.
Grim secrets of Pharaoh's city
Evidence of the brutal lives endured by some ancient Egyptians to build the monuments of the Pharaohs has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Skeletal remains from a lost city in the middle of Egypt suggest many ordinary people died in their teenage years and lived a punishing lifestyle.

Many suffered from spinal injuries, poor nutrition and stunted growth.

The remains were found at Amarna, a new capital built on the orders of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, 3,500 years ago.

It seems to be similar to sorts of pathologies found on skeletons from Giza. Though they weren't slave labor, it certainly wasn't an easy existence. It also mentions an epidemic that may have killed a lot of the people.
More on the Chinese skull.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Authorities Raid California Museums
Federal agents raided several Southern California museums on Thursday in search of Southeast Asian antiquities believed to have been illegally obtained, smuggled into the U.S. and donated so collectors could claim fraudulent tax deductions.

Agents also investigated American Indian artifacts at one museum.

Search warrants were executed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Authorities said no arrests had been made and no charges had been filed.
Earliest Shoe-Wearers Revealed by Toe Bones
People started wearing shoes around 40,000 years ago, according to a study on recently excavated small toe bones that belonged to an individual from China who apparently loved shoes.

Most footwear erodes over time. The earliest known shoes, rope sandals that attached to the feet with string, date to only around 10,000 B.C. For the new study, the clues were in middle toe bones that change during an individual's lifetime if the person wears shoes a lot.

"When you walk barefoot, your middle toes curl into the ground to give you traction as you push off," explained co-author Erik Trinkaus, who worked on the study with Hong Shang.

I was all set to start criticizing it, but they went and took the wind out of my sail. They did some cross-cultural comparisons with both recent and ancient specimens and the concept seems to hold. However, it's still just an association even though they've proposed a causal mechanism, so no total slam dunk. Interesting though. They used Neanderthals who were not thought to wear anything on their feet, which was criticized and replied to:

"Some individuals even today still don't wear shoes and live in very cold environments, such as in the hills of Eastern Bulgaria and Romania," he said.

Young'uns today seem to wear flip-flops at all times of the year up here in the northwest. It doesn't get much snow and sub-freezing temps but still, one can't help but wonder.
Graeco-Roman mummies update Al-Ahram has a bit more. (Via EEF)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

“On the highest point of the mountain is a mound of earth, forming an altar of Zeus Lykaios, and from it most of the Peloponnesos can be seen,” wrote Pausanias, in his famous, well-respected multi-volume Description of Greece. “Before the altar on the east stand two pillars, on which there were of old gilded eagles. On this altar they sacrifice in secret to Lykaion Zeus. I was reluctant to pry into the details of the sacrifice; let them be as they are and were from the beginning.”

What would surprise Pausanias—as it is surprising archaeologists—is how early that “beginning” actually may be. New pottery evidence from excavations by the Greek-American, interdisciplinary team of the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project indicates that the ash altar—a cone of earth located atop the southern peak of Mt Lykaion where dedications were made in antiquity— was in use as early as 5,000 years ago—at least 1,000 years before the early Greeks began to worship the god Zeus.
Experts study another Andean civilization
The broken skeletons were scattered like random pottery shards, rediscovered where they fell centuries ago.

Were these ancient people cut down in a long-forgotten battle? Did European-introduced diseases cause their demise? Were they casualties of some apocalyptic reckoning at this great walled citadel?

The "cloud warriors" of ancient Peru are slowly offering up their secrets - along with more questions. Recent digs at this majestic site, once a stronghold of the Chachapoya civilization, have turned up scores of skeletons and thousands of artifacts, shedding new light on one of the most remarkable, if least understood, of Peru's pre-Columbian cultures.

Do a search on "Chachapoya" on this blog and you will find some other stories on them linked to in the past.
1500-year-old Mayan paint job peeled back
MORE secrets of the Mayan civilisation are being revealed via groundbreaking research into paint pigments used on a temple at one of the culture's most significant sites: Copan, in Honduras.

Brisbane physical and chemical sciences PhD student Rosemary Goodall used an infrared analysis technique, FTIR-ATR spectral imaging, never before applied in archeology.

It revealed a map of the painted surfaces of stucco masks that adorn the corners of the Rosalila temple, built in about AD550.

Mrs Goodall found that the Mayans mixed finely ground muscovite mica in their paint, which would have made parts of the building glitter in the sun.
Noah's Ark flood spurred European farming
A British scientist has found evidence linking the catastrophic collapse of a glacial ice dam in Canada more than 8,000 years ago and the rapid spread of agriculture across Europe around the same time.

The dramatic discharge of freshwater from prehistoric Lake Agassiz - which covered much of Central Canada at the end of the last ice age - has long been blamed for altering global climate patterns and raising sea levels around the world by at least a metre in a matter of months.

. . .

Now, University of Exeter geologist Chris Turney believes he has traced the sudden proliferation of farming across neolithic Europe to an exodus of coastal people moving inland to escape the results of the Agassiz flood.

Hmmmmmm. From my reading, agriculture was already spreading out from the near east more or less regularly, though I do have a memory tickle of someone arguing that the first agriculturalists followed the coastlines into Europe.
Remote sensing update 3D radar-computer 'digs' for Lost Colony
An archaeologist with the First Colony Foundation was on site at Fort Raleigh Saturday with CART engineers testing the advanced ground penetrating system. Their hope is that CART will prove to be a viable tool to help find artifacts from Sir Walter Raleigh's 16th Century colonies in the future.

The First Colony Foundation comprises a team of top archaeologists who in recent years discovered the expanded Jamestown, Va. settlement. The group also is a partner with the National Park Service in search of the Elizabethan presence on Roanoke Island. It has dug its share of holes along Roanoke Sound the past couple of years.

The system they're describing seems to be an advanced GPR system employing several transmitters to get a better 3D image. Their web page describing it is here.
Not really archaeology China finds 100,000-year-old human skull: report
An almost complete human skull dating back 80,000 to 100,000 years has been unearthed in central China, state media reported Wednesday.

The skull, consisting of 16 pieces, was dug up last month after two years of excavation at a site in Xuchang in Henan province, the China Daily said.

The pieces were fossilised because they were buried near the mouth of a spring whose water had a high calcium content, the report said.
Ancient Maya sacrificed boys not virgin girls: study
The victims of human sacrifice by Mexico's ancient Mayans, who threw children into water-filled caverns, were likely boys and young men not virgin girls as previously believed, archeologists said on Tuesday.

The Maya built soaring temples and elaborate palaces in the jungles of Central America and southern Mexico before the Spanish conquest in the early 1500s.

Maya priests in the city of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula sacrificed children to petition the gods for rain and fertile fields by throwing them into sacred sinkhole caves, known as "cenotes."

I liked this line: The caves served as a source of water for the Mayans and were also thought to be an entrance to the underworld.

I wonder if they were really drinking water that they were tossing bodies into.
Antiquities market update National parks robbed of heritage
Looting of fossils and archaeological artifacts from national parks — such as Native American pottery and Civil War relics — is increasing as demand for such items rises on the Internet and the world market, U.S. National Park Service officials say.

Over the past decade, an average of 340 "significant" looting incidents have been reported annually at the 391 national parks, monuments, historic sites and battlefields — probably less than 25% of the actual number of thefts, says park service staff ranger Greg Lawler. "The trends are up," he says.
Wine-carrying ship dates back 2,300 years
Marine archaeologists will begin work in June to uncover the sand-buried hull of a 2,300 year-old cargo ship thought to have been ferrying wine from the Aegean island of Chios before it sank off Cyprus' southern coast, researchers said Thursday.

The vessel, dating from the late Classical period (mid-fourth century B.C.) is one of only a few such ships to have been found so well-preserved, said University of Cyprus visiting marine archaeologist Stella Demesticha.

It's in shallow water so it's easy to reach, but also means no organics (above the sand anyway).
Gold coins show ‘Emperor of Britain’
Two “extremely important” gold coins that shed light on a little-known rebel Roman emperor from the 3rd century AD have been unearthed by a farmer in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire area. They relate to the Roman commander Carausius, who declared himself Emperor of Britain around 286 or 287 after the Emperor in Rome ordered his execution. He was overthrown in a coup d’état by his finance minister, Allectus, in 293.

The coins were handed in to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and moved to the British Museum. The scheme is facing a freeze in funding, despite recording more than 314,000 discoveries that have revealed many new archaeological sites. The farmer’s identity is not being revealed because archaeologists are to explore the site.

That's the whole thing except for a pic of the coins.
Want Want Want Want Want.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

NAGPRA update Not really an update, but have any of y'all been to the actual NAGPRA web site? I was perusing it the other night, and it's got some good documents in it. I wonder how many people have actually read the actual document? Lots of good source documents at the link and some new stuff in the National Register along with several databases> Worth reading through to learn what's actually in it.
Hearing set on building courthouse in St. George
Plans for the new St. George courthouse include a "no-build" zone over the section of land that was once a burial ground for 19th-century immigrants.

But the issue of respecting the remains of potentially thousands interred at the site -- including the bones of some 50 souls recently exhumed for research purposes -- leaves questions open after months of discussion and pleas from local preservationists.

A public hearing on the cultural, historic and archaeological implications of building on the grounds of the municipal parking lot bounded by St. Mark's Place, Central Avenue and Hyatt Street will be held on Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. on the first floor of the Jury Assembly Center at 126 Stuyvesant Pl., St. George.
Treasure hunters find Bronze Age axes
An amateur treasure hunter has unearthed a hoard of bronze age axe heads thought to be worth about £80,000.

Tom Peirce started combing a field with his metal detector after dropping off a school coach party at a farm.

Within a few minutes it began beeping and he found the first axe head fragment 10in into the soil.

When he dug deeper, Mr Peirce found dozens more and, over the following two days, he and a colleague, Les Keith, uncovered nearly 500 bronze artefacts dating back 3,000 years.
Lasers unearth historical sites
Laser technology is being used to locate potential archaeological sites hidden by woodland in Worcestershire.

The hope is that ancient settlements and farms across the Wyre Forest will be detected by lasers fired from aircraft 3,300ft (1,000m) up.

The results are processed by computers and turned into images of the ground, currently hidden by trees.

This seems new to me, but I know it shouldn't be. I'm assuming it means they're looking for topographic features not visible in the scale used by existing topo maps and not visible from photographs due to vegetation.
Archaeologists discover mummies from Greco Roman period in Egypt
Archaeologists have discovered several well preserved mummies, covered with cartonage, from the Greco Roman period in Fayyoum, Egypt.

According to Egypt State Information Service, the Egyptian antiquities mission made these findings.

One of the caskets contained a badly decayed mummy with a golden face mask, said Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Not much there, but more will no doubt be posted. Also, see this story from the same source on some Yemeni mummies.
Archaeology right down the crapper Beckett Point residents flush with excitement now that community septic system almost finished
Beckett Point resident Bill Smith was among 40 happy homeowners who could flush their toilets with a clear conscience last week after contractors for Jefferson County Public Utility District successfully switched on part of the community's new septic system and drain field.

"It's been a long process," said a smiling Smith, a five-year Beckett Point resident who watched Friday as PUD employees were trained to operate the new $2.8 million system expected to be completed in late February.

. . .

While Smith and other Beckett Point residents praised Jefferson County Public Utility District leaders, saying they had gone beyond the call of duty, there was a dark time last spring when PUD officials nearly walked away from the project.

That was shortly after PUD-contracted Pape and Sons uncovered Native American remains and artifacts — 58 bones and bone fragments — in late May, and the PUD was faced with uncertain delays and additional expenses.
Promising Projects for Macedonian Archaeology in 2008
Both tourists and academic experts will want to take note of some intriguing developments in the upper Mediterranean this year. According to Pasko Kuzman, archaeologist and Director of Cultural Heritage Protection in the Macedonian Ministry of Culture, 2008 will be an exciting year for the continued unearthing of unknown treasures from several sites around the country. Among the government’s main priorities are some projects already in progress, and others that will be completely new.

Good stuff.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Not John Cleese Comic to promote dig
WARWICKSHIRE County Council has published a comic to encourage children and young people to get involved in digging up the past in Bidford.

Its archaeological outreach project, Buried under Bidford, which aims to give people the opportunity to experience hands-on archaeology and learn more about the rich heritage of the village, has produced the comic in a bid to engage youngsters with the scheme.

And feedback so far has shown it is doing just that.
Ruins of Achaemenid edifice unearthed in southern Iran
A team of Iranian and Australian archaeologists working in Sorvan near Nurabab Mamasani in Fars Province has recently unearthed the ruins of building constructions belonging to the Achaemenid era at a site discovered during excavations carried out last year.

The project has brought to light the remains of stairs, halls and column bases. The work has also exposed the stone surface of the original Achaemenid site and numerous marble artifacts.

The column bases, which bear engravings similar to those belonging to the Sad-Sotun Palace (100-Column Palace) at Persepolis, have a diameter exceeding one meter, Iranian team director Alireza Asgari told the Persian Service of CHN on Saturday.
Archaeologist shares mysteries of Nebraska site
Now called The Eagle Ridge Site, a few surprises were unearthed there during the past 10 years of study, Rob Bozell, staff archaeologist at Augustana College, told an audience gathered for a talk Sunday at the college.

Bozell was on the crew studying the site. The bones turned out to be much older than the early 1700s, when 30 or 40 Loway or Oto people lived a peaceful existence there.

"The bones probably were there from Woodland Indians, from about zero to 1000 AD," Bozell said. "We didn't find human bones from the time period of the village."

The olive jar thing is rather confusing at first.
A heritage to treasure
AN MP is calling for a valuable, rare collection of Anglo Saxon treasures unearthed in Loftus to be kept on Teesside.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Ashok Kumar has secured a House of Commons debate next week to help decide the future display site of the items described by leading experts as the “most dramatic find of Anglo Saxon material for generations.”

The treasure, unearthed by archaeologists from Tees Archaeology in fields overlooking the East Cleveland town, includes gold and silver brooches, dating from the seventh century, that may have connections with the ancient Royal Family of Northumbria.
More on those Cambridge excavations.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Právo: Treasure hunters plundering archaeological sites
Gangs of treasure hunters, some of them reaching the level of organised crime groups, loot precious Czech archaeology excavation sites, the daily Pravo wrote Wednesday.

The results of plundering by treasure hunters, who make profit on selling abroad the precious items they find, can be seen at almost every Celtic oppidum around Prague and in central Bohemia, for instance the oppidum Zavist that was established in the first half of the 6th century B.C.

Their favourite sites are also the ruins of medieval castles, the daily writes.
A journey to 9,000 years ago
Çatalhöyük Research Project Director Ian Hodder says goddess icons do not, contrary to assumptions, point to a matriarchal society in Çatalhöyük. Findings in Çatalhöyük show that men and women had equal social status. According to Hodder, who also has been following the Göbeklitepe excavations in Şanlıurfa, meticulous archaeological excavation in southeastern Anatolia can change all scientific archaeological assumptions
More "Jesus tomb" stuff Archaeologist hid 'Jesus tomb' for fear of anti-Semitism, widow says
The widow of the archaeologist who discovered the tomb in Talpiot that some believe to be that of Jesus of Nazareth, explained Wednesday in Jerusalem to a gathering of senior archaeologists and other scholars why her husband kept his discovery a secret.

In an emotional voice, Ruth Gat said that Yosef Gat, a Holocaust survivor, was afraid a wave of anti-Semitism would ensue if he did so. Speaking at the three-day Third Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins at Mishkenot She'ananim in the capital, Gat also said, "I thank God his fears did not come true in light of the discovery of the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth."

"As a boy, he wandered around the lion's den of occupied Poland," she also said. "The memory of those days never left him. It was one of the things that held him back as an archaeologist and that was also the reason for his great caution."
Yosef Gat worked as an inspector for the Israel Antiquities Authority for 27 years. He uncovered some 400 sites in the Negev and many other sites in Jerusalem.
China excavates 2,500-year-old sword in Jiangxi tomb
Chinese archaeologists have discovered an elaborately-made sword, which they believe is 2,500 to 2,600 years old, in an ancient tomb in the eastern province of Jiangxi.

"It is reckoned as the oldest ever excavated in the country," said Xu Changqing, chief of the excavation team.

The well-preserved sword, some 50 centimeters long, is black, gold and bright red. "A dragon pattern was carved on both ends of the scabbard, and the middle part of the scabbard was decorated with two rows of a W-shaped design," said Xu.
Tithebarn could yield medieval treasures
Medieval treasures could be buried beneath the site of Preston's £750m regeneration project, it has been claimed.

Archaeologists think there could be relics from the "medieval and post-medieval periods, and perhaps even earlier" under the 30-acre site.

Investigations are to start next month so that, should anything be found, it can be incorporated into the already delayed time schedule.
Polynesians Have Little Genetic Relationship to Melanesians
The origins and current genetic relationships of Pacific Islanders have generated interest and controversy for many decades. Now, a new comprehensive genetic study of almost 1,000 individuals has revealed that Polynesians and Micronesians have almost no genetic relation to Melanesians, and that groups that live in the islands of Melanesia are remarkably diverse.

The study, “The Genetic Structure of Pacific Islanders,” is published in the January issue of PLoS Genetics ( It involved researchers from Temple, University of Maryland, Yale, Binghamton University, the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Victoria University in New Zealand, Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taiwan, and the Institute for Medical Research in Papua New Guinea.

The researchers analyzed more than 800 genetic markers (highly informative microsatellites) in nearly 1,000 individuals from 41 Pacific populations, as opposed to prior small-scale mitochondrial DNA or Y chromosome studies, which had produced conflicting results.

It's important for the Polynesian expansion.
Black Pharaohs
Piye was the first of the so-called black pharaohs—a series of Nubian kings who ruled over all of Egypt for three-quarters of a century as that country’s 25th dynasty. Through inscriptions carved on stelae by both the Nubians and their enemies, it is possible to map out these rulers’ vast footprint on the continent. The black pharaohs reunified a tattered Egypt and filled its landscape with glorious monuments, creating an empire that stretched from the southern border at present-day Khartoum all the way north to the Mediterranean Sea. They stood up to the bloodthirsty Assyrians, perhaps saving Jerusalem in the process.

Until recently, theirs was a chapter of history that largely went untold. Only in the past four decades have archaeologists resurrected their story—and come to recognize that the black pharaohs didn’t appear out of nowhere. They sprang from a robust African civilization that had flourished on the southern banks of the Nile for 2,500 years, going back at least as far as the first Egyptian dynasty.

It's not a bad article, but it tends to over-dramatize the Nubian Dynasty, reading a bit like an Afrocentrist tract. This was especially rich: The ancient world was devoid of racism. Just a bit of artistic license.
Excavating Beekman
Construction is occurring all over New York City, and in Manhattan it is common to see both new projects and utility workers upgrading the urban infrastructure. In one recent case, what started out as a routine project by the city's Department of Design and Construction (DDC) in Lower Manhattan soon became anything but. The Wall Street Water Mains Project, a long-term utility upgrade project, yielded several important discoveries in the South Street Seaport historic district, making it clear that archaeology remains widespread beneath the city's streets.

Excavations for utility upgrades began in the summer of 2006 but came to a halt in August when two sections of an early nineteenth-century wooden water main were uncovered on Beekman Street between Pearl and Front Streets. DDC consulted with the Landmarks Preservation Commission as to how they should proceed.

Apparently one of the few times where the construction crews were FOAs (Friends Of Archaeologists).
Blogging update Back to the grind, more or less. The ArchaeoWife's recovery is progressing though still slowly. Still swollen but she's "eating", but still not enough IMO. The surgeon said last Friday that the placement of the bone wasn't as bad as he'd originally thought, but now he's saying 4 weeks wired shut instead of 2. So who knows. It's caused some difficulty in the whole food preparation strategy; we'd planned on 2-3 days of liquid followed by several weeks of really mushy stuff but now the liquid is going to continue for some time. We had a couple of Zip-n-Squeeze bags but they're wearing out quickly and the straw doesn't have the diameter to accommodate thicker liquids. I ordered some more online, but the ones we have might not last until the new ones arrive (I ordered some larger-bore ones).

AND I HATE THE BLENDER WE GOT. It's a Hamilt-Beach Wave Station and so far I think it's way overdesigned. The pitcher is two pieces and so far the bottom has popped off once throwing the contents all over the counter, and now the seal at the junction of the two pieces is already failing. Plus the little spout at the bottom is practically useless unless the material is the consistency of water; otherwise it just gets clogged up. I'm seriously considering going out and buying a simple 2-speed thing.

We also ("we" as in me and 4 in-laws) started the tiling of the kitchen backsplash yesterday. Much more involved than I thought as it involved putting on a backing. Probably a good idea, but I think just slapping the tile on would have been adequate. Looks great though; I'll have pictures when it's done. Then all that's left (major anyway) is the floor which will probably be Marmoleum. I've learned enough about tiling to know that A) I can now do the basement floor myself, and B) That I will henceforth pay someone else to do walls.

On to actuall archaeo-blogging. . . .

Friday, January 18, 2008

ArchaeoPatient update

The ArchaeoWife is on the mend. Yesterday wasn't so good; she didn't sleep very much in the hospital so she was dead tired and had a lot of nausea so she didn't drink or "eat" much all day. But she slept most of last night and is "eating" and drinking more, and the swelling has gone down a LOT. Might be able to do some posting later on today, but I have to run downtown this afternoon. So, eh. Thanks for all the well-wishes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Researchers find 1791 time capsule
A time capsule was found atop a bell tower at Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral, where it was placed in 1791 to protect the building from harm, researchers said Tuesday.

The lead box - filled with religious artifacts, coins and parchments - was hidden in a hollow stone ball to mark the moment on May 14, 1791, when the building's topmost stone was laid, 218 years after construction had begun.

Workers restoring the church found the box in October, inside the stone ball base of a cross that sits atop the 60-meter-high (200-foot) southern bell tower. Researchers spent the next three months opening the airtight box and preserving its contents.

Among them was a small case of wax blessed by the Pope that served to protect against mishaps, said Reverend Ruben Avila, rector of the cathedral.

Kinda not archaeology, but cool nonetheless.
Nooooooooooo!! Jesus 'Tomb' Controversy Reopened
When the Discovery Channel aired a TV documentary last year raising the possibility that archeologists had found the family tomb of Jesus Christ in the hills behind Jerusalem, it caused a huge backlash among Christians. The claim, after all, challenged one of the cornerstones of Christian faith — that Jesus, after his crucifixion, rose bodily to heaven in his physical form.

. . .

Still, even after the furor over the film faded, the questions it raised about the tomb unearthed in 1980 continued to make waves among archeologists and Biblical scholars. A leading New Testament expert from Princeton Theological Seminary, Prof. James Charlesworth, was intrigued enough to organize a conference in Jerusalem this week, bringing together over 50 archeologists, statisticians and experts in DNA, ceramics and ancient languages, to give evidence as to whether or not the crypt of Christ had been found.
Andean Crops Cultivated Almost 10,000 Years Ago
Archaeologists have long thought that people in the Old World were planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting for a good 5,000 years before anyone in the New World did such things. But fresh evidence, in the form of Peruvian squash seeds, indicates that farming in the New and Old Worlds was nearly concurrent. In a paper the journal Science published last June, Tom Dillehay, an anthropological archaeologist at Vanderbilt University, revealed that the squash seeds he found in the ruins of what may have been ancient storage bins on the lower western slopes of the Andes in northern Peru are almost 10,000 years old. “I don’t want to play the early button game,” he said, “but the temporal gap between the Old and New World, in terms of a first pulse toward civilization, is beginning to close.”

Kind of old news. Do a search for "squash" on this blog and the first appearance of this paper was posted.

Bronze Age site is found in city

Archaeologists in Cambridge have unearthed the first hard evidence that an area of the city was occupied during the Bronze Age.

The remains were found during a dig at Fitzwilliam College and probably belonged to a 3,500-year-old farmstead.

The remains comprise a series of ditches, in which the team found pieces of antler, flint tools, pottery and animal remains.

Not much else there, but more will undoubtedly be written on it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blogging update Spotty posting for the next couple of days. The ArchaeoWife is in the hospital for surgery (elective, nothing wrong), so I'm kind of hanging out in the waiting room. Yay wireless! Of course, it's an unsecured network so I shan't be checking my investment accounts. . . .

It's called a Mandibular, sagittal split osteotomies. What they do is break the lower jaw (mandible), move it forward a bit to align the teeth and then bolt it in place. Not trivial surgery, but it's mostly done for cosmetic purposes so it's a very common procedure. She has some misalignment that is producing differential wear which will eventually have consequences.

It's a little nervewracking -- all surgery comes with risk -- but since it's not some sort of life-threatening condition I am able to blog and stuff while waiting.

Still, a few good thoughts and/or prayers would be appreciated. You know, just in case.

UPDATE: Surgery's done, everything went fine. Yay!

UPDATE II: Still waiting for recovery to end. Dealing here in the waiting room with a woman who is talking LOUDLY on her cell phone. I made a few phone calls but I don't think I talk that loud. Maybe some people just talk loudly, but YOU DON'T HAVE TO TALK LOUDLY ON A CELL PHONE.

I'd heard that the reason people talk so loud on the damn things is that cells don't have the speaker's voice feedback into their own earpiece so you have no aural cues about how loudly you're talking.

Wish I'd brought the camera. Not only so that I could take Before and After photos, but so I could photograph the building across the street. (Note: There's a beagle in the room!) It's the Pacific Northwest Research Foundation and it looks like a bomb shelter. Looks kind of art deco actually. It's faced by some form of reddish matamorphic stone. The front has a lot of window space, but the north side is one big windowless wall.

The beagle is now sitting quietly next to its owner. Cute little guy.

And I'm starving. I imagine I could find some Jell-O around here. . . . .

UPDATE III: The patient is now at home resting miserably. Apparently, not all went perfectly well; the left side didn't break the way it should and now she has to be wired shut with rubber bands for two weeks instead of two days so it heals properly. And there's still a chance it may have to be redone in 6 months (though just that one side). She's still all swelled up -- I keep telling her now she knows what she'd look like if she gained a hundred pounds! -- but the pain has gone down from a 6-7 (of 10) to 2-3. Might not even need the heavy duty painkillers, which is good because her stomach's not in the best of shape. But she's drinking and "eating" etc., so she's on the way back.

I'll probably do some more posting this evening when the patient is resting a bit more comfortably.
Wessex Archaeology has released its first online video showing the remarkable excavation of a rare Roman coffin.

The limestone coffin, weighing three metric tonnes was discovered as part of the excavation of a Roman cemetery containing over 200 burials next to a substantial Roman settlement on Boscombe Down in 2007.

The video is at the site. I wasn't able to watch it all because the feed was pretty spotty where I am now.
Information wanted on Eglin project
Local archaeologists are attempting to track down JB-2 missile informants, but not the spy kind.

Archaeologists from Prentice Thomas and Associates are seeking anyone who has information or memorabilia from Eglin’s historic JB-2 missile launch sites.

“We’re hoping to find people that are within the area that would have worked on this project back in the ’40s so we can get personal interviews with them to find out what they did out there, what their responsibilities were — kind of get an idea of how daily operations were run out there,” said Erica Meyer, PTA staff archaeologist.

The JB-2 missile launch sites lie on the beaches on both sides of Eglin’s active test area A-10 on Santa Rosa Island. The sites were built in 1944 to test launch the American version of the German World War II V-1 guided missile. The sites are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Digging the Bible
Herodion itself testifies to how archaeology and politics can mix in tragic and long-lasting ways. In 1982, David Rosenfeld, an American-born Israeli settler who ran the Herodion museum and tourist site, was murdered by two of his Palestinian employees. The day after his funeral, settlers from the nearby settlement of Tekoa set up a new outpost on the hill closest to Herodion. They called the outpost El-David, and it was an explicit "screw-you" to Palestinians. According to the town's Web site, the new settlement "was deemed an appropriate Jewish and Zionist response to Arab terror. Instead of panic and fear on the part of Jews, the Arabs got a new settlement and new settlers." Eventually, El-David grew into a permanent settlement. Today it has 150 families, including those of Gady, Aryeh, and Israel's most famous right-wing politician, Avigdor Lieberman. It is now called Nokdim. That name makes a conscious biblical claim on the land: The prophet Amos, who preached in this area, is said to have come from a place called Nokdim.

Not much archaeology in the article but interesting.

UPDATE: Also see here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Genetic Study Bolsters Columbus Link to Syphilis
In a comprehensive genetic study, scientists have found what they say is the strongest evidence yet linking the first European explorers of the New World to the origin of sexually transmitted syphilis.

The research, they say, supports the hypothesis that returning explorers introduced organisms leading, in probably modified forms, to the first recorded syphilis epidemic, beginning in Europe in 1493.

The so-called Columbus hypothesis had previously rested on circumstantial evidence, mainly the timing of the epidemic. It was further noted that earlier traces of syphilis or related diseases had been few and inconclusive in Europe. Yet nonvenereal forms of the diseases were widespread in the American tropics.

Leaders of the new study said the most telling results were that the bacterium causing sexually transmitted syphilis arose relatively recently in humans and was closely related to a strain responsible for the nonvenereal infection known as yaws. The similarity was especially evident, the researchers said, in a variation of the yaws pathogen isolated recently among afflicted children in a remote region of Guyana in South America.

Not quite a slam dunk but pretty powerful.

UPDATE: Hawks has a post on it. He mentions that one of the major significant findings is not only the source of syphilis but the fact that it evolved so quickly; it "fundamentally changed its nature, with increased virulence and sexual transmission". Indeed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

NAGPRA update American Indians want to rebury remains dug up by Berkeley archaeologists
There is a legend at the University of California, Berkeley, that human bones are stored in the landmark Campanile tower. But university officials say that's not true -- the bones are actually stored beneath Hearst Gymnasium swimming pool.

The remains of about 12,000 American Indians rest in drawers and cabinets in the gym's basement. Many of them were dug up by university archaeologists and have been stored under the pool since the early 1960s.

The bones now are at the center of a dispute between American Indians who want to rebury their ancestors and university officials who have been slow to hand over the remains.

Kind of a goofy article, but it's pretty long. It's full of hanging assertions such as The museum completed the job in 2000, but designated about 80 percent of the remains as "unaffiliated" -- despite archaeological records showing where nearly all the bones were excavated. Maybe because of records showing where nearly all the bones were excavated.
Update On Lexington Skeleton
On Thursday, construction crews uncovered a skeleton at the site of the future courthouse in Lexington. Police said a Radford archaeologist estimated the bones belonged to a female, possibly from the late 1800s to early 1900s.

One local historian from the Rockbridge Historical Society said this find is rare. The site is right next to the historical society's building.

They're thinking it may be part of a family cemetery. We modern folks might find that a bit odd, that people would bury their dead in the back yard, so to speak.
Shipwreck artifact resurfaces
Three years after coming off the bottom of Monk’s Lagoon, a historic artifact has surfaced again in Alaska.

The metal cylinder that served as the hub of the steering wheel onboard the Russian American bark Kad’yak bears the ship’s name in bold Cyrillic letters. It’s discovery by a team of underwater archaeologists from East Carolina University allowed positive identification of the find, recognized as the oldest shipwreck in Alaska waters.
Event alert Reader Bob Knight sends an announcement for the Alachua Stone Age Fair in Alachua, Florida on January 26. I've got a copy of the agenda that I'll attempt to post a link to later. Looks like some good presentations on Clovis and pre-Clovis.
Media update I just started seeing previews for 10,000 BC this weekend. At the moment I'm still puzzling a bit over what it's all about. Looks so far like bands of big game hunters go up against some civilization with ziggurats and what-not. And mammoth! Lots of mammoth.

The preview at that link has the trailer. We see a mammoth hunt wherein they seem to engaging in the old 'buffalo jump' strategy of hunting large game: set them off stampeding into an enclosed area where you can pick them off more easily. I don't think there's any evidence mammoth were hunted this way, but at least it's got some basis in actual theory.

Then we've got some scenery in the desert and what looks like the Nile. But wait! There's a sub-Saharan African! And a smilodon! And mammoths used as draft animals! I thought I saw a dinosaur in there, but I think it's just a large flightless bird instead.

So, tough to tell what it's going to be like. It's directed by Roland Emmerich, who did Independence Day (dumb) and The Day After Tomorrow even dumber, so I suppose one can't expect too much. The effects looked pretty good and there seems to be ample eye candy for both sexes.

I'm putting my money on Indiana Jones for the most worthwhile archaeology-related flick for 2008.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Time to find new digs
WHEN Dr Paul Robinson retires as curator of Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes next month, he will not say goodbye to archaeology.

"I can't do nothing, but I don't know what I will do yet. It certainly won't be gardening and decorating," said Dr Robinson, who will shortly be 65. The Devizes museum has been his life for 34 years.

How about going on archaeological digs? "I hadn't thought of that," he said, "but not in this country. Perhaps Greece or Egypt. That would be very exciting."
Miami Circle is historic, but visitors can't see $27.6 million attraction
Ryan Wheeler, Florida's state archaeologist, and other experts who have studied the Circle think the holes were dug by the Tequesta Indians to support wooden posts for a tribal center, or other important structure. But it's has been theorized to be everything from a celestial observatory to a landing pad for aliens.

Whatever it was, this much is certain: There's nothing like it on the continent. Authenticated as prehistoric, it is on the National Register of Historic Places for the clues it could yield about the complex society developed by the Tequestas, a small tribe who were foraging in the Everglades and Biscayne Bay before the building of the Parthenon in Athens.

Yet visitors to the park, which won't open for at least a year, will see only … an 8-foot replica.

The Circle has a great web site devoted to it. It's got a virtual tour with close-up photographs and a description of what each photo is showing. It also shows many of the artifacts plus summary reports for the 1999 excavations by week. Excellent resource and shows what can and should be done with these sorts of sites. It's easy to navigate and informative.
Google Archaeology; How Satellite Imagery is Helping us Locate the Past
History is a passion of many, myself included, and the natural friend to history is archaeology. Archaeology can shed so much light on the past, that it informs us of not just who lived there, but how they lived.

But sadly, in a world where either humans are destroying everything around them to acquire more land for urban development, or the earth simply reclaims what was once built, archaeology is getting harder and harder.

Aerial photography has been a common placed tool since World War I where it was used to spot enemy patrols and encampments. Since then however, these photos are pointing out where hidden relics are lying, just waiting to be rediscovered.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Non-archaeology post I was watching part of the Dune movie last night, the 1984 one that David Lynch (Twin Peaks) directed. At the time it came out, I was kind of disappointed in it largely because it deviated from the book in several strange and, to my mind, meaningless, ways. For instance, they introduced the whole "weirding module" thing that wasn't in the book at all and just looks kind of ridiculous on screen. They also got rid of one of the central tenets of the books' mythology: sword fighting as the main form of battle. For those unfamiliar with the books, the development of shields made projectile weapons obsolete and laser-like weapons almost obsolete because the laser-like weapons reacted when hitting a shield causing both the person with the shield and the weapon to explode. So they had to go back to bladed weapons. These were virtually absent from the Lynch film, and they used basic laser guns and the occasional knife.

The Sci Fi Channel did a miniseries of it a few years ago which was in some ways much better, in others much worse. The sets and the basic storyline of the new one were probably more true to the book. In particular, while on Arrakis it was actually light. The 1984 one was dark nearly all the time even when supposedly in a desert in the daytime. I think the casting was better in the 1984 one, even though Lynch relied on his own stable of actors from his various projects. I seriously didn't like the Paul actor in the newer version. Perhaps the actor was okay, but the way he played Paul was entirely wrong, IMO. He acted more like the snotty vain character that Feyd-Rautha really was. I thought Kyle MacLachlan did the Paul character very well. He acted like Paul was still something of an excited kid, which he was. I think in that version I was actually rooting for the latter to win the final knife fight. Leto (Jürgen Prochnow) and Jessica (Francesca Annis) were perfectly cast.

Sting was brilliant as Feyd. Apparently, he was irritated at the scene where he comes out of the steambath wearing a little loincloth type thing and decided to look as gay as possible for that scene. But, in fact, it fit the character perfectly: exceedingly vain and he knew what his uncle the Baron's proclivities were.

The second miniseries Sci Fi did was much better; it encompassed the two follwing books, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. I heartily endorse renting those for viewing.

Apparently they had several different cuts of the 1984 movie. Rather like Bladerunner which also just had yet another release of a particular version. I think the second non-theatrical release of Dune was the better one.
Appeal for $$$ This came over the EEF wires from Jan Picton:
Over the last year the Friends of the Petrie Museum have been running a
publication appeal in honour of Professor Harry Smith's 80th birthday,
and as a by-product to conserve Petrie's archive negatives in the
museum. This was originally just a Friends appeal (and we have managed
to keep it a secret from Harry!) but a number of his personal friends
and colleagues have asked if they can contribute.

It occurs to me that there may be more people in the wider world (and
what's wider than the EEF list? [ArchaeoBlog! --Ed.]) who might like to register their
appreciation for Harry's life and work, not to mention conserving our
irreplaceable archive.

Our appeal letter follows - if you would like to contribute, feel free
to contact me off-list if you have any queries. We go to press at the
end of the month so time is of the essence, as they say.

Very best wishes, and apologies for a post that may not be relevant to
many people


Jan Picton (

Conservation and publication appeal
Unseen Images: the photographic archive in the Petrie Museum
Volume 1: Gurob, Sedment and Tarkhan

The publication will include some of the Petrie Museum's extensive
archive of unpublished glass and other negatives that cover excavations
dating back to Petrie's own first experiments with excavation
photography. Because of the number of photographs involved we are
bringing out this first volume on Gurob, Sedment and Tarkhan. The
project involves the digitisation of the entire collection, and suitable
conservation and archive storage so that the material will survive well
into the future.

The financial support of the Friends for conservation work in the museum
is fundamental to our purpose and over the years we have contributed
substantially to the preservation of objects in the museum. The
photographic archive is both a wonderful research tool and a link with
Petrie himself - it is imperative that this vulnerable material is saved
for future generations.

All contributors will be acknowledged in the publication and donors of
=A350 and more will receive a copy of the book. The appeal closes on the
21st January 2008 as the book goes to the printers so please support
this important work with your donation now.

The book is being published in honour of Professor Harry Smith's 80th
birthday, which coincides with the Friends' 20th anniversary. So far,
the secret is intact and Harry knows only that the book is appearing. It
will be presented at our anniversary dinner on 7th June 2008 so put the
date in your diary. Your contributions will acknowledge the respect and
affection in which we hold Harry, Edwards' Professor of Egyptian
Archaeology, and staunch guardian and supporter of the Petrie Museum
(and the Friends) over many years, as well as contributing to saving an
important research archive for future generations to study and enjoy.

Best wishes
Lucia Gahlin and the PMF Committee, Stephen Quirke (Research Curator,
Petrie Museum)

Please contribute if you so desire. The Petrie is an excellent museum and they do superb work. And as readers of ArchaeoBlog know, one of our intense interests is in conservation of existing data.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The rediscovery of Rome
Italian archaeologists relish a good argument and they are being kept busy by some startling discoveries that could shed more light on the origins of Rome. These include the lost “lupercal”, the cave where, as legend tells it, the she-wolf suckled the city’s founders Romulus and Remus. Just outside the city, meanwhile, archaeologists are also pondering the significance of a new pattern of Etruscan tombs and its implications for the older civilisation’s erosion by encroaching Rome.

It was during recent routine restoration and consolidation work on the ruins of Emperor Augustus’s house on the slopes of Rome’s Palatine Hill that sounding devices suddenly detected a large void 16 metres below present ground level. A camera probe then revealed a curved roof of some kind of temple-grotto. So rich was the decoration, decorated with mosaics and shells arranged in ever-smaller concentric circles around a central panel with a large white eagle – the symbol of Rome – on a pale blue background, that it could only be a place of huge significance.

Mostly a review of recent findings.
Archaeologist spends his summer digging through Oklahoma
It’s been said there’s nothing new under the sun, which suits Phil Smith just fine.

Digging through centuries-old sediment is part and parcel for Smith, a seasoned archaeologist who continues his search to unearth the mysteries of the past.

Smith, 68, recently returned home to Claremore, dusting the layers of history off his shoes to wait for his next chance to explore what lies beneath.

His adventures took place through the Oklahoma Anthropological Society.

Looks to be a profile of a semi-professional.

UPDATE: Here's another article from the same publication.
Archaeologists say ancient Indians had maritime links
Excavations at the Kerala state in southwest India suggest that its ancient habitants may have had maritime links with the Mediterranean and China over 2,500 years ago, the Hindu newspaper said Wednesday.

Archaeologists dug up several wooden fragments from boats dating back to around 500 B.C. at Pattanam, a town along the Malabar coast, where earlier signs of habitation from the Iron Age period have been unearthed.
Shaveblogging update F Anyone's I, I've mostly settled on using Alba and my trusty 1960s-ish ladies' double-edge:

Not quite as comfortable as the Noxzema canned goop I'd been using, but much closer. And I really like the scent for some reason. It instantly makes me think of summer, or at least summer out on the Olympic peninsula, which is odd because I never used it out there. I've found a source where it's only like $3 a tube, too.

Speaking of which, looks like Corey's gone out of the shaveblogging business; that site hasn't been updated in a looooong time. And his email address is gone from the site. Hmmmm. Hope nothing untowards happened. At any rate, there's also the Badger and Blade forum, which I perused once a while back; it's way more into the whole esoterica of shaving stuff.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Message in a 2,400-year-old bottle
A new DNA technique could provide a revolutionary insight into the lives of the Ancient Greeks - using jars that have lain on the seabed for millennia.

These amphoras were the cargo containers of the ancient world, used for shipping all kinds of things, from wine to olive oil.

Studying those left in shipwrecks could tell us much about the trade, agriculture and climate of historic societies - except that the contents wash away over the centuries, leaving archaeologists with glorified empty bottles.

Now a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the US and Lund University in Sweden has performed the first successful extraction of DNA from the remains of a 2,400-year-old shipwreck off the Greek island of Chios.
Unearthing city's vibrant past one tiny piece at a time
THE air was thick with the stench of animals, the din of horses braying and traders raising the volume as they yelled to attract custom.
It was market day and everyone would be vying to get the best prices for their goods in the square surrounded by ale houses.

The rowdy scene would have been typical of market day in the Grassmarket in 18th-century Edinburgh.

As far back as the late 15th century, it is known that the Grassmarket was a thriving place, where corn and livestock were bought and sold several days a week. Yet little was known about what happened in the area before that time – until now.

Pretty good long article.
Ancient Yucatán Soils Point to Maya Market, and Market Economy
Scientists using improved methods of analyzing the chemistry of ancient soils have detected where a large marketplace stood 1,500 years ago in a Maya city on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.

The findings, archaeologists say, are some of the first strong evidence that the ancient Maya civilization, at least in places and at certain times, had a market economy similar in some respects to societies today. The conventional view has been that food and other goods in Maya cities were distributed through taxation and tributes controlled by the ruling class.

This is an update on an earlier story from a while ago.
Archaeologists dig at cathedral
An archaeological dig is under way at Salisbury Cathedral to prepare for a new font to be installed as part of the 750th anniversary celebrations.

The dig will ascertain whether the drainage, pump housing, reservoir and water supply can be installed under the cathedral floor.

The new font replaces Sibirica Minor, a water sculpture by William Pye at the north porch crossing.

Not much there.
Jamestown update Digging Jamestown's holes
Found face down in the newly discovered trash pit, the dig's first intact delftware tile sparked lots of excitement until expectant archaeologists flipped it over. That's when the fuzzy image on the front reminded them of the high rate of manufacturing flaws that made such objects costly - and now marks the contexts in which they're unearthed as exceptionally high status. "We had bets on what kind of design we would see. But when we turned it over, all we saw was this blurry guy with a staff," Jamestown Rediscovery curator Bly Straube says. "It was a second - and that's probably why it survived in one piece. They just set it aside instead of using it."

This is actually a recurring series which I haven't been posting, but I might start.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Anybody know what these are?

Full photo here.

It's the floor of a mud brick structure at Kom el-Hisn in the Delta, Old Kingdom.

The room was sectioned in half so these are the only features like this present. They are hard-packed clay and are about 40-50 cm square. I've been sorta calling them column bases, but they seem rather close together for that. There was little in this room to suggest any function for the place either. There are at least 6.
Semi-breaking news I got this the other day but was too busy to post it right away: Czech archeologists find intact Egyptian tomb chamber
"Czech archaeologists found an intact 4,500-year-old tomb
chamber of an Egyptian dignitary in the Abusir Pyramids area (..)
The Egyptologists discovered the bricked-up entrance to the
four-by-two-metre chamber at the bottom of a 10-metre-deep
shaft (..) The tomb chamber belonged to sacrificer Neferinpu
who had lived and worked in the area's pyramids in [dyn. 5] (..)
The Czech scientists, who have been working in the region since
the 1970s, first discovered the tomb complex of Neferinpu's
family in 2006. They located and examined the sacrificer's
burial chamber which contains his sarcophagus and scores
of burial objects in November (..)."

Via EEF.
Indiana Jones update Indy IV Comic Book Cover Online

Interesting. Wonder if Lucas et al. are looking at young Indy there as a possible spinoff.
Where it all started
It's rather touching when an immensely learned figure attempts to educate a dimwit, like picturing Mr Gladstone in a stiff collar reading an improving tale to a child seated on his august lap. Here, the dimwit is me, the immensely learned figure is the archaeologist Colin Renfrew - Professor Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn - and the subject for the lesson is prehistory, the story of our species up to the first written records.

Renfrew sets himself a daunting dual challenge: to give the general reader an account of how the concept of prehistory emerged and established itself as a branch of scientific archaeology; and to explore the question of how - in his words - 'did we come to be where we are now?' And all this in just over 200 modest-sized pages.

Book review. I haven't read it yet.
Read the title closely Archaeologists find thousands of items after Prague flat fire
Archaeologists have found thousands of mainly metal historical items in a burnt down flat in Prague, Miroslav Dobes from the Academy of Sciences' Archaeological Institute, who is exploring the finds, has told CTK.

The extensive collection includes prehistoric stone axes, Germanic bronze buckles, arrow tips, fragments of weapons, parts of armour as well as medieval spurs.

Nevertheless, their scientific value is negligible since concrete localities where the finds come from are unknown.
Georgians lay claim to 'first Europeans'
Back in 1991, when archaeologists first unearthed a human jaw bone in these rolling hills, few in the outside world had even heard of tiny Georgia.

The idea that an ex-Soviet republic collapsing in civil war and poverty could be an integral part of the West was laughable.

Then scientists determined the jawbone and dozens of other fragments to be at least 1.7 million years old - the earliest human remains discovered outside Africa and therefore, logically, the ancestors of all Europe and Asia.

"It was a sensation," said Nana Rezesidze, an archaeologist from Georgia's State Museum, at the forested dig site, located on a hillside overlooking a grey-blue mountain river.

It's actually more about the current political situation than archaeology or paleontology. They make the argument that the Dmanisi find, among others, works to unite current Georgians with their own (independent) past and with Europe as a whole.
Roman camp is found at Glencorse
AN unexpected historical discovery has been made at Scottish Water's site at Glencorse, near Penicuik — a Roman marching camp nearly 2000 years old.
The revelation has provided another clue as to how the Romans organised their occupation of the Lothians.

It had not been confirmed whether the site was, in fact, a Roman marching camp, which had previously only been suggested by aerial photographs.

Scottish Water's stakeholder manager for the Glencorse Water Treatment Works Project Kenny Naylor said: "We carry out a detailed site investigation on all sites as a matter of course, and found a change in the soil when we were digging the ground.

Looks like they relocated without much controversy.

UPDATE: More here.
Inside India's Underground Trade in Human Remains
A constable in a sweat-stained undershirt and checkered blue sarong lays a ragged cloth over a patch of mud. He jerks open the back door of a decrepit Indian-made Tata Sumo SUV — what passes for an evidence locker at this rustic police outpost in the Indian state of West Bengal. A hundred human skulls tumble out onto the cloth, making a hollow clatter as they fall to the ground. They've lost most of their teeth bouncing around the back of the truck. Bits of bone and enamel scatter like snowflakes around the growing pile.

Standing next to the truck, the ranking officer smiles and lets out a satisfied grunt. "Now you can see how big the bone business is here," he says. I crouch down and pick up a skull. It's lighter than I expected. I hold it up to my nose. It smells like fried chicken.

Before the authorities intercepted it, this cache was moving along a well-established pipeline for human skeletal remains. For 150 years, India's bone trade has followed a route from remote Indian villages to the world's most distinguished medical schools.

I link to this because in my days as an undergrad we had our own skeleton for human osteology labs. I believe those were probably from India and I recall our prof at the time (Ken Bennett, U. of Wisconsin) saying they were acquired from bodies "found floating in the Ganges". It's a tough situation. One would think that with over 4 billion people on the planet it would be easy to find enough skeletons from people who don't care what happens to them. But, death is one of those highly personal things. One might not mind being incinerated and scattered to the four winds, but be highly peeved if one were to be sliced and diced and stuck in a box in a lab.