Thursday, July 31, 2008

Eclipses in Ancient China Spurred Science, Beheadings?
The Olympics aren't the only epic event occurring in China next month. A total solar eclipse, the first since 2006, will turn day to night on Friday, the first of August.

The eclipse will also be visible in parts of northern Canada, Greenland, Siberia, and Mongolia.

Many Chinese will celebrate the celestial event with parties and viewing festivities—but it wasn't always so.
Mummy update

First indication for embalming in Roman Greece
A Swiss-Greek research team co-lead by Dr. Frank Rühli from the Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich, found indication for embalming in Roman Greek times. By means of physico-chemical and histological methods, it was possible to show that various resins, oils and spices were used during embalming of a ca. 55 year old female in Northern Greece. This is the first ever multidisciplinary-based indication for artificial mummification in Greece at 300 AD.

The remains of a ca. 55-year old female (ca. 300 AD, most likely of high-social status; actual location: Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece) shows the preservation of various soft-tissues, hair and part of a gold-embroidered silk cloth. This unique find allows multidisciplinary research on these tissues. In addition to macroscopic and anthropological analyses, electron microscopy and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry examinations were also performed. These showed the presence of various embalming substances including myrrh, fats and resins, but could not demonstrate clearly a conservatory influence of the surrounding lead coffin from Roman period.
Bones mystery
CREMATED bones thought to date from around 3,500BC to 2,000BC have been unearthed by archaeologists during a dig near Lough Fea.
A team of four archaeologists came across a mound of stones, known as a cairn which often points to a burial site, at the Creagh Concrete plant near Blackwater Bridge.

The find was unearthed when workers from Creagh Concrete were extracting gravel earlier this week. An archaeologist is always present on site when work of this nature is being carried out.
A Fake Ancient Disc?
The hundred-year-old mystery of a famous ancient artifact, according to one art history scholar, might be summed up with a single word: hubris.

In the current issue of Minerva, an art and archaeology journal, Jerome M. Eisenberg calls the famous Phaistos Disc, thought to be a story or sacred text of unknown but ancient origin, a fraud. The flat, circular clay disc is about six inches in diameter, and its purpose and stamped pictographic script have been the subject of scholarly debate over the last century.

The comments are mostly uninteresting.
Discovering How Greeks Computed in 100 B.C.
The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the first analog computer, was recovered more than a century ago in the wreckage of a ship that sank off the tiny island of Antikythera, north of Crete. Earlier research showed that the device was probably built between 140 and 100 B.C.

Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism. The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument’s back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar.

Neat because it's actual data.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Large Roman settlement unearthed by builders
A HUGE early Roman settlement unearthed in Cirencester is the most significant historical discovery ever made in the town, archaeologists said this week.

The encampment which covers several hectares, dates back to the late-Iron Age in the 1st century ad, and was likely to have been occupied by the first Roman settlers in Cirencester.

Alongside the exciting discovery at the Kingshill development on the A417, Oxford Archaeologists unearthed a Bronze Age burial mound dating back to 2,000 bc containing a skeleton.
Archaeologists pleased with accomplishments of visit
While there was no “spectacular” shipwrecks discovered on their inaugural exploration of waters off L’Anse aux Meadows, underwater archaeologists are raving about the potential for marine cultural resources.

John Moore, a member of the team, described the results of the nine-day preliminary exploration as accomplishments rather than findings. The team spoke to local fisherman and residents about the known history of the marine environment on the Northern Peninsula and learned the logistics of the area in terms of navigation and hazards.

“For us, it is kind of a big deal,” Moore told The Western Star Tuesday via cellphone from Rocky Harbour. “It doesn’t sound like much, but to us it is.”

Not apparently expecting to find any Norse remains.
Archaeologists Find Forgotten Graveyard
Archaeologists uncovered four Colonial period graves and the remains of a fence that bounded the cemetery during a two week study of historic Port Tobacco. At least one of the graves is that of a child.

Volunteers from across Maryland, as well as from New York and New Jersey, participated in the excavation of four sites that had been identified during an archaeological survey of the Colonial town site last fall. Project sponsors included the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco, Charles County's departments of Planning and Economic Development, the Maryland Historical Trust, and the Archeological Society of Maryland.
Archaeologists to investigate town
ARCHAEOLOGISTS and volunteers are set to dig in Ledbury gardens in the search for clues regarding the town’s medieval history.

Local volunteers with the Victoria County History project have been busy measuring street frontages this summer in a bid to discover more about the Ledbury’s development in the Middle Ages.

The idea is that more recent buildings were probably built on a earlier medieval foundations.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Online paper alert Prehistory vs. Archaeology: Terms of Engagement
David Clarke wrote that ‘A modern empirical discipline ought to be able to aim at more rewarding results than the maintenance of … a steady flow of counterfeit history books’ (Clarke 1978, p. 1), and it seemed very clear to him that ‘archaeology is archaeology is archaeology’. When done analytically, it could contribute to an interpretive picture that might be a source for writing prehistory, or even history, but it was—or should be—disciplinarily distinct. More recently, Richard Bradley, decrying a ‘loss of nerve’ among archaeologists, has insisted that we must ‘aspire to write human history’ (1993, p. 131). And, outlining the emerging theory of ‘materiality’, I have described artefacts as ‘social things that yet survive’, and therefore entities with a potential for ‘eroding Clarke’s politely drawn but never wholly convincing distinction between archaeology as a study of artifacts and prehistory as a form of history made possible by it’ (Taylor 2008, p. 315). I will return to this later, but note that, at least from outside our discipline(s), descriptions of what we do, and its preferred terminologies, may be confusing. Are they actually confused?

Haven't read it yet but it's an academic thing, so perhaps too dry for the average reader (or even a lot of professional readers). Reminds me of some of the issues Dunnell tackled in Systematics in Prehistory. Matter of act, he has this to say:
Prehistory has been defined many times and in various ways, this fact itself contributing in no small measure to the vagueness surrounding the meaning. Universal acceptance has not been accorded any definition, at least in part because all the definitions are more or less substantive, tied to a given area or problem. (p.114)

He notes that Spaulding defined 'prehistory' in 1953 as what prehistorians do and nothing more. I guess we're bound to have this discussion every 30 years or so. "What is it we're doing again?"
'Chicken and Chips' Theory of Pacific Migration
A new study of DNA from ancient and modern chickens has shed light on the controversy about the extent of pre-historic Polynesian contact with the Americas.

The study questions recent claims that chickens were first introduced into South America by Polynesians, before the arrival of Spanish chickens in the 15th century following Christopher Columbus.

It is published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (July 28) by an international research group, including scientists from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD).

Hmmmmm. That conflicts with this work from last year. Apart from the DNA evidence you still have the remains dated prior to contact. That dating regimen will no doubt have to be reexamined.
Ancient grave found on Bognor new homes site
Land soon to become a new housing estate has yielded an unexpected treasure – a 2,000- year-old skeleton, believed to be that of a prince, a warrior or a priest.

Planning permission has been granted for more than 600 houses in open fields at North Bersted near Bognor.

But before the work could go ahead, an archaeological survey had to be carried out on the site to check if there was anything of historical interest under the topsoil.

What the team from the Thames Valley Archaeological Services found was beyond their wildest dreams.

Also this: “The burial and its grave goods seems to have been placed in a large coffin or casket bound by iron hoops with an iron framed structure placed on top.”

I've never heard of that sort of structure before either.
Many hands painted Lascaux caves
One thing that strikes the visitor is the exuberance of the compositions, with hundreds of animals, including bison, horses and deer, parading along the walls and ceilings, often overlapping. A big problem in sorting out possible groupings of animals, and possible motives for painting them, has been the issue of contemporaneity — what was painted when?

A recent study by scientists at the Louvre’s research and conservation laboratories has suggested one avenue of approach, by studying the chemical structure of pigments from the cave walls and ancient antlers from Palaeolithic sites. The presence of minuscule antler fragments in the paints may enable animal figures composed at the same time, using the same batch of paint, to be isolated and then studied apart from neighbouring depictions.
Ruins may be Viking hunting outpost in Greenland
Ruins recently discovered on Greenland may mark the Vikings' most northerly year-round hunting outpost on the icy island, a researcher said on Monday.

Knut Espen Solberg, leader of 'The Melting Arctic' project mapping changes in the north, said the remains uncovered in past weeks in west Greenland may also be new evidence that the climate was less chilly about 1,000 years ago than it is today.

'We found something that most likely was a dock, made of rocks, for big ships up to 20-30 metres (60-90 ft) long,' he told Reuters by satellite phone from a yacht off Greenland. He said further study and carbon dating were needed to pinpoint the site's age.

Artist's conception of what the Vikings may have looked like:

Monday, July 28, 2008

Past stalls future development in Lebanon; cost to remove artifacts in 6 figures
Fred and Bonnie Paskvan want the world to know they are not against archaeology.

But they are against being required to pay for it, especially when the estimated minimum cost of clearing their land of buried artifacts from a 1,000-year-old Mississippian village is at least $100,000 and may be several times that.

The cost sunk a deal they were trying to make with a home builder they had hoped would buy a tract of land purchased years ago as an investment.

That's rather unfortunate.
Flint hints at existence of Palaeolithic man in Ireland
Dr Farina Sternke has identified it as a classic Levallois-type flake from the rejuvenation of a flint core; such flakes are characteristic of stone-tool industries made by archaic humans of the pre-Neanderthal era, as technology moved towards making multiple flakes from one core and then trimming them into a variety of different tool types.

The date assigned of between 240,000 and 180,000 years matches a similar flake discovered by the late Professor Frank Mitchell near Drogheda, Co Louth, 40 years ago, which has until now been the only uncontested Palaeolithic tool from Ireland.
SDSU Archaeology Team Unearthing Long-Buried Whaley House Artifacts
San Diego State University - SDSU anthropology professor Seth Mallios and his team of students are spending their summer in a way only they would enjoy - inside a long-buried well at what’s been called the most haunted house in the United States.

With the support of the County of San Diego and Save Our Heritage Organisation, Mallios is excavating the site of a long-buried cistern and nearby privy, or outhouse, on the property of the historic Whaley House in Old Town San Diego. SDSU’s South Coastal Information Center and students from SDSU’s Department of Anthropology field school are assisting with the dig.
At least one mammoth tooth found in Portage County
An archaeologist is looking into the discovery of mammoth teeth in Portage County.

The director of the Central Wisconsin Archaeology Center, Dr. Ray Reser, says a couple months ago a man brought him the tooth he claimed to have dug up a year ago at a Plover quarry.

He told Reser he and others were digging in sand when they hit what appeared to be the lower part of a jaw.

Given how far down the tooth was and the sediment it was found in, Reser says it could be anywhere from 20,000 to 120,000 years old.
Digging deep to reveal the human cost of war
But Pollard, director of the university's Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, which he co-founded in 2006, has always kicked against the stereotype of the military historian as the schoolboy who never grew up. He is concerned about what he regards as archaeology's failure to give due attention to war and conflict, particularly the human experience of it. "When I was at university, it would have been very unfashionable to profess an interest in military history," he says. "You had to vote for Maggie Thatcher and play war games, which is plainly not the point. I think in archaeology there has been a tendency to look at the past through rose-tinted spectacles and ignore the fact there's always been conflict in human society."

That conviction has made him a world authority in the new discipline of battlefield archaeology. For him, establishing which army was positioned where is not the attraction. "There are those who are content to sit down and measure musket balls, but I'm more interested in the human experience of warfare," he says. "At times, archaeology is the closest thing you get to a time machine. When you're handling stuff for the first time in 250 years and you think this bullet may have marked someone's last moments on this earth', it's a very visceral experience."

It's certainly becoming more accepted. I remember a few years ago when I first linked to a couple of stories on battlefield archy, I thought it was restricted to relic hunters and reenactment buffs.
Archaeologist combs through Utah abandoned town
A New York anthropologist is combing through an old townsite in Utah's Skull Valley looking for clues to what life was like in the abandoned town.

Benjamin Pykles, a professor at the State University of New York, is conducting the first archaeological survey of Iosepa (pronounced yo-see-pa) , a mostly Polynesian community that survived 28 years.
Archaeologists to share research of 18th-century Fort St. Joseph
Western Michigan University archaeologists are searching the depths of southwestern Michigan's history, and members of the public will have a chance to see what they've learned during an open house this weekend at Fort St. Joseph in Niles.

An open house offering a look at the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project and 18th-century life will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday to highlight the history and archaeology of Fort St. Joseph.
Archaeologist conducts survey at site for new hospital
Kneeling in the soft, wet dirt in Dave Reisz's cornfield west of Denison, Bill Whitaker from the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist in Iowa City, sank a three-quarter-inch-diameter probe into the soil.

The core samples Whitaker took on Thursday are part of the work for a survey being conducted on the site for the proposed Crawford County Memorial Hospital replacement facility.

The 40.5 acres the hospital is buying includes land that is currently planted in corn and pasture land to the east of the corn field. The property is located near Highway 59/141.

Whitaker added that his survey has been made more difficult by the presence of old-time baseball players appearing mysteriously out of the corn. "Scared the bejeebus out of me the first couple of times," he said, "but I got used to it. That and the whispering voice."

Okay, I made that last part up.
Cemetery archaeology update Archaeologists Using GPS to Map Staunton Cemetery
A marriage between cutting-edge technology and history is helping restore an African American cemetery in Staunton. Rivanna Archaeological Services is using GPS gear to create detailed maps of Fairview cemetery.

The cemetery, which is located along Lambert Street, dates back to 1869 and has hundreds of unmarked graves. Archeologists are plotting the exact locations of memorials, plot boundaries and landscaping features.

I think this is going to blossom as a subdiscipline. It's probably larger already than I'm aware of, but it seems to me that as development expands outward more historic cemeteries are going to have to be accurately mapped and at least documented, if not studied in some detail.

There's video at the link but I wasn't able to open it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Records confirm slave burial ground under VCU parking lot
A review of historic maps, photographs and other resources has confirmed with "reasonable certainty" that part of a burial ground for slaves and other African-Americans rests under a parking lot now owned by Virginia Commonwealth University, officials said today.

The Richmond Slave Trail Commission and VCU said in a joint statement that they will begin to discuss ways to properly memorialize the site, along Interstate 95 in Shockoe Bottom.

The article is short, but its got a link to the original report. It mentions georeferencing of older maps with modern GIS data and has some of the old maps overlaid into recent aerial photos. Good read.
Great Naked Mummy Controversy update Mummies cover-up reversed
MANCHESTER Museum has reversed its decision to cover up its Egyptian mummies in response to public opinion.

The museum covered up three unwrapped mummies on display, sparking accusations of political correctness, two months ago.

The cover-up was part of a consultation on how the mummies will be displayed when the museum's ancient Egypt gallery is redeveloped.

See this post for history.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Non-archaeology post Another in our continuing series of Great Albums You've Probably Never Heard Of: Crash and Burn by Pat Travers:

You know, I was going to go all snarky and kind of label this a "great" album, but since listening to it right now it's a lot less. . .ummmmm. . .crotch rock than I remembered. Mainly because the song I particularly remember is Snortin' Whiskey which was the big hit off of it and is fairly heavy. In fact, Travers was always pretty hard rock and most of the album is just that. OTOH, a few of the tracks on this one are not what you would expect. He does a cover of Bob Marley's Is This Love? which was the first time I'd ever heard the song. Born Under a Bad Sign is also more bluesey than you'd expect and he's got a slower ballad-type song on it. Probably more jazz-like rhythms than you'd expect from a basically guitar-heavy rock band of that era.

He never really reached a whole lot of commercial success; what he had was primarily on the old AOR stations, which is where I first heard him. Apparently, he influenced a lot of other hard rock guitarists though and still tours today. I have an original vinyl copy but I bought it from iTunes, too. Apparently, the Hot Shot album is considered his best, but alas, this is the only Travers album I've ever heard.

Side note: I got this album along with a bunch of others when I joined one of those record-by-mail clubs. You know, they used to advertise 13 LPs for 1 cent! Of course, you had to then agree to buy like 5 more at the regular price which was like $12.99 or something (expensive in those days). And they would automatically send you their pick of the month unless you sent a card back in with a different pick or rejecting it altogether. Hence, my first order of 11 or 13 or whatever had a lot of LPs that I had always kind of thought I should get but never did. I know I got this one, a Marshall Tucker, Christopher Cross (shut up), Pablo Cruise (shut up), and some others.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Exploration of underwater forest
Underwater archaeologists are taking to Loch Tay to try to uncover more about a submerged prehistoric woodland.

The stumps of about 50 trees were discovered in 2005 - some of them are thought to be about 6,000 years old.

The experts are now aiming to find their root system and establish the depth to which the trees are buried.

Meanwhile, a campaign has been launched to help restore the reconstructed crannog, an ancient loch dwelling, which attracts thousands of visitors.
Archaeology needs to recover its core principles and ethics
Many felt that the partisan nature of the State sector indicated that few field colleagues in the private sector would consider reporting instances of bad practice. Following the debate on Tara and several similar cases from other countries, WAC's final plenary passed the following resolution: "Noting the increasing role of the private sector/cultural resource management in the profession, the World Archaeological Congress expresses serious concern at the potential for erosion of standards and professional ethics. The congress calls for explicit inclusion of these concerns in its Code of Ethics. The congress calls on all colleagues to support those field archaeologists working in the private sector, who are striving to maintain professional standards in difficult conditions."

An opinion piece (obviously) centering mostly on Ireland and the interminable Tara road issue.

UPDATE: Response here:
MAGGIE RONAYNE'S article . . . displays a remarkably inaccurate, wildly biased, and completely unfounded perspective on the practice of archaeology, and especially commercial archaeology, in Ireland.
Remote sensing update Ancient Olympic Chariot Racetrack Located?
As the Beijing Olympics draw near, archaeologists are reporting the discovery of the long-lost chariot race track at the Greek birthplace of the games.

German researchers claim to have identified the hippodrome at Olympia, in Western Greece, some 1,600 years after the historic sports venue disappeared under river mud.

. . .

Researchers located the site using geomagnetic technology, a method that allows archaeologists to trace ancient structural features hidden beneath the soil.
Museum in Gaza to display area's rich cultural history
The exhibit is housed in a stunning hall made up partly of the saved stones of old houses, discarded wood ties of a former railroad and bronze lamps and marble columns uncovered by Gazan fishermen and construction workers.

And while the display might be pretty standard stuff almost anywhere else - arrowheads, Roman anchors, Bronze Age vases and Byzantine columns - life is currently so gray in Gaza that the museum, with its glimpses of a rich outward-looking history, seems somehow dazzling.

"The idea is to show our deep roots from many cultures in Gaza," Khoudary said as he sat in the lush, antiquities-filled garden of his Gaza City home a few miles from the museum. "It's important that people realize we had a good civilization in the past. Israel has legitimacy from its history. We do too."
How Did People Reach the Americas?
After years of spirited debate over how and when people first reached the Americas, scientists finally seem poised to reach agreement. The emerging consensus: In contrast to what was long held as conventional wisdom, it now seems likely that the first Americans did not wait for ice sheets covering Canada to melt some 13,000 years ago, which would have allowed them to traipse south over solid ground. Instead, early nomads might well have traveled by boat or at least along the coast from Siberia to North America, perhaps navigating arctic waters near today's Bering Strait. The telltale evidence: ancient DNA from those early people that's been coaxed, by powerful analytical technology, into revealing its secret.

Not much there for those who have been following all this (especially here!). A few tidbits on other DNA studies though.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

VIDEO: 2,000-year-old Roman body found in West Sussex
A 2,000-year-old body has been uncovered in North Bersted.
The rare find has excited archaeologists who have labelled the discovery as being of international importance.

The skeleton is believed to have been a warrior who died around the time of the Roman invasion of England in AD43. He is likely to have been a prince or rich person of some status because of the quantity and quality of goods found with his remains.

Video quality isn't all that great, but it shows the location of the grave.
Giza boat update National Geographic has a video up with a little blurb about it. Don't show too much of the actual BOAT FOOTAGE though. Odd, the narrator says it will be left there.
New life given to ancient Egyptian texts stored at Stanford for decades
About 70 texts in Stanford's collection of several hundred papyri were taken from storage and brought to the university's conservation lab in April. They were soaked in water to wash away the remains of an adhesive material applied to them for use as cartonnage—material molded into masks and panels to cover the mummified bodies of humans and animals. The texts were then mounted in thin glass frames, allowing for easy handling and close inspection. The ink, essentially a waterproof mixture of soot and resin, is faded but mostly legible.

The specimens are far from complete documents. Peeled from mummies by archaeologists and grave robbers, the once well-kept records now come with gaping holes. Many are fragments of larger pieces and offer a few hints about a transaction or contract. But there's not always enough to tell a complete story.
Predynastic Human Presence Discovered By Core Drilling At The Northern Nile Delta Coast, Egypt
A small but significant find made during a geological survey provides evidence of the oldest human presence yet discovered along the northernmost margin of Egypt's Nile delta.

A rock fragment carried by humans to the site was discovered in a sediment core section north of Burullus lagoon near the Mediterranean coast.

Radiocarbon analysis of plant-rich matter in the mud surrounding the object provides a date of 3350 to 3020 B.C., the late Predynastic period.

There should really be lots of sites underneath several meters of Nile mud in the Delta. Most of the sites accessible to archaeologists are only there now because they were built on topographic rises in the underlying sediment. Underlying much of the Delta is a fairly coarse sand of probably Pleistocene age known as gezira. It's thought that settlements were built on these things because they would afford refuge during the yearly flood.

The Delta and indeed most of the Nile valley have been prograding (depositing sediment) due to the rise in sea levels since the end of the Pleistocene. That's one reason deeply stratified settlement sites are fairly rare in Egypt.
Church reveals its 142-year-old secret
A VICTORIAN message in a bottle was uncovered at a church yesterday.

Contractors restoring the floor at St Helen’s Church, in St Helen Auckland, County Durham, were stunned when they discovered the 142-yearold bottle, with a piece of paper still inside.

The message, which states it was written in 1866 when the medieval church was restored, gives details of the restoration and the people who carried it out.

Pretty cool. They should conserve it a bit and then put it back.
New light thrown on Roman villa remains
A rare, complete set of 30 glass counters for a Roman board game has been set out again, more than 50 years since they were excavated and almost 1,700 years since they went into the tomb with their twentysomething owner.

His skeleton, still in its handsome scallop shell decorated lead coffin, is now surrounded again by the refreshment provided for his journey to the next world - flagons, bottles, spoons and bowls, and the 30 counters, probably for the gambling game duodecim scripta, laid on top of his coffin - as well as hundreds of other objects excavated a lifetime ago but now going on show.

Photo of the skull at the site. Looks in pretty rough shape. Good teeth though.
Today in history July 24, 1911: Hiram Bingham 'Discovers' Machu Picchu
Bingham had already made two expeditions to South America -- and published a book on each -- when he returned to Peru in 1911. He located the last Inca capital, Vitcos, and made the first ascent of the 21,763-foot Mt. Coropuma. Then came the find that would make him famous: Machu Picchu.

Some say Bingham was the inspiration for Indiana Jones, which may be partially true, but most have indicated Roy Chapman Andrews as the archetype. Probably a combination, plus the fictional ones from the movie serials that Lucas says it the movie was based on.

UPDATE: If you can get hold of it, David Drew did a series, oh, probably 20 years ago now (egad!) that featured Bingham in one of the eps. The series followed several relatively unknown early explorers such as Giovanni Belzoni (Egypt), and John Seeley (India) who discovered some of these early monuments. In his Machu Picchu ep he really gets to the remoteness of the place and how difficult it would have been to reach it.
New issue of the British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan is up and with open access.

(via EEF)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Open access paper alert A Pre-Hispanic Head
Our hypothesis that the high levels of heavy metals in our subject's hair were deposited by bacterial concentrating activity in bio-films has therefore some support. These toxic elements must have been deposited on the hair post-mortem by mechanism resembling those used by the bacterium Ralstonia mettalidurans to produce gold nuggets in some Australian gold mines [5].

Thus one explanation for the well-preserved tissues in our specimen is that extraordinary circumstances, bacterial growth and soil content of heavy metals conspired to preserve the tissues. Subsequently, this lead to inhibition of putrefaction normally induced by other bacteria and thus contributed to the exquisite tissue preservation.

Let me know if this isn't accessible. The preservation on this thing is truly remarkable (photo at the link). I really wonder if the eyes are really that well-preserved though; I don't recall ever seeing eyes like that except in some recent frozen mummies. Could be though.

Cause of death seems, uhhhh, rather obvious.

Anyway, they hypothesize that high concentrations of lead, arsenic, and mercury deposited due to bacterial action cause the high degree of preservation.
Giza boat update Michael Tilgner of the EEF list sent around a link to a paper on the OK boats and boat pits: Funerary Boats and Boat Pits of the Old Kingdom by Hartwig Altenmiiller.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Historic abbey uncovered in dig
Parts of one of Scotland's most influential religious and historic buildings have been uncovered for the first time in centuries.

Archaeologists have been digging at Scone Palace and believe they have found the walls of the lost abbey.

Despite the site's significance, there is very little sign of the 12th century building above ground.

The team is also examining the Moot Hill - where kings, including Macbeth and Robert the Bruce, were crowned.

Video at the site, too.
Fight! Fight! Tribe, developer battle over rock mounds
No quotes; it's a bit of an update on an earlier post, though I have not been able to locate that one at this time.
Remote sensing update Afghan secrets revealed on Google Earth
Google Earth has made the hostile Afghan terrain far more navigable for a group of Australian archaeologists, who have used the program to uncover hundreds of previously unknown sites in the war-torn country.

Project leader David Thomas, a PhD student at La Trobe University in Melbourne, said he believed his project was the first time anyone in the world had published archaeological research using data from Google Earth.

Thomas and three colleagues - Claudia Zipfel and Suzanna Nikolovski of La Trobe and Fiona Kidd from the University of Sydney - have used the Google Earth images of Afghanistan to glean new details from already discovered sites, map known sites that don't have any drawn plans and, most significantly, uncover hundreds of sites that were previously undiscovered.

Israel: Underwater archaeology
A rare 2,500-year-old marble discus was found last week by an Israeli lifeguard diving in the underwater antiquities site of Yavne-Yam, an ancient port city settled in the middle Bronze Age and inhabited until the Middle Ages. (Today, the beach is named for the nearby kibbutz of Palmahim.)

The convex object is believed to have been fixed to the front of ancient ships as a talisman, its shape and painted circles connoting the pupil of a forward-looking and vigilant eye to protect mariners from misfortune. Kobi Sharvit, director of the Marine Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, explained it is known from drawings on pottery vessels, coins and other historic sources from the 5th century BC that this model was very common on the bows of ships and was used to protect them from the evil eye, acting as a pair of eyes to aid navigation and warn of dangers. Variants of the decoration are still common on modern boats in Portugal, Greece and other coastal countries, and eye-shaped amulets and good luck charms are extremely common throughout the Mediterranean.

Posted about this earlier, but this link has a photo of the object.
Ancient Egyptian boat to be excavated, reassembled
Archaeologists will excavate hundreds of fragments of an ancient Egyptian wooden boat entombed in an underground chamber next to Giza's Great Pyramid and try to reassemble the craft, Egyptologists announced Saturday.

The 4,500-year-old vessel is the sister ship of a similar boat removed in pieces from another pit in 1954 and painstakingly reconstructed. Experts believe the boats were meant to ferry the pharaoh who built the Great Pyramid in the afterlife.

Starting Saturday, tourists were allowed to view images of the inside of the second boat pit from a camera inserted through the a hole in the chamber's limestone ceiling. The video image, transmitted onto a small TV monitor at the site, showed layers of crisscrossing beams and planks on the floor of the dark pit.

No indication as to why they're doing it now, though I've read a couple of places that they may have discovered some infiltration of water either in the pit itself or nearby.
Make sure you all go congratulate John Hawks on getting tenure.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sort of a recent Pompeii Cold war underground city
A 35 acre subterranean Cold War City that lies 100 feet beneath Corsham. Built in the late 50s this massive city complex was designed by Government personnel in the event of a nuclear strike. A former Bath stone quarry the city, code named Burlington, was to be the site of the main Emergency Government War Headquarters - the hub of the Country's alternative seat of power outside London.

It would be cool to keep it as-is as sort of a time capsule.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Great artifacts of our time In the pantheon of computer paraphernalia, I present to you the IBM keyboard. I have one myself that I have schlepped from job to job. I think I acquired it from my employer 'round about 1995 or so. The new ergonomic mice by Microsoft -- as opposed to the Ivory soap bar variety -- were killing my wrist; even today my right wrist cracks a lot. I had one specially ordered with the little Trackpoint mouse embedded in the keyboard. Otherwise, it's the standard one described in that link. Big. Heavy. CLICKY. I love the clicking, explained here:
They call IBM keyboards "clicky" for a reason: With every keystroke, the keys produce a satisfying click-thunk-click via a patented mechanism called the "buckling-spring actuator." Every key press compresses the key spring until it suddenly snaps against the side of a black plastic cylinder (seen here), producing the "click" sound. Meanwhile, the spring, thus compressed, pushes a tiny pivoting rocker beneath each key that registers the key press on a membrane below.

So you KNOW when you've pressed a key. The Trackpoint never took off as much as the basic track pad, which is a shame because it's really superior, IMO. You don't have to move your hand from the keyboard area, and you don't have to keep scraping your finger across it to keep scrolling or anything. Wonderful little device. Completely confuses anyone who tries to use my computer though.

I always thought the keyboard got short shrift as fas as component manufacturers were concerned. Seems to be the last thing they think of and then just toss in some cheap off-the-shelf thing. When you think about it, second only to the screen it's the item you really interact with most often. I learned that when I almost bought a cheap laptop mail order, but thankfully checked one out at a store before I bought it. The keyboard was so flimsy you could feel the whole board area depress when you hit a key. Soft, squishy, and entirely not something you'd like to type at for very long. My Toshibas have traditionally had great keyboards, except this latest one which stinks. Feels okay, but I'm constantly hitting keys only not having them register.

They still make something like these although I haven't had to get a new one in years. At least I think they still make them similar to the original clicker. I think I may replace my current laptop with a desktop unit next, so I may have to go look for one. Hopefully, however, my trusty work keyboard will keep going strong for several more years.
Archaeologist Challenges Malibu City Manager’s Perceptions on Access to Site
I am in receipt of City Manager Jim Thorsen’s letter to Congressman Henry Waxman, dated June 9, 2008. I will assume his letter represents the official position that the City of Malibu is taking with regard to the Farpoint Archaeological Site (State of California Registered Site: CA-LAN-451).
He has misrepresented my position on the site issue and has other inaccuracies in his letter. So I will take this opportunity to set the record straight and again urge the city to preserve and protect this most important site. He states in his first sentence to Mr. Waxman, “…regarding Dr. E. Gary Stickel and his desire to gain access to a privately owned property in the City of Malibu in order to continue his investigation of the site.” And in his second paragraph he states: “Unfortunately, the City does not have the authority to grant Dr. Stickel access to this private property.”

Interesting. Seems the site is contained within several privately held parcels so one wonders what all the city can really do to prevent or mitigate the property use without any human remains being found so far.
Archaeologists Hope to Crack Crown Point Mystery
As the quadricentennial of Lake Champlain approaches, a search is on in New York state to determine the size of a French village site in Crown Point back in the 1700s. Archeologist are on the site now hoping for a major find that will crack a longtime mystery.

For the next two weeks dozens of acres here will be probed, poked and examined by trained archeologists.

It is believed that a village of about 200 homes was located here but after years of looking for evidence of that, very little has been found.
Artifacts underfoot: Archaeologists survey area near mine
Equipped with shovels, metal detectors and an interest in history, a small contingent of current and former students from James Madison University continued their work Tuesday as temperatures rose. They surveyed a former right-of-way for a power line to the south of the quarry.

"We're doing some archaeological survey to help preserve some of the historical evidence that's here," said Alyson "Alie" Wood. "So we're looking for basic historical evidence and then seeing if there are any Native American [artifacts], but mainly this is a Civil War area."
A Stitch in Time
Beaudry herself hadn’t paid much attention to the various thimbles, hem weights, lace bobbins, and straight pins that she and her students had dug up while working at the farm from 1986 to 2004. “I had fallen into the trap nearly all archaeologists do, that pins equal sewing,” she says. “They don’t.”

A closer inspection of these artifacts, she says, can reveal what kind of needlework was being done — utilitarian, such as sewing or mending, or decorative, such as embroidery — and whether the items were for household use or for sale. It also can help paint a broader picture about their owners’ economic and social status.
Lost civilization garden. . . .found(?) Archaeologists hunt for lost Wisbech garden
To the untrained eye, it looks a little like a cross between the Time Team and croquet as they take measured paces across the manicured grass, in time with their beeping equipment.

National Trust officials today called in the experts to take a look at what lies under the neat lawn of Peckover House, an imposing trust-owned Georgian merchant's house on the banks of the Nene in Wisbech.

Head gardener Allison Napier, who looks after two stunning acres within earshot of the town centre traffic, believes evidence of an earlier garden built by the Peckover family, who lived in the house for 150 years after it was built in 1722, could lie beneath the croquet lawn.
Amateur archaeologists, can you dig it, carefully?
The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources is offering three "field schools" this summer to teach people the rudiments of historical archaeology and do some mapping on state parkland. It's run through something called the State Conservation and Rescue Archeology Program, which unlike most government bodies has a good acronym: SCRAP.

"This is our first year. The idea is that every summer, we're doing a field school of historic archaeology survey and mapping . . . at a different state park, to record the historical resources that are previously not recorded," Kress said. The schools are designed for people "with little or no experience either in archaeology or surveying, mapping in general."


Friday, July 18, 2008

Archaeologists find 250-year-old artifacts under Rutgers Stadium expansion site
Finding shattered beer bottles along the perimeter of Rutgers Stadium isn't usually a shocking discovery, especially for anyone who has tailgated before a football game. But the bottles unearthed recently during construction to expand the stadium were nearly 250 years old.

Archaeologists have been documenting the findings to preserve the remnants of the once-bustling 18th-century Raritan Landing settlement. Discoveries have included foundations of the Rising Sun Tavern and multiple residences, scattered plates, tools, pottery and other items dating to the early to mid-18th century in the spot where the stadium's large entrance plaza will be built.

I guess you can thank Greg Schiano for this find.
! ! ! ! Archaeologists find grave of suspected vampire
Archaeologists have uncovered a 4000-year-old grave in Mikulovice, east Bohemia, with remains of what might have been considered a vampire at the time, Nova TV has reported.

The experts made the terrifying find within their research of a burial site from the Early Bronze Age.

One of the graves was situated somewhat aside. The skeleton in it bears traces of unusual treatment.

I was hoping for a stake through the sternum. . . .
Secret chamber may solve Mexican pyramid mystery
With its soaring stone pyramids and geometric temples, Teotihuacan was once the biggest city in the Americas and possibly the world.

However, experts have never been able to say with certainty who built it and why it was suddenly abandoned.

An international team of experts believes the answer may lie under the Pyramid of the Sun, the centre point of the vast ruined city 25 miles outside Mexico City.

That should be interesting. Odd that nothing was removed from it when it was initially discovered which makes one wonder if there's nothing in there anyway.
Archaeologist questions the lack of research
East Carolina University archaeology professor Charles Ewen thinks more should have been uncovered in Bath by now.

“When I came to Bath to research, I found it puzzling that not much digging had gone on here,” Ewen said Saturday morning to a crowd of about 50 at the Bath Visitor Center.

“I found it puzzling because there’s so much to do here.”
Ancient spirits lifted
FOUR ancient Aboriginal rock engravings have been uncovered at an archaeological dig on the Sydney Harbour foreshore.

They are part of an Aboriginal site that had been partly covered over by a roadway at Waverton more than 80 years ago.

The carvings - an image of a man, two "spirit men" with rays emanating from their heads, and what appears to be a school of fish - were found just off Balls Head Road next to an engraving of a whale with a man inside its belly that has long enthralled visitors.
What's old is new again Grave robbers a problem for cemeteries
They mostly come to loot scrap metal these days, but some creep into cemeteries hunting for antiques, flowers and even body parts. Grave robbers -- so long established in history as to be cursed on the walls of Egyptian pyramids -- are plundering cemeteries around the country for items that can be sold for cash.

In West Virginia, they've gone after vases bolted to headstones. In Washington state, they've targeted bronze markers on veterans' graves. In Chicago, it was nearly half a million dollars' worth of brass ornaments.

"It's a crisis of the times," said Ruth Shapleigh-Brown, executive director of the Connecticut Gravestone Network, which monitors cemeteries for theft and vandalism. "People are finding a way to make money."

The bane of civilization for probably always.
A grave job for student archaeologists
A grim inevitability about many recent conflicts is the discovery of mass graves, requiring the expertise of forensic archaeologists. Bournemouth University runs the only course of its kind in the world, where students uncover a simulated mass grave.

On a patch of waste ground, under a white tent to keep off the driving rain, a team of three, dressed in forensic investigators' white suits, carefully brush away the earth surrounding a pile of bones.

It looks very similar to any other forensic investigation - photographers are taking pictures, and in other tents, teams are working on other remains.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Y chromosome study sheds light on Athapaskan migration to southwest US
A large-scale genetic study of native North Americans offers new insights into the migration of a small group of Athapaskan natives from their subarctic home in northwest North America to the southwestern United States. The migration, which left no known archaeological trace, is believed to have occurred about 500 years ago.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Illinois, is detailed this month in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. It relied on a genetic analysis of the Y chromosome and so offers a window on the unique ancestral history of the male Athapaskan migrants. Previous genetic studies of this group focused on mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down exclusively from mothers to their offspring.

The new findings reinforce the hypothesis that the Athapaskan migration involved a relatively small group that nonetheless was very successful at assimilating and intermixing with native groups already living in the southwest. The newcomers were so influential that the Athapaskan language family now dominates many parts of the Southwest. Now called Apacheans, the Navajo and Apache descendants of the early migrants are dispersed throughout the central Southwest and speak languages closely related to the Chipewyan, an Athapaskan language found in the subarctic.

That sucker might be worth downloading and reading on its own. Such a migration has been postulated for a wile now. Odd, too, that they would migrate to a completely different environment. Definitely a must-read.
Ulcers Discovered in Mummies
Two Mexican mummies had ulcers when they were alive.

Remnants of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori were discovered in gastric tissue from the mummies, human remains believed to predate Columbus' discovery of the New World.

"It is only through the use of the stomach tissue of these incredible mummies that we were able to make this discovery," said researcher Yolanda Lòpez-Vidal. "Infection is established when the micro-organism infiltrates the stomach lining and induces a local inflammatory response. This is unlike colonization, which does not cause such a response and does not occur in the stomach."

It doesn't appear as if they found actual lesions, but the bacteria was present within the stomach lining which they say indicates an active infection.
6,000-Year-Old Knife Unearthed At Safety Harbor Park
A city crew erecting the shelter stumbled upon an old knife on Monday, and archeologists today confirmed it is 6,000 to 8,000 years old, said Brad Purdy, the spokesman for the city of Safety Harbor.

Plans to put up the shelter were put on hold as various members of the Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History decided to treat the site as an archeological dig. On their hands and knees in the mud, museum staff members this afternoon were sifting dirt for additional artifacts, said Ron Fekete, director of exhibits.

The 4-inch knife was likely used by the Tocobaga Indians, Purdy said. "The edges are so sharp," Fekete said. "It's in mint condition." It is made of chert, he said.
PLoS paper A 28,000 Years Old Cro-Magnon mtDNA Sequence Differs from All Potentially Contaminating Modern Sequences
Portion of he abstract:
We typed the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) hypervariable region I in a 28,000 years old Cro-Magnoid individual from the Paglicci cave, in Italy (Paglicci 23) and in all the people who had contact with the sample since its discovery in 2003. The Paglicci 23 sequence, determined through the analysis of 152 clones, is the Cambridge reference sequence, and cannot possibly reflect contamination because it differs from all potentially contaminating modern sequences.

The Paglicci 23 individual carried a mtDNA sequence that is still common in Europe, and which radically differs from those of the almost contemporary Neandertals, demonstrating a genealogical continuity across 28,000 years, from Cro-Magnoid to modern Europeans. Because all potential sources of modern DNA contamination are known, the Paglicci 23 sample will offer a unique opportunity to get insight for the first time into the nuclear genes of early modern Europeans.

Aha, so it shows continuity with modern Europeans and different from contemporary-ish Neanderthals. I haven't read the whole paper though, so no more commenting on its contents.
Search for first Americans to plunge underwater
James Adovasio's latest archaeological expedition to find the first Americans will require little digging.

Still, the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute director will have to reach depths of several hundred feet.

Adovasio plans to co-lead a two-week expedition in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of the month to look for evidence of early American Indians along the ancient coast of Florida, now about 300 feet underwater, Mercyhurst College in Erie announced Monday.

Not sure I agree with this sentiment though: "There is no question in almost all archaeological minds that the earliest examples of North American occupation are underwater," said Dave Watters, curator and head of anthropology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

I don't see why they would have hugged the coast any more than any other later peoples did. Not like you find people everywhere else in the world at the time just hanging around the coast.
Mosaic mystery
The experienced team from St Albans District Council dug up part of a second century manor house buried under the park expecting to find a colourful mosaic tiled floor, discovered by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in the 1930s.

But instead they were greeted with remains of the room's foundations.

Simon West, who heads the team, believes Sir Mortimer could have taken the ancient pieces and sold them on for a penny each in the 1930s.

Archaeologists Trace Early Irrigation Farming In Ancient Yemen
In the remote desert highlands of southern Yemen, a team of archaeologists have discovered new evidence of ancient transitions from hunting and herding to irrigation agriculture 5,200 years ago.

As part of a larger program of archaeological research, Michael Harrower from the University of Toronto and The Roots of Agriculture in Southern Arabia (RASA) team explored the Wadi Sana watershed documenting 174 ancient irrigation structures, modeled topography and hydrology, and interviewed contemporary camel and goat herders and irrigation farmers.

"Agriculture in Yemen appeared relatively late in comparison with other areas of the Middle East, where farming first developed near the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago," says author Michael Harrower, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Because before right now you didn't know anything about Wetumpka Archaeologists unearth buried ‘treasures’
Insight into the lives of ancestral Creek Indians, and maybe some evidence of nomadic tribes before the Creeks, are being unearthed in Wetumpka.

The Alabama Department of Transportation started working in August 2007 to create a new road near where the Old Wetumpka Highway is currently located. But progress was halted last month, when “human skeletal remains” were discovered. The University of South Alabama in Mobile outbid other contenders to undertake an archaeological survey of the site.
RIP II Renowned researcher introduced environmental principles to archaeology
William T. Sanders, the late Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Archaeological Anthropology at Penn State University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was one of the first archaeologists to attempt to make the discipline of archaeology a true science through the development of theories and the formation of testable hypotheses about culture. His approach, known as cultural ecology, considered the biology of an area, subsistence patterns of the human population, demography, technological innovation and social organization as an interacting whole. He died July 2, 2008, in State College, Pa., of complications from a fall.
Iron Age bodies at park-and-ride
A team of archaeologists in Leicestershire has uncovered several ancient bodies at the site of a new park-and-ride development.

Excavations are continuing in Enderby after what are thought to be four skeletons from the Iron Age - dating from before 43AD - were discovered.

The team from the University of Leicester said there were probably more bodies buried at the site.
Ancient and modern
O G S Crawford (1886-1957) belonged to the same generation as Mortimer "Rik" Wheeler and Gordon Childe and was thus among Britain's earliest professional archaeologists. He founded and edited the quarterly journal Antiquity. A tireless recorder, he was a sort of one-man Mass Observation movement. From 1920 until 1946, he worked for the Ordnance Survey at its headquarters in Southampton, a city whose chapels, warehouses and hoardings he photographed relentlessly. A socially gauche, obstinate, often ill-tempered bachelor who reeked of roll-ups, he lived with numerous cats in the outer suburb of Nursling where, in his garage, he stored much of the OS's archive, having correctly anticipated that its offices, situated not far from the port, would be bombed.

Sounds like an interesting character, but I admit I'd never heard of him before.
This seems like good news: Penn museum to share cultural treasures via internet
The University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is dragging itself into the 21st century with an ambitious plan to share its treasures with the world via the internet.

The museum, a national and world leader in its field since its founding in 1887, in September will begin creating a "digital spine" in which all of its approximately 1 million objects will be catalogued on the internet.

The idea, said the museum's new director Richard Hodges, is to open up its dazzling collection of artifacts to scholars, researchers, and the general public around the world who have been unable to access it either because they are not in Philadelphia or because 95 percent of the objects are in storage.
Digging the dirt on Bonekickers
Archaeology has always had a patina of glamour that most other "ologies" would give their left test tube for. From the real life Howard "King Tut" Carter to the protruding pixels of Lara Croft, the combination of mystery and treasure has managed to sell books, cinema tickets and university courses for decades.

I kind of missed the leadup to this series. The comments at the link by people who have supposedly watched it are a good read. I gather a lot of forensic people have a high old time cringing at CSI in similar fashion.

UPDATE: "Of course, the downside of all this is that you can’t believe any of these people are archaeologists"
RIP Nothing really to do with archaeology, but I just learned of the recent passing of the actor Don S. Davis. Well, he was on the various Stargate series' which is kind of archaeology-based. But he was on a number of other series which I really liked, notably Twin Peaks. In fact, he was supposed to make an appearance at the Twin Peaks Fest nearby here up in North Bend in a couple of weeks. Me and the ArchaeoWife were thinking of going until we found out the cost of tickets.

He seemed to always play the same basic character: a military officer. He apparently was one IRL in the 1970s so he fit the part, I guess. That was the first time I remember seeing him, on Twin Peaks. I actually did some archaeology work up in the Cedar River watershed shortly before TP was made and I think I went to the ranger station that was dressed up to be the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Office. Back then, North Bend (and Snoqualmie) was still a true small town with one street light in the center of town (can't remember the intersection that was named for it in the series offhand though. . .something and 21?). That, apparently was a big deal when it went in; nowadays the same intersection has a full-blown set of lights with left-turn-only lanes and what-not.

North Bend and Snoqualmie both have had development as exurbs of the Seattle-metro area. They still have their small-town feel left though. The old Mar-T Cafe, portrayed as the Double-R Diner, is still there, but it has new owners and has changed its name to Twede's. We don't go there anymore; after it changed hands, the service kinda went downhill. It used to be a really. . .ummmm. . ."quaint" place and the pies were as excellent as the show implied. They had a fire and remodeled so it looks nicer now, but we haven't been there in years. Instead we go up the street to the North Bend Bar & Grill. Just your typical diner food; simple, well-prepared, with good, friendly service (cue Agent Dale Cooper voice there. Heh).

They filmed most of the series up there -- though the fictional geography seems to have placed Twin Peaks in the northeast corner of Washington near the Idaho and Canadian borders -- and many of the landmarks are still there. North Bend/Snoqualmie is actually 40-ish miles east of Seattle in the Cascade foothills. Some of the actors were locals, notably the Log Lady. We made the mistake of going up there on the Memorial Day weekend the day after the season finale aired unmasking the real killer of Laura Palmer; what a zoo. These days you still get a decent number of people day-tripping up there, and a lot of tourists check out Snoqualmie Falls.

The project I worked on went for about a month. The first two weeks was done to do some test excavations in the woods immediately adjacent to the lake (Chester Morse Lake). I don't remember if we were looking for anything in particular, but we didn't find anything. We did test out some ground-penetrating radar and those results were interesting. We had a couple of hits, but they turned out to be non-artificial. The one I recall was a small mound of clay about a foot down; natural, but it showed up on the radar as an anomaly. It was a low-water year so we also did some surveying down near the then-current shoreline to see if there were any features, artifacts, whatever. We found what could have been a few hearths, but nothing much more. After that, we (with another group) dug some trenches in the beach. Worst.Week.Ever. It was Octo/Nov and it rained. Hard. All.Day. I was soaked and freezing. ANd sifting through useless sand. Then I had to go in the stupid trench and draw a profile -- after it dried out and got windy so sand was blowing all over the place. Next morning about a cup of junk came out of my eyes. Sheesh.

So anyway, have a cup of coffee and a donut or slice of pie in memorium. Just don't allow any "fish in the percolator"!
Israeli Lifeguard Finds 2,500-Year-Old Sea Relic
An Israeli lifeguard taking his regular morning swim off the Mediterranean coast in southern Israel discovered a 2,500-year-old marble talisman to ward off the evil eye, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday.

The lifeguard turned over the ancient disc that once adorned the bow of an ancient warship or cargo ship to keep evil away, the Israeli archaeology body said.

Experts say the relic, discovered off the coast Palmahim beach where the ancient Yavne-Yam port city once stood, dates back to the 5th or 4th century B.C. The white disc, flat on one side and convex on the other, measures 8 inches in diameter. The center of the disc is perforated, and the remains of two circles are painted around the center of it to represent the pupil of an eye.

Good on him turning it in.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Feds refuse to share data on mystery remains
An aging American Indian with rotting teeth and arthritic joints sat down and died in the Utah desert outside Escalante with a musket, ammunition and a bucket. Blowing sand covered his corpse for more than a century before a hiker stumbled across it last year.

This is the likely scenario of how a nearly complete skeleton, dubbed "Escalante Man" in BLM documents, came to be buried a few hundred paces off Highway 12 in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. What remains a mystery is why a dozen FBI agents excluded archaeologists from its April 16 excavation, treating the site as a crime scene rather than the historic site many believe it clearly was. "It's an ongoing investigation.

Odd that. Doesn't seem like anything terribly mysterious about the remains or the artifacts. I worked with Matovich in Egypt one season and she's good at what she does. I'm-a-gonna see if she has any further info. . . .

UPDATE: Jeanette reports. . .basically nothing since it's an ongoing criminal investigation. She did, however, forward a link to the SLT comments page on the story. Nothing terribly interesting in the comments though.
Phaistos Disc declared as fake by scholar
Some say that its 45 mysterious symbols are the words of a 4,000-year-old poem, or perhaps a sacred text. Others contest that they are a magical inscription, a piece of ancient music or the world's oldest example of punctuation.

But now an American scholar believes that the markings on the Phaistos Disc, one of archaeology's most famous unsolved mysteries, mean nothing at all — because the disc is a hoax.

Jerome Eisenberg, a specialist in faked ancient art, is claiming that the disc and its indecipherable text is not a relic dating from 1,700BC, but a forgery that has duped scholars since Luigi Pernier, an Italian archaeologist, “discovered” it in 1908 in the Minoan palace of Phaistos on Crete.

They're not allowing TL dating which would seal the deal one way or the other.
Applied archaeology Archaeology: Ancient bones could help combat TB
Now Spigelman and his team have begun studying DNA from these remains in order to identify genes that might have helped to make the people of Jericho susceptible or resistant to tuberculosis, and so help in the development of more effective treatments for the disease.

In addition, the team will study how the TB bacterium evolved over the millennia. 'As humans grew up, the bugs grew up - and we are looking for these changes,' said Spigelman.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Archaeology: The lost world
The most immediate way in which the map will be useful, however, is in giving context to marine archaeological finds. For more than a century, fishing boats — particularly Dutch beam trawlers, whose nets scrape the seabed — have been scooping prehistoric material out of the North Sea. Most of it dates from the Palaeolithic, the vast era that ended around 10,000 years ago, and includes the bones of woolly mammoths and reindeer from the last ice age. But there is also some more recent, Mesolithic material. Until now, archaeologists haven’t been sure how to interpret these scattered remains. But with the Doggerland map, “we’ll be able to position the archaeological finds within that landscape to understand their meaning,” says Hans Peeters of the National Service for Archaeology, Cultural Landscape and Built Heritage in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.

Lots of good stuff. This section particularly struck me:
Some of the artefacts have been radiocarbon dated to between 10,000 and 8,100 years ago, and all come from a small area just off the southern edge of the Birmingham map of Doggerland. The Dutch call it ‘De Stekels’ (‘The Spines’) because there are steep dunes that were probably once close to a river. Although the artefacts were lying loose on the seabed, Glimmerveen is convinced there was a Mesolithic settlement on or close to those dunes, and Peeters agrees. “You can look at it in a similar way to ploughed fields,” he says. “Objects may have been displaced, but not over very large areas.”

Which is neat because they're talking about some pretty fair characterizations of underwater sites.
Who were B.C.’s first seafarers?
Such was the case with the Hy?jun Maru, which was left rudderless in a typhoon off Japan and drifted for 14 months before washing up in 1834 on Washington state’s Cape Flattery headlands, just across from Pachena Bay. It contained three fishermen.

It is, in fact, one of 100 known Asian drift boats that have crossed the Pacific accidentally. (The last one to arrive came ashore on the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1987, empty.) But no one knows what to make of the evidence hauled up from the wreck that lies 16 kilometres off Pachena Bay in almost 150 metres of water, or the two supposed wrecks that are purported to have yielded strange artifacts from beneath nearby Clayoquot Sound. For all three have produced barnacle-covered Asian pots—probably Chinese—whose age may predate the earliest European visitors to this coast.

Pretty good long article.
Scientists use MRI at Kadlec to look at ancient Roman scrolls
Ancient scrolls buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in Italy in AD 79 spent some time in a Richland hospital room on Wednesday.

Edward Iuliano helped to bring the scrolls to town.

The director of MRI and radiology at Kadlec Medicl Center watched a TV documentary years ago about efforts to read the ancient scrolls and the story stuck with him.
The papyrus path
It is not well known that there were two Jewish temples in ancient Egypt. They do not form part of our traditional history, which concentrates on the going down into Egypt and the coming out of it, as based on the Torah accounts, for which there is little or no contemporary corroboration. But the two temples, though well attested by contemporary sources, have received little attention from our tradition.

One of these temples has been known about for nearly 2,000 years from Josephus Flavius and the Talmud, and its site was claimed to have been found just 100 years ago, but it has now been lost again. The other was never known of till just a hundred years ago and its site has only recently been discovered. The first is the Temple of Onias at Leontopolis dating to about 200 BCE, and the second is the Temple of Elephantine dating to 300 years earlier, to about 500 BCE.

THere's also a small Jewish community in Cairo, oddly enough, and a temple/synagogue. IIRC, it's near the old Coptic area.
Rare artefact found at Roman site
Archaeologists excavating one of the most important Roman sites in Britain have made an "extremely rare" find.

The team digging at part of the Roman fortress in Caerleon near Newport found what they believe is a legionary's ceremonial lance.

Dr Peter Guest said he thought the iron staff, broken into three pieces, was the first of its type found in the UK.

Video at the site showing the lance.
Hmmmmmm. . . Sex curse found at ancient Cyprus site: report
An unexpected sexual curse has been uncovered by archaeologists at Cyprus's old city kingdom of Amathus, on the island's south coast near Limassol, according to a newspaper on Friday.

"A curse is inscribed in Greek on a lead tablet and part of it reads: 'May your penis hurt when you make love'," Pierre Aubert, head of Athens Archaeological School in Greece told the English language Cyprus Weekly.

I shall refrain from further commentary.
Blogging update Back to posting. What a week. Finally got said paper to the proofers and a bunch of other niggly little projects done. Go me. There've been two paper in the J of Archy Science that I've been dying to read, too which I shall get to after blathering on a bit and posting a few other items. One's on a spatial analysis of floor assemblages and the other is. . . .hmmmm. I think it was the crystal skull paper.

So anyway, a nice Saturday morning with a glass of iced tea and Styx blasting on the stereo. The Grand Illusion, as a matter of fact. I was a total Styx fanatic when I was in my late teens. I think they were the first concert I went to, too. Band called New England opened for them. Never did see them again though; I lost interest after the Pieces of Eight album when they went all weird. I think I bought the one right after PoE and didn't even bother with the Mr. Roboto one. That was one of two bands that went off the rails in the early '80s, the other being REO Speedwagon. Lawdy, did they ever change. I guess both widened their audience when they got away from hard rock, but they lost their major fan base and kinda went kaput shortly thereafter.

Does this have anything to do with archaeology? No it doesn't. Other than functioning as a lead in to the next post. . . . .

UPDATE: Okay, more blathering. Still having fun with the new big-ass TV. You know what the best part of it is so far? Concerts. A couple of the music video cable channels have some airing and it's great to be able to watch them one a big screen and get decent sound with it hooked up to the stereo. It's been mostly, ummm, older bands (I think they do most of them on VH1 Classic or something). I've seen ZZ Top, Styx, and Motley Crue, among smatters of others. I already had U2's Rattle and Hum and I stuck that in the DVD player the first weekend I had the dumb thing.

Still haven't actually watched anything in high def yet. I have an old cable box hooked up to it which doesn't take HD signals, but when I switched it with the other TV's new box, neither box would work on the other TV. Haven't figured that one out yet. Irritating though. Must get that figured out by football season which is LESS THAN 2 MONTHS AWAY.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Art of deception: Crystal skulls in British, US museums were fakes
Seeking the verdict of science, researchers from those two museums examined the skulls with electron microscopes, looking at tiny scratches and marks left by the carving implements.

These were then compared with the surfaces of a crystal goblet, rock crystal beads and dozens of greenstone jewels known to be of genuine Aztec or Mixtec origin.

The study appears in the Journal of Archaeological Science, published by the Elsevier group.

I liked this part: The investigators also found a black-and-red deposit in a tiny cavity of the Smithsonian skull. X-ray diffraction showed it to be silicon carbide -- a tough compound that only exists naturally in meteorites but is widespread in modern industrial abrasives.

I linked to a couple of sites showing that most believe the skulls were fake modern anyway, based on lack of provenance, etc. So, no big news amongst the archaeoliterati.
Survival of the Sudsiest
The development of civilization depended on urbanization, which depended on beer. To understand why, consult Steven Johnson's marvelous 2006 book, "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World." It is a great scientific detective story about how a horrific cholera outbreak was traced to a particular neighborhood pump for drinking water. And Johnson begins a mind-opening excursion into a related topic this way:

"The search for unpolluted drinking water is as old as civilization itself. As soon as there were mass human settlements, waterborne diseases like dysentery became a crucial population bottleneck. For much of human history, the solution to this chronic public-health issue was not purifying the water supply. The solution was to drink alcohol."

True enough, as far as that goes (I like this quote as well: "Dying of cirrhosis of the liver in your forties was better than dying of dysentery in your twenties.")

I've posted several articles regarding beer production in ancient times, largely because beer was rather ubiquitous in ancient times, but also no doubt because beer is also rather ubiquitous among the fraternity of archaeologists (and until fairly recently with yours truly, the 'until' being a rather sad development). Some have even argued that much of the development of agriculture was due to the need to produce more beer. I even recall some discussion that much of the bread-baking facilities in Egypt were actually devoted to the production of 'bread' to brew beer from.

I can't comment on the genetic stuff Will expounds upon; I've never come across any references to it. I do have a faint memory tickle of some article or other commenting on the lack of alcohol in the New World and whether it was real or not. Seems like an interesting topic to do some minor research (i.e., web search) on.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Blogging update Yeah, I've been remiss the past couple of days. Bunch of stuff came up, not the least of which was a sudden flat tire on the ArchaeoWife's car. A screw is embedded in the tire. Happily, it's a very slow leak so she wasn't stranded or anything. That on top of putting the finishing touches on a paper (at least I HOPE these are the FINISHING touches!) left too little time for surfing news articles.
Yet another controversial Biblical find Messianic message stirs debate
Scriptural scholars are abuzz over a stone tablet that is said to bear previously unknown prophecies about a Jewish messiah who would rise from the dead in three days. But there are far more questions than answers about the tablet, which some have suggested could represent "a new Dead Sea Scroll in stone."

Do the tablet and the inked text really date back to the first century B.C., as claimed? Where did the artifact come from? Can the gaps in the text be filled in to make sense? Is the seeming reference to a coming resurrection correct, and to whom does that passage refer? Finally, what impact would a pre-Christian reference to suffering, death and resurrection have on Christian scholarship?

It's a good article with lots of links to other articles on the tablet and relating to it. As usual, the provenance is completely unknown.
Archaeologist Stumbles on 2,000-year-old Mayan Mural

Archaeologists have dug up the oldest known Mayan painting inside a ruined pyramid deep inside a Guatemalan jungle. Dated at around 100BC, the paint-on-plaster mural depicts the Mayas' creation myth with an elegance and finesse suggesting the civilization developed much earlier than previously accepted.

"It was like discovering the Sistine chapel if you didn't know there had been a Renaissance - like knowing only modern art and then stumbling on the finger of God touching the hand of Adam," William Saturno, the archaeologist who found the ancient masterpiece, told a press conference.

Mr Saturno, of the University of New Hampshire in the US, stumbled across the mural in the remote site of San Bartolo in 2001 while trekking through the jungle looking for another set of ruins. Exhausted, he says, he almost fell into a looters' tunnel in his search for shade and then looked up to find the figure of the great Corn God peaking out from the dirt on the wall above him.

I'm going to look around for more on this. It's the first I've seen on it and the source is unfamiliar to me.
Archaeologist to examine bones found on C Hill
Bones found on the southwest side of C Hill are likely American Indian and had possibly been buried there a century ago, an archaeologist told police.

Deputies were called out to the hillside just above Curry Street behind the Carson Ranger station on the report of a Sierra Pacific Power Company backhoe unearthing skull fragments, leg bones and other apparent human remains just before 1 p.m. The backhoe was digging to install a power pole.
Archaeologists Found Skeletons at the Site of Serbia’s Medieval Capital
A team of archaeologists from Belgrade’s Philosophy Faculty discovered a tomb with two skeletons in the area of Gradina-Postenje, where Serbia’s medieval capital, Stari Ras, once stood, national media reported today.

The tomb with the human remains, the Serbian newspaper Vecernje novosti reported, was found in the south-western part of the church that was discovered in the area 10 days ago. According the archaeologists, the skeletons are 1.93 metres long, which means that they belonged to people who were over 2 metres tall.
New Orleans cathedral dig yields clues to history
Archaeologists digging behind St. Louis Cathedral are unearthing nearly three centuries of history: the porcelain head of a tiny doll, an ersatz colonial-era pipe from the 1800s, bits of pottery that Indians may have traded to the men who built New Orleans.

The current cathedral, completed in 1794, is the third church facing what is now Jackson Square. A small wooden church built for the first colonists gave way in 1727 to a larger, more ornate building. That church burned down in 1778, along with most of the city.

Now the first archaeological excavation ever at St. Louis, one of the nation's oldest cathedrals, is turning up bits and pieces from the lives of people who lived and worshipped there.
Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Peruvian Tomb
A well-preserved ancient tomb was found by a team of archaeologists in Ucupe, northern Peru. The scientists believe they have unearthed the tomb of Moche Indian leader.

Scientists said the 1,700 year old tomb was discovered in Ucupe, 416 miles from the capital city.

The tomb has well-preserved human remains and pieces of jewelry. It is believed to belong to a leader from the pre-Columbian Moche Indian and sheds light on that culture.

Monday, July 07, 2008

USU seeking new master's degree in archaeology
Utah State University is working to set up a new master's degree program emphasis in archaeology and cultural resource management, a discipline with many potential field opportunities in Utah.

The university's board of trustees approved the anthropology program last week. If the state board of regents OK's the program, it could be offered in fall 2009.

no much else there, but expect to see a lot more of these.
Uncovering Evidence of a Workaday World Along the Nile
Archaeologists have long fixed their sights on the grandeur that was ancient Egypt, the pyramids, temples and tombs. Few bothered to dig beneath and beyond the monumental stones for glimpses into the living and working spaces of ordinary Egyptians.

That is changing slowly but steadily. In the last two or three decades, excavations have uncovered urban remains and swept aside the conventional wisdom that the Egypt of the pharaohs, in contrast to Mesopotamia, was somehow a civilization without cities.

Indeed. Matter of fact, this was part of my dissertation:
Egypt is one example of an apparently obvious case of a highly complex culture that differs in striking ways from other complex early civilizations such as Mesopotamia, yet is still regarded as a classic example of a complex preindustrial civilization. Wilson (1960), for example, noted that Egypt's towns and villages, as then known, did not appear to exhibit the degree of size, density of occupation, and range of non-agricultural activities as their Mesopotamian counterparts, and therefore did not qualify as true 'cities' as in the Mesopotamian model. Sjoberg (1960) however, argued that even though Egypt's city structures differed in many respects from the Mesopotamian model they still were cities in their own right. In any case, since Egypt exhibited all the other hallmarks of complexity -- monumental architecture, administrative hierarchies, specialized craft production, etc. -- the question of whether Egyptian cities were functionally equivalent to the Mesopotamian variety is somewhat moot.

Whether Egypt really was a 'civilization without cities' reflects deeper theoretical issues involving explanation of the initial development of cultural complexity. It also highlights, as Wenke (1997) notes, the typological nature of the comparative method: without a set of theoretically-derived necessary and sufficient conditions to define what "cities", "city-states", and "nation-states" are, comparison becomes a matter of simple (though in many ways useful) description rather than explanation.

There are a number of reasons why settlement archaeology languished somewhat. Part of the reason is simple geomorphology. Most of the habitable land is in the narrow ribbon of the Nile valley and over the Holocene with the rise in sea levels worldwide the Nile floodplain has been aggrading (building up sediment). So for the most part, settlements were built on top of older settlements -- which is the case elsewhere as well, but since habitable land is restricted, the population stayed in one place p until the present. Consequently, you don't get the numerous abandoned tells that you get in, say, Mesopotamia. Most of the settlements are either now covered by existing settlements and/or buried beneath tens of meters of Nile sediment. Plus the water table is pretty close to the surface so even if you can get an uninhabited valley area, you can't dig down very far. The ones that have been excavated have generally been on the desert fringe, which not coincidentally, also tends to be where the burials are.

Which is, of course, the other reason settlement archaeology has been somewhat ignored: they didn't have the rich artifact and epigraphic loads that most people find so fascinating. And even in a lot of cases where settlements have been excavated, many have been associated with major state projects (e.g., Lehner's pyramid builders village at Giza) or mortuary complexes (e.g., the workmen's village at Deir el-Medina.

I review a bunch of the settlement sites in the link above (specifically starting here).
Archaeologists dig Hot Springs’ history
Professional and amateur archaeologists have spent weeks unlocking clues below the surface that link the present-day Hot Springs area to a colorful past.

“The history of this area is really important to the people here, and we want to record the pieces of history that still remain before the area is totally developed and the information is gone forever,” said Tim Mulvihill, station archaeologist with the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.

Friday, July 04, 2008

2,500-year-old artifact returned to Egypt
Egypt said Monday that it retrieved a 2,500-year-old limestone relief from London after its sale was blocked by Bonhams auction house there because it had been looted from a pharaoh's tomb.

A team of Egyptian archaeologists traveled to Britain to retrieve the artifact, which bears hieroglyphic text engraved in six rows and a cartouche of an ancient Egyptian queen, according to a statement issued Monday by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. It did not say when the carving was brought home.