Monday, November 28, 2005

No posting for several days

We have an impending death in the family and must travel to be with loved one at this time. We'll resume posting in a week or so. Thank you for reading and we'll get back to it as time permits.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Archaeologists find 4,500-year-old fortune-telling instruments

A Chinese archaeologist said Wednesday that a 4,500-year-old jade tortoise and an oblong jade article discovered in east China's Anhui Province were China's earliest fortune-telling instruments found so far.

The two jade objects were discovered in an ancient tomb in Lingjiatan Village, Hanshan County, Anhui Province.

Gu Fang, an expert with the jadeware research committee under the China Society of Cultural Relics, told Xinhua that the jade tortoise is made up of a back shell and a belly shell. Several holes can be found on the jade tortoise.
TV Corner Egyptologist brings lost civilisation to life for television series

A researcher at the University of Liverpool has written a book about the lives of the world's most famous Egyptologists to accompany BBC One's major new documentary series, Egypt.
Egypt: How a Lost Civilisation was Rediscovered by Dr Joyce Tyldesley, covers the history of Egyptology, from the end of the Dynastic age to the present, beginning with little known Egyptians who investigated the country's ancient monuments to famous archaeologists such as Howard Carter, who uncovered the resting place of the boy king, Tutankhamen.

Dr Tyldesley, from the University's School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, said: "Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798 sparked a huge interest in the country's ancient civilisations. Stories of lost treasure and mummies gripped the public's imagination and the world became obsessed with everything Egyptian. Explorers and collectors who went in search of Egyptian artefacts produced some of the first Egyptologists and a new area of scientific study. Amongst these 'explorers' are some of the most fascinating characters in modern history."
Fort Clatsop update Closest look yet at Fort Clatsop leaves mystery

A 200-year-old mystery remains unsolved.

A three-week archaeological excavation at Fort Clatsop near Astoria ends today with no physical evidence that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark spent 106 dreary days there in 1805-06. Despite decades of searching, the precise fort site is uncertain.

"The search continues," said Doug Wilson, an archaeologist with the National Park Service who led the most complete excavation of the site where a 50-year-old fort replica stood until a fire Oct. 3.
Flints give Cyprus oldest seafaring link in Med

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe is the earliest evidence yet of long distance seafaring in the eastern Mediterranean, undermining beliefs that ancient mariners never ventured into open seas.

Fragments of stone implements believed to be up to 12,000 years old have been found at two sites of Cyprus, suggesting roving mariners used the areas as temporary camp sites after forays from what is today Syria and Turkey.

The flints are unlike anything found in the geological make-up of Cyprus, and more than 1,000 years older than the timing of the first permanent settlers to the island.

Now that's interesting. Seems like a very early date though, but they must have had to get there somehow.
Heh. Oops. Greek Vase, 2,500 Years Old, Is Shattered in Smuggling Probe

On June 19, 1990, Sotheby's Holdings Inc. held the century's first known auction of works by the Leonardo da Vinci of Greek pots, Euphronios. A 2,500-year-old kylix wine cup painted with a Trojan War scene, sold in New York for $742,000 to a then-anonymous ``European buyer.''

Then it vanished. The kylix is the only Euphronios vase listed as having an ``unknown'' location by Oxford University's Beazley Archive, the standard reference for Greek vessels.

``We just don't know where it is,'' said Thomas Mannack, 46, who runs the archive's pottery database.

It's a mystery no more. The missing kylix is in a cardboard box in a storeroom of Rome's Villa Giulia museum.

The bad news: It's smashed into dozens of pieces
America prediscovered

THE VEXED question of American independence has arisen once again: not, in this case, in 1776, but before Columbus came to the New World.

It is generally accepted that the Amerindian population originated in Asia, probably more than 15,000 years ago, but whether there were subsequent transoceanic contacts and influences remains a matter of hot debate. Vikings from Maine to Minnesota, Romans crossing from Africa to Brazil, and Chinese and Japanese voyagers hitting the Pacific coastline have all been proposed. Now a new candidate for transpacific contact has reached a major academic journal.

Not much there, but also a blurb on some marble Michaeolangelo used.
Scientists show we’ve been losing face for 10,000 years

THE human face is shrinking. Research into people’s appearance over the past 10,000 years has found that our ancestors’ heads and faces were up to 30% larger than now.

Changes in diet are thought to be the main cause. The switch to softer, farmed foods means that jawbones, teeth, skulls and muscles do not need to be as strong as in the past.

The shrinkage has been blamed for a surge in dental problems caused by crooked or overlapping teeth.

“Over the past 10,000 years there has been a trend toward rounder skulls with smaller faces and jaws,” said Clark Spencer Larsen, professor of anthropology at Ohio State University.

Yes, we do in fact prefer


ALso see this: Homo erectus ate crunchy food. Along those same lines.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Save the whales baby seals spotted owls toilets! Why only plumbing can prevent the fall of Rome

An urgent rescue operation is being launched to save some of Rome's most important ancient ruins, including the palace where Julius Ceasar once lived, from the ravages of increasingly violent rainstorms that are undermining their foundations.

Archaeologists fear that buildings on the Palatine Hill, most more than 2,000 years old, are becoming dangerously unstable and pose an increasing risk to the 3.5 million tourists who visit the area each year.

Repairs could take up to 10 years, engineers have said, and are expected to cost between €100 and €200 million (£68 and £136 million) - a small price to pay, they say, to preserve some of Rome's historical treasures.
1,700-year-old 'Roman Glass' Discovered in East China

Glass remains over 1,700 years old, possibly imported from ancient Rome, have been discovered in an ancient tomb located in east China's Anhui Province, local cultural relic department said on Sunday.

The tomb was found during the latest road project in Zhulong Village of Dangtu County in Anhui. Archaeologists believed the tomb was built in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317 - 420).

Covered with white mantlerock, the glass remains seem to have ancient Roman shapes and craftwork.

According to the local cultural relic department, the owner of the tomb was possibly from an eminent family of the Eastern Jin Dynasty.

Besides the "Roman glass," other rare articles including a gold bracelet, a silver ring, a bronze bowl and porcelain were also discovered in the tomb.

Currently, pieces of the "Roman glass" have been sent to the Anhui-based University of Science and Technology of China for further study and analysis, said the local cultural relic department.

That's the whole thing.
Nubia's Black Pharaohs

On a cloudless morning in northern Sudan, the first rays of the sun cast a glow on Jebel Barkal, a small tabletop mountain perched near the Nile River. Jebel Barkal rises barely 320 feet above the surrounding desert but is distinguished by one prominent feature: a pinnacle jutting out from its southwestern cliff face. If your imagination is keen enough, the isolated butte might resemble a crown or an altar, and the pinnacle an unfinished colossal statue—perhaps a rearing serpent, its body poised to strike.

Striding toward an excavation near the base of the pinnacle, archaeologist Tim Kendall pauses momentarily to admire what he calls the "little mountain with big secrets." Thousands of years ago, Jebel Barkal and Napata, the town that grew up around it, served as the spiritual center of ancient Nubia, one of Africa's earliest civilizations. The mountain was also considered a holy site by neighboring Egypt, whose pharaohs plundered and tyrannized Nubia for 400 years.

Just a short part of a longer (sub only) article).
Travel section On the outskirts of Rome, an ancient city rivals Pompeii

The ruins of Ostia Antica, on the outskirts of Rome, remain as captivating as I remembered from decades ago. As a teenager growing up in the Italian capital, I would join classmates to perform school plays in Ostia Antica's ancient open-air theater. Costumed in togas made of bedsheets, we'd cheerfully mangle Aristophanes' classical plays then scamper off to roam the ruins, poking into ivy-draped passageways and secluded rooms and clambering over fallen columns.

Ostia Antica, once the ancient port of Rome, has hundreds of 2,000-year-old buildings spread over hundreds of acres. Yet somehow it's always eclipsed by its Italian neighbor Pompeii, a city frozen in time by the volcanic ash blast of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. that has become one of the world's best-known archaeological sites.
Now this is interesting Modern hunters take up ancient weapon

An ancient weapon that was apparently used as early as prehistoric times to slay woolly mammoths may soon be added to the arsenals of Pennsylvania hunters.

The state Game Commission is drafting proposed regulations to allow hunters to use the atlatl, a small wooden device that propels a six-foot dart as fast as 80 mph. The commission could vote in January and make a final decision in April, officials said.

It's not yet clear which animals would be hunted, but the proposal has the support of people who want to kill deer with the handmade weapon of Stone Age design.

Whoa. You can even purchase them online here. I sense an episode of CSI coming in the near future. . . .
Mummy update

CT tells mummy's secret: Preservation no accident

Researchers oohed and aahed so much over the patient's internal organs one might be forgiven for thinking he was still alive.

But Sylvester, the object of all the attention Saturday at Inland Pacific Imaging in Seattle, is a mummy.

Researchers who did a CT scan on him four years ago came back for a more detailed look, this time using both CT and MRI equipment.

"Amazing!" and "Awesome!" they exclaimed over images of the mummy's brain. "That is impossible. He can't look like that," said Jerry Conlogue, co-director of the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

It really is an excellent mummy. Not very ancient, however. Apparently whoever embalmed it injected much of its internals with arsenic, hence the good preservation. Read the whole thing.
More from Iran
French, Canadians to explore Mazandaran caves

Scholars from Lyon and Toronto Universities have asked to carry out excavations in the ancient caves of Mazandaran province in Iran, CHN reported.

Previous studies and excavations in the caves indicate that human settlement in Mazandaran province dates back to 40,000 years ago.

Mazandaran province, in the southern coastal line of the Caspian Sea, enjoys several unique caves such as Kushiman. Mazandaran is one of the most historical provinces of Iran, the inhabitants of which have lived in urbanized societies from the 5th millennium BC. Until now a lot of mysteries of the 5,000-year-old life of the people of the region have been revealed.

?We are determined to start digging archaeological boring pits in the historical Kumishan cave. The cave has undergone excavations both before and after the revolution, but none of them were systematic,? said Ali Mahforouzi, head of research center of the historical caves of Mazandaran province.
Energy Development Threatens Ancient Village

SALT LAKE CITY The remote Utah canyon that long concealed a string of ancient Indian settlements holds another surprise: The rancher who sold the land kept the mineral rights and says he may use them.

Waldo Wilcox, who for nearly 50 years kept the ancient Fremont Indian sites remarkably well preserved, tells a KUED documentary he kept the mineral rights because Utah wouldn't pay what he thought his 4,200-acre ranch was worth.

Wilcox wanted $4 million but got $2.5 million for the ranch in remote Range Creek Canyon, which was called one of the most important discoveries of 2004 by the magazine ``Scentific American.''

Wilcox, 75, said that before he opens the canyon to any oil-and-gas development, he would offer the mineral rights to the state _ for a price. But during an hourlong documentary, Wilcox recalled bitterly his negotiations with the state.

This was a big story from the past year. Can't tell what this would really entail as far as the archaeological sites were concerned. It seems as if he's already sold the land to the state, so it's unclear what sort of rules would govern any kind of development in the area. Obviously, unrestricted mining, etc., would be terrible for the remains. So would unlimited public access. OTOH, some mineral development might bring in money for actual archaeological work to take place. We'll keep following this.
Fight! Fight! Wal-Mart archaeologist to fight claim he desecrated remains

A Honolulu archaeologist who oversaw the construction site of the Keeaumoku Street Wal-Mart complex vowed to fight allegations that he violated state laws regarding burials and desecrated human remains.

The state Historic Preservation Commission has recommended $210,000 in fines, the highest possible under law, against Akihiko Sinoto, of Aki Sinoto Consulting, and other archaeologists involved in the Wal-Mart site for allegedly failing to notify "proper authorities" in a timely fashion when a burial site was inadvertently found during construction that began in 2003.

Sinoto said yesterday that he and the other archaeologists "intend to vigorously defend ourselves" in a state administrative process that could begin next month. The other archaeologists, who worked with him or were subcontracted by him, are Paul Tichenal and L.J. Moana Lee of Honolulu-based International Archaeological Research Institute Inc., and J. Stephen Athens and Rona Ikehara-Quebral of Honolulu.
A grave discovery Grave accidentally discovered in Iran's Siraf

A grave accidentally discovered in the ancient city of Siraf has puzzled archaeologists. Due to its strange burial, none of the archaeologists seeing it have been able to determine its exact date, CHN reported.

Based on the evidence, unlike other remains of the area, the grave belongs neither to the Parthian nor to the Sassanid nor the Islamic era.

Visiting historical city of Siraf was one of the programs of Siraf international conference which was attended by almost 200 Iranian and foreign experts and archaeologists. It was during the visit that the unusual burial was discovered accidentally.
Wine update
Cyprus: Archaeologists: Cypriots Took Wine to the World

The ancient Greeks took wine to the masses, the Romans to the world. But it was the innovation of Cypriots that showed them how, say archaeologists. Italian experts claim to have unearthed evidence suggesting not only did Cyprus introduce clay drinking goblets and wine jars for transportation further afield, but it had at least a 1,500 year head start on any of its Mediterranean cousins on the art of making wine.

"It's an amazing discovery," says research head Maria Rosaria Belgiorno.

"The most ancient wine seems to have been found in a 5,000-5,500 BC vase in Ajjii Firuz Tepe in Iran ... but in the Mediterranean, the earliest examples of wine-making have been in Cyprus."

With a tradition steeped in history, the quality of the "honey flavoured" Cypriot wines was praised by the ancient Greek poet Homer, and, subject however to some scholarly debate, by King Solomon.
Modern archaeology again Death camp dig unearths defiant Jews' belongings

A CHILD'S ring. Twisted reading glasses. A few gold coins... scraps of personal dignity, hurriedly buried in a last act of defiance to keep them from falling into Nazi hands.

Israeli archaeologists, helped by Holocaust survivors, are writing a new chapter in the terrible history of the German death camp at Majdanek, Poland, by excavating grounds long thought to be empty.

Their findings show how doomed Jews furiously dug into the grassy ground with their hands to bury what personal possessions they had with them before they were murdered in the camp's gas chambers.

More here.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Bimini update Gene Shinn has kindly directed us to a Nature article from 1980 with some more explanation of the geological work done there, including a set of C-14 dates (all fairly internally consistent). Probably subscription-only; here's the reference:
Marshall McKusick & Eugene A. Shinn, Bahamian Atlantis reconsidered, Nature 287, 11 - 12 (04 September 1980).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ancient man's lost secrets on test

TECHNOLOGY from the 21st century will be used to unlock the past to one of Yorkshire's most important archaeological finds from the Bronze Age.
Gristhorpe Man, one of the best preserved examples of human remains buried in a hollow oak tree trunk, will leave Scarborough's Rotunda Museum today in specially constructed boxes for Bradford University's Department of Archaeological Sciences.
The latest technology will be used to try to extract samples from the remains for analysis to establish how the Bronze Age man died as well as gathering more detail about his lifestyle and diet.
The skeleton still has some remains of the man's brain and teeth which have been preserved since he died 3,500 years ago.
Tests will also be conducted on an animal skin the corpse was wrapped in as well as a whalebone and bronze dagger and food which was buried in the coffin. Curator of museums at Scarborough Council Karen Snowden said: "He is one of the jewels in our crown, and because he has been here so long everyone remembers him if they visit Scarborough.
A few items from the EEF

Press report: "Prehistoric museum for Qena"
"Egypt is going to have its first museum for prehistoric relics. (..)
The museum will include 1,400 archaeological treasures,
currently located in the storehouse of the SCA. "

Digitized book from the Oriental Institute Electronic Publications
-- Helen Jacquet-Gordon, Temple of Khonsu, vol. 3: The Graffiti on the
Khonsu Temple Roof at Karnak: A Manifestation of Personal Piety, The
Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, 2003
(Oriental Institute Publications, Number 123). xxiv, 119 pp., 126 pls. -
pdf-file (40 MB)
"Graffiti incised on the roof blocks of the temple of Khonsu at Karnak,
written in the hieroglyphic, hieratic, and Demotic scripts and accompanied
by the outlines of pairs of feet, caught the eye of Champollion and other
early voyagers who succeeded in clambering up onto that part of the roof
still remaining over the colonnade of the first court. Such graffiti have
usually been interpreted as mementos left by ancient visitors passing
through Thebes. A complete survey of all the graffiti on the roof and a
detailed study of the inscriptions, carried out over a considerable period
of time, has revealed the unexpected fact that far from being casual
tourists, it was mostly the priestly personnel of the temple itself whose
graffiti have been preserved there ... The 334 graffiti recorded in the
volume are richly illustrated by photographs and facsimile drawings.
Transliterations, translations, line notes, and commentaries are provided.
The text concludes with general, name, epithet, and title indices."


The latest issue of the journal ERAS (November 2005) has appeared,
with the following article available for free online:
André J. Veldmeijer, "Archaeologically attested cordage. Terminology
on the basis of the material from Ptolemaic and Roman Berenike"
"Research on archaeologically attested cordage is still in its infancy and
terminology has been largely adapted from basketry and textile studies,
resulting in much confusion and various ways of describing the different
aspects of cordage. The present paper discusses this terminology and
proposes changes as well as new terms on the basis of research on more
than 9,000 cordage objects from eight years of excavations at Berenike
(Egyptian Red Sea coast)."

Eugene Cruz-Uribe, "Demotic Graffiti from the Wadi Hammamat"
"The following links are for photographs of the Demotic graffiti I have
published in JSSEA 28 [, pp. 26-54] (2001) in my article of the same name.
That article includes the transliterations, translations and commentary on a
series of Demotic texts found in the Paneion in the Wadi Hammamat and on the
walls of the quarry east of Paneion."

Online version of: Mahmoud Ezzamel, Accounting and redistribution: The
palace and mortuary cult in the Middle Kingdom, ancient Egypt, in: The
Accounting Historians Journal, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 59-101 (2002)
"This paper examines detailed historical material drawn from primary sources
to explore the role of accounting practices in the functioning of several
key stages of the redistributive economy of the Middle Kingdom, ancient

End of EEF news
CSI: Cancuén

Mass murder mystery of Maya kingdom

Forensic scientists with mass burial expertise have been called into an ancient Maya city in Guatemala to help unravel a 1,300-year-old mass murder mystery.

Archaeologists have been unearthing the ancient city of Cancuén and while draining a sacred pool that led to the elaborate channels of the city, found about 50 dismembered skeletons, The New York Times reports.

This murder mystery is believed to have happened around 800 A.D., around the time of the drastic decline of the Maya civilization. The reason behind the fall of that empire is still not known.

Much more here.
Archaeologists rescuing relics for Three Gorges Dam

Following the unprecedented excavation of cultural relics for the Three Gorges Dam project, Chinese archaeologists are once again running against the clock to dig and relocate numerous of treasures facing inundation as the massive south-to-north water diversion project breaks ground.

Representatives from 51 qualified archeological agencies across the country vowed Thursday to win a special campaign to rescue such a large number of tombs, temples and other cultural sites for China's largest ever water project.

"We should assume responsibility towards our history and show our determination for cultural relics protection," Shan Jixiang, director of State Bureau of Cultural Relics (SBCR), said at a mobilization conference held Thursday in Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province.
Ann Althouse is blogging on academic blogging again, with a link to a Slate article on the topic:

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of academics keep blogs these days, posting everything from family pictures to scholarly works-in-progress. While few are counting on their Web publications to improve their chances at tenure, many have begun to fear that their blogs might actually harm their prospects. Last July, "Bloggers Need Not Apply," an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education about an anonymous Midwestern college's attempt to fill a position, laid out the perils for academic job-seekers who blog. "Our blogger applicants came off reasonably well at the initial interview, but once we hung up the phone and called up their blogs, we got to know 'the real them'—better than we wanted, enough to conclude we didn't want to know more," wrote the pseudonymous columnist.

. . .

But academics aren't just concerned about the public display of an applicant's personal eccentricities. Many perceive blogs as evidence of a scholar's lack of seriousness. Shouldn't he be putting more time into scholarship, they wonder, and less into his blog? And if a blogger does have something serious to say, why is he presenting it in a superficial medium, rather than a peer-reviewed journal?

. . .

In many respects, Drezner's predicament was merely a cyber-version of an age-old dilemma. Whether online or off, the kind of accessible and widely read work that brings an academic public recognition is likely to draw the scorn and suspicion of his colleagues.

Ann, as usual, has some good comments. We might add though, that blogging could be an integral part of the teaching process. Many (most?) courses now have much of their materials online for students to look at -- reading lists, syllabi, etc. -- and blogging would seem to be a natural extension to class discussions. Say, for example, an instructor gets the same question five times in office hours. Answer that question on the blog: "I've been asked several times whether chapter XX is required or not; here's the answer:" This would extend to more academic, less bookkeeping questions as well, i.e., the content of the course.

We here at ArchaeoBlog are not sure whether blogging needs a peer-review process or whether it ought to be formally considered part of the tenure-judging process. The fact is, that it is or can be part of that process. The issue is whether it is wholly negative ("They're producing this popular fluff when they should be writing serious papers") at the present time and whether that can be changed. We think blogging, similar to doing public outreach -- especially important in archaeology -- is an important part of the discipline. We work with public funds, often on public land, with materials that really belong to all of us. We need to make sure the public is engaged. Blogging can be an important part of that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Early Humans Settled India Before Europe, Study Suggests

Modern humans migrated out of Africa and into India much earlier than once believed, driving older hominids in present-day India to extinction and creating some of the earliest art and architecture, a new study suggests.

The research places modern humans in India tens of thousands of years before their arrival in Europe.

University of Cambridge researchers Michael Petraglia and Hannah James developed the new theory after analyzing decades' worth of existing fieldwork in India. They outline their research in the journal Current Anthropology.

"He's putting all the pieces together, which no one has done before," Sheela Athreya, an anthropologist at Texas A&M University, said of Petraglia.

On the western slopes of Aragats, near the village of Tsakhkasar, archaeologists got on the tracks of an ancient settlement of the Early Bronze Age (the fourth millenium BC) referring the Archaeological Culture Kur-Araks. Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences, Aram Kalantaryan, told ARMINFO. The monument is unique for its unprecedented scale of an ancient settlement. It occupies a territory of about 100 ha, while the Kur Araks lowland towns are known to occupy not more than 10 ha. The settlement was surrounded with cyclopean fortress. Archaeologists have excavated a 300 sq/m ancient cultural layer so far and found a unique bronze reaping-hook. Unfortunately, irrigation canals were laid there yet in 1930, which has partially damaged the monument.
Historic archaeology update Excavated Village Unlocks Mystery of Tribe's Economy

A recent excavation by archaeologists has cast new light on how the Catawba Indians lived two centuries ago in a village near the North Carolina- South Carolina border.

The discovery of pottery fragments and other artifacts indicates that the Catawbas had found a niche in the early American economy.

"The perception of the Catawbas has been that they were in a perpetual state of decline," said University of North Carolina archaeologist Brett Riggs, who worked on the project.

"The archaeological record counters that view. They were a very vibrant society. They had a declining population, but they were meeting that challenge in very creative ways."
Pigs for the ancestors No pork ban in Ancient Egypt

Italian researchers have found a pig-related disease in a mummy, squashing a common belief that Ancient Egyptians had a dietary ban on pork .

Until now historians have found evidence suggesting ancient high priests in Egypt prohibited pig meat, in common with many Middle Eastern peoples who still don't eat pork today .

"It has hitherto been thought that there was a sort of religious-hygienic ban on eating pork in Ancient Egypt," said Pisa University historical pathologist Fabrizio Bruschi .

Actually, this is fairly well known (see this truly excellent paper for example). Pig bones are incredibly common in various Egyptian contexts, but usually, as stated in the article, in non elite contexts. See the references in the above paper for much information on the role of the pig in ancient Egypt.
Archaeologists wanted in terror age

Australia needs its own crack team of archaeologists to investigate natural disasters, terrorist attacks or mass graves, UQ research shows.

UQ social science student Megan Clift, who researched mass graves for her honours thesis, said the Australian Federal Police (AFP) disaster response teams could benefit from having trained archaeologists.

Miss Clift said the AFP did excellent work in East Timor and Bali and having more archaeological skills at forensic sites could yield even higher quality evidence for courts or international tribunals.

This is certainly true in many cases (911 used many archaeologists to sift through the rubble for remains), but we wonder whether regular forensic anthropologists have the relevant expertise to obtain good data from these contexts (we think they do, mostly). We have seen references to forensic archaeology though.

Update: Okay, then we found this: Raising the dead

A leading archaeologist has given up his gentle academic life in order to exhume bodies and use his skills in a different way - helping police solve murders and locating victims of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia.

. . .

Hunter began forensic work in the 1980s when he noticed how crude police techniques for finding and exhuming bodies were.

"I'd see TV pictures of men in boiler suits with spades and think: 'they must be losing a lot of evidence.'

"The fact is archaeology is all about the dead, and learning from their remains. It has got to be right to apply these skills in a way that makes a difference to the living."

So, maybe we can offer up something in those cases that aren't excavated by either forensic anthropologists or, you know, Gil Grissom.
Look, another story about archaeologists and beer

Archaeologists Uncover Evidence of Female Brewers in Ancient Peru

The remains of a brewery in the southernmost settlement of an ancient Peruvian empire appears to provide proof that women of high rank crafted chicha, a beerlike beverage made from corn and spicy berries that was treasured by the Wari people of old as well as their modern day descendants. Decorative shawl pins, worn exclusively by high caste women, littered the floor of the brewery, which was capable of producing more than 475 gallons of the potent brew a week.

"The brewers were not only women, but elite women," says Donna Nash of the Field Museum in Chicago, a member of the archaeology team studying the Cerro Baúl site where the ruins were found. "They weren't slaves and they weren't people of low status. So the fact that they made the beer probably made it even more special."

Also see here.
'Thieves of Baghdad' update

Reader Lorelli sends this on Colonel Bogdanos:

I've met him and heard him
speak. I too, was a bit wary about how he was handling things. He's hardly a
real-life Indiana Jones, and would likely not agree with the cognomen.

According to a presentation he gave about a year ago or so, he approached
the issue of the looting with a very clear head, and continuously worked
with people from the museum and the community to retrive objects and keep
them safe. There was a program installed where people could return items or
give info on stolen artifacts to the museum with anonymity and imunity. It
worked, and many artifacts were returned. This is how we got the Warka vase
back - in the trunk of someone's car.

He admits to mistakes along the way, this is true. Throughout the
government, Bath party members had to be left in power for the sake of
keeping things running - and this included the museum. There were clashes
with some ppl in the community about this.

What impressed me most about the man, and what would have me actually read
his book, is that he presented all of the info to us in a clear manner,
interjecting "This is only my opinion" where appropriate, trying to give as
objective account as possible. He's a Marine, and did the job like one.

And I agree - this is not the last we'll here about Bogdanos or the
looting. I expect once people have gotten to read the book there'll be lots
of commentary. Ignore that Indiana Jones part, though - that's just rubbish.

Bimini 'Harbor' update Dr. Greg Little (mentioned in this post on the Bimini 'harbor' responds:

Most academic archaeologists will greatly dislike what is presented. It
is not a pleasant revelation, but the facts will speak for themselves.
I have already had ardent Bimini skeptics who started with ridicule, but
then did what it took to verify the facts--by reading the articles cited
and checking the exact quotes--completely reverse their opinions and
express absolute disgust and outright anger at what happened.

. . .

Archaeologist Bill Donato was involved in the expedition and research.
No one is suggesting the two sites that were investigated have anything
to do with Atlantis or Cayce, despite any prior speculation or claims
about it. There are two separate underwater formations at Bimini
separated by about a mile. One of the sites is a series of consistently
spaced stone circles, comprised of massive blocks of limestone arranged
into circular patters. The other formation is typically called the
"Bimini Road." The report has 70 photos depicting the finds, all of
which directly contradict all the assertions made by 4 skeptical
geologists and one archaeologist who was never there. The formations are
identical in size, shape, and construction to a host of ancient
Mediterranean harbors, nearly all of which were made from beachrock.

. . .

I totally understand the skeptical reaction and am sympathetic. I even
had a summary of 1980s research published in the Skeptical Inquirer.
Scientific "truths" do change, and should do so, as knowledge is
furthered. Even long-held cherished beliefs, such as "Clovis-first," can
collapse, although it is painful and can seem to take more time than
some like.

We'll continue to follow this to see what all shakes out. In the meantime, here's another document by Gene Shinn (cited by Little in the article linked to earlier) that appears to be freely accessible: A Geologist's Adventures with Bimini Beachrock and Atlantis True Believers. We've contacted Shinn for his thoughts and will post any reply.

Also from the mailbag

For some odd reason, in addition to the voluminous email offers we get on a daily basis offering to sell us all manner of male-enhancement concoctions, we seem to have attracted the attention of purveyors of fine chronometers. New to us, and frankly, we'd rather see pages and pages of watch offers than similar missives regarding How To Please Our Woman.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Semi-non-archaeological link of the day Welcome to Oak Island Treasure

Oak Island, the home of the Money Pit, covers an area of just 140 acres. Located off the eastern coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, it has long been the site of much speculation for treasure hunters worldwide. Many theories are in existence as to what may actually lie in The Pit, ranging from a pirate’s bounty to the final resting place of the Holy Grail. One thing is certain, whatever is hidden, it was not intended to be discovered without a struggle. For over 200 years, treasure hunters have been trying to unearth its secret.

. . .

We boast the only internet community where enthusiasts of the Oak Island enigma can meet, share thoughts and debate theories. This site is dedicated to those who have lost their lives in the search for the elusive treasure of the Money Pit and aims to provide a comprehensive resource to those captivated by this mysterious place.

A fascinating bit of Internet extravagence. Who knew? We are unsure what exactly this "Money Pit" is, beyond a pit in which many people have dug over the years, many to their peril. If nothing else, it's a jolly good bit of fun reading through everything. Check out the "Theories" section for all sorts of ideas as to what this pit may be. Three guesses which one we favor.

Hat tip to James Lileks.

Monday, November 14, 2005

(pre-)Clovis(?) update Southern archaeologists revise history

A wave of archaeological revisionism, fueled in part by unfolding discoveries in South Carolina, is challenging long-held views about the first Americans – who they were, where they came from, when they arrived, and even what happened after they got here.

Generations of students have learned that hardy hunters — ancestors of today's Native Americans — crossed a land bridge from Siberia into Alaska as the last ice age was ending 13,000 years ago and, within several centuries, had spread out across much of North and South America.

But increasing evidence from archeological excavations and new analyses of prehistoric human migrations is testing that once widely accepted view of "coming to America."

Mostly a summary (albeit a pretty decent one) of the several posts on this conference we've put up recently. Gives a good description of the Clovis paradox, too.
European first farmers update Study Casts Doubt on Europeans' Ancestral Link to Fertile Crescent

Europeans are most closely related to the Stone Age hunter-gatherers who arrived on the continent 40,000 years ago — not, as many archeologists have long surmised, the adept migrants from the Fertile Crescent who introduced agriculture to the continent 7,500 years ago.

That's the conclusion of the first detailed analysis of maternally inherited DNA extracted from 24 of the migrant farmers' skeletons.

Not much more than the last post on this.

Book review Revealed: the real story behind the great Iraq Museum thefts

The story of what really happened inside the Iraq Museum when thousands of valuable antiquities were stolen in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 US invasion has been revealed in a new book.

Written by the chief investigator, it says there were three separate thefts, at least one of which was an inside job, another the work of professionals, and a third where fleeing Iraq military had left open a door which let in the looters. At least 13,864 objects were stolen, making it the biggest museum theft in history.

But the book reveals that, with an estimated 500,000 objects in the museum and thieves having the run of the place for 36 hours, the wonder is the loss was not far closer to the original, inaccurate, reports of 170,000 items. And the efforts of Iraqi, US and Italian officials, plus police and customs worldwide, have so far led to the recovery of 5,400 items, nearly 700 from inside the US and Britain.

All this - as well as the remarkable tale of the reclaiming of the fabulous Treasure of Nimrud - is told in Thieves of Baghdad, available only in the US, and written by Matthew Bogdanos who has been described, with only a minimum of hyperbole, as a real-life Indiana Jones.

Probably not the last word on this. We're kind of wary of anyone described as yet another real life Indiana Jones though.

Also: Looting: It's not just for Iraqis anymore

Jehoash tablet said found near Muslim cemetery

The inscription attributed to King Jehoash whose discovery was announced earlier this week was reportedly found near Jerusalem's Muslim cemetery, outside the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, not far from Golden Gate, according to information obtained by Ha'aretz.

Jehoash ruled in Jerusalem at the end of the ninth century B.C.E. The inscription has been authenticated by the National Infrastructure Ministry's Geological Survey of Israel.

Three different people and institutions involved in examining the stone told Ha'aretz that representatives of the collector who owns the stone told them it was found near the Muslim cemetery. One added that he was told it had been found following a landslide or flood.

(soon-to-be) Fight! Fight! Research on ancient writing linked with modern Mideast conflict

Professorial colleagues think Ron Tappy has made a landmark breakthrough in our understanding of the world of the Bible. He himself is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

This week, Tappy will formally unveil his discovery at the meetings of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Normally a presentation titled "The 2005 Excavation Season at Tel Zayit, with Special Attention to the Tenth Century BCE" would hardly be noticed beyond the scholars who will gather at the Hyatt Penn's Landing hotel in Philadelphia.

This year's convention, though, has the potential for a media circus. Narrowly, Tappy's research involves the history of writing. He apparently has found a missing link in the evolution of the alphabet.

Read the whole thing.
Treasure! Greek treasures unearthed

Archaeologists in Crete have found an important trove of archaeological treasures containing some of the earliest known examples of Greek writing, the ministry of culture said on Saturday.

It said the finds were excavated at a long-abandoned site on a hill overlooking the port of Chania in Western Crete, which has been identified with the Minoan city of Kydonia.

Among the discoveries was an amphora containing an intact text written in linear B, the language of the court at Mycenae where the legendary Agamemnon ruled.
Archaeologists unearthing the secrets of Fort Hawkins

In a matter of hours, a team of archaeologists changed the face of Macon's history.

Secrets, long buried after the demise of Fort Hawkins in the 1820s, are surfacing with the excavation of mountains of dirt at the historic site in the Fort Hill neighborhood in east Macon.

Historians, studying what the U.S. Army southern headquarters looked like, relied on an oral history collected 50 years after the fort closed and information gathered in two smaller excavations in 1936 and 1971.
You bet they are Archaeologists excited about finds at prehistoric Indian village

Archaeologists who spent weeks digging at a southern Indiana farm say the site has yielded a rich harvest of artifacts that shed light on life at an American Indian village about 900 years ago.

The pottery shards, flint arrow points and animal bones found during the dig at the farm outside Jeffersonville reveal information about the daily lives of people during the Mississippian period, roughly from 1000 to 1700.

Cheryl Ann Munson, an Indiana University archaeologist who is the dig's co-director, said researchers want to keep quiet the location of the unguarded site to protect it from potential trampling by curious amateurs.
Parthian Architectural Remains Discovered in Gilan

With the start of the first season of archeological excavations in Kaluraz Tepe in Gilan province, some architectural remains belonging to the Parthian period were discovered in this historical site.

Discovery of the architectural evidence in Gilan province has always been a concern of the excavators’. Therefore the discovery of architectural evidence in the Kaluraz Tepe of Rostam Abad, for the first time in a stratographied wall, has a special significance for archaeologists. Based on the evidence from this wall, a program has been implemented by the Archaeological Research Center to identify the ancient architecture in Gilan province.
Islands and archaeology on agenda

SHETLAND was well represented at The Scottish Archaeological Forum's annual conference at the University of Glasgow recently.

The theme was archaeology and islands. A number of archaeologists conduct fieldwork on Scottish islands, and it was clear from the positive and enthusiastic tone of the conference that islands held a special place in the hearts and minds of the delegates.

. . .

They discussed the ways archaeologists have traditionally approached working in islands and the preconceptions and misconceptions they often hold about "their" island ­ whether utopic or dystopic

They gave a comic-tragic profile of a stereotypical archaeologist who arrives, excavates, fails to engage or involve the local community, leaves (with artefacts held firm) and never gets round to publishing the findings, with the archaeology more divorced from the community than before.

Good article. The theme is relevant to nearly all archaeological endeavors.

Friday, November 11, 2005

And now for something completely different Lemur Species Named After John Cleese

Most people know him as the Minister for Silly Walks on "Monty Python" or as Q in James Bond films. But John Cleese will also go down in history for another reason: lemurs.

Researchers from the University of Zurich have named a newly discovered species of lemur — one of the most primitive and endangered primates in the world — after the British comedian in honor of his work with the animal.

The avahi cleesei, which weights less than two pounds and eats leaves, was discovered in Western Madagascar in 1990 by a team led by anthropologist Urs Thalmann and his colleague Thomas Geissman of Zurich University.

We here at ArchaeoBlog are big fans of lemurs. In fact, it's our favorite prosimian. They're "coooote little buggahs" as Steve Irwin would say. Can't find any actual "Save the Lemur" sites, but we encourage readers to support their favorite. . .errr. . lemur-friendly charitable organization.

Not Avahi cleesei:

DNA shows first Europeans were hunters not farmers

Whisper it quietly in Brussels but Europe may not have been a continent of farmers for time immemorial after all. New DNA research suggests we are actually descended from hunter-gatherers who pre-date the arrival of agricultural techniques.

The first farmers to arrive in Europe more than 7,000 years ago appear to have left behind a legacy of agriculture but no descendants, a study of ancient DNA has found. Modern Europeans do not seem to have inherited the genes of the first farmers to arrive from the Near East, where they had invented agriculture 12,000 years ago.

A study of 24 skeletons of an early farming community in central Europe has found that their DNA does not match the DNA of modern men and women living in the same part of the world. The researchers believe the findings indicate that although the first farmers brought agriculture to Europe, they did not manage to displace the much older, resident population of hunter gatherers.

Good little article. It emphasizes the whole question of the spread of agriculture in Europe: Diffusion vs. Migration. We'll try to get a link to the actual paper up and see what it says next week.

Hourig Sourouzian: Resurrection

The Colossi of Memnon, two lonely sentinels, have greeted visitors to the Theban necropolis since Roman times. More recently, as you look beyond the seated monoliths, a temple can be seen progressively re-emerging from what, to an unprofessional eye, earlier appeared as no more than slight elevations and depressions in the packed earth. In this age of advanced technology, what is officially known as The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project, simply "Memnon/Amenhotep III Project", under the auspices of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), is casting light on a great monument that was swept away soon after its completion. "Despite the difficulty of our task," announces Hourig Sourouzian -- Egyptologist, art historian and project director -- "I feel wonderfully privileged to be working on this project."
Interview by Jill Kamil

'Saipan may be Pacific's oldest archaeological site'

Hmmmmm. Seems impossible to quote any portion of the text. Upshot: They cored in Lake Susepe and found a rather abrupt increase in charcoal, grass pollen and pollen from betel nut and coconut trees which supposedly indicate landscape alteration by humans. The shift is dated to 6860 BC. They admit this isn't definitive and plan to check for actual sites by locating ancient shorelines from the same general period.

Odd story alert Bimini Harbor: Hoax?

An American archaeological team has discovered definitive evidence of underwater ancient harbor remains at two separate locations at Bimini. A hoax begun in 1978 by skeptics has also been uncovered.

Article also points to this website which includes a link to a larger document on the findings. COuldn't get the one document to ever load, but we poked around a little and found what is probably a similar document here. Note the domain: Dr. Little has a short biography here.

More here as well. In the above article he blasts the "skeptical" geologists for only having bachelors degrees while he has a PhD -- in counseling. That certainly is a qualification for doing archaeology and geology. This page also reveals the usual array of crank science put out by purveyors of Truth:

For 70 years American archaeology has been dominated by a "Holy Writ" of beliefs that few professionals have dared to challenge. These beliefs, presented as indisputable facts by the American academic community, include the following: 1) That all the ancestors of Native populations in the Americas migrated from Siberian Asia starting no earlier than 9,500 B.C., 2) prior to 9,500 B.C. no humans resided anywhere in the Americas,. . .

Obviously, in 2003 they hadn't heard anything about Monte Verde. Or Kennewick Man. Or Dennis Stanford, for that matter (who's been arguing for a European Paleolithic in North America). You'd think a PhD would follow such things. . . .
First up: The news from the EEF

Press report: "Pyramids plateau electronically secured by 2006"
"..includes the establishment of a 15-km fence around the plateau, to
protect it from unplanned buildings."

Digitized book from the Oriental Institute Electronic Publications
-- John C. Darnell, Theban Desert Road Survey in the Egyptian Western
Desert, vol. 1: Gebel Tjauti Rock Inscriptions 1-45 and Wadi el-Hôl Rock
Inscriptions 1-45, With the assistance of Deborah Darnell and contributions
by Deborah Darnell, Renee Friedman, and Stan Hendrickx, The Oriental
Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, 2002 (Oriental
Institute Publications, Number 119). LVI, 174 pp., 126 pls. - pdf-file (25
"The present publication is the first of a series of monographs recording
the discoveries of the Theban Desert Road Survey ... We have provided
facsimile drawings and photographs for all the scenes and inscriptions. The
photographs are the best possible, considering the difficult field
conditions under which they were made. The drawings are based on tracings
made at the rock face. The initial tracings were reduced and inked, and
these resulting drawings were taken back to the rock face and checked. We
have collated and corrected all of the drawings after the initial tracing
was made, and we have collated several of the inscriptions several times.
This volume includes a glossary to all of the the texts ..."
See also the posting of Paul James Cowie to EEF on October 13, 2005:
"Oriental Institute titles on-line"

Naomi L. Gunnels, "The Ikhernofret Stela as Theatre: A Cross-
cultural Comparisson", in: Studia Antiqua, Journal of the BYU
Student Society for Ancient Studies, Volume 2, No. 2, Fall 2002,
pp. 3-16, in PDF (1.41 MB).

Explores whether the Ancient Egyptians had theatre, and whether
the Ikhernofret Stela (which has also been called "the Abydos
Passion Play") may be called thus. [For online text resources
relating to the stela, see also EEFNEWS(341)].

Online paper: "Demotic Egyptian Transliteration and Unicode"
"The Center for the Tebtunis Papyri is pleased to make available
tools for entering ancient Egyptian transliteration in accordance
with the Unicode standard. This document and the downloadable
keyboards and font are the work of Donald Mastronarde."
Apparantly updated November '05.

The proceedings of the conference "Women and Property in
Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean Societies" (2003)
are online, with at least two relevant papers (in PDF):
-- Annalisa Azzoni: Women and Property in Persian Egypt and Mesopotamia
-- Betsy Bryan: Property and the God's Wives of Amun

John Baines, Egyptian twins, Orientalia, vol. 54, pp. 461-482 (1985) -
pdf-file (400 KB)
"... The extreme rarity of references to twins in the earlier periods, as
well as the special treatment of the proposed pairs suggests that there was
some sort of taboo on twins. These pairs may have transcended the taboo in
part through identification as a single social person and in part through
analogy with the divine sphere, as is clearest for Suty and Hor, whose names
are essentially the same as Seth and Horus. The Late period material shows
that earlier patterns of avoidance disappeared. Illuminating cross-cultural
parallels can be found for complex attitudes to twins, but the Egyptian
material has a character specific to its own society."
Besides the certain example of Suty & Hor, two other possible examples
of twins from before the Late Period are provided (Niankhkhnum &
Khnumhotep; Sitamun & Sitamun), and the word for twin (Htr) is looked at.

Boyo Ockinga, Susanne Binder, Alannah Buck, Macquarie Theban Tombs
Project, Dra abu el-Nagaa. Preliminary Report on the Season November 2004 /
January 2005 - 34 pp., pdf-file (5.9 MB)
"The Theban Tombs Project of Macquarie University, Sydney Australia
continued its activities in two tombs in Dra Abu el-Naga', TT 147
(Neferrenpet) and TT 233 (Saroy and Amenhotep / Huy) in the period
November 2004 to January 2005."

End of EEF news

Archaeologists unearth ancient burial mounds

Archaeologists said on Wednesday they have unearthed burial mounds dating back to the third millennium BC which they believe contain remains and trinkets from ancient Aryan nomads.

Historian Hakob Simonian said on Wednesday that the four mounds were among 30 discovered about 56 km west of the Armenian capital, Yerevan, containing beads made of agate and carnelian as well as the remains of what appears to be a man, aged between 50 and 55.

We do that Archaeologist Seeking Answers

The past has a future.

The archaeologist heading the dig at Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World, spoke Wednesday night at James Madison University. William Kelso described the efforts to preserve Virginia's artifacts and drum up interest in preparation for Jamestown's 400th anniversary in 2007.

He also offered the crowd of about 500 a sneak peak at what will be happening at Jamestown over the next few months. And he dropped one tantalizing hint: One mystery surrounding Jamestown has finally been cracked, but everyone will have to wait until later today to find out the solution.

Okay, so now it has a name: E-Science Archaeologists Go Digital

If Indiana Jones were a real archaeologist, he'd be just as likely to brandish a laptop with broadband as brush and note pad if a recent dig in the small English parish of Silchester was any indication.

Researchers from nearby Reading University employed a new methodology during this summer's dig season at the Roman site, excavating with the help of new technologies for streamlining the archaeological process. The innovations, collectively known as e-science, threaten to shrug off archeology's antiquated image.

Reading has worked at Silchester, considered one of the most important Roman sites in Britain, since 1997. This year, researchers abandoned the usual practice of collecting data manually and sorting it later, instead logging finds directly from the field using hand-held computers. An Integrated Archaeological Database System (IADB), developed by partnering York Archaeological Trust, houses their data in a central server at Reading.

The project's web site is here and the accompanying web site for the U. of Reading Silchester project is here. Most interesting will be how they integrate all of the data produced through the various levels -- excavation, stratigraphy, object conservation, metadata, etc. -- into a system that is accessible and makes sense to researchers.

Amateur discoveries that illuminate the past go on display

Hundreds of artefacts uncovered by amateur archaeologists, metal-detector enthusiasts, gardeners, farmers, builders and walkers have gone on display in London.

The items found in England and Wales over the past year include 427 pieces of jewellery and antiquities such as a seventh-century gilded copper head found near Milton Keynes and a coin proving the existence of a little-known Roman emperor, Domitian II, which was found in Chalgrove, Oxfordshire.

Many of the items, which also included a first-century nail cleaner and one of the most remarkable examples of an ornate Roman oil lamp found in Britain, went on display yesterday at the Museum of London.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A-B-C. . .as easy as 1-2-3 Scientists unearth earliest known Hebrew ABCs

In the 10th century B.C., in the hill country south of Jerusalem, a scribe carved his ABCs on a limestone boulder - actually, his aleph-beth-gimels, for the string of letters appears to be an early rendering of the emergent Hebrew alphabet.

Archaeologists digging in July at the site, Tel Zayit, found the inscribed stone in the wall of an ancient building. After an analysis of associated pottery and the position of the wall in the layers of ruins, the discoverers concluded that this was the earliest known specimen of the Hebrew alphabet and an important benchmark in the history of writing, they said this week.

If the discoverers are right, the stone bears the oldest reliably dated example of an abecedary - the letters of the alphabet written out from beginning to end in their traditional sequence. Several scholars who have examined the inscription tend to support this view.

Word of the day there: abecedary. We can honestly say we have never seen that one before.

Fashion update 2,000-year-old periwig unearthed in Sichuan

The Chinese might have learned to adorn themselves with periwigs more than 2,000 years ago, said archeologists who unearthed a skeleton wearing a hairpiece from an ancient tombs in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The wig, found on the lower part of the skull, was made of hemprope, says Zhang Rong, a heritage repairs technician with a local museum in Liangshan prefecture, where the finding was reported.

Zhang said she had consulted several seasoned hemp knitters in the prefecture before she came to the conclusion.


ANTLERS from an 11,000-year-old giant deer are being restored after they were unearthed by history students.
The Isle of Man College degree students were on a field trip in Kirk Michael with Dr Peter Davey, director of the Centre for Manx Studies and reader in archaeology at the University of Liverpool, when they found the remains of the Irish Elk in the cliffs.

The exact age of the animal isn't known, but it is thought it lived 11,000 years ago.

Big Clay Statuettes Discovered in Gohar Tepe

The recent archaeological excavations in Gohar Tepe in Mazandaran province have led to the discovery of 3 clay animal statuettes belonging to the Iron Age.

Such a discovery which has been made for the first time faced archaeologists with new questions in regard to the cultural context of the people in the north and northeast of Iran. Archaeologists believe that these statuettes give them the key source to identify the social classes in this historical site.

Mazandaran is one of the most ancient provinces in Iran. Archaeological excavations indicate that the province has been inhabited by human beings since 400,000 years ago until the present time, and that around 5000 years ago, urbanization flourished in the area. Gohar Tepe is a proof to this claim.

Kind of difficult to read, but the figures seem to be about 25-30 cm high and are thought to represent higher social classes because of their size. Or something.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Possible archaeological resource? The Aerial Reconnaissance Archives Exhibition is a new web site with formerly classified aerial photos from WWII. The photos up now tend to be the more sensational sorts (D-Day). It might be interesting once they get a larger collection online to see some landscape photos that may reveal archaeological sites that were either previously unknown, or maybe to provide a baseline for how land use practices over the last 50+ years are affecting known sites by comparing them to, say, current satellite photos of the same area.

New paper alert The October 2005 (VOlume 70) (oddly, not available online yet) has one by Debra George, John Southon, and R.E. Taylor, Resolving an Anomalous Radiocarbon Determination on Mastodon Bone from Monte Verde, Chile. Two pieces of this bone were found in different contexts -- one surficial, one in subsurface context -- and were both C-14 dated to the tune of a 5,000 year difference. The subsurface one dated to 11,990+/-200 BP while the surface one dated to 6,550+/- 160 BP. Since there has been considerable debate on the dating of this site, especially whether or not there is a 'reservoir effect' (dumping of older carbon to produce artificially old dates) in the area. This seems to have been discounted, but this odd date remains.

George et al. took additional samples from the bone for testing. One of their hypotheses was that there may be too little bone collagen (<1%) left in one or both of the bones to provide an accurate date. They cite several examples from the literature of low-% collagen bone dates that result in artificially recent dates. Nevertheless, they found that each sample contained 21% and 30% collagen and found that their "values. .on all four fractions from the two bone fragments are statistically identical" at 12,460+/-30 BP. While this is older than the ostensibly good previous date, they believe this results from a larger uncertainty in the previous one (+/- 200 RC years). Other than that, they don't have an explanation for the anomalous earlier date other than that the portion of that piece that was used in the dating process was far more degraded than the one they used.

Back to the past in Iran? VP: Reliance on foreigners in archaeological field should reduce

Vice-President and Head of Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) Esfandiar Rahim-Moshaie said on Tuesday that good capacities have been developed in the field of archaeology and urged the need to reduce the country's reliance upon foreigners by making full use of such capacities.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the inaugural ceremony of the 3rd International Symposium of Archaeology (November 8-11) held at Fakhreddin As'ad Gorgani Hall in the northern city of Gorgan, he added that international cooperation in the sector is inevitable.

Hard to really decipher what's going on, but it seems as if the recent return to a more authoritarian regime may be putting the brakes on the budding return of Western archaeologists to Iran. Only the first paragraph of this story seems to say as much and the second paragraph kinda of seems to contradict that. If we have the interpretation correct, however, it's not particularly surprising. Sad, but not surprising.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hmmm. Prehistoric skull found in dump may be missing ancestor

Palaeontologists excavating a dump outside Barcelona have found a skull dating back 14m years that could belong to a common ancestor of apes and humans.

The nearly intact skull, which has a flat face, jaw and teeth, may belong to a previously unknown species of great ape, said Salvador Moya, the chief palaeontologist on the dig. "We could find a cradle of humanity in the Mediterranean," he said.

A routine land survey for a planned expansion of the Can Mata dump in Els Hostalets de Pierola turned up the first surprise in 2002: a primate's tooth.

Not much to go on. Check Hawks' blog eventually.
Scotland's Orkneys tell ancient stories

A famous signpost at the Scottish village of John O'Groats marks it as the farthest tip of mainland Britain -- 874 miles from Lands End in Cornwall, the country's most southerly settlement.
Getting here is just the beginning of a journey that takes visitors more than 5,000 years back in time.
The Orkney Islands are at once remote and mysterious, yet sophisticated -- transformed by the economic boom that followed the discovery of oil in the North Sea. Yet the islands also have archaeological wonders around every corner, along with spectacular scenery, wildlife and some incredible modern history.

Odd. This seems familiar. We might have posted this in the last week or so.
Sensational find in Herad

Archeologist Wenche Helliksen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the grave, which included a person in a coffin roughly 2000 years old, was very special.

"This is a find that you make just once in a lifetime. I have been digging for 20 years and have never made such a find," Helliksen said.

The special ingredient in the find is the presence of textiles.

The Herad find is from the year 300 at the latest, and archeologists believe it may rewrite the history of the area. A 1500-year-old boat house has also been found during the Herad excavations, NRK reports.

The boat house is so large that it is likely that it has been part of a regional effort, perhaps as part of a pre-historic naval defense.

That's the whole thing. Not much there to go on, but it certainly sounds important.
H-3 sites yield clues of early Islanders

The first public summary of Hawai'i's biggest and most expensive archaeological project indicates that there wasn't one Hawaiian way of doing things, and that customs and beliefs may have differed not only from island to island but even within each island.

. . .

Research specialist Helen Leidemann at the Bishop Museum is the first to explain what the scientists learned from the costly excavations, which were conducted as part of the construction of the H-3 Freeway.
Early 'church' update
Article from the Telegraph with pictures.

Death on the Nile Mysterious case of death on the Nile, 4,000 years ago

Archaeologists have begun to piece together the story of a mysterious massacre more than 4,000 years ago in the former royal city of Mendes, which flourished for 20 centuries on a low mound overlooking the green fields and papyrus marshes of the Nile delta north of Cairo.

Donald Redford of Pennsylvania State University had begun to excavate the foundations of a huge temple linked to Rameses II, the pharaoh traditionally linked to the biblical story of Moses, when he found an earlier structure destroyed by fire, and evidence of a grisly episode of death on the Nile, he told a Bloomsbury Academy conference in London on Saturday.

"We were under the misapprehension that it was a new temple on a new site," he said. "But in fact I sunk a trench below the existing temple and was really surprised beyond belief by what I found. There was a late Old Kingdom structure of some sort, a great mud brick platform 40 metres wide, on which a temple had once stood."

They've found other bodies scattered around the site as well, usually not as formal burials. Something obviously went on at this site during the latter Old Kingdom involving violence.

'New' science gleans knowledge from ancient lands and societies

Understanding how pollution effects the dynamics of Earth and the spread of disease in ancient times are two areas in which ASU's new School of Human Evolution & Social Change can make a dramatic and immediate impact, said Sander van der Leeuw, director of the school.

By drawing from a wide range of expertise and considering several perspectives outside the traditional anthropology disciplines, researchers at the school will be well equipped to take on important problems of today by understanding what they looked like in the past.
Lost civilization church. . .found Prison dig reveals church that may be the oldest in the world

A mosaic and the remains of a building uncovered recently in excavations on the Megiddo prison grounds may belong to the earliest church in the world, according to a preliminary examination by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

One of the most dramatic finds suggests that, instead of an altar, a simple table stood in the center of the church, at which a sacred meal was held to commemorate the Last Supper.

Photographs of three Greek inscriptions in the mosaic were sent to Hebrew University expert Professor Leah Di Segni, who told Haaretz on Sunday that the use of the term "table" in one of them instead of the word "altar" might lead to a breakthrough in the study of ancient Christianity. It is commonly believed that church rituals based on the Last Supper took place around an altar.

Making headlines all over (e.g., here, here, and here).
Seems to be some controversy about whether it can actually be called a "church" (this is strictly Christian, btw), which seems to imply that a church is defined as a public structure which was only legitimized by Constantine in the 4th century. Probably one of those cases where a find challenges the traditional definition of what a particular word means by being in some way a hybrid entity. This goes on in archaeology/anthropology all the time. Eg.: Amongst Egyptian archaeologists there has been a great deal of discussion on to what extent Egypt represented a "civilization without cities", since Egypt didn't really have the large urban centers common in Mesopotamia. Egypt seems to have had a more dispersed population with only a few concentrations of elites in Memphis and some other, largely ceremonial centers (Thebes, Kahun). These centers didn't appear to have the wide variety of economic functions (e.g., craft production) present in the urban cities of Mesopotamia. Thus, they weren't really regarded as true "cities".

But, as usual, we go back to how we defined "city" in the first place, which basically entailed looking at what we think of as cities from our western European experience and thinking everything ought to be the same as that.

Socio-cult anthropology has gone through this as well, during one period (probably still continuing) expending enormous amounts of intellectual capital debating the meaning of the term "culture". Kluckohn, I think, came up with something like 116 different definitions. Archaeologists have also debated what culture is. Dunnell probably had the most succint, just calling it "shared ideas". It's an important topic, although perhaps somewhat misdirected. Dunnell attempted to operationalize "culture" within a given theory (Darwinian evolution) to give it more of a purely ideational definition (as opposed to an empirical one of just listing all the ways we've used the term). Whatever theory one uses will define what terms you use and what their explicit definitions are. Lack of formal theory hurts us in this regard, though we ought to take some comfort in the fact that evolutionary biologists still have a lot of discussion on what constitutes a "species".

All that from a stupid church story. . . . .

Update: Israeli Antiquities Authority site is here and they have a little tiny blurb on the Prison site here but we can't find anything substantial on the church story.


Lost civilization lighthouse. . . .found Archaeologists discover base of ancient lighthouse

French diving archeologists have discovered the foundation of the ancient lighthouse of Pharos in Alexandria, the seventh wonder of the world.

The director of the Alexandria national museum, Ibrahim Darwish, said Sunday that the lighthouse, which was destroyed by two earthquakes in the 11th and 14th centuries, had occupied an area of 800 sq m north of the city's eastern harbor.

THe French have been diving in the Alexandria harbor for many years now and have been finding a lot of the stuff submerged from the earthquakes that sunk much of the land near the shore. This should be interesting to see what the size and shape of the foundation is and how it compares to descriptions and illustrations of the lighthouse. It just might shed some light (heh) on which are the most probable representations.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Breaking news: The Mummy's Curse

Mummy 'curse' claims another victim

A MUMMY's curse has cast its shadow over the death of a Brisbane scientist who worked to unlock the secrets of a 5300-year-old man frozen in the Italian Alps.

A memorial service will be held on Monday for molecular archaeologist Tom Loy, who was found dead in his home a fortnight ago as he finalised his book on the world's oldest mummy, dubbed Oetzi.

Dr Loy, 63, director of the Archaeological Sciences Laboratories at the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, became the seventh person to have died after coming into close contact with the iceman since his discovery in 1991.

Of course, we don't hear about the hundreds of other people who have taken tissue samples, samples of stomach contents, x-rayed, MRI'd, and the whole host of other people who have poked and prodded him over the years. But, you know, curse stories are more fun.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

News from the EEF

Not a whole lot in this one that hasn't already been posted, but here are a couple of items:

Press report: "He's no Tennessean, but state museum holds mummy dear"
"Tennessee's mummy was a gift from Jeremiah George Harris,
a one-time Nashville newspaper editor who obtained it while
in Egypt in 1859. The state historical society brought it to
Nashville in 1860 and displayed it in the state Capitol. When
Union soldiers took over the Statehouse, according to folklore,
troops unwrapped it, hoping to find jewelry on the body.
The mummy has been on display in the museum since 1937."

Press report: "Farmers threaten pharaohs"

"Egypt's irrigation water is weakening temples, eroding stone reliefs."
"Hawass pinned his hopes for saving what remains of one of the world's
greatest civilizations on stricter legislation to enforce a ban protecting
land around ancient sites from farmers trying to take it without
[Eds. Andie posted this with some comments.]

Art Burrows has put some more (cp. EEFNEWS 345) illustrated
articles on woodworking in Ancient Egypt online (as PDF files); they
appeared in The Australian Woodworker magazine.
-- Ancient Egyptian Boat Building
-- Ancient Egyptian Woodworking
-- The Ubiquitous Adze
-- Did they really have the lathe
-- Workshops and the Palace

ENd of EEF news

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

New archaeological work at henge site

FRESH archaeological survey work is under way at a proposed quarry site close to an ancient monument that has become known as 'The Stonehenge of the North'.
And a rigorous standard of investigation, evaluation and scoring used to categorise remains found at the other Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, are being adopted by archaeolgists at the Ladybridge Farm site, near Bedale.
The latest archaeological work at the site - just half a mile from the Thornborough Henges - covers almost four per c
Consultant archaeologist Steve Timms, of MGA Associates, said: "In line with our initial investigation of the site, we are using the same methodology, principles and evaluation system as applied by the consultant archaeologists who advised English Heritage on proposed developments at Stonehenge. We call it the 'Stonehenge Standard.'"

Cairo museum update Those Forgotten Mummies in the Cellar Must Be Cursed

Egyptian archaeologists, who normally scour the desert in search of treasures of the past, have discovered that one of the greatest caches of antiquities may well be in the basement of the Egyptian Museum. For the last century, artifacts have been stored away in crates there and forgotten, often allowed to disintegrate in the dank, dusty cavern.

Forgotten until now. The recent theft and recovery of three statues from the basement have prompted antiquity officials in Egypt to redouble an effort already under way to complete the first comprehensive inventory of artifacts in the basement.

"For the last 100 years, curators sat down to drink tea, but they did not do their jobs," said Zahi Hawass, the general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. "How many artifacts are in the basement? It was awful."

Excitement at Neolithic site find

Archaeologists have unearthed what is thought to be one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Britain.

The discovery, which includes buildings, a human burial pit, tools, pottery and ritual objects, was uncovered at a Northumberland quarry.

It is hoped it will boost understanding of the period, which dates back thousands of years.

This sounds great because it's near the beginning of the Neolithic in Britain. Especially if they have a reasonable number of structures. Ought to shed much light on early agriculture there.

Ancient Burial Ground Discovered in N.Y.

James Richeson was checking out erosion damage on eastern Long Island after days of torrential rain last month when he made a fascinating discovery.

"I ... saw little bits of bone down the hillside and some of it had washed away in the surf already," said Richeson, the parks supervisor at Indian Island County Park - named in honor of the local Shinnecock and other tribes that have inhabited Long Island for as much as 12,000 years.

A closer inspection uncovered skull and bone fragments, as well as several artifacts, including a ceramic bowl and pipe covered with ornate geometric markings. The artifacts date at least 500 years - and possibly as far back as 700 B.C. - according to one expert who says such finds are becoming more common.

Thought we'd blogged about this earlier, but apparently not.

Bad archaeologist! No cookie! Police arrest archaeologist suspected of ancient relic trade

An archaeologist was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of locating and purchasing an ancient document from antiquities thieves.

Professor Hanan Eshel, of Bar-Ilan University, is suspected of purchasing pieces of a Leviticus scroll from the Bar Kokhba period (132-135 CE) from three West Bank Bedouin for $3,000. The three Bedouin allegedly showed the document first to a doctoral student of Eshel, Roi Porat. Porat, who was also questioned yesterday, allegedly called in Eshel, who subsequently made the purchase. Eshel and Porat were released with limitations after questioning.

Underwater archaeology update Archaeologists search in Charlotte Harbor

Slowly, very slowly Monday, the 24-foot twin-engine Parker bumped through the choppy green water in Charlotte Harbor.

Three archaeologists intently watched two screens — one hooked to a side-scan sonar "tow fish" trailing behind the boat, the other hooked to a magnetometer tow fish — seeking the harbor's maritime history.

"This is really exciting work; going 3 to 4 knots, looking at the bay floor," said J. Coz Cozzi, Mote Marine Laboratory's nautical archaeologist. "This is as exciting as it gets."

With the help of scientists and equipment from Panamerican Consultants Inc. of Memphis, Cozzi has started the first systematic search for sunken and abandoned vessels and the remains of historic structures in Charlotte Harbor.

Ancient artifacts to be returned to Mexico

U.S. customs officials plan to return a pair of seized ancient stone artifacts to Mexico this week during a repatriation ceremony.

Roger Maier, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the "metates," once used to grind grain, were seized during a traffic stop at the Columbus, N.M., border crossing in August 2004. Officials with the El Paso Museum of Archaeology have identified the artifacts as prehistoric relics from the Casas Grandes region of Chihuahua, Mexico.

Maier said the American citizen who had the artifacts told investigators he found them while hiking in Mexico. No arrests were made, Maier said.

The metates are being returned to Mexican officials on Wednesday under a Treaty of Cooperation between Mexico and the United States that allows for the recovery and return of stolen archaeological, historical and cultural items.

That's the whole thing. There are more stories on it floating around though.

Fort Clatsop update Archaeologists get treat at Fort Clatsop

A team of Northwest archaeologists converged Tuesday at Fort Clatsop, eager to probe the ground where a historic landmark once stood.

A fire last month destroyed the replica of the fort where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-06, and now National Park archaeologists get a rare chance to learn more about the site.

They will use remote sensing devices such as ground-penetrating radar to seek soil irregularities that might signal a post hole, a fire pit or anything else man-made.

So the upshot is that the destruction of the replica is allowing them to work over the site some to locate the original. They're going to probably rebuild the replica as well, which may or may not be a good idea depending on what the subsurface analysis yields.

Archaeologists kick up dirt in Safford

Under all the sand and desert sagebrush of the Gila Valley lies an archaeologist's heaven, and Eastern Arizona College played host last weekend to a team of scientists interested in the remains of the area's ancient civilizations.

The three-day symposium drew students, researchers, seasoned archaeologists and curious members of the community to the college. It was jointly sponsored by EAC, the Arizona Archaeological Council and the Center for Desert Archaeology. The symposium also included three field trips to various sites in the Valley.

David E. Purcell of Four Corners Research introduced the symposium with a history of the Safford Basin - an area with a history just beginning to be revealed.