Friday, July 30, 2004

Urban legend alert Legend: Egyptian explorers find and eat a jar of honey, then discover a child's body was stored inside it.

Not too long ago a party of Egyptians were digging near the pyramids when they uncovered a large tightly sealed jar of honey. Since Egyptians always seem to be hungry, they sat down and dug into it with their fingers. Presently one of them complained he'd found a hair. Then they discovered more hairs, finally pulling out the body of a small child which had been buried centuries before!

A quick search of the Web found this story in a slightly different context. Alexander the Great was also said to have had his body returned to Egypt preserved in honey. This makes some sense as honey is known to be a reasonably effective antibiotic, and thus could halt the decomposition of a body. Apparently, however, apart from this one story, no actual "honey mummies" have ever been found.

Archaeologists unearth more burials; expect more unscheduled delays to give time for investigation

An unexpected two-week delay in the excavation of the Tice Creek detention basin outside Rossmoor's gate allowed archaeologists further investigation of the site, yielding five more burials and objects of interest. This brings to eight the number of burials, and archaeologists expect more as the project progresses.

Archaeologists from William Self Associates (the firm contracted by the county to excavate and document the cultural history of the site) uncovered five additional burials and a possible fire pit.

Note this: Last week an expert operator gingerly scraped the floor of the excavation pit with a 30,000-pound backhoe to peel back one-inch layers of blackish brown clay while archaeologists watched for signs of burials or artifacts. It's true, some of these backhoe operators could empty a teacup with one of those things.

Okay, we exaggerate a bit. But they really can be delicate.

Biblical Archaeology update Archeologists claim Essenes never wrote Dead Sea Scrolls

Located on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, Qumran is famous throughout the world as the place where the Essenes, who have been widely described in studies, conferences and exhibitions as a type of Jewish "monk," are said to have lived and written the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, based on findings soon to be published, Israeli archaeologists now argue that Qumran "lacks any uniqueness."

The latest research joins a growing school of thought attempting to explode the "Qumran myth" by stating that not only did the residents of Qumran live lives of comfort, they did not write the scrolls at all.


A Roman font dating back more than 1,600 years has been unearthed in a Lincolnshire field.

The 4th century artefact is one of only 18 to be discovered in Britain and has been described by archaeologists as a "significant" find.

It is thought the find, which has been cut into pieces, reflects a period of religious tension in the country between Christianity and Paganism.

The font was located by metal detector experts Gary Lee and Jim Wilkinson in a farmer's field near Market Rasen two weeks ago.

Following courtesy of the EEF.

At last: THe Inside story.

Since early this month, the British Museum's special exhibitions gallery above the old British Library Reading Room has been converted into a theatre with a 12-metre curved screen for the virtual viewing of the mummy of Nesperennub, an ancient Egyptian priest who served the cult of Khonsu in Karnak Temple about 800 BC. The technology is by Silicon Graphics Inc (SGI), of Mountain View, California.

The museum no longer unwraps mummies as it did in the past, and this interactive, 3-D visualisation has been brought about by non-invasive techniques. The tour inside Nesperennub's corpse probes his secret layers and reveals details of his age, lifestyle, appearance, state of health and how he was mummified. A number of gold shields, amulets and scarabs of carved stone ceramic and wax were also located on his body.

We liked the orange glowy pictures of Nesperennub better:

Following submitted by Michael Tilgner

* The Rosetta Stone

-- Hierolyphic text: Urk. II, 166-198


-- English translation of the Greek Section


-- photograph - 650 KB


-- photograph - 785 KB


-- drawing - 570 KB


This is cool: Website with all Egyptian articles of the Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, (BMFA) in PDF:

And two excellent sites:

The database of all 5398 objects found in the tomb of Tutankhamun is now complete and can be consulted at the web pages of the Griffith Institute in Oxford:

Further, ca. 850 tracings made by Norman and Nina de Garis Davies in various Theban tombs are now available for consultation at the Archive of this Institute. (Source: two messages by Jaromir Malek on ANE-L)

These last two are really neat, especially the first one as it has images of original documents and photos from that most famous of excavations. You can spend hours perusing them.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

So that's where it ended up. . .

Dig hits rich vein of medieval history

The jewelled cross pulled from an archaeological dig in rural Aberdeenshire does not, admittedly, look like much. Caked in heavy mud and withered by age, it could easily be overlooked. But the cross is the latest piece in a jigsaw puzzle that is casting new light on the remarkable life of a medieval community.

"It promises quite a lot," says Penny Dransart, who is leading the dig at Fetternear. "We don't clean items like that on site so we can't say too much about it yet. But, at the very least, it will add to the cumulative knowledge we are building about life at Fetternear."

ArchaeoBlog reconstruction of what the jewelled cross may look like:

Oddly enough, we found this site while researching this story: Neat site. Especially check out the section by a Dr. David West Reynolds on The Archaeology of Indiana Jones. Lots of neat trivia, and some real archaeology, too.

News from Wausau, Wisconsin! Digging up the Past

On the Northeast shore of Butternut Lake, archaeologists, volunteers, and students are digging for archaeological deposits from early native cultures. Their purpose, to learn more about their hunting, eating habits, and seasonal movements in the region.

"It's just very important to learn about the people that lived here because there was no written word like there may have been from Europeans," says Kristine Werhand, archaeological volunteer.

Short story, little information there, but hey, it's Wausau.

"Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!" Bone return consultation launched

The UK government has launched a consultation document to consider the repatriation of human remains held in Britain to aboriginal groups.

Thousands of ancient human parts - from hair samples to whole skeletons - have been collected by UK museums.

The latest initiative will review the report issued last year by the Working Group on Human Remains.

It recommended scientists should seek out descendants for permission to hold on to body parts up to 500 years old.

And on a related note New wrangle over Kennewick bones

The legal battle over the ancient bones of Kennewick Man has been won by the scientists, but they now face a new wrangle over access to the remains.

The 9,300-year-old skeleton is among the most complete specimens of its period known from the Americas.

Four Native American tribes that sought to re-bury the bones have announced they will not be taking their fight to the US Supreme Court.

But they still regard the skeleton as an ancestor and call it "ancient one".

And something we missed earlier in the week Date limit set on first Americans

A new genetic study deals a blow to claims that humans reached America at least 30,000 years ago - around the same time that people were colonising Europe.

The subject of when humans first arrived in America is hotly contested by academics.

On one side of the argument are researchers who claim America was first populated around 13,000 years ago, toward the end of the last Ice Age. On the other are those who propose a much earlier date for colonisation of the continent - possibly around 30,000-40,000 years ago.

The authors of the latest study reject the latter theory, proposing that humans entered America no earlier than 18,000 years ago.

Neat study. The weakness in it, of course, is recognized by the scientist in question: But Dr Wells acknowledged the possibility that even more ancient American populations carrying unidentified Y chromosome haplotypes could have been swamped by later migrations, resulting in their genetic legacy being erased. That is, only the survivors were tested; it doesn't rule out the possibility of earlier migrations.

Finally, golf meets archaeology Caesar’s Camp: ancient enigma

A mysterious bump in Wimbledon Common's golf course has intrigued residents, archaeologists and developers since the 19th century.

An excavation by a London water board in 1937 dated the site, known as Caesar's Camp, back to the third century BC.

More recent discoveries indicate the period between the Bronze and Iron Age the sixth to eighth century BC.

Archaeologists have discovered that the site had formidable defences. The original ditch was 30ft wide and probably 12ft deep. The main wall had retaining walls of wood inside and outside, with a wooden fence on top for extra protection.

Ancientg engineering update Archaeologists Discover How Achaemenid Architects Buttressed Pasargadae

Achaemenid architects knew properly applied foundation-making principles in Pasargadae to boost its resilience, Iranian archaeologists have concluded.

Having studied techniques applied in construction of the Achaemenids’ first capital city over the past year, experts with Pars-Pasargadae Project decided the designers used the foundation method since the area’s land was unstable. “We have come to the conclusion that Achaemenid architects built the monuments on two layers of stone foundation,” said Babak Kial, head of the site. “This technique has enabled the ancient city to withstand quakes over the centuries.”

While they didn't (generally) have the mathematical tools to work out problems ahead of time, the ancient engineers were not the simpletons many would have us believe. Much of the "ancient astronauts" literature, or the more recent new agey stuff that requires poor, prehistoric people to only know how to build things using psychokinetic powers, relies on the assumption that ancient people were just plain dumb and couldn't figure out a natural mechanical way to lift and place large objects.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Note to faithful readers (and anyone else): We have JUST NOW implemented comments for posts. We do this partially so that we may receive commentary and critique on any posts herein, but mostly because we never look at the Contact email address (left) and mostly just get Nigerian banking scam messages there anyway.

But, um, just lodge the memory in your mind that we did this purely as a service to you, our faithful readers.

[Edit] Well, we thought we'd added comments, but we don't see any. Stay tuned.
The Beer That Made Cerro Baúl Famous

Ancient brewery discovered on mountaintop in Peru

Archaeologists working in southern Peru found an ancient brewery more than 1,000 years old. Remains of the brewing facility were uncovered on Cerro Baúl, a mountaintop city over 8,000 feet above sea level, which was home to elite members of the Wari Empire from AD 600-1000.

Predating the Inca Empire by at least four centuries, this Wari brewery was used to make chicha, a fermented beverage similar to beer that played an important role in ritual feasting and drinking during Peru's first empire. Ancient Peruvians made chicha with local grains and fruit, which is quite different from today's commercial beers typically made with barley and hops.

"We believe this important find may be the oldest large-scale brewery ever found in the Andes," said Patrick Ryan Williams, PhD, Assistant Curator of Anthropology at The Field Museum.

Fight! Fight! Countries battle over artefacts

An Aboriginal group has prevented native Australian artefacts from returning to the UK museums from which they were loaned. BBC News Online looks at other disputed treasures and the growing calls to have them repatriated.

In 1810, a total of 56 sculpted friezes, depicting gods, men and monsters, were removed from the Parthenon in Athens by British ambassador Lord Elgin.

They were brought to Britain and housed in the British Museum where they have remained.

Repeated calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles to their homeland have fallen on deaf ears, with the British Museum adamant they should remain in a place where they can be seen by international visitors.

The 'Pompeii Principle' for real. No, really. What Lies Beneath in Pompeii (Registration required. GO to and get a username and password)

For Pompeii's 2 million yearly visitors, the overwhelming attraction is the captivating view of daily life in the Roman Empire evoked by the city's temples, taverns, houses and public baths, and by its ever-popular brothels with their erotic frescoes.

Note: Thieves frequently raid the sites. During the past 30 years, more than 600 items, from frescoes to bricks, have been pilfered from Pompeii. One of the worst thefts occurred in 1977, when someone hacked 14 frescoes from a villa known as the House of the Gladiators. And in January, thieves cut two frescoes from the House of the Chaste Lovers. (Pompeii houses are usually named after prominent paintings, sculptures or other artifacts.)

Kinda makes you wonder why anything else ought to be dug up and put on display.

Iron Age 'nerve centre' uncovered on hill

EXCAVATIONS at a large hill fort in East Lothian have uncovered what archaeologists believe to be one of the nerve centres of Iron Age Scotland.

The new findings at Traprain Law, near Haddington, include the first coal jewellery workshop unearthed in Scotland as well as hundreds of artefacts giving new insight into life in the 700BC-AD43 era.

Experts who have been working on the site for several weeks are now able to paint a picture of a densely populated hilltop town which was home to leaders of local tribes, following the discovery of multiple ramparts, Roman pottery, gaming pieces, tools and beads.

At the centre of the archaeological site, which is one of the most important in Scotland, a medieval building, first uncovered by a fire in 1996, has now been fully excavated by the 20-strong team of archaeologists, also showing the area was occupied hundreds of years later.

Really, "St. Mungo" is just killing us here.

But, as we so often do here at ArchaeoBlog, a silly off-the-cuff joke brings up something interesting (and boring and pedantic, but that's our idiom anyhow). There is an interesting paleoanthropological connection to 'Mungo', though not to St. Mungo, Mungo Jerry, or any other Mungo you may have heard of. The peopling of Australia is perhaps on par with the peopling of the New World (N and S America) as far as Big Archaeological Problems go. In some ways, it's even more important since it seems to be more difficult to get people from Asia to Australia over a lot of open ocean than just skipping across the Bering Land Bridge.

Within this context is some skeletal material recovered from Lake Mungo in New South Wales. The importance of these skeletons lies in their early date and apparent burial practices, especially Lake Mungo 3 (see this page for several PDF copies of original papers). This seems to be a really good site all around, with a lot of good information, references, and links to original source articles.

Something we've never heard of Archaeologists take care with moving project

The wooden sides of the coffin are still visible in the clayish soil where it was laid a century ago, but this coffin and the two next to it in the newly excavated trench are less than 2 feet long.

These were infants or toddlers laid to rest in the Montgomery Square United Methodist Church cemetery, at the intersection of what are now Routes 202 and 309, sometime in the 19th century.

The widening of the roads long ago hemmed in the church and its cemetery, and the congregation has sold the site to build, bigger and better, a few miles away, as churches have been doing for centuries.

But, first, the cemetery's 209 graves have to be relocated to Beulah Cemetery in New Britain, Bucks County. That is the job for about a dozen experts, mostly trained as archaeologists or in forensics, who go over the site with hand tools and a careful eye.

Fascinating article. This is one avenue of archaeology that we had never considered. Makes sense though since it's basically excavation. We are going to look into this more and see how widespread the phenomenon is. (Note: This may require registration. We hit the story on the first try, but when we went back to it, it demanded registration, although that appears to be free)

Archaeologists digging through trash to find Bowling Green history

One man’s trash is another’s treasure, or so the saying goes, and state archaeologists are hoping that trash from the 19th and early 20th centuries will help shed some light on life in Bowling Green.

“This stuff is basically trash – things people threw out, things they lost, things they broke,” said Jay Stottman, an archaeologist with the Kentucky Archaeological Survey. “But this is the stuff that gives us an idea what life was like during this time period.”

A table of artifacts collected at a site near 629 Center St. was on display at a press conference this morning about the Phase II archaeological survey of the site that was recently completed.

Archaeologists identified 18 features, archaeological formations that generally cannot be collected, such as foundations, walkways, pits or holes, on the site, Stottman said.

News from Iraq British School of Archaeology in Iraq

Since its foundation in 1932 as a memorial to the life and work of Gertrude Bell, the British School of Archaeology in Iraq (BSAI) has been the main institution in the United Kingdom responsible for organising archaeological fieldwork in Iraq, Mesopotamian Syria and the Persian Gulf. It was funded from private sources, principally the Gertrude Bell Memorial Fund but also a considerable sum deriving from individual subscriptions donated to an Appeal Fund. It first received a Treasury grant in 1947, which enabled it to appoint its first Director in Iraq (Professor Sir Max Mallowan, Agatha Christie’s husband). It carried out excavations in Iraq and Syria before World War II and again from 1948 had worked continuously in Iraq until 1990.

The secretary, Joan Porter MacIver, normally steers clear of politics but she could not help commenting on the shortsightedness of failing to establish a Ministry of Tourism in the interim government announced at the beginning of June. “I can’t understand why that happened. Maybe there is more information that we just do not have. I know that tourism is something they are counting on in the future, especially as Iraq is so important in terms of its historical legacy. The Iraqis have always been very proud of that and it is important to show what the country has to offer – it is the cradle of civilisation.

Eh, not really archaeology, but cool Small ship would be a big discovery

Treasure hunter Steve Libert has spent much of the past three decades scouring the bottom of Lake Michigan for stockpiles of lost gold.

He's never found so much as a nugget, but now the 50-year-old is hinting that he might have struck upon something some would see as far more precious - the lost Griffin, the first European ship to sail the Great Lakes, and the first to sink.

Researchers are dubious that the fabled vessel from the 17th century has finally been found.

"It's possible, but I'd be very surprised," said Ron Mason, a professor emeritus of anthropology at Lawrence University. "If it sank into very shallow water, then it was probably broken up by wave action. If it sank into deeper water, then there would be a good chance of preservation, but it would be very hard to find."

More later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

ArchaeoFashion Report Chinese archaeologists find 'world's oldest earrings'

Chinese archaeologists have discovered earrings they believe are the oldest found in the world.

The jade earrings, which date to between 7500 and 8200 years ago, were unearthed at the Xinglongwa culture site in Chifeng city in Inner Mongolia, the Xinhua news agency said yesterday.

The jade rings, called "Jue" in old Chinese, have diameters that measure 2.5 to six centimetres.

And another construction-area find Athletic fields yield artifacts

Taking refuge from the sweltering mid-afternoon sun, archaeologist Richard Franz stood under a large tree, holding in his dusty hands what appeared simply to be a rock.

But to Franz, a chip on that rock is a flake scar or a fracture point. In the eyes of an archaeologist this stone is an artifact, lending clues to the area's history.

A team of four archaeologists finished work last week on an excavation project at Fisk Fields, searching for American Indian artifacts. The borough's youth athletic teams can resume play on the fields, but it will be weeks until the borough learns how it can develop the property.

And another. . . . . Indian artifacts near Ohio River could be sign of ancient village

Remains of an ancient American Indian settlement have been uncovered along the Ohio River shoreline in Clarksville, Ind.

Archaeologists say the discovery of about two dozen artifacts, from pottery shards to stone tools, is significant because the density of the site suggests a prolonged settlement instead of a temporary camp or hunting ground.

The artifacts, found near a two-lane road that collapsed in January, are believed to be 700 to 900 years old, placing the settlement in what is known as the Mississippian period.

Full excavation of the site is expected to start this week.

Well. Iranian Director To Produce Doc On Darius’ Headless Statue

Iranian documentary filmmaker Orod Attarpur plans to produce a film about the headless statue of Persian emperor Darius the Great (580-529 B.C.).

A group of French archaeologists unearthed the statue in 1971 in the historical city of Susa in southwestern Iran. It is headless, but no one is certain about the reason. Now Atapur has decided to make a documentary about the discovery and the ensuing events. Pivotal to the chronicle will be the story of the archaeologists who dug up the statue of Darius I, the great king of the Achaemenid dynasty.

There are several theories explaining the reasons why the statue is headless; from an outburst of resentment by people toward Persian monarchs to a devastating earthquake.

Now there's something you don't see every day, an ancient headless statue.

Historians excited by rare Italian pottery found in dig

In the shadow of a crumbling mansion, a team of archaeologists have made one of the most exciting discoveries of a 10-year dig.

It may only be a small fragment of marbled pottery from northern Italy, dated around 1600 to 1650, but it is the only piece of its kind found in Scotland and is one of only three ever to be found in Britain.
Archeologists at the dig, at Fetternear in rural Aberdeenshire, said that it casts important light on Scotland in the Middle Ages.

Bronze age knife found in veg plot

A NORTH Wales housewife found a bronze age knife crafted 4,500 years ago while digging in her vegetable patch.

Marylyn Sheldon knew she had discovered something special after unearthing the flint blade at her Llanarmon-yn-Iâl home, in Denbighshire.

On Wednesday experts at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, confirmed it was a bronze aged blade forged around 2,500BC.

"I was digging in my vegetable patch in April last year to put broad beans in," she said.

We admit we are somewhat perplexed as to how one forges a flint knife.

Skinny chariots Discovery rewrites Chinese vehicle history

The discovery of 3,700-year-old chariot tracks has pushed back the appearance of vehicles in China by 200 years, the country's media has reported.

"It advances the history of China's vehicle use up to the Xia Dynasty (2100 - 1600 BC)," said Xu Hong, who leads the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' archaeological investigation team at the Erlitou archaeological site in Yanshi city, central Henan province.

The two parallel tracks were discovered on the grounds of a palace at the site, Xinhua news agency reported.

'Upped sticks'??? Dig team baffled over tribe who suddenly upped sticks

ARCHAEOLOGISTS are investigating a 2200-year-old mystery surrounding one of Scotland's rare Iron Age clifftop forts.

Excavations have revealed that the unusual fortification, 100ft up a cliff on the Galloway coast, was suddenly and inexplicably abandoned by the Novantae, an early Scottish people.

Work at the prehistoric settlement at Carghidown, near the Isle of Whithorn, has contributed to a better understanding of the little-known tribe who lived in what today is south-west Scotland.

As we posted yesterday, this illustrates one way to interpret how a site was abandoned. Note that they found three floor surfaces, the last of which was unfinished, which suggests fairly rapid abandonment. This has implications for what will be found on the floor surfaces. Do a quick search on the 'Pompeii Premise' over the Web and the findings will explain more on this type of thing.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Hmmmmm. . . .Radiocarbon Dating and Questions

Libby’s discovery, now known as the carbon-14 (or radiocarbon) technique, was a method that could be used to determine the age of organic remains. In the following years, archeologists used this technique extensively and determined exact dates for pre-historic settlements in the ancient world. Some Neolithic (later stone age) remains were dated back to fifty thousand years in Russia and Africa. The city of Eriha in Palestine was dated back to eleven thousand years, and was designated as the first permanent human settlement. Today, archeologists and paleontologists employ this technique to determine the age of organic materials (bones, teeth, wood, etc.) that are less than fifty thousand years in age.

We were directed to this page by another archaeological links page and are having some difficulty deciding what to make of it. On the one hand, it kind of provides a good summary of the C-14 method and theory. On the other hand, some of the statements seem to us a bit on the extreme side. For example "ages determined by the radiocarbon method are not taken seriously by archeologists" is simply untrue. There is always some consideration given to the context of the samples, contamination, etc., and often dates that seem out of whack are discarded (or held in abeyance until independently verified).

Many of the issues raised in this little blurb have long been considered by everyone working with radiocarbon dating. It is not assumed, a priori, that the C-14/C-12 ratio has been constant through time. In fact, it has been known for a long time that it has not been constant, and calibration curves have been calculated to correct for this.

For far more (and better) information, check out maintained by Tom Higham. He's pretty good about answering serious emails regarding C-14 issues.

Fat monks Study: Medieval Monks Were Obese

The jolly image of rotund Friar Tuck could be only partially true, according to a recent study of skeletal remains from monks that lived during the Middle Ages (476-1450 A.D.) that revealed most monks were overweight, but perhaps not entirely jolly because they suffered from conditions associated with obesity, such as arthritis.

The findings, presented last week at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds University in England, shed light on the monastic lifestyle from that period and could help to explain the development of civil unrest against monasteries toward the latter part of the medieval age.

Philippa Patrick, author of the paper and an archaeologist at University College London, made the determinations after analyzing the skeletal collections of the Museum of London, which include remains of medieval monks from St. Mary Graces Abbey, Tower Hill, St. Saviour's Abbey, Bermondsey and Merton Priory.

Patrick, whose study was funded by the U.K. Arts and Humanities Research Board, told Discovery News that by the time most monks were 45 and over, they were three times more likely than the overall population to develop a condition linked to obesity known as DISH, diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis. DISH affects a victim's spine with lesions, making it harder for the person to walk and move.

Experts try to discover diet of 7,000 years ago in Sialk

Iranian archeologists plan to identify the food basket and diet of the people who lived in the historical site of Sialk over 7,000 years ago, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency reported on Friday.

Located at the edge of the central desert of Iran, near "Kashan", Sialk is considered one of most important and archeologically-rich areas in Iran and experts have already discovered artifacts dating from the fifth to first millennium B.C. there. They have also found out one of the oldest ziggurats of the world in this civilization basin.

Say, more skeletons found at a construction site Another burial find halts work at Wal-Mart site

Amid the flap surrounding a set of human remains found last week at the Wal-Mart construction site that were improperly moved, yet another set of remains was found Thursday, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has confirmed.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Cynthia Lin said construction has stopped in both areas of the Ke'eaumoku Street site where remains were most recently found.

Lin said the site has been fenced off, and the remains — one set found July 17 and the other on Thursday — covered.

That settles it: Ancient peoples buried their dead according to the spatial configurations of future construction sites.

And. . . . .Skull could be talk of school

An exciting but gruesome discovery made by two Auckland schoolboys will be examined by an archaeologist tomorrow.

The boys were digging in their parents' Mount Roskill garden yesterday when they uncovered a human skull.

Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Benefield says the boys took the find to their parents, who called in the police.

He says the kids were pretty excited, and not traumatised by the find at all.

He says it will make a good story for school tomorrow.

Mark Benefield says initial enquiries would suggest the bones are at least a hundred years old.

Yet another update on the Port Angeles excavation Non-Native skeleton found on graving yard property will be investigated, tribe says

A Lower Elwha Klallam tribal official says the discovery of complete skeletal remains of a non-tribal woman found on the graving yard site will be investigated in more detail.

The remains were discovered in an isolated grave early last week during the archaeological excavation of the former Klallam village to recover Native remains and artifacts.

Port Angeles police were called to the 22-acre graving yard Tuesday to determine if they had a crime scene.

News with photos! Earliest palace city discovered in Henan

Archaeologists said that the palace city discovered last spring at the Erlitou site in Yanshi City, central China's Henan Province, may be the earliest palace city ever discovered in China.

"The design of the city had erected a model for later dynasties in designing their capital," said Dr. Xu Hong, who leads the archaeological investigation team at the Erlitou site of the Institute of Archaeology, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The rectangular city is 300 meters wide from the east to the west, and 360 to 370 meters long from the north to the south.

(Please note that the following link -- -- that appears at the bottom of this news article does not in any way have anything to do with archaeology. And since this is a family blog, we urge cautious readers to not click the following link -- -- if they find celebrity women in seductive poses to be offensive, in bad taste, or generally not to their liking.)

Biblical Archaeology update Two American cultural titans share thoughts about the Bible

They are titans in their respective fields who have taught within miles of each other. But they never met until a journalist brought them together to talk about the Bible.

The talkers were Frank Moore Cross, 82, the distinguished professor of Hebrew literature at Harvard University since 1957 (now emeritus); and Boston University’s Elie Wiesel, 75, Holocaust survivor, author and winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize. Their chat was arranged by Hershel Shanks for the magazine he edits, Biblical Archaeology Review.

The origins of their interest in the Bible are quite different.

Biblical archaeology is. . . .a bit on the odd side of archaeology. We will discuss this at some length later on, for in the meantime, the sun is shining and awaits us outside. For lunch.

There seems to be great heaping gobs of news today, so we'll just post links and what-not throughout the day. We wish our faithful readers a happy and productive Monday.

The Beauties of Backyard Archaeology

Audio story from NPR. Short, but sweet, basically describing archaeology we come across every day. Well, give it a listen.

This is exciting History lesson:prehistoric findings excite archaeologists

Two rocks may be the secret to unlocking the past of the middle Susitna Valley.

Of course, they aren't just two ordinary rocks, but two rocks that were probably used by people in the Chulitna area thousands of years ago, prior to European contact. The finding, at the Screaming Hawk site, makes archaeologists such as the Mat-Su Borough's Fran Seager-Boss excited.

"It shows an early population there, probably at least 3,000 years ago," Seager-Boss said. "It would tie more into an archaeological finding. We haven't found a single sign of European goods with the artifacts. It's very exciting."

Well, yes they do. . . ARCHAEOLOGISTS UNCOVER

THE last time I tried to dig something up, my mum gave me a “talk” about how the hamster had gone to heaven and was no longer under the rose bush at the bottom of the garden.

So, given my distinct lack of even the most simple skills with a trowel, I breathed a sigh of relief when I was not asked to have a go at excavating some precious ancient Roman stones.

Instead, it was left to the professionals and many trained volunteers to work on what is one of the most important archaeological excavations to take place in Tynedale.

I stopped by at the Corbridge site on Monday to see how the work was going and immediately saw that the remains of the spectacular Roman bridge were clearly visible.

Already, just three weeks into the excavation of what is a majestic reminder that the Romans could carry out the work of giants, hidden secrets are being uncovered.

More bone controversies Exhumation of skeletons to proceed

Exhumation of the human skeletons at Prestwich Street can go ahead, according to Ari Efstathiou, the developer of the site.

This comes after months of protests and formal appeals by the Hands-off Prestwich Place Committee, formed by people strongly opposed to the skeletons being exhumed.

Efstathiou, whose construction has been held up for 14 months, said on Thursday he had been informed that the appeal to the minister of arts and culture by the committee had been dismissed.

He said he did not want to give details about the decision until he had received the full report from the independent tribunal set up by the minister to consider the appeal.

"I'm relieved. Unfortunately it took 14 months to get to this decision. This wasted time has cost me millions of rands. I played by the law, but still I got the bad end of the deal," Efstathiou said on Thursday.

Note that up until now we have refrained from using the obvious 'bone(s) of contention' pun. This may not last.

And yet another surprise finding Archaeologists recover items at La Crosse road construction site

A road construction project on the city's south side is helping local archaeologists dig into the past.

Archaeologists from the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse have excavated a number of sites on South Third and Fourth streets in what had been the road, once it was torn up for the reconstruction project.

"The road project is giving us a last chance to find out what's here," said Wendy Holtz-Leith, a research archaeologist with MVAC.

Standing in a long trench about four feet deep, Bob Cronk, shirtless in the summer heat, peels layer after layer of soil away from an area darker than the dirt around it.

Cronk, an archaeology student at MVAC, said the stained soil indicates the remains of a storage pit.

"The pits were originally used to store food, like corn, beans and squash, said Holtz-Leith.

When the food was gone, the pit was turned into a garbage dump, she said.

We included a bit more from the story to get those last two sentences. This is common practice, archaeologically speaking, the reuse of structures for other purposes. Oftentimes, archaeologists will try to determine the uses to which various structures in a site were put. That way, they can determine how complex the social structure was, how much specialization went on (ceramic production over here, food processing over there, etc.) which has implications for how power and authority was organized. They generally do this by analyzing the artifacts within buildings. So, for example, in a modern house you would find kitchen implements in the kitchen, car and gardening implements in the garage, toiletries in the bathrooms, etc. Trouble is (among others), spaces can be reused over time and thus what artifacts you find are only the last ones that were used there.

THe pit example is one of these. In Egypt, we often find this to be the case. For example, one of our staff dealt extensively with this issue in an outstanding study on the deposits of an Old Kingdom Delta town (which, you too can purchase for -- not £99.95, not £59.95, not even £49.95 -- the amazing price of only £36.00!). What was found there were several classic storae pits built of mud brick, but a detailed analysis of the sediments within came up with a large number of fish cranial elements. This implies that after use as grain storage, they were subsequently used as dumps for (minimally) fish heads.

Studies like this are generally subsumed under the rubric of "formation processes" which looks at the various ways sites are changed over time through natural (sedimentation) or cultural processes and how this should inform our interpretations of the distributions of artifacts. Michael Schiffer is often cited as one of the primary proponents of these analyses.

Update on Petersburg bones Archaeologists Find Prehistoric Native American Village

Kentucky archaeologists say it may take them months to fully analyze all the 800-year-old Native American bones and artifacts they are pulling up from a northern Boone County construction site.

The small town of Petersburg, located along the Ohio River, is confirming much of what archaeological experts thought about the Tri-state's first human inhabitants.

Kentucky's State Archaeologist came back to front street in Petersburg Thursday, along with almost a dozen trained volunteers and colleagues to take a peek back into the Tri-state's history.

Seems to be an entire village instead of just a few isolated burials.

What, no Brad Pitt? Museum hosts exhibit on warriors

A shrunken head, Native American spears and other tools used by warriors through the ages will be the focus of the next Family Day event at the Graves Museum of Archaeology and Natural History in Dania Beach.

The event, dubbed "Warriors -- Past and Present," will feature talks and craft projects from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Speakers and craft projects will be in different areas throughout the museum, said Peter Ferdinando, the museum's adult education coordinator.

"It's set up so that visitors go through the entire museum," he said. "It's a great way of seeing everything."

More on the Port Angeles site A Significant Archaeological Find Near Port Angeles

The lower Elwha Klallam tribe opened up an archeological dig for the news media Thursday, saying that 150 intact bodies and 300 partial remains had been found during excavation of the site prior to the area becoming a staging point for construction of a new portion of the Hood Canal Floating Bridge.

Earlier, when the Klallam tribal artifacts were found at the facility in Port Angeles, the tribe signed an agreement with the state to allow construction of a so-called graving yard for construction of pontoons. In return, the state would give reinternmnet of any tribal remains found on the site and preservation of artifacts.

Thursday, the senior archaeologist on the site, Dennis Lewarch described the site as, "one of the most significant sites excavated in North America and the largest one in the Pacific Northwest."

Friday, July 23, 2004

Way WAY advance notice of television programming Egypt Week Uses 21st Century Technology to Unwrap 3,000-Year-Old Mysteries Buried in the Desert Sand

This winter Discovery Channel will warm up viewers by transporting them to a far-away place and time. Egypt Week will show how modern science is solving the enduring mysteries of ancient Egypt. During prime time from December 5-11, mummified pharaohs and hidden tombs will surrender their secrets to portable X-ray machines, ground-penetrating radar and other high-tech methods.

Egypt Week will open with the world premiere of RAMESES: MYSTERY IN THE
VALLEY OF THE KINGS December 5, 9-11 PM (ET/PT). In this two-hour special,
Discovery Channel follows Dr. Kent Weeks, a widely respected Egyptologist from
the American University in Cairo, on his quest to uncover new clues to the
story of Exodus. In tomb KV5 in the Valley of the Kings, the tomb that he
himself re-discovered in 1987, Weeks searches for clues among the mummies of
Rameses the Great (1278-1212 BC) in order to uncover long-lost details of the
famous Bible story.

We here at ArchaeoBlog think Egypt Week is a fine idea. We're just wondering when camera crews will start showing up to ask us about our studies on diversity issues in intrasite ceramic distributions and its implications for spatial models of site function.

Yeah, that was sarcasm.

Bones popping up all over the place Archaeologists find even more skeletons

THE EXTRAORDINARY human remains found on Worksop's Raymoth Lane went on display to an excited public during a special open-day.

Notts County Council's archaeology team were keen to give the people of Bassetlaw the chance to experience their history first hand.

Then last Wedenesday there was yet more excitement on the site when ANOTHER skeleton was uncovered, this time an adult.

That now leaves the total of human remains as one adult, four babies and the child of around eight, Alex.

"We have been very pleased by the response," said Ursilla Spence, the council's senior archaeological officer. "We had over 100 people visiting before the first hour was through. I have seen lots of smiling faces going away."

Port Angeles (WA) site update Ancient civilization slowly returns to the surface

The Native American site blocking one of Washington State's largest transportation projects just keeps getting bigger and bigger. It has grown from a small discovery to an enormous archaeological find.

On the shores of Port Angeles, an ancient civilization is slowly returning to the surface.

"I'd say it's one of the more important sites in North America, especially in the Pacific Northwest," said Dennis Lewarch, principal investigator.

A team of archaeologists helps dozens of members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe chip away the centuries that cover a village dating back 1,700 years, possibly much further. Few sites this old are as vast and complete.

Send these people some vowels Archaeologists to seek Kyrgyz Atlantis

A Kyrgyz-Russian expedition has embarked for an ancient city covered by Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan, local media reported Wednesday.

Issyk-Kul, 2,250 square miles in area, is a mountain lake in the north of the country. Historians and legends tell about a disappeared island in the lake with fortifications near the north coast where Tamerlane, the Tartar conqueror in southern and western Asia and ruler of Samarkand, held noble prisoners in the 14th century, the Vecherniy Bishkek newspaper said.

Can't dig a hole without hitting something Inrap Uncovers France's Past Lives

When industrialists propose development in France, the National Institute of Preventative Archaeological Research, better known as Inrap, investigates areas that are primed for construction. This past year, Inrap has made three important discoveries: ancient ships in Lyon, mosaics in Doubs, and an Iron Age cemetery in Puisserguier.

The Lyon excavation in central eastern France, carried out in advance of a planned parking lot at Saint George Park, revealed remains of three ships from the first-second century A.D. These ships share a unique structure; they have a flat wood bottom held together by nails. The size of the ships, with the largest being 50.53 feet in length and 9.84 feet in width, indicates that they were most likely used to transport cargo. When compared to more modern ships that have been uncovered, they show that basic ship architecture has not fundamentally changed.

News on early Egypt Death on the Nile

In the alphabet of Egyptology, Abydos comes first. It is the last resting place of the first kings of the first dynasty, 5,000 years ago. It is the birthplace of the cult of the divine king. It is also the launchpad for the Egyptian cult of death. Abydos is several kilometres from the Nile, and roughly halfway between Cairo and Aswan: a long way from both ancient Memphis, and the stunning temples of Thebes and Luxor. But Egyptology begins in Abydos, in the first systematic evidence of the Egyptian pact with mortality.

It is where the pharaoh's undertakers buried his ships of the desert - a flotilla of 20m-long planked craft to ferry the dead king to his afterlife - and ritually killed and buried donkeys to carry his goods. They killed and buried his servants, too, to tend him beyond the grave.

Nice summary article. Read the whole thing. The apparent sacrificing of masses of servants on the death of the king didn't last too long.

Is the enema of my enemy. . .my enema? Napoleon: Died from Too Many Enemas?

The enduring mystery surrounding the demise of Napoleon Bonaparte has just been given another twist.

The official verdict, supported by an autopsy, was that l'Empereur died of stomach cancer on May 5, 1821, at the age of 51, while in exile on Britain's South Atlantic island colony of St. Helena.

But French conspiracy theorists suspect that Napoleon was slowly poisoned, either by the British, or by his confidant, Count Charles de Montholon, who was supposedly in the pay of French royalists opposed to the emperor's return to France.

Ancient stone horses take on a new look

Parts belonging to Qing Zhui and Shi Fachi, two of the six famous bas-relief horses of the Zhaoling Mausoleum, were found by accident during an archaeological excavation in May. Zhao Liguang, deputy director of Xi'an Beilin Museum, said that part of Qing Zhui's back leg was located as was a section of Shi Fachi's front hoof.

When archaeologists discovered the three pieces of sculptured stone they immediately suspected they belonged to the four bas-relief steeds kept in Xi'an Beilin Museum. The pieces belonging to Qing Zhui and Shi Fachi were successfully matched .

But the third piece does not fit any of the steeds in the museum, and archaeologists are considering that it may be part of one of two steeds presently kept in the United States, the museum deputy director said.

Weekly news from the EEF:

Press report about the recent discovery in Qeft of the dyn. 8 tomb of a military commander called Shumay:

It includes a false door, a relief, and a short biography, plus
a unique stela showing a complete military unit.

A survey of the area of Toshka is being planned (the press report is a bit garbled):

Prehistoric houses were found in the Farafra Oasis tA-iHw):

And a variety of inscriptions in the southern Sinai:

Press report: "Sacred Ethiopian obelisk caught in Italian limbo"

"... last November, after the Italian government yielded to decades of
pressure from Addis Ababa, the 200-tonne sacred column was meticulously
divided into sections for its return to Ethiopia, where a national holiday
was promised for the day of its arrival. Nine months later that day has yet
to come.",3604,1262349,00.html

Online dissertations!

James Roger Black, The Instruction of Amenemope: A Critical Edition and Commentary Prolegomenon and Prologue (2002) (3.5 MB).

Bruce Williams, Archaeology and Historical Problems of the Second Intermediate Period, PhD thesis, University of Chicago, 1975.

Web site of the Qurna History Project

The Qurna History Project aims to raise awareness of the richness of the cultural heritage of Qurna and the Qurnawi and thus encourage recording and publication/presentation. The data is under threat and the recording must happen now. It is a community that is disbursing, its buildings are falling into decay and being purposely - and in some cases systematically - demolished, and the rapid changes over the last generation have accelerated family and community memory loss. The raw data is vanishing fast and it is important that it is collected or recorded without delay. The very work of collecting and recording may encourage its preservation. Copies of the collected data and documentation will be deposited in a collection in Egypt, UK or wherever most appropriate for conservation and use.

Dakhleh Oasis Project

"The Dakhleh Oasis Project (DOP) is a long-term regional study of the
interaction between environmental changes and human activity in the closed
area of the Dakhleh Oasis, Western Desert of Egypt, but including the larger
area of the Palaeoasis. The study includes all the time since the first
incursion of man in the Middle Pleistocene, perhaps 400,000 years ago, down
to the 21st century oasis farmers, and all the human activity and all the
changing environmental conditions for which there is evidence within the
time period." - Pharaonic, Ptolemaic-Roman-Christian and Islamic
archaeologists are also participating. This site includes links to the
following pdf-files:

-- "Report of the 2000 season" - 22 pp., pdf-file: 300 KB

-- "Report on the 2000-2001 season" - 35 pp., pdf-file: 200 KB

-- "Report on the 2001-2002 season" - 60 pp., pdf-file: 490 KB

-- "Report on the 2002-2003 season" - 32 pp., pdf-file: 620 KB

-- "Dakleh Oasis Project Bibliography" - 31 pp., pdf-file: 160 KB

This is truly an exceptional project. Rgional archaeology at its finest. It examines all aspects of a restricted area over time, from climate to geomorphology to human habitation.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

We suck Apologies for not posting yesterday. We'd like to say it was because we were intent on investigating breaking archaeological news, or following up on the details of a complex story. In reality, we were out playing golf.

We should also note that we neglected to watch the Scientific American television program Tuesday night, after urging you, our faithful readers, to do so. Our excuse is that our DVD boxed set of Millennium came in the mail and we were busy watching the special features.

So anyway, on with the news. . . .

Wine not? First Wine? Archaeologist Traces Drink to Stone Age

Wine snobs might shudder at the thought, but the first wine-tasting may have occurred when Paleolithic humans slurped the juice of naturally fermented wild grapes from animal-skin pouches or crude wooden bowls.

The idea of winemaking may have occurred to our alert and resourceful ancestors when they observed birds gorging themselves silly on fermented fruit and decided to see what the buzz was all about.

"The whole process is sort of magical," said Patrick McGovern, an expert on the origins of ancient wine and a leader in the emerging field of biomolecular archaeology. "You could even call [fermentation] the first biotechnology," said McGovern, who is based at Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania.

Mammoth piece of art Prehistoric art relic 17,000 yrs old found in central Russia

Archaeologists working in the Kursk region, 500 km south off Moscow, have found a relic of prehistoric art carved from mammoth’s tusk about 17,000 years ago.

Natalya Ahmetgaleyeva, the chief of the archaeological expedition, told Itar-Tass the object was found not far from the village of Byki.

“It’s a small thing and it might have been used as a primeval hunter’s amulet or a fixed accessory of some primitive cult,” she said.

Ramesses on the move Pollution forces Egypt to move statue of god-king

Ramses II, son of the Sun god, the greatest warrior king and the most prolific builder of ancient Egypt, has been defeated by the rumble and fumes of modern traffic.

His monumental pink granite statue outside Cairo central rail station has all but vanished within a sarcophagus of scaffolding erected to enable experts to prepare it for removal next year to a less polluted site outside the city.

Antiquities Market update Customs seize pre-Colombian artifacts from Dominican Republic

Nearly 200 artifacts from the Dominican Republic, some dating back to 2500 B.C., have been seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, officials announced Tuesday.

The artifacts include arrowheads and stone carvings, some smaller than a fingernail, and are called pre-Columbian because they predate Christopher Columbus' 1492 arrival in the Americas.

Thomas S. Winkowski, the agency's director of field operations, called it a "significant seizure" and evidence of federal officials' work to "address illegal trafficking in stolen artifacts."

Site found all Ohlone Caltrans discovers ancient Ohlone site

Caltrans has unearthed what appears to be an ancient Ohlone Indian village on Yerba Buena Island in continuing work to build a new $4 billion span of the Bay Bridge.

Since July 13, Caltrans has found at least five skeletons during a preparatory archaeological dig for the final phases of the work, which is still years away.

Work on the bridge continues unabated because the latest discovery was not made during construction.

It was the second such finding, following the discovery of 21 Ohlone remains in the fall of 2002 during a prework exploration.

Caltrans has been working with the Ohlone for years, trying to anticipate what archaeological sites they might encounter while building the bridge. The work was part of federal and state environmental regulations.

"Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of archaeology" Canine Case Closed?

The conviction of a renowned handler raises questions about the use of dogs in archaeology.

Michigan native Sandra Anderson is set to be sentenced on August 24 in Federal Court, Southern Division of the Eastern District of Michigan, for planting evidence at a crime scene and making false statements to authorities. A respected scent-detection dog trainer and handler, Anderson pled guilty earlier this year. Since the charges were filed last fall, the work of Anderson and her dog Eagle has been questioned.

Sandra Anderson rose to prominence in 2000 as a dog trainer and cadaver dog handler specializing in human remains detection. Having helped start a dog training and search company called Canine Solutions, Inc., she later became director of the Great Lakes Search and Rescue of Michigan K-9 Unit. Undertaking searches for nothing more than travel costs, Anderson and Eagle became popular with police departments as an inexpensive tool in their investigations. Sandra and her dog were even asked to Panama and Bosnia to search for graves of victims of political oppression and war crimes. Anderson also visited several archaeological sites and old cemeteries, marking burials or establishing area boundaries. From her work, Sandra Anderson and Eagle gained media attention, appearing in at least one documentary. And in 2000, ARCHAEOLOGY ran an article about Anderson, her dog Eagle, and their supposed ability to detect ancient buried remains through the dog's keen sense of smell.

Medici crypt updateMedici Project Turns Up Mystery Bodies

The project to exhume the remains of several members of the Medicis, the family that dominated the Florentine Renaissance, has taken a new turn this month as researchers discovered a secret crypt containing the mysterious bodies of seven children and an adult.

The vaulted chamber was found under a stone floor behind the main altar of the Medici Chapels at Michelangelo's church of San Lorenzo in Florence. The researchers stumbled across it while searching for the final resting place of the last Grand Duke Gian Gastone, who probably died from obesity and kidney stones.

More detail on the secret crypt we reported on earlier.

That's good to know Human sacrifice was rarer than thought

Bronze Age ritual human sacrifice may have been rarer than believed, according to a unique study of ancient DNA from bones in central Europe.

German anthropologist Dr Susanne Hummel from the University of Göttingen presented her team's research at a recent ancient DNA conference in Brisbane, Australia.

Hummel said the research was also the first to use ancient DNA to complete a family tree from human prehistoric remains.

The researchers have been looking at 3000-year old human bones from the remains of about 40 people found in the Lichtenstein cave, in Lower Saxony, north-western Germany.

Islamic necropolis discovered in Portugal

Portuguese archeologists said they have discovered the largest Islamic necropolis in the country, and possibly in the Iberian peninsula.

Around 35 skeletons have so far been found at the cemetery, at Santarem, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Lisbon and which was the capital of an independent kingdom in the 8th century when Muslims from North Africa occupied the Iberian peninsula.

The site covers 3,400 square meters (36,000 square feet), making it the largest of its kind in Portugal, said Antonio Matias, the archeologist in charge of the site, quoted by the Lusa news agency.

More news, especially of the Egyptian sort, later this afternoon. We are also busy researching an interesting aspect of North American prehistory that should provide you, our faithful readers, with some good links to learn more.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Bones, bones, and more bones Ancient bones found

Archaeologists expect to find the skeletal remains of more Fort Ancient Indians buried in this tiny Boone County town, where a construction crew digging the foundation for a new home uncovered two leg bones last week.

With an excited town looking over their shoulders, archaeologists David Pollack and Nancy O'Malley visited the site Monday and plan to return later in the week with a team of experienced volunteers to remove the bones.

Pollack, who is director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, said the bones likely date from 1200 to 1500, when Indians settled along the Ohio River and buried their relatives near their homes. He believes the residential lot in Petersburg was the site of a family grave.

More here.

Every day is archaeology day Youngsters help turn back the clock

Medieval characters took the Priory back to its historic heyday when they turned out for National Archaeology Day.

Members of local re-enactment society the House of Bayard joined the Manshead Archaeological Society at Priory Meadow on Saturday.

Archaeologists have been unearthing more about Dunstable's history during their dig next to Priory Church over the past six weeks.

And the medieval life of the former Augustinian Priory demolished by Henry VIII was brought to life by the House of Bayard for visitors to learn more about the town's past.

Update on Effing Epping bones Remains will be buried again

Last week’s discovery by a construction worker of skeletal remains from a centuries-old burial ground didn’t surprise local historian Madelyn Williamson.

With so much of the town being dug up for commercial and residential development projects, Williamson said old unmarked family grave sites are bound to be unearthed.

"We’re going to have more and more of this happening," said Williamson, curator for the Epping Historical Society.

The human bones of at least three bodies were found Thursday morning by a worker for Nyman Excavating, a firm hired for excavation work at the Hamilton Heights housing subdivision off Plummer Road.

Saloon! Beer! Dancing girls! Old Saloon Unearthed At Construction Site

A historic find in the heart of downtown Sacramento has halted a major construction project.

Archaeologists believe they have discovered a 125-year-old piece of the city's history, which has shut down construction of an expansive 225 loft-apartment complex.

Construction crews at the corner of Eighth and J streets stumbled upon an outline of a historic building called the Philadelphia House and Saloon.

Now, Jason Coleman and archaeological workers are digging, sifting and searching for evidence of an era long gone. What they've discovered are almost intact relics of an 1870s saloon, including an old stovetop, plates, dishes, ceramic bottles and a 100-year-old Bourbon bottle that seemed to be in excellent condition.

"We even have a beer tap, which is kind of exciting," Coleman said.

TV program alert Scientific American Frontiers: Coming Into America on PBS, July 20 9pm E/P.

This is a very contentious topic among many archaeologists. Definitely worth checking out the program, and also click on the 'Resource Section' of the link above. It has a bunch of links to sites dealing with 'first American' topics.

Here's a story on one of the sites in the program: ‘Scientific American’ shines spotlight on S.C. dig

More tombs! 50 ancient tombs uncovered

ARCHEOLOGISTS have discovered 50 tombs dating back to the late Minoan period, around 1400 BC, and containing a number of artifacts on the Greek island of Crete, ANA news agency reported today.

The tombs were part of the once powerful ancient city of Kydonia, which was destroyed at the time but later rebuilt.

The oldest among them contained bronze weapons, jewellery and vases and are similar to the tombs of fallen soldiers of the Mycenaean type from mainland Greece, said the head of the excavations, Maria Vlazaki.

The more recent family tombs are of a more traditional Kydonia type.

Earlier excavations in the area in northwest Crete near the town of Chania had already yielded some 100 burial sites.

Now, this is cool Hi-tech Scots stand guard over herald of the gods

A TEAM of Scottish experts have used the latest computer technology to protect a priceless 2300-year-old Greek statue.

Hermes of Praxiteles, the sole surviving work of one of classical Greece's finest sculptors, was threatened by earthquakes as it stood in the country's most important archaeological museum in Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic games.

However, pioneering work by computer experts from Glasgow, which involved scanning the statue, creating 3D models and pinpointing break lines, will now safeguard it from potentially catastrophic seismic activity.

Hard to read, but interesting.

Prehistoric Chinese Colonial Williamsburg Primeval village restored at ancient culture site

A prehistoric village has been restored at a Hongshan culture site in Chifeng City, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, enabling visitors to learn about the life of Chinese forefathers at least 5,500 years ago.

The village, covering more than six hectares of land in Hongshan Forest Park, comprises six old-style houses and a fish pond. The exhibit also includes dozens of sculptures of scenes from daily prehistoric life, including fishing, hunting and production of stone and chinaware implements.

Sources with the Chifeng municipal government said the restoration of the village aims to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the naming of the Neolithic Hongshan culture which dated back 5,500 to 6,000 years.

Really old mud bricks Pre-Harappan bricks found in Gulf of Cambay

In an underwater exploration in the Gulf of Cambay, National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) scientists discovered almost 9,500-year-old bricks made of clay and straw.

Archaeological experts of the MS University who, too, are involved in a part of the exploration near Surat and the coast of Gulf of Cambay, however, feel that a further insight into the size of the bricks can confirm its age and its period.

The bricks, believed to be pre-Harappan, have been identified to be of the Holocene age.

Seems like an awful old set of mud bricks. File this one under "Let's wait and see".

CSI: Sterkfontein

Bloody stone tools tell hominids' tales

Two million-year-old blood and fat on stone tools found in South Africa are giving clues about what hominids ate and how they lived, says an Australian researcher.

Molecular archaeologist, Dr Tom Loy of the University of Queensland, reported his analysis of biological residues found on quartz stone tools at a recent ancient biomolecules conference in Brisbane.

"I looked at them and there was blood everywhere," Loy said of the tools, which are among the oldest of their kind, and came from the Sterkfontein caves 60 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg.

Loy found intact and fragmented red and white blood cells; fat cells from bone marrow; collagen from ligaments and tendons; muscle tissue and even degraded hair on the tools.

This technique has been around for a while in one form or other, and has been used in several contexts. Perhaps most notably in two issues in North American archaeology: hunting among the Clovis and cannibalism in the southwest. The former is restricted to stone tools (generally projectile points and such) and the latter focuses on ceramics.

Blood residue analysis has been used to determine what animals were actually hunted by prehistoric people which has been important in linking humans to possible megafaunal extinctions. See this online Archaeological Report that uses blood residue on a Clovis site in Washington state (scroll down for "East Wenatchee Clovis Site" by Richard Michael Gramly).

There are several reports online regarding the cannibalism story; start here.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Online paper alert Dave Smith has posted a paper on "Blindness" in Ancient Egypt - A New Interpretation of Some New Kingdom Texts

It's PDF but here is a short abstract provided by the author on a mailing list:

This paper discusses a class of inscriptions appearing on a number
of artefacts traditionally interpreted by researchers as referring to
blindness. I am proposing an alternative hypothesis, namely that these
record the witnessing of total solar eclipses. In the paper I show
that this hypothesis is not inconsistent with the dating evidence.

The paper may therefore be of interest both to those studying absolute
chronology and also those who have an interest in religion and personal
piety in Ancient Egypt.

This is largely outside of our area of expertise, so we'll leave to our intrepid readers to read and comment on it.

Kennewick man update Battle Over Kennewick Man Appears Over

he battle over Kennewick Man, one of the most complete skeletons ever found in North America, appears to be over.

Four Northwest tribes seeking to bury the 9,300-year-old bones have announced they will not take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) after losing in lower federal courts to scientists who want to study the remains, The Oregonian reported in its Friday editions.

The U.S. Justice Department (news - web sites), which earlier had sided with the tribes, declined Thursday to say whether it would file its own appeal to the nation's highest court by a Monday deadline. Seattle attorney Rob Roy Smith, who represents the Colville Tribes, said he assumes the federal agency will not continue with the case.

And thus the saga ends. This case tested one crucial aspect of the NAGPRA law, that skeletal remains be linked historically with an existing tribe. Despite the efforts of many, this simply could not be done with a 9700 year old skeleton. We doubt that it ever can be done with remains this old, barring extensive DNA analysis which might link populations (see this story from Britain, for example) over such long periods of time. This will no doubt have implications for other very old remains.

Many documents relating to the case can be found at the NPS's web site.

More on ancient cancer How our ancestors avoided cancer

Cancer is a disease that touches most people's lives in some way.

We all seem to know someone who has had it and the global picture is far from encouraging with incidence rates rising year on year.

The increase is largely explained by the fact that the population is steadily ageing, but it is also associated with unhealthy lifestyles, smoking and obesity.

So what of our ancestors? Did they face a life shortened by cancer or were they healthier than modern man?

Research on skeletons dating back thousands of years, indicates that cancer was not something they encountered very frequently.

This is essentially the argument we made last week when noting this research and are, of course, in substantial agreement. We'll continue to be on the lookout for other explanations, however.

Admittedly, we at first read it as "Effing skeletons". . . Epping skeletons sent for analysis

Three human skeletons estimated to be between two and three centuries old discovered Thursday morning at the Hamilton Heights construction site have been sent off to Maine for forensic examination, archaeologists said yesterday.

Kathleen Wheeler, director of Portsmouth-based Independent Archaeological Consultants, said the skeletons were delivered to the University of Maine at Orono.

Marcella Sorg, a forensic archaeologist who also did the studies of African-American slave remains discovered last year under Court Street in Portsmouth, will be heading the investigation, Wheeler said.

“We’ve found finished wood fragments (at the site) which could indicate they were buried in coffins, so right now we’re leaning toward the notion that they were Euro-Americans,” Wheeler said. “Looking at the cranial features, such as the height of the cheekbones, can determine right away if they are Native American, European or African.”

We reported on this over the weekend. There appears to be no new information here, so why we posted it (other than to make the 'effing' joke above) is a mystery to us.

Underwater archaeology update Network of divers will help uncover Georgia's submerged treasures

Archaeologists have been digging up pottery, stone tools and other artifacts in Georgia for years, but until recently there was no coordinated effort to locate the historic treasures submerged along the coast and in rivers and streams.

Georgia has joined at least eight other states, including Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina, in launching a state-funded underwater archaeology program.

As the state's first official underwater archaeologist, Jason Burns is organizing a network of divers and historians to identify the state's submerged relics, including 2,000 shipwrecks.

"When you think of underwater archaeology, it's not just shipwrecks," Burns said. "We're interested in everything from submerged prehistoric sites, to docks, piers and wharves."

Native conflict alert Billie chastises Marineland on burial sites

Town commissioners here have started rewriting their comprehensive plan and land development regulations so the area's sensitive environment will be at least partially protected from runaway development.

But those modern problems took an unusual turn this week as Bobby C. Billie, spiritual head of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation of Florida, came to the commission and asked it to stop all development.

Billie said Marineland contained indigenous burial grounds.

"White people never ask us how we feel when you put a building on top of our grandmother," Billie said. "You don't respect us. This is our land. Your land is somewhere else."

So that's what the Etruscans did for us... Italy rediscovers glories of its mysterious past

The most extraordinary smile has been beaming down at Romans from hoardings all over the city this week. It belongs to a statue of the Apollo of Veio, the vanished Etruscan city a few miles north of central Rome.

Yesterday, after the first painstaking restoration since the statue's discovery 80 years ago, it went on display in Rome's National Etruscan Museum in Villa Giulia.

The terracotta statue was assembled from 30 fragments found in 1916 in a cave at the site of the vanished city. In 1944 more pieces came to light, enabling archaeologists to add the statue's right arm.


Ever since a digger clattered into a buried wall seven years ago, experts have been intrigued and perplexed by Swindon's mysterious Roman complex. But yesterday, English Heritage revealed that the enigmatic site in the heart of a housing estate was once a magnificent, luxurious villa.

Today and tomorrow, members of the public have their only chance to view the historic find before the site is buried once again.

English Heritage was overjoyed at uncovering the well-preserved remains of a spacious Turkish bath-like complex after a seven-week dig at Groundwell Ridge. Experts said the elaborate Roman baths and heating system, dating back nearly 1,900 years, exceeded their highest expectations.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Sorry about the formatting in the foregoing post. Something in Mozilla
and/or that piece of crap put out by Microsoft (i.e., IE) refuses to
allow proper editing.

Well, maybe it's Blogspot's fault. We don't care, we'll blame whoever.

Another lost civilization! Archaeologist Believes Find is Proof of Lost Indian Culture'>Archaeologist
Believes Find is Proof of Lost Indian Culture

A government archaelogist believes ancient fire pits
and pottery recently unearthed in south-central Montana are the works
of an Indian culture that disappeared hundreds of years ago from its
home range in modern-day Colorado and Utah.

Glade Hadden, a Bureau of Reclamation archaeologist, said evidence
found at the site near Bridger strongly suggests the area was inhabited
by Fremont people, an Indian culture known for its masonry work and
fine pottery.

"There is no doubt in my mind," Hadden said.

His could be a controversial conclusion, but it could also provide a
clue to determining what happened to the Fremont people, who are
believed to have disappeared from their home range in the 14th

Nice vintage href="">Jamestown
wine cellar believed unearthed

Eight glass bottles have been unearthed in a
brick-walled space that may have been the wine cellar of a house dating
from the close of the 1600s in Jamestown.

The intact, gourd-shaped bottles, which were found without corks, were
likely empty when they were stored in the cellar, said Bill Kelso,
director of archaeology for the Jamestown Recovery Project.
Archaeologists initially believed they contained remnants of wine.

"We looked at them closer and it doesn't look like that's a possibility," Kelso said Friday.

An intriguing question: href="">When
Does Garbage Become Archaeology?

A rusted cooking pot, an old stove top, bits of china
and pottery. Exploring in the woods around a backcountry chalet in
Montana's Glacier National Park, we poked through the remains of
garbage --everything from glass chips to bed springs. We prodded these
remnants of the past: Historic rubbish.

Knowing the National Park Service classifies these dumpsites as
archaeological, we carefully let our findings be. But our search posed
questions: When does garbage become historic and thereby protected?
What separates junk left to rot and historic treasures in our national
parks and wilderness areas?

Certainly, we prize broken bits of pottery left from the Anasazis of
800 or so years ago in our southwestern sanctuaries, because their
shards provide clues to our ancient cultural history. And we place
cherished recent architectural creations--Mount Rainier's Paradise Inn
built in 1916; Grand Canyon Lodge, built in 1927-28; and Glacier's
Going-to-the-Sun Road, completed in 1932--on the Register of National
Historic Landmarks.

But in national parks and wilderness areas where early 20th century
ethics allowed garbage to be dumped in a pile and galvanized phone
wires to crisscross the mountains, the line between historic refuse and
just plain trash blurs.

Traditionally, as the article quotes someone, 50 years is considered
"archaeological" when something is found. The bane of CRM (Cultural
Resource Management) archaeologists are can dumps -- piles of cans
(from canned food and such) that were dumped over a period of a few
days or weeks 40+ years ago. They're found all over the place out west
and they're a pain to record. One might think "Who cares?" but mind
this sentence: cleaning up these dumpsites removes a window
into more recent human history. Collections of castoff trash hide clues
to how hikers behaved in the backcountry in the 1940s and how they
interacted with the environment in the '60s, just on the cusp of the
"50 year" benchmark.
We might think we know all about what
happened 40 years ago, but in many ways we don't. We really don't have
a good institutional memory of what campers were doing out in the
wilderness in the recent past, what they took with them, what they left
behind, etc.

The answer, btw, is probably unanswerable. Like many things in archaeology, "it depends".

From South Africa href="">Two
more burial sites found in Kimberley

Two more burial sites have been discovered in Kimberley, the SABC reported on Thursday.

The finding comes after last May's discovery of 180 unmarked graves in the city.

The area where the graves were found is north of the city centre and
developers and archaeologists are divided as to what should be done
with the matter.

Archaeologists say that more than 5000 graves could be lying in the
area. Subsequent to that, they say, the area should be

RIP href="">Dr.
Miriam (Scharf) Balmuth, 79, renowned archaeologist

When Dr. Miriam (Scharf) Balmuth joined Tufts
University's Department of Classics in 1964 as an assistant professor,
she was a pioneer in a field normally closed to women.

Balmuth, 79, who taught at Tufts for four decades and was one of the
early women to achieve eminence in her field, died of cancer June 30 at
her home in Santa Fe, her residence since 2001.

One of the first women to be hired in the department - and, five years
later, one of the first to receive tenure - Balmuth opened the field to
new generations of women as she rose through the academic ranks, took
part in numerous digs, and became internationally known.

Dem old bones. . . . href="">Human
bones may be 300 years old

An excavator working at a new subdivision Thursday
unearthed the skeletal remains of at least three human bodies that may
have been buried as many as 300 years ago.

The bones were discovered around 9:30 a.m. when a worker was excavating
in the area of the Hamilton Heights housing development off Plummer
Road, Epping police Lt. Michael Wallace said.

The worker immediately stopped digging and police were notified about the unusual discovery.

Though the bodies were not buried in a box or a coffin to protect them,
Wallace said they appeared to be "pretty well preserved."

Field School alert href="">Students
finding clues to how early Cades Cove settlers lived

Archaeologists and college students are finding clues about the lives of early Cades Cove settlers.

A team from the University of Tennessee is conducting small "digs"
around the John Oliver cabin as part of the Smoky Mountain
Archaeological Field School. They're turning up some relics from the
Olivers' time in the cove, the early 1800's.

Graduate assistant Elijah Ellerbush says the cove represents one of the
earliest European-American settlements in the mountains. The project
also looks for relics from the Cherokee Indian era and prehistoric

The researchers have identified an area of fieldstones they believe was from the first cabin the Olivers built.

They've also unearthed nails, pieces of pottery, glass and glazed
ceramic shards believed be from an English plate. And there are pieces
of stone, likely flaked from weapons or tools.

That's the whole thing. Not really an "alert" since it's already
started either. At any rate, we should have thought of posting about
this earlier in the season, but hey, we forgot, being the eminently
important archaeologists we are. Every summer legions of undergraduates
fan out across the country to attend field schools. These are usually
real archaeological projects that use students getting credit as
excavators. It's pretty much the only way to get the needed experience
to go on any other digs, unless you can volunteer somewhere.

Choose your FS carefully, however. You want one that's actually
teaching you to excavate properly, not one that just gets students for
their strong backs. Oh, and get one in a pleasant location with a
director that looks after basic creature comforts, too.