Friday, February 29, 2008

Shroud of Turin Gets High-Def Scrutiny
The Turin shroud, the 14- by 4-foot linen long believed to have been wrapped around Jesus' body after the crucifixion, has entered the digital age.

A huge 12.8 billion-pixel image was made of the linen, on which the smudged outline of the body of a man is indelibly impressed. The image was made following a Vatican request to obtain the most detailed reproduction of the yellowing ancient cloth. The technology allows a level of scrutiny of the linen as never achieved before.

"The Shroud has been photographed in high definition for the first time. We have stitched together 1,600 shots, each the size of a credit card, to create a huge photo which is almost 1,300 times stronger than a picture taken with a 10 million pixel digital camera," Mauro Gavinelli, technical supervisor at HAL9000, a company specializing in art photography, told Discovery News.

It's got some stuff on the C14 dating "controversy" that's been filtering in over the years.
Lost civilization Eye of Sauron. . . .found Hubble peers into the Great Eye of Sauron
Astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center have released a rather remarkable Hubble image of a ring of dust around star Fomalhaut, described by New Scientist as resembling "the Great Eye of Sauron".

Just as long as it doesn't blink. . . .

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Will Huntington Beach homes sit on ancient burial ground?
Archaeologists have unearthed 174 ancient American Indian remains, half of them found over the past 18 months on a site at Bolsa Chica Mesa slated to become a residential community, according to California Native American Heritage Commission officials.

The discovery of hundreds of mysterious cogged stones and now human bone fragments that are up to 8,500 years old confirms decades-long rumors that the Brightwater Hearthside Homes site is an ancient burial ground of international importance, said Dave Singleton, a program analyst with the Native American Heritage Commission.

I dunno, kind of a weird article and issue. Apparently half of the fragments were found over a period of 30 years and the others during the last 18 months. They talk about an "association" of the fragments with certain features, but don't really specify what that association is. Or what the features are. Then it gets kinda goofy with an activist linking this stuff with. . . .Chile. Hard to say what the significance of the fragments are; depending on what fragments they represent and how fragmented they are it might or might not be a "burial ground".

So, who knows. Seems like an interesting area; one hopes the monitors are not letting too much stuff be destroyed without proper mitigation.
Mummy alert

Mummified nuns found
The mummified remains of two nuns, the head of one lying on the shoulder of the other, have been found in the walls of a Sao Paulo convent in Brazil, media reported on Wednesday.

The bodies were discovered in one of six burial niches bricked over in the 234-year-old Mosteiro da Luz, that continues to be the home of the reclusive Order of the Conceptionist Sisters as well as a museum of sacred art.

An official at the University of Sao Paulo's archeology department, Sergio Monteiro da Silva, said it appeared the nuns had been put in the niche sometime between 1774 and 1822, when the room they were in was used as a cemetery.
Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient burial ground at the site of a major new road.

Evidence of two Bronze Age tombs dating back some 4,000 years were found during work on the Earl Shilton bypass.

They were spotted after an archaeological survey of the site uncovered what would have been mounds of earth, or barrows, on the route between Thurlaston Lane and Mill Lane outside the town.
China blasts U.S. role in illegal relics trade
China has labeled the United States the world's largest importer of smuggled Chinese relics, and demanded the country do more to combat the trade, state media reported on Wednesday.

China has repeatedly called on museums in Western countries to return artifacts taken by European and American archaeologists and adventurers, often crudely hacked out of caves and tombs.

Shan Jixiang, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, called on the United States to sign a memorandum of understanding with China to speed up cooperation in preventing relics' theft and illegal trade.
Landfill could disguise graves: archaeologist
The archaeologist at the centre of the dispute over the findings of land surveys on the site of the Boggo Road Busway says there were "anomalies" between the introduced clays from "fill" and the "underlaying basal clays".

In a statement from his report into the results of the survey, the archaeologist, Dr Jon Prangnell from the University of Queensland, says "no graves or human remains were found".

However, he suggested to students at the university in February that landfill cover prevented graves from being detected during ground penetrating radar surveys.
Illness update

I'm watching A Mighty Wind. Gawd, what a riot. Rent it if you get the chance. Fred Willard is brilliant, as usual.
This is cool: Order your own telescope images:
Now you can go online to access high-quality scopes at dark-sky sites worldwide and order them to take photos for you — cheaply or for free, and at decent resolution.

I tried it at the third listed site just now! I ordered an image of galaxy M101. Will update when it comes in.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blogging update

Light posting for the next day or so. I finally caught The Cold that's been making the rounds. I count myself lucky that at least it's not the flu. I think it's been in Seattle but no one I know has gotten it yet. Not an awful cold, but not a light one either. It's kind of been building for a week now; I could feel my sinuses getting a little freaky last week and had something of a headache a lot. Hit Monday evening. I could tell something was going on because Monday morning I woke up and was all hot and sweaty and then I went and had an awesome workout. I've learned that when I have a really good workout (this is at 6:15 am) it usually means I've caught something.

Anyway, lots of stress lately so that might have brought it on, or maybe kept it at bay. You see, I am changing jobs in the near future and it's been an incredibly stressful decision. I spent 15 years at one place but then had to leave in 2005. I was a "temp" for all 15 years, which was mostly okay because I was working myself through grad school and the flexibility (you know, to pop off to Egypt for 2-3 months at a time) was ideal. But then I got my degree and. . . .didn't know what to do. I stayed on but eventually I was sitting on grant money at only 50% and the rules then were that one could not combine more than one temp position into one full time one. I tried to find a way to stay but couldn't. I spent one year at a bank creating predictive models, but that bored me silly.

Then I ended up at an internationally recognized non-profit managing data for a large study in India and China. That was great fun, BUT the grant ran out last December. I managed to secure funding for 2008 but doing a lot of stuff that doesn't really interest me and that I'm not all that skilled in either, such as cost models. I applied for another 2-year grant-funded position at my old shop and after haggling over the salary for a while had to make a decision whether to stay or go.

Toughest.Decision.Of.My.Life. Stay, where I have to constantly sell myself to get on other people's projects and do mostly everything I'm not that good at, or go, and do something really interesting but has a 2-year life span? Yeesh. I finally decided that if I want to do anything research-related, grant money is almost a prerequisite. So whichever place I ended up at, securing funding was just part of the landscape. I decided to go back to my old place for a few reasons; I know people there so easier to network; a regular permanent position is possible where it isn't at the place I'm at. And more opportunity to work with, um, dead people.

I don't know how I did it 20 years ago, just casually flipping from job to job, nary a care in the world. Somehow I always manage to stay (mostly) employed. Now deciding between two roughly equal job durn near kills me. I should just stay in grad school my whole life. . . .

Will try to post some tomorrow.

Addendum: I downloaded Vivaldi's Gloria along with Bach's Magnificat on the same CD. Truly excellent. Vivaldi was my first real love in classical music and still mostly is although I have ventured more into sacred polyphony the last few years. Vivaldi still just makes me happy. If you don't like the choral stuff, try l'estro Armonico. Anything done by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields will be a good performance. I haven't tried it, but this site seems to have a bunch available for download.
Feeling blue? Not like a Maya sacrificial victim
"The interest in Maya blue stems from the fact that it is a very durable pigment -- more durable than most natural dyes and pigments. It also stems from the fact it wasn't immediately obvious how it was made and what the key ingredients were."

The pigment resists age, acid, weathering, biodegradation and modern chemical solvents. Previous research had identified two ingredients as extract from the leaves of the indigo plant and an unusual white clay mineral called palygorskite.

These researchers did microscopic analysis on material found in a three-footed pottery bowl in the museum's collection dating from A.D. 1400 that had been used as an incense burner.

I'd thought someone figured out Maya blue a while ago, but I guess not. The blue goo at the bottom of the cenote is way cool. Feinman was one of my perfessers at the U of Wisconsin.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

City honors Washington's slave - and 'power of archaeology'
Oney Judge died 160 years ago yesterday, 52 years after she cast off her bonds, 52 years after fleeing Philadelphia to escape the man and woman who owned her and who wanted to give her away as a wedding bauble - George and Martha Washington.

Oney Judge was about 75 when she died in New Hampshire on Feb. 25, 1848. Her husband was dead. Her three children were dead. But she died a free woman - if still legally a fugitive - one who had defied the first president of the United States.

Mayor Nutter recognized her tenacity by issuing an official city tribute in honor of the anniversary, and Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, with Council President Anna C. Verna, issued a similar citation in the name of City Council.
Storms Dig Up Historic Secrets Along Oregon Coast
he storms that have lashed Oregon's scenic coast this winter have dredged up an unusual array of once-buried secrets: old shipwrecks, historic cannons, ghost forests — even strangely shaped iron deposits.

One of the first ships to emerge from the sands was recently identified as the George L. Olson, which ran aground at Coos Bay's North Jetty on June 23, 1944.

The shipwreck has become a tourist attraction on the southern Oregon coast. Interest became so great that authorities had to reroute traffic around the ship and post signs warning visitors to leave it alone because it is now an archaeological site.

The curiosities began showing up after December when Pacific storms pummeled the state, damaging thousands of homes and causing an estimated $60 million in damage to roads, bridges and public buildings.
Archaeological treasures found in Roscrea Roscrea notes
A 'beautiful' Bronze Age axe and a number of ancient burial grounds have been unearthed near Roscrea during the construction of the new Dublin-Limerick motorway in the area.

The bronze axe was found in Camblin, south of Roscrea. Archaeologists say the find dates to the later Bronze Age and appears to have been hidden in a shallow pit and never recovered by the person who concealed it.

On a second site in Camblin a medieval iron 'bearded' axe was discovered while two Bronze Age enclosed settlements with two ancient houses were found near the N62 Templemore Road.
False Doors for the Dead Among New Egypt Tomb Finds
Three false doors that served as portals for communicating with the dead are among ancient burial remains recently unearthed in a vast Egyptian necropolis, an archaeological team announced.

The discoveries date back to Egypt's turbulent First Intermediate Period, which ran roughly between 2160 and 2055 B.C.

The period is traditionally thought to have been a chaotic era of bloodshed and power struggles, but little is known based on archaeological evidence.

In addition to the false doors, the Spanish team found two funerary offering tables and a new tomb in the former ancient capital of Herakleopolis—today referred to by its Arabic name Ihnasya el-Medina—about 60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Cairo.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Lost Treasure of Machu Picchu
SURE, it seemed like a great idea when, last September, President Alan García of Peru reached a preliminary agreement with Yale about the disposition of more than 350 artifacts taken from Machu Picchu. Everyone hoped the settlement might be a break for cultural understanding in the cloudy skies of international cooperation. News reports suggested that Yale would return more than 350 museum-quality artifacts, plus several thousand fragments thought to be of interest mainly to researchers — all of which were taken from the mountaintop Inca archaeological complex nearly a century ago — and that legal title to all the artifacts, even those to be left at Yale for research, would be held by Peru.

But having finally obtained a copy of the agreement, I can see that Yale continues to deny Peru the right to its cultural patrimony, something Peru has demanded since 1920.

It's an opinion piece, so take it for what it's worth.

UPDATE: Some replies from Yale here. Actually, not much in the way of replies, just a few statements. They are apparently working on a formal reply.
Cleopatra's Cosmetics And Hammurabi's Heineken: Name Brands Far Predating Modern Capitalism
From at least Bass Ale's red triangle--advertised as "the first registered trademark"--commodity brands have exerted a powerful hold over modern Western society. Marketers and critics alike have assumed that branding began in the West with the Industrial Revolution. But a pioneering new study in the February 2008 issue of Current Anthropology finds that attachment to brands far predates modern capitalism, and indeed modern Western society.

In "Prehistories of Commodity Branding," author David Wengrow challenges the widespread assumption that branding did not become an important force in social and economic life until the Industrial Revolution. Wengrow presents compelling evidence that labels on ancient containers, which have long been assumed to be simple identifiers, as well as practices surrounding the production and distribution of commodities, actually functioned as branding strategies. Furthermore, these strategies have deep cultural origins and cognitive foundations, beginning in the civilizations of Egypt and Iraq thousands of years ago.
Antarctic may hold the future of archaeology
It is a truism that archaeology begins yesterday, and now with only the archaeology of the future to plan for, the discipline has been expanding into areas of the globe where material culture has hitherto played little part.

Antarctica is one of these new areas: more than two centuries of human occupation have left plentiful traces. At least five successive and partly overlapping phases of activity can be defined: sealing, whaling, polar exploration, scientific investigation and tourism.

Sealing began in the late 18th century, when Captain James Cook’s account of his voyages in the Southern Ocean, published in 1777, included his discovery of South Georgia with its enormous population of fur seals. Sealers from England and the eastern United States swarmed to raid the seal rookeries.

Kind of a neat article exploring the various periods that human presence in the Antarctic went through.
Neolithic artefacts discovered in church
PLANNED repairs to the central heating of a church have uncovered remains suggesting it may have been used as a place of worship in prehistoric times.

Archaeologists now believe the medieval church of St Michaels and All Angels, in Houghton-le-Spring, Wearside, is on the site of earlier places of worship, possibly dating from the Neolithic period.

Old burial grounds have been unearthed during work by the Archaeology Practice, but it has also revealed foundations of previous churches on the site.
Royals weren't only builders of Maya temples, archaeologist finds
An intrepid archaeologist is well on her way to dislodging the prevailing assumptions of scholars about the people who built and used Maya temples.

From the grueling work of analyzing the “attributes,” the nitty-gritty physical details of six temples in Yalbac, a Maya center in the jungle of central Belize – and a popular target for antiquities looters – primary investigator Lisa Lucero is building her own theories about the politics of temple construction that began nearly two millennia ago.

Her findings from the fill, the mortar and other remnants of jungle-wrapped structures lead her to believe that kings weren’t the only people building or sponsoring Late Classic period temples (from about 550 to 850), the stepped pyramids that rose like beacons out of the southern lowlands as early as 300 B.C.

Doesn't go into much detail on what the evidence is that leads to these conclusions.
Lost civilization plaza. . . .found Archaeologists find 5,500 year old plaza in Peru
A circular plaza built 5,500 years ago has been discovered in Peru, and archaeologists involved in the dig said on Monday carbon dating shows it is one of the oldest structures ever found in the Americas.

A team of Peruvian and German archaeologists uncovered the plaza, which was hidden beneath another piece of architecture at the ruins known as Sechin Bajo, in Casma, 229 miles (370 km) north of Lima, the capital.

"It's an impressive find, the scientific and archaeology communities are very happy," said Cesar Perez, the scientist at Peru's National Institute of Culture who supervised the project. "This could redesign the history of the country."
The Lone Ranger of Burns
Artifacts first led George Orr to archaeology, but culture bandits led him to a career in law enforcement.

Now, 10 years since he traded his trowel in for a badge on public lands, Orr, a Roseburg native, has been named Ranger of the Year by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

It was a gradual evolution, however, for Orr to become nationally recognized for his law enforcement work in 2007.
Article in Al-Ahram on the Roman village of Ismant Al-Kharab in Dakhla Oasis in Egypt. A lot of the native Egyptian archaeologists specialize in Roman archaeology. Not sure why this is. Might be in part because it's pretty abundant with lots of cool stuff to find, but much might also be that it's different from the typical classical Egyptian stuff everybody else fixates on; the idea that one is always attracted to The Other.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Amenia: First settled ... when?
When one civilization devours another, it challenges historians and archeologists to salvage the remains of the consumed. It is undisputed that Amenia was occupied by indigenous people who lived here thousands of years before Europeans laid claim to the area in the late 17th century, and that either side of the Hudson River was well established long before the Half Moon made her appearance in 1609.

Archeological findings of arrowheads and stone tools provide evidence of a population living in an agrarian community. We now recognize not only the contributions they made to ease the trading and settling by European immigrants, but also their worth and place in area history as a society as important as any that came afterward.
Who Owns History?
I'm betting now it will be a long time before a U.S. museum director buys another ancient treasure with a wink and a nod or anything less than a documented-ownership trail longer than an Old Testament genealogy and much more credible. But the givebacks of recent years are just part of an accelerating worldwide struggle over the past. It has complications brought to the table by archaeologists, who say any commercial market for antiquities is an incentive to looters who plunder archaeological sites. And then there's the ordinary museumgoer, who has a crucial stake--being able to see the widest spectrum of culture that humankind has produced. Among all these bristling claimants to the past, is it possible to strike a balance between protecting history and unfolding it, between safeguarding it and making it available for our own pleasure and instruction?

Long article and worth reading through. It doesn't say anything particularly new to readers of this blog, but it brings up a couple of items, such as the idea of reviving what is termed "partage" where the host country splits any recovered items with the excavators. This is what happened in Egypt; the Ottomans had first pick and the archaeologists got whatever was left. I don't recall for how long this operated in Egypt or where else it worked, but it's one thing that makes it difficult for modern countries to claim certain items were "stolen".

I tend to like the idea of having the stuff spread out as much as possible, if only to avoid complete destruction when things eventually go south in whatever country. We saw in Afghanistan and Iraq what can happen to antiquities.

Also in Time, a short article on the Ark.
Roman site unearthed in Doune
DOUNE Primary School pupils have been discovering the hidden treasures of ancient Rome — right in the middle of their playground.

A new classroom is currently being built at Doune and because the site is home to a former Roman fort, professional archaeologists have been called in — just in case there are any historical artefacts uncovered.

Head teacher Jane McManus told the Stirling Observer: “The children have truly enjoyed this experience and have been asking the archaeologists lots of interesting questions.”

Friday, February 22, 2008

Modern archaeology

I link this partly because it's cool and partly because it reflects some archaeological issues:

This is a building where our deeply-troubled public school system once stored its supplies, and then one day apparently walked away from it all, allowing everything to go to waste. The interior has been ravaged by fires and the supplies that haven't burned have been subjected to 20 years of Michigan weather. To walk around this building transcends the sort of typical ruin-fetishism and "sadness" some get from a beautiful abandoned building.

Many other photos at the link (via Amaxen at TPW). Very good photos. It boggles me how entire buildings could be abandoned with stuff still sitting in them like that.

You can probably see the archy connections. One, it's an example of abandonment, a hot topic in archaeology. Why are structure abandoned? When they are abandoned are they left as they were while in use (Binford's 'Pompeii Premise"), or were they cleared out first? Were they re-used in some fashion after abandonment? What about taphonomic processes occurring after abandonment?

You can see a lot of these things going on here. Much burning of materials has taken place, no doubt a lot of stuff was removed, and the removed stuff was probably removed for a reason; value or utility. It looks as if some of the structure has started to collapse already. There is vegetation growing within the building, using the nutrients in the organic remains. The plants not only use the organics by breaking them down chemically, but also destroy them physically through root growth.

Some things remain, such a wrapped textbooks. These have little apparent value and are one of the few things left over for future 'archaeologists' to find. That's a biasing element.

So, a lot going on beyond the contemporary assessment of the building's abandonment.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Coupla paleo- and bioanth stories Both via Hawks:

First, some discussion on the out of Africa analysis (see here).

Second, on hygienic dating (not what you're thinking):
I've just been reading a useful paper by Andrew Millard, which reviews the chronometric dates of African and Near Eastern fossil hominids from the Middle and early Late Pleistocene. The overall theme is that we don't know the dates nearly as well as we would like -- or as well as many comparative analyses have assumed.

This is always a useful sort of review. I swear there was a similar study done with North American C14 dates, but I'm having trouble finding the reference. My memory tickle is that someone applied the same strict criteria that have been used to judge pre-Clovis sites and found that a lot of accepted dates would be discarded as well. I'll post an update when/if I find it.

Obviously, people are going to look closer at unexpected or incongruous dates a lot harder than those that fit an accepted pattern; the whole "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" idea.

Hawks also highlights the cascade effect (quoting the paper):
In conducting this review of the chronometric evidence for African and Near Eastern hominids, the search for the detailed chronometric data was hampered by overreliance of many authors on the secondary literature. It is not uncommon to find a date cited from a publication, which upon checking simply cites another publication, which cites another, which cites the paper that first suggested the date. Frequently in such a chain of citations, the justification for the original date is lost, and in some cases, error limits disappear.

SJ Gould used to harp on this a lot, mostly in textbooks that propagated some scientific myth or other. He had a name for it that escapes me at the moment.

Grayson and Meltzer did a similar thing with Clovis hunting sites. As Hawks notes, everyone should probably be more careful when reviewing and citing others' work. OTOH, all you have to do is get some disagreement and someone is bound to go after the other side's assumptions with academic gusto.

UPDATE: Regarding the paper I'm trying to remember, there was the one last year by Waters and Stafford that did new AMS dates, but I'm thinking of something else.
25,000 Inhabitants, 2,500 Years Ago
Archaeologists in eastern India have found remains pointing to the existence of a highly developed urban settlement, the BBC reported on Monday. On the basis of recently completed excavations, the research team believes the city had approximately 25,000 inhabitants in the fifth century B.C. How do archaeologists estimate ancient populations?

Fieldwork and guesswork.

There's not a whole lot of detail in the article and this is one of the more problematic issues in archaeology, in part because estimating population is so crucial to so many theories. Back in the '70s an awful lot of work involved using 'population pressure' in the form of carrying capacity to try to explain why certain traits (e.g., agriculture) arose where and when they did. A lot of people were using systems theory, a purely mathematical approach which, obviously, needed numbers to work. These were especially hard to estimate in hunter-gatherer societies where you didn't have even house structures to estimate population size and you had mobility issues to deal with. Very dicey.

That was one of the reasons the New Archaeology foundered with a lot of people: Even though they had nice theories to work with (usually theories borrowed from disciplines that were working with actual, live people), they didn't have very good ways to estimate the inputs into the models. That's the trouble with borrowing theories: theory is developed in tandem with the available data sources. My favorite quote on this conundrum comes from Richard Lewontin:
If one simply cannot measure the state variables or the parameters with which the theory is constructed, or if their measurement is so laden with error that no discrimination between alternative hypotheses is possible, the theory becomes a vacuous exercise in formal logic. . .(Lewontin 1974:11)

Describes much of archaeological theorizing to a T.

Lewontin, R. C.
1974 The genetic basis of evolutionary change. Columbia University Press, New York
More satellite archaeology Satellites spot lost Guatemala Mayan temples
Ancient Mayan astronomers aligned their soaring temples with the stars and now modern archeologists have found the ruins of hidden cities in the Guatemalan jungle by peering down from space.

Archeologists and NASA scientists began teaming up five years ago to search for clues about the mysterious collapse of the Mayan civilization that flourished in Central America and southern Mexico for 1,000 years.

The work is paying off, says archeologist William Saturno, who recently discovered five sprawling sites with hundreds of buildings using a spy satellite that can see through clouds and forest to reveal differences in the vegetation below.

Pretty good article explaining how it works, but the images are sort of not very useful.
Atlanteans in Peru Mysterious Pyramid Complex Discovered in Peru
The remnants of at least ten pyramids have been discovered on the coast of Peru, marking what could be a vast ceremonial site of an ancient, little-known culture, archaeologists say.

In January construction crews working in the province of Piura discovered several truncated pyramids and a large adobe platform (see map).

Officials from Peru's National Institute of Culture (INC) were dispatched to inspect the discovery.

Last week they announced that the complex, which is 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) long and 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, belonged to the ancient Vicús culture and was likely either a religious center or a cemetery for nobility.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another weird band no one ever heard of but me Called "The Men". From the late '80s/early '90s. So rare I have yet to find even a mention of them on the Interwebs. There's a newer group of he same name, but the ones I'm thinking of had some minor success back when alternative was new. I don't remember if I heard them on the radio or because my roomie at the time just had the CD. Kind of a weird group; the only song I remember (I have a tape of the album) was sort of a weird Kerouac-esque song about some guys who take a road trip in "an old Oldsmobile that one of them bought off their father". I think the song was called "The Thing".

Oh yeah, I just found it on Amazon: The Men. Hmmmm. . . .no song called "The Thing". The "Church of Logic, Sin and Love" title sounds familiar though. Who knows, maybe I've got the complete wrong group! I just ordered it for $4.29. Reliving my tattered youth, I am.

UPDATE: I just dug out my tape(s) and am wondering if "The Thing" might be by Mary My Hope instead. And I'm SURE you've all heard of them, too. I'll have to listen to both to try to find it.

UPDATE II: No, it was The Men:
"Church of Logic, Sin & Love" was quite successful on modern rock stations in 1992. Half spoken-word '60s nostalgia, half Crowded House-style guitar pop, "Church of Logic, Sin & Love" offered a respite from angst-ridden grunge, but the song was perhaps too quirky to have any appeal beyond alternative radio. The track had poetic imagery -- "It's the kind of place where space explorers could have landed/Around 1963/when John F. Kennedy was in Life Magazine/And everything was aqua marine, aqua marine". . .
Gene studies confirm "out of Africa" theories
Two big genetic studies confirm theories that modern humans evolved in Africa and then migrated through Europe and Asia to reach the Pacific and Americas.

The two studies also show that Africans have the most diverse DNA, and the fewest potentially harmful genetic mutations.

One of the studies shows European-Americans have more small mutations, while the others show Native Americans, Polynesians and others who populated Australia and Oceania have more big genetic changes.
Jewelry and makeup in ancient Persia
Archaeological finds in Iran show that women and men applied makeup and arrayed themselves with ornaments approximately 10,000 years ago, a trend which began from religious convictions rather than mere beautification motivations.

Archaeologists have discovered various instruments of make-up and ornamental items in the Burnt City, which date back to the third millennium BCE.

The caves of the Bakhtiari region, where the first hunter-gatherers settled at the end of the ice age, have yielded not only stone tools, daggers and grindstones but also several stones covered with red ocher.

Seems mostly circumstantial, but then again I think most people more or less assume that people have been painting themselves for a looooong time.
What I'm reading Got The Jesuit and the Skull: Teilhard de Chardin, Evolution, and the Search for Peking Man a few days ago. I'm only on Chapter 3 right now and it's not bad. So far a bunch of it has been reviewing Darwin and evolution so I've learned nothing new there. I only know the basic story of Teilhard and the Peking Man fossil story so I'm hoping to get more detail. The reviews at the link don't make it look promising though.

I'm already a bit miffed that Choukoutien was so close to Beijing and I didn't go see it. Oh well.

Will have a longer review when I'm finished.

I also got the latest issue of American Scientist. Sadly, the only archaeology-related article is sub-only.
Bizarre news update
3 right feet found in running shoes ... but whose?

The mysterious feet that have been washing up on islands in the Strait of Georgia could have drifted in from as far as 1,000 miles away, according to an expert on ocean currents.

"That's the range they will have to consider when attempting to identify the victims. They could easily have come that far from California or Alaska," Curtis Ebbesmeyer said Friday from his home in Seattle.

"I suppose they could even have come from Japan, because things do drift in from that distance, too," he said.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This ought to get me some good Amazon suggestions Abbey body identified as gay lover of Edward II
A mutilated body found in an abbey graveyard has been identified as that of a notorious medieval villain rumoured to have been the gay lover of Edward II.

The remains, which bear the hallmarks of having been hanged, drawn and quartered, are thought to be those of Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger, who was executed as a traitor in 1326.

Edward II
Sir Hugh was executed after Edward II [above] was deposed from the throne in 1326

Sir Hugh had been favourite of Edward II - who was widely believed to have been homosexual - but was brutally executed before a mob after the king was ousted from the throne.


Pierced skull and bones recovered

A worker dredging a river in Suffolk has discovered a skull and other human remains believed to date back to before the Middle Ages.

An examination revealed the skull had been penetrated by what could have been an iron arrow or spear.

This identified them as medieval, from between AD1066 and 1540, but they could even be Roman or Saxon, experts said.
American Indians altered land long before Europeans
University of Tennessee ecologists Paul and Hazel Delcourt argue in their new book, Prehistoric Native Americans and Ecological Change, that we have underestimated the varied impacts American Indians have had on the natural environment the past 15,000 years.

Eastern North America, for example, was not a "virgin" forest when Europeans arrived 500 years ago. Native Americans altered and even managed the environment in many ways. The evidence comes from the testimony of early European pioneers as well as archaeological and paleoecological studies.

This was a main thesis of 1491. It's been kicking around for some time, but it seems to be starting to become more accepted.
How Ancient Trade Changed the World
When people first settled down into larger towns in Mesopotamia and Egypt, self-sufficiency – the idea that you had to produce absolutely everything that you wanted or needed – started to fade. A farmer could now trade grain for meat, or milk for a pot, at the local market, which was seldom too far away.

Cities started to work the same way, realizing that they could acquire goods they didn't have at hand from other cities far away, where the climate and natural resources produced different things. This longer-distance trade was slow and often dangerous, but was lucrative for the middlemen willing to make the journey.

Seems to be a series, with one from last week as well. This makes it seem like trade developed with civilization, but it had been going on for some time. Interestingly, the first quoted sentence made me think of the selection post from the other day: Wenke and Dunnell once posited that perhaps the shift from simple kin-based interaction systems to these sorts of functionally differentiated societies created a change in the unit of selection. Whereas before, the individual or the family was the basic unit of selection -- all individuals being pretty much functionally redundant -- afterwards individuals were functionally differentiated and could not survive outside of the larger society. Something akin to the development of multicellular organisms. Anyway, should be an interesting series to yak about.
Excavations In Iran Unravel Mystery Of 'Red Snake'

New discoveries unearthed at an ancient frontier wall in Iran provide compelling evidence that the Persians matched the Romans for military might and engineering prowess.

The 'Great Wall of Gorgan'in north-eastern Iran, a barrier of awesome scale and sophistication, including over 30 military forts, an aqueduct, and water channels along its route, is being explored by an international team of archaeologists from Iran and the Universities of Edinburgh and Durham. This vast Wall-also known as the 'Red Snake'-is more than 1000 years older than the Great Wall of China, and longer than Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall put together.
Blog announcement

Announcing the return of. . . .ArchaeoForum!

This is a re-launch. Last time the dumb thing had little protection against spam or bots and ended up having dozens of posts per day offering the services of various web sites which modesty prevents me from offering any form of detailed description.

I threw in a few major forum topics, but feel free to suggest others. It requires a code entry before each post -- kind of a pain, I know -- but hopefully it will keep the junk to a minimum. Still a work in progress, so again feel free to suggest ideas and tweaks. Permalink is over at the right, eventually.
Unearthing Texas' past
I'm crouched in a hole, raking a trowel over a one-meter-square patch of clay, hoping the next clump of dirt will expose something incredible, like a prehistoric arrowhead. Instead, there's just more clay, which I scrape into shavings the color of dark chocolate. A few snail shells liven up the mix, but otherwise nothing but dirt and stone.

Still, it could happen. Just a week before my visit, Ashley Lemke, a University of Texas student who also is digging today, uncovered a perfect projectile point in this same pit. So I keep toiling, sifting through the earth in one of the oldest, most important continuing archaeology sites to reveal traces of North America's earliest humans.

It's about the Gault site.
Route of M74 extension offers insight into our past
AN INTACT pharmacy, piles of teeth, and a Yemeni prayer room are just some of the discoveries made by the UK's biggest archaeology project who are busy trying to unearth what lies beneath the controversial M74 motorway link which got the go-ahead last week.

The five mile route which will cost £657 million, 50% more than originally estimated, will run from Fullarton junction near Carmyle to the M8 just west of the Kingston Bridge with work expecting to start in May and be completed by 2011. Glasgow City Council along with M74 project partners, HAPCA, formed by firms Headland Archaeology and Pre-Construct Archaeology, have been working with oral historians to piece together information about how people lived and worked across six different sites.
Archaeologist in Loin Cloth wins First Annual Ph.D Dance-Off
It may be an unfortunate stereotype, but very few people consider scientists to be doctors of the more funkified arts.

A new competition in Austria aimed to change all that while helping to spread some scientific knowledge. The event was the first annual “Dance Your Ph.D” contest recently organized by the Medical University of Vienna and “Gonzo Scientist” John Bohannon from the journal Science. The competition pretty much does what it says on the tin. Anyone who has or is studying for a doctoral degree is eligible to enter and do an interpretive dance on the subject of their doctoral thesis.

As it turns out, that negative stereotype about academics and dancing may be true, because most people agreed the dances were hilariously awful. The competition was won by Oxford University archaeologist Dr. Brian Stewart, along with Giulia Saltini-Semerari, for their interpretation of Stewart’s thesis, “Refitting repasts: a spatial exploration of food processing, sharing, cooking and disposal at the Dunefield Midden campsite, South Africa.”

No, I'm afraid not even an "Artist's Conception" will do here.

More here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Non-archaeology post Some time ago I posted a paean to the late-1980s group Dreams So Real. Well, they have a MySpace page with the Rough Night in Jericho album posted! Go listen.

Still can't find a copy of the CD anywhere.

I also discovered that there is also a western movie called Rough Night in Jericho.

I should make up an ArchaeoBlog MySpace page. Or maybe FaceBook. I don't know, I'm not quite hip to what young people are doing these days.

(Yes, that was said in sarcastico voce)
Human Culture Subject To Natural Selection, Study Shows
The process of natural selection can act on human culture as well as on genes, a new study finds. Scientists at Stanford University have shown for the first time that cultural traits affecting survival and reproduction evolve at a different rate than other cultural attributes. Speeded or slowed rates of evolution typically indicate the action of natural selection in analyses of the human genome.

This study of cultural evolution compares the rates of change for structural and decorative Polynesian canoe-design traits.

"Biological evolution of inherited traits is the essential organizing principle of biology, but does evolution play a corresponding role in human culture?" said Jared Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California-Los Angeles and author of Guns, Germs and Steel. "This paper makes a decisive advance in this controversial field."

This is definitely one I'm going to look at closely. There's not much detail in the article and, unfortunately, the latter half is little more than a political screed ("If everyone just thought like we do, the world would be a better place!"). The devil will be in the details; how are the "functional" traits defined, is there a well-defined link between said traits to actual selection, etc.

UPDATE: Here are a few links to articles and papers on evolutionary archaeology:
Evolutionary Archeology: Current Status and Future Prospects by MICHAEL J. O’BRIEN AND R. LEE LYMAN Evolutionary Anthropology 11:26–36 (2002)


Critique by Boone et al.

Dunnell's The Concept of Waste in an Evolutionary Archaeology

And Carl Lipo has some of his papers on this and other topics on his web site.
Politics and Religion at ArchaeoBlog! Stifled, Egypt’s Young Turn to Islamic Fervor
The concrete steps leading from Ahmed Muhammad Sayyid’s first-floor apartment sag in the middle, worn down over time, like Mr. Sayyid himself. Once, Mr. Sayyid had a decent job and a chance to marry. But his fiancée’s family canceled the engagement because after two years, he could not raise enough money to buy an apartment and furniture.

Mr. Sayyid spun into depression and lost nearly 40 pounds. For months, he sat at home and focused on one thing: reading the Koran. Now, at 28, with a diploma in tourism, he is living with his mother and working as a driver for less than $100 a month. With each of life’s disappointments and indignities, Mr. Sayyid has drawn religion closer.

Here in Egypt and across the Middle East, many young people are being forced to put off marriage, the gateway to independence, sexual activity and societal respect. Stymied by the government’s failure to provide adequate schooling and thwarted by an economy without jobs to match their abilities or aspirations, they are stuck in limbo between youth and adulthood.

“I can’t get a job, I have no money, I can’t get married, what can I say?” Mr. Sayyid said one day after becoming so overwhelmed that he refused to go to work, or to go home, and spent the day hiding at a friend’s apartment.

I just wanted to pass this article along, not because I agree with it all, but because I have some experience with it. Employment is dreadful in Egypt. Many of our hired laborers -- people who would carry baskets to and from the screens -- were college graduates. In 2003 our generalized go-fer guy (he took care of daily things like schlepping breakfast out to the site, finding needed items in the markets, etc.) had a law degree.

I don't know about the whole "growing religious conservatism". . . .I didn't really notice it, though I never hung out at the universities; although every time I was at the AUC it felt like going into a sea of modernity with well-dressed young people all over.

We tend to get annoyed really easily at all the supposed bad behavior that goes on, such as people always trying to sell you something, to the little power plays that goes on as people jockey for position in the hierarchy. But we in the west often forget how really underdeveloped many of these countries are. I learned not to interfere too much in these sorts of things between the locals because it's their livelihood and they most often have far fewer financial resources than even us lowly graduate students.

UPDATE: And more! A reader sends this link involving a Turkish archaeologist (Muazzez Ilmiye Cig) who ran into a bit of trouble recently:
SPIEGEL: In one of your books, you claimed that the headscarf was worn by temple prostitutes in pre-Islamic days. Some people interpreted this as a direct insult to Muslim women. In 2006, you even appeared in a Turkish court on charges of "inciting hatred."

Cig: I didn't just claim it, I discovered it. The old cuneiform of the Sumerians describes how sexual rituals with young men were a religious requirement -- one of many -- for priestesses. These women wore veils over their faces to identify themselves. This is a historic fact. I'm a scientist. Whether this article of clothing, a sex symbol, is suitable as a moral calling card today is something for others to decide.

I don't think I posted any links on this story a while back, but I did see them.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Last of the ancient wonders: II- The Great Pyramid
It has variously been claimed that the pyramids served as power plants, water pumps, astronomical observatories, sources of ill-defined pyramid- power energy vortices, guidance beacons for alien spacecraft sites for mystery initiation ceremonies.

Unfortunately there remains no known written record as to how the most famous of the more than 100 pyramids in Egypt, the Great Pyramid of Giza, was built, nor have any reliefs depicting the building ever been found. The Greek geographer Herodotus, writing in the fifth century BC, mentioned the theory that levers were used to lift pyramid stones. Perhaps this is the most tenable of the alternate theories; as reported by Egyptologist Selim Hassan in his opus Ancient Egypt, Part 1, Cairo, 2000, p. 288. Hassan verified Herodotus's theory based on excavation conducted by Cairo University in the mid-20th century on the Giza Plateau, where the debris of two pulleys were found, one near the second pyramid and one inside the workmen's village east of the valley.

Mostly a summary article on various pyramid theories.
Deconstructing Olduvai
The Olduvai Paleoanthropological and Paleoecological Project (TOPPP) in which the the Universidad Complutense de Madrid participated aims to expose the false presumptions made by previous studies which concluded that the first humans were scavengers. This is a well established model that has stood unchallenged until recently. The discussion is on.

The Olduvai Paleoanthropological and Paleoecological Project directed by Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Audax Mabulla from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Henry Bunn from the University of Wisconsin in the USA focuses on the excavation of the archaeological site I estimated to be two million years old and set at the famous Olduvai Gorge.

The contention with the Blumenschine team has led to discussions in magazines such as Nature nº 449 20th September 2007 and the Journal of Human Evolution nº 53, page. 427-433 October 2007, Domínguez-Rodrigo and his team have proved that what the other researchers interpreted as teeth marks made by carnivores on the fossils, are in reality biochemical marks with a very different origin, such as fungus and bacteria that were brought in to contact with the bones by the roots of plants that grew in the sediment in which they were buried.

Hard to decipher the article. They appear to be saying that most/all of the carnivore teeth marks on the faunal remains from Olduvai are not teeth marks at all. That implies that. . .well, it's difficult to say. They suggest that the assemblages aren't therefore related to anything the hominids were doing, i.e., that they weren't scavenging carcasses and leaving the remains all over the place.

I dunno, I'll have to read the original research. I kind of find it difficult to believe that taphonomists have been so wrong about tooth marks all this time. But, maybe on bones that old it's more difficult than I presume.
Archaeologists dig up 'oldest' African human sacrifice
French archaeologists in Sudan say they have uncovered the oldest proof of human sacrifice in Africa, hailing the discovery as the biggest Neolithic find on the continent for years.

The tomb of a 5,500-year-old man surrounded by three sacrificed humans, two dogs and exquisite ceramics were exhumed north of Khartoum by Neolithic expert Jacques Reinhold and his 66-year-old Austrian wife.

"This is the oldest proof of human sacrifice in Sudan, in Egypt, in Africa," Reinhold told reporters next to the remains in El Kadada village, a three-hour drive north of the Sudanese capital.
NatGeo has more on the 11th Dynasty tomb. Funny that he was on his side.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Here's a longer story on the Chumash village noted earlier.

Lasers conserve Pictish treasures

High-tech laser technology has been used to record and conserve one of the finest collections of Pictish carved stones in Scotland.

The St Vigeans Stones from Arbroath are being cleaned by a specialist team of Historic Scotland experts in Edinburgh.

Earlier efforts at conservation, dating back to the 1960s, carried out using the best techniques of the time have now reached the end of their life.

Well, I'd never heard of the term 'Pictish' before.
Ancient remains found near Cody
The chance discovery near here of human remains that may date to 1,000 years ago has triggered a process under federal law that will involve consulting with nearby Indian tribes to determine what happens next.

Two friends were heading out to go rabbit hunting Sunday on public land administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management when they noticed what they thought was an animal bone partially exposed in the dirt.

"We cleared out around it and realized it was a skull," said construction worker Mark Buhler, 28.
Indiana Jones update New trailer:

Please God, don't let them make the whole thing a big CGI/wire-fighting movie. . . .
Breaking news Middle Kingdom burial is found in Luxor
An intact 11th dynasty burial of a man called Iker has been unearthed in the Dra Abul Naga area on Luxor's west bank. Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni announced the discovery today, adding that the burial was found by a Spanish archaeological mission during routine excavation work in the open courtyard of TT11, the tomb of Djehuty.

Several photos of the coffin. At least the top part with some of the inscriptions is very well preserved:

(Via EEF

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Druid Grave Unearthed in U.K.?
Historical records tell of a mystical, priestly and learned class of elite individuals called Druids among Celtic societies in Britain, but there has been no archaeological evidence of their existence. Until, perhaps, now.

A series of graves found in a gravel quarry at Stanway near Colchester, Essex, have been dated to 40-60 A.D. At least one of the burials, it appears, may have been that of a Druid, according to a report published in British Archaeology.

Those more knowledgeable in things-Druid may have more to say.
Archaeologist dig may have found Chumash home foundation
Archaeologists digging in a garden at the Santa Barbara Mission may have unearthed the complete stone foundation of a Chumash house.

The dig is expected to be completed Wednesday under the watchful eyes of American Indian representatives.

The foundation of the home is believed to be part of what's left of a Chumash village at the site, which is at the northeastern edge of an Indian pueblo at the mission.

Much of the village remains were destroyed over the years. In one instance, portions were graded to make way for a parking lot in the 1950s and 1960s.

That's the whole thing.
Health-care plan in ancient Egypt? Research suggests more than spells, prayers
As Egyptian mummies go, Asru is a major celebrity. During her life in the 8th century B.C., she was known for her singing at the temple of Amun in Karnak; now she's famous for her medical problems. Forensic studies have revealed that although Asru lived into her 60s, she was not a well woman. She had furred-up arteries, desert lung (pneumoconiosis) caused by breathing in sand, osteoarthritis, a slipped disc, periodontal disease and possibly diabetes, as well as parasitic worms in her intestine and bladder. Her last years must have been full of pain and suffering. After all, what could her doctor do to help? Say a few prayers and recite a spell or two?

If you read the history books, that's about as much as Asru could expect. But not according to Jackie Campbell at the KNH Center for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester in England. Her research suggests that Asru's doctor probably consulted a handbook of remedies and prescribed something to soothe her cough, deaden the pain in her joints and perhaps even expel some of those worms. What's more, Campbell's findings indicate that Asru's doctor had more than 1,000 years of pharmaceutical expertise to draw on.

Interesting. I'm not sure, but I don't remember hearing about this work before, though I have a vague memory tickle about Egyptian pharmacology.
With Climate Swing, a Culture Bloomed in Americas
Along the coast of Peru, a mysterious civilization sprang up about 5,000 years ago. This was many centuries before the Incan Empire. Yet these people were sophisticated. They cultivated crops and orchards. And they built huge monuments of earth and rock.

Archaeologists are trying to prove that an abrupt change of climate created this new culture.

The culture has no official name yet. It flourished in a series of dry coastal valleys called Norte Chico. The place is a moonscape — desolate, misty, a place of rock and dirt, with the occasional cactus and a few hardy trees along the few streams and rivers.

Pretty good long article.
Historic Jaffa sea wall buried for safety's sake
Jaffa Port officials yesterday began covering a historic sea wall and adjoining piers unearthed in an archaeological dig a few weeks ago, despite public demand to leave them exposed.

The port director said yesterday that the wall would be covered only temporarily, so that people would not fall into pits exposed during the dig.

The sea wall, which once was 4.5 meters tall, protected Jaffa residents during the Ottoman Era. After 500 meters of the wall were exposed in an Israel Antiquities Authority dig, port preservationists, including the Israeli Architects Association and architect Yitzhak Lipowitzky Lir, requested that the wall be left on public display.

You'd think 'preservationists' would want it covered back up where it's been nicely PRESERVED for so long.
Dig diary update Betsy Bryan is once again producing a dig diary at the temple of Mut.
Peopling of the Americas update Migrating people had 20,000-year campout
People who migrated from Asia to the New World camped out for 20,000 years on land now submerged under the Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia, according to a genetic analysis published on Tuesday.

A team at the University of Florida combined studies of DNA, archeological evidence, climate data and geological data to come up with their new theory, which describes a much longer migration than most other researchers have proposed.

"We sort of went out onto a limb, incorporating all this nongenetic data," molecular anthropologist Connie Mulligan said in a telephone interview.

They still posit around 15k years ago for the initial migration. This still has the same problems as the usual theories: whether or not the ice-free corridor was habitable, or the coastal route for that matter (boat use aside). They have a link to the paper itself, but I haven't been able to load it yet.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blogging update Sorry about the limited posting today, but I had a telecon with India and scattered parts of the globe during prime blogging time. Will resume shortly!

But, you know, I'm just making that up so I can keep the HOT VIKING BABES post near the top.
Hot Viking Babes Viking women had sexy style
Women who lived in the major Viking settlement called Birka in the 9th and 10th centuries dressed in a much more provocative manner than previously believed.

When the area around Lake Mälaren was Christianized about a century later, women’s dress style became more modest, according to archaeologist Annika Larsson.

Previously, it was thought that Viking ladies wore a long garment held up by braces, made of square pieces of wool whose front and back sides were contained with a belt. The characteristic decorative circular buckles, a common find at many Viking-era grave sites, were believed to have been worn at the collarbone.

“The excavations which were done way back in the 1800s showed that this is not correct, and that the buckles instead were placed centrally over each breast. The traditional interpretation is that the buckles fell down to the waist after the body decomposed, but that is a prudish reconstruction,” says archaeologist Larsson.

Couldn't find the museum site for the exhibit, so no telling what the actual reconstructed garments look like.

However, I have already provided a possible reconstruction of what ancient Viking women may have looked like.
Really recent archaeology Tenants cleaning out abandoned AZ apartment find partially mummified body in bathtub
A partially mummified body was found in a bathtub filled with dirt in an apartment that was stacked to the ceiling with garbage and human waste.

Owners of the small, standalone unit thought it had been abandoned in August, when rent stopped being paid, Phoenix police Sgt. Joel Tranter said Monday.

Tranter said the owners didn't decide to do anything about the filthy apartment until last week, when they paid other tenants in the complex to clean it out.

Soon to be an episode of CSI. . . .

UPDATE: More corpse news:

S.F. police took a week to find corpse in van

Man lived with corpse for years

I'm kinda suspicious about the second one. After 5 years it started to smell? It would have either decomposed or mummified by that time, I should think.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Non-archaeology post I just wanted to throw out the Roy Scheider obit. I really liked him (not personally, of course). I first became aware of him via Jaws; I'd read the book before the movie and, although he didn't look like what I imagined Brody to look like, he played him the way I imagined. He really captured the Everyman nature of that character, a basic guy who just happens to be caught up in something totally weird.

My first date movie (and the first one I saw real naked female breasts!*) was All That Jazz, which was totally bizarre when I first saw it, but after I got a little older and 'got it', I liked it even more. I just remember thinking through the whole thing "Well, stop smoking, you stupid moron". The last scene with the body bag being zipped up is a real killer, one of the best cuts in cinematic history, IMO.

He was in some other stuff that I really liked. I already posted some on 2010 which I still like to watch even though the politics -- that were way overplayed, again IMO -- kinda make it stick out like a sore thumb. I also liked Blue Thunder which had one of the best scenes ever: It's about a new helicopter, and he's using it to listen in on the Bad Guys from outside their office building (it's got a super-quiet rotor mode and fancy listening devices) and eventually the main Bad Guy looks out the window and just notices the thing hovering there. . .and then it silently flies off. It ended up spun off as kind of a neat TV show called. . . .something or other. Had Jan Michael Vincent in it, I remember that.

He did a TV show called SeaQuest DSV which seemed like a cool idea but I quit watching it after a few eps because it was pathetically PC.

I've never seen the whole thing, but his car chase in The Seven-Ups is one of the great ones, especially the end.

Once I get my big-ass TV, 2010 is going to be one of the first movies on it. Thanks for all that, Roy.

* Technically, the first boobs I saw were in Vanishing Point. I was like 9 and we saw it at a drive-in so I wasn't in much of a position to fully appreciate it.
Fayum Neolithic update Here's more on that whole big Neolithic site linked to earlier. (this via the EEF) New stone age in Fayoum

At the site, known as Z-Basin, on the north shore of Lake Qaroun, an archaeological and geological team from University College of Los Angeles (UCLA) and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG) stumbled upon what is believed to be the most complete Neolithic settlement ever found in Fayoum. This discovery was made when the team was surveying the site to study fluctuations in the lake level which caused artefacts to be either covered with metres of sediment or dramatically displaced by erosion.

This site was previously excavated in 1925 by Gertund Caton-Thompson, who found several Neolithic remains. This time the magnetic survey revealed that the settlement was much larger than expected and that the area excavated by Thompson was only a fraction of the site.

Apparently, the earlier stories were conflating finds of Greco-Roman and Neolithic. I don't recall exactly the locations (don't have my references handy either), but either Caton-Thompson's Kom W and/or Kom K are located in Z Basin. This is one of the more major Neolithic sites in the Fayum and if C-T only excavated part of it, there could be significant stuff left to find.

There's been something of an odd dichotomy for the Neolithic in the Fayum. On the one hand, you've got some fairly substantial sites that C-T found, including grain silos and such that indicate a heavy reliance on agricultural products and silos that suggest a pretty good degree of sedentism. OTOH, Wenke's site in the southwest (see some summary here) seems a lot more reflective of mobile groups with a substantial reliance on wild flora and fauna and no structures at all. It's been something of a quandary how sedentary and dependent on domesticates the Neolithic Fayumis really were. If the Kom W/K site is really much larger it should provide a LOT more data.
Post-processualism explained
This reminds me of the best strategy for writing one of those most-cited law review articles. You clearly and strongly state a position that everyone else is going to disagree with. Then when they write their articles, and they need to refer to that position, you'll be the citation.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ancient Maya Used "Glitter" Paint to Make Temple Gleam
The ancient Maya painted some of their ornate temples with mica to make them sparkle in the sun, a new study suggests.

Scientists discovered traces of the shiny mineral while analyzing flakes of paint taken from the Rosalila temple in Copán, Honduras.

The temple, built in the sixth century A.D., today sits "entombed" in a giant pyramid built around it. (See a cut-away view of the Rosalila temple.)

No word if teenaged Maya girls used it for makeup.
Neanderthal update Ancient tooth suggests Neanderthals were more mobile
Analysis of a 40,000-year-old tooth found in southern Greece suggests Neanderthals were more mobile than once believed, paleontologists and the Greek Culture Ministry said Friday.

Analysis of the tooth — part of the first and only Neanderthal remains found in Greece — showed the ancient human to whom it belonged had spent at least part of its life away from the area where it died.

"Neanderthal mobility is highly controversial," said paleoanthropology Professor Katerina Harvati at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

They used strontium isotope ratios, similar to other analyses elsewhere. Not sure where the idea that Neanderthals didn't move around very much came from; I'd not heard of it before.
Not for the squeamish The Romans carried out cataract ops
Think of the Roman legacy to Britain and many things spring to mind - straight roads, under-floor heating, aqueducts and public baths.

But they were also pioneers in the health arena - particularly in the area of eye care, with remedies for various eye conditions such as short-sightedness and conjunctivitis.

Perhaps most surprisingly of all is that the Romans - and others from ancient times, including the Chinese, Indians and Greeks - were also able also to carry out cataract operations.

Not the Nile kind.
Archaeologists unearth 2500-yr-old city in Orissa
Archaeologists have made interesting findings at an ancient city Sisupalgarh in Orissa, which is more than 2500 yrs old. They believe it is older and bigger than even Athens in Greece.

Situated on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, Sisupalgarh was once a thriving metropolis, with a population of over 25,000. That makes it even larger than the biggest city of classical Greece, Athens.

University of California Head archeologist Dr Monica L Smith says, “These cities from a very early time about the third or fourth century BC were very densely populated and urban in every sense of the word.”
Biblical archaeology update Digging Up Jerusalem's Past Is Tricky
Underneath the homes and ragged streets of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan lie the remnants of a glorious Jewish past: coins, seals, a water tunnel hewn by a Judean king 2,700 years ago, a road that led to a biblical Temple.

But archaeology is hard-wired into the politics of modern-day Arab-Israeli strife, and new digs to unearth more of this past are cutting to the heart of the charged argument over who owns the holy city today.

Israel says it's reconnecting with its ancient heritage. Palestinians contend the archaeology is a political weapon to undermine their own links to Jerusalem.
The Mound House: Archaeologist sheds light on restoration
Canadian archaeologist Theresa Schober spent her childhood visiting ghost towns across the United States and Canada with her father, Frank Schober.

Now, the 37-year-old director of the Mound House on Fort Myers Beach, who is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida, studies the historical significance and behaviors of the habitants of Estero Island, in particular the Mound House, which is built atop a Calusa Indian Mound dating back to 4000 B.C.

“I attribute it to my father,” Schober explains. “I remember as a young teenager, there was nothing anyone could say.”

Friday, February 08, 2008

Digging Archaeology: Taos Project Requires Hard Work, Soft Skills
For hundreds of years the beauty and mystery of Taos, New Mexico, have lured thousands of settlers and visitors, from the ancestors of the Taos and Picuris Indians and Spanish settlers to skiing enthusiasts and artists.

Now students participating in SMU's Archaeology Field School have answered the call of Taos in their own way. In summer 2007 they began work on the first phase of a research project that will bring together University faculty and students, Taos community leaders, private landowners, and local, state and federal government agencies. The multifaceted undertaking will involve surveying on foot and through satellite and Google Earth images, as well as archival research and excavation.

Field schools ought to be gearing up soon, so get your spots now!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Doctoral student makes discovery on Neanderthal eating habits
A doctoral student studying hominid paleobiology has pioneered a method for analyzing reindeer bones from around 65,000 to 12,000 years ago, an accomplishment that allows scientists to further understand the eating habits of early humans.

Early humans flocked to reindeer meat when the temperature dropped, J. Tyler Faith discovered.

"We see a steady increase in the abundance of reindeer, associated with declines in summer temperature," Faith said.
She crucified her enemies and burnt London to the ground. Meet Britain's first feminist, Boadicea
Britain's history is rich in fiery queens, and the first such heroine, tall with red hair down to her waist, commanding and brave, was Boadicea, warrior leader of the ancient Britons.

She lived at the same time as the emperors Claudius and Nero, and led a surprisingly successful British revolt against Roman rule in AD60-61 (which, for reference, was when St Paul was writing epistles and St Mark composing his Gospel).

She was a notable orator. Her enemies, the Romans, said her voice was strident, but, as Margaret Thatcher found, any woman seeking to establish authority over an assembly of men is open to this accusation.

I did a post on her a long time ago (search for 'Boudica'). The article is rather long and detailed.

Careful searching for the actor, Alex Kingston; she's done some pretty racy things as far as I can tell.

But let me go check again. . . . .
Royal Goddesses of a Bronze Age State
Its arms arranged in a gesture of prayer, the figurine at right probably depicts a living queen worshipping the statuette of a dead royal, left. (Courtesy Maura Sala)

It's been more than 30 years since Italian archaeologists found a vast archive of 17,000 cuneiform tablets at the Bronze Age site of Ebla in northern Syria. But the ancient city is still surprising those who work there. Last year archaeologist Paolo Matthiae's team discovered two almost perfectly preserved figurines that confirm textual evidence for a royal cult of the dead focused on the city's queens. They also found an unusual tablet that allowed scholars to reconstruct the political climate that led to Ebla's destruction in 2300 B.C., when it was sacked by Sargon of Akkad.
Ancient bones may hold key
Ancient human remains held in Portsmouth's museum archives are set to be DNA-tested for signs of tuberculosis.
Skeletons which have been dug up in the city during developments, some dating back to the Bronze Age, will now form a vital part of new research into TB.
Academics from Durham and Manchester universities have asked permission to remove bits of bone and teeth to analyse as part of their research project into how tuberculosis evolved through the ages.
The remains of two ancient city dwellers, one which is known to have suffered TB and one which did not, will be studied.
It is hoped their discoveries will lead to the formulation of new drugs to combat the disease, which is currently on the increase.

One of those cases where archaeology has some applicability to modern problems.
Cave of Romulus and Remus Does a cave prove Romulus and Remus are no myth?
The discovery of an ancient Roman cave has unearthed a debate about its historical purpose and delved into a deeper question for scholars: Can archaeology prove mythology?

The cave was found when a camera was lowered through a hole in Rome's Palatine Hill during restorations of the palace of the Emperor Augustus, who ruled from the late first century B.C. until his death in A.D. 14. The Palatine Hill was a seat of power in ancient Rome; today it is home to the fragile remains of palaces and temples.

The discovery of the vaulted cavern, more than 50 feet underground and covered in mosaics, was announced in November. Some believe it is a shrine of the Lupercale, the sacred cave where Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, are said to have been suckled by a wolf —lupa in Latin.

Not a new news story and I don't see much in it that hasn't already been out there.

Artist's conception of what Romulus may have looked like:

Artist's conception of what Remus may have looked like:
Lice from mummies provide clues to ancient migrations
When two pre-Columbian individuals died 1,000 years ago, arid conditions in the region of what is now Peru naturally mummified their bodies, down to the head lice in their long, braided hair.

This was all scientists needed, they reported Wednesday, to extract well-preserved louse DNA and establish that the parasites had accompanied their human hosts in the original peopling of the Americas, probably as early as 15,000 years ago. The DNA matched that of the most common type of louse known to exist worldwide, now and before European colonization of the New World.

Neat study.
Lost civilization Gungywamp. . . .found What In The World Is A Gungywamp?
Gungywamp is a 100-acre area in Groton that archaeologists consider a treasure. Its exact origins remain a mystery, but its unusual stonework and artifacts span centuries, if not eons.

Among Gungywamp's features are stone chambers that researchers believe were Colonial-era root cellars or animal birthing shelters erected by English-Scottish immigrants. Of these, two are intact. One contains a solar calendar: during the spring and autumn equinox, the sun shines through an opening in the west wall and lights the opposite wall, which reflects some light into a smaller, interior, beehive-shaped chamber. Solar timetables helped farmers decide when to plant and harvest crops or avoid crop freeze in the winter and crop rot in the summer. Archaeologists have found no evidence to support the popular theory that medieval Celtic monks built the chambers. Still, the lack of artifacts in the chambers leaves room for speculation.

I can sleep better at night knowing such a thing as a Gungywamp exists.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sorta archaeology Adolf Hitler's 'lost fleet' found in Black Sea
The submarines had been carried 2,000 miles overland from Germany to attack Russian shipping during the Second World War, but were scuttled as the war neared its end. Now, more than 60 years on, explorers have located the flotilla of three submarines off the coast of Turkey.

The vessels, including one once commanded by Germany's most successful U-boat ace, formed part of the 30th Flotilla of six submarines, taken by road and river across Nazi-occupied Europe, from Germany's Baltic port at Kiel to Constanta, the Romanian Black Sea port.

They don't seem to be deep enough for the anoxic layer to have preserved the organic remains which I think starts at over 100 meters down, but they still should hold a lot of intact stuff. Be neat if they could be raised.
Antiquity had more than a monochrome palette
We are so used to the white purity of ancient marble sculptures that we imagine the Greeks and Romans felt the same: certainly the artists and patrons of the Renaissance and later centuries believed that white was right. New research using strong raking light sources and beams of ultraviolet light has shown, however, that many Classical statues were gaudily painted in a plethora of colours.

“The ideal of unpainted sculpture took shape in Renaissance Rome, inspired by finds and early collections of Classical marble statues such as the Laocoön, discovered in 1506, said Dr Susanne Ebbinghaus of Harvard University, organiser of a recent conference on Gods in Colour. These were denuded of their painted surfaces by prolonged exposure to the elements, burial and often, most likely, a good scrub upon recovery.”

Not entirely a new thing but the "raking light" seems a new twist. It looks as if the technique shows differences in texture where different colors were placed(?).
Whoops Archeologist revises read of ancient seal inscription
A prominent Israeli archeologist said Monday that she has revised her reading of an inscription on an ancient seal uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David after various scholars around the world critiqued her original interpretation of the name on the seal.

The 2,500 year-old black stone seal was found last month amid stratified layers of debris in the excavation under way just outside the Old City walls near the Dung Gate, said archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is leading the dig.

Mazar had originally read the name on the seal as "Temech," and suggested that it belonged to the family of that name mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah.
Nerds to the rescue Hidden art could be revealed by new terahertz device
Like X-rays let doctors see the bones beneath our skin, "T-rays" could let art historians see murals hidden beneath coats of plaster or paint in centuries-old buildings, University of Michigan engineering researchers say.

T-rays, pulses of terahertz radiation, could also illuminate penciled sketches under paintings on canvas without harming the artwork, the researchers say. Current methods of imaging underdrawings can't detect certain art materials such as graphite or sanguine, a red chalk that some of the masters are believed to have used.

Very neat and something I hadn't heard of before. This is how it works:
The rays permeate the plaster, and some reflect back when there is a change in the material. When they bounce back and how much energy they retain depends on the material they hit. Different colors of paint, or the presence of graphite, for example, cause tell-tale differences in the amount of energy in the returning waves. A receiver measures this energy, and the scientists can use the data to produce an image of what lies beneath, Jackson explained.

Apparently it's been used on the space shuttle to check for subsurface cracks. It will be really great if they can get it to go even deeper. Not too long and we'll be reading books without opening them!

Hope of finding first King's home

Archaeologists believe they could be closer to discovering the site of the palace belonging to the first King of a united Scotland.

The academics at Glasgow University have been studying documents and previous archaeological finds to narrow down the location in Perthshire.

They will return in August to Forteviot in the hope of uncovering evidence of Kenneth MacAlpine's wooden castle.
More on the Greek altar here.
Bones found of Indians from 1,000 years ago
The remains of people who archaeologists said may have lived along the Tennessee River more than 1,000 years ago will be moved from a Bridgeport plant expansion site.

For the past several months, a Georgia archaeology group has been studying human remains and materials found at the site at U.S. Gypsum, said state archaeologist Stacye Hathorn. The company, which found the remains of several American Indians when it began building a drywall plant in Bridgeport in 1998, discovered more within the past year, she said.
From arrowheads in the attic to archaeology
"I was going through her attic with my mom and aunts, and I found this bag of arrowheads that my uncle, Arthur Decker, had collected when he was Boy Scouts age," Morris said.

"I thought they were really cool."

When the female leadership of the family said Bobby could keep the collection if he wanted?

Well, that was cooler yet.

Neat little article.
Archaeologists search for Lincoln's boyhood Kentucky home
In a small Kentucky valley bordered by forested hills and a low creek, Abraham Lincoln's first memories took root: of planting pumpkins, walking to school, nearly drowning in a swollen stream and seeing shackled slaves shuffle along a dusty turnpike.

National Park Service archaeologists are using shovels, sifters and magnetometers to search for artifacts of Lincoln's Kentucky boyhood, and, if they're lucky, the farm's Holy Grail: The missing footprint of the tiny cabin where the nation's 16th president lived from ages 2 to 7.

"He formed his first impressions here, and his connection to Kentucky followed him throughout his life," says Sandy Brue, an official with the nearby Lincoln Birthplace National Historic site.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Blogging update Might not post much the rest of today because I, um, errrr, okay, I'll probably spend this evening watching the Super Bowl ads online. I didn't watch much of the actual game -- except the last 2 minutes, yay! -- so didn't see any of the commercials.

I have to say I'm pleased with the results. Of the game, that is. The Child Of The '70s in me kind of wants the '72 Fins to remain the only unbeaten (of the "modern era" anyway). I don't really remember that season, since I was only like 10, but I do remember watching a lot of the players from that team. Back then I loved the name "Mercury Morris" and was fascinated that you didn't pronounce the 'C' in Csonka. Back then I was a Minnesota Vikings fan, even if I lived in Wisconsin. I missed the Packer glory years so by the time I started paying attention to football they really sucked. Why would I root for a bad team with boring helmets? I liked the whole Purple People Eater thing.

I don't hate the Vikings now, but to the extent that I follow pro ball, it's the Packers for me. I kind of feel positive towards the Vikes these days since Brad Childress took over; he was the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin when they finally became good in the 1990s under Alvarez. He always had good disciplined offenses at Wisconsin; nothing too fancy, but he worked with what he had brilliantly.

Okay, enough of that. Will post archy stuff at the next opportunity.

UPDATE: Actually, not much time spent viewing SB commercials. Had too much other stuff to do, including going through piles of junk on my desk. I'm terrible at that. I put stuff on my desk that I don't immediately know what to do with and it just keeps piling up. We used to call that 'creating a desk midden'.

There was at least one archaeologically-related one:

Eh. Not like you couldn't see it coming from a mile away.