Thursday, August 31, 2006

NAGPRA review article, part 1: When NAGPRA applies.

I've read the following article a couple of times and it has provided some clarity on the recent court rulings on on the application of NAGPRA itself. I'll spread it over a couple of posts.

"Complex legal legacies: the native American graves protection and repatriation act, scientific study, and Kennewick Man.(Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act)." Susan B. Bruning. American Antiquity 71.3 (July 2006): p501(21).

Debates over disposition options for an inadvertently discovered set of early Holocene human remains known as Kennewick Man have fueled discussions about the scientific, cultural, and ethical implications of the anthropological study of human remains. A high-profile lawsuit over Kennewick Man has led to the most extensive judicial analysis to date of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the primary law affecting access to, and the ultimate disposition of ancient human remains found in the United States. However, despite years of litigation, some key questions remain unanswered. The judicial decisions in Kennewick address important questions about determining Native American status and assessing cultural affiliation under the law. However, the court opinions fail to address the role of scientific study within NAGPRA 's confines. This article examines NAGPRA and concludes that two provisions in the law expressly permit the scientific study of human remains if certain conditions are met. Significantly, Kennewick Man might have qualified for study under NAGPRA even if found to be Native American and culturally affiliated with the claimant tribes, which would have enabled study to proceed from the outset while the parties debated the issues of Native American status and potential cultural affiliation.

Three key terms in the satute whose interpretations have been the source of controversy: Native American, Indian Tribe, and cultural affiliation.

Native American: According the NAGPRA, this is defined as "of, or relating to, a tribe, people, or culture that is indigenous to the United States" (Section 2). To be subject to NAGPRA, human remains must qualify under the statute as Native American" (p.507). That is, it must first be demonstrated that the remains have some demonstrable connection to an existing tribe. The Interior Dept. in its interpretation regarding Kennewick insisted that cultural affiliation to an existing tribe only comes into play when a tribe seeks repatriation, and that "Native American" should be broadly construed to mean any remains from the time before the historically documented arrival of Europeans. Nevertheless, the district and Ninth Ciruit courts both interpreted it differently:

The primary issue debated during the oral hearing was whether all human remains predating documented European contact and found within the U.S. borders should be deemed to be Native American under NAGPRA (Bonnichsen et al. v. United States et al. 2003). In its opinion, the circuit court affirmed the district court's ruling that a finding of Native American status requires evidence of a relationship to a present-day group, ruling that the definition requires evidence that remains share "special and significant genetic or cultural features with presently existing indigenous tribes, peoples, or cultures" (Bonnichsen et al. v. United States et al., Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 02-35996, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 1656 [February 4]:1608). . . NAGPRA does not specify with any particularity how Native American status must be determined. The Interior Department and SAA approached the matter by presuming that, for the purposes of NAGPRA, any human remains predating documented European contact that are found within the country's borders would qualify under the law as Native American. From a legal standpoint, such a presumption would place the burden of proof on a party challenging the Native American status of precontact remains, by requiring it to prove that the remains are not Native American. In contrast, the Kennewick courts determined that Congress intended to require proof of Native American status for all remains, regardless of age, in order for NAGPRA to apply. The courts' rulings place the burden of proof squarely on the shoulders of a party claiming that remains are Native American. As a result, both courts required proof of Kennewick Man's status as a Native American before applying NAGPRA to the case, and they both ruled that the government failed to provide sufficient evidence to satisfy its burden. (p. 508)

This is, as we argued earlier, the basis of the "or was" legislation: it would bypass the two court' limitation of only applying NAGPRA after affiliation to an extant tribe had been established.

Cultural Affiliation: NAGPRA defines cultural affiliation as "a relationship of shared group identity which can be reasonably traced historically or prehistorically between a present day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable earlier group" (Section 2)" (p. 509) and provides several categories of evidence that may be used to determine such. As Bruning notes, it is notoriously difficult to define (let alone establish) group identity through time:
Group identity is continually shaped and altered in a variety of ways (Cohen 1978). It is multiscalar in nature, historically contingent, and differentially perceived by group members and nonmembers (Dongoske et al. 1997). (p. 509)

Determination of cultural affinity is accomplished by whatever agency holds the remains; thus, no rigid standards apply. Obviously, cultural affinity is far more difficult to assess the more ancient the remains are, and this was the main issue behind Kennewick. In this case, the close geographic proximity of the remains and the claimants' historical ocupancy was not sufficient to establish shared group identity nor was evidence of oral tradition on the part of the claimants. Interestingly, the district court found that
NAGPRA does not mandate that every set of remains be awarded to some tribe, regardless
of how attenuated the relationship may be. On the contrary, the Act expressly contemplates instances in which no claimant can establish the requisite degree of cultural affiliation to be entitled to claim the remains" (p.512)

Thus, as it stands, NAGPRA only applies after cultural affiliation to an extant group can be established.

Except, and this was noted in an earlier post, "NAGPRA grants tribal control over the disposition of newly discovered Native American human remains that are culturally unidentifiable if they are found on the tribe's land (Section 3[a][2][A]) or if they are found on land that has been recognized by final court judgment to be the aboriginal land of the tribe, and the tribe states claim (Section 3[a][2][C])" (p.512)

This second part was the "loophole" that an earlier commenter was noting: If the "or was" clause was added, even if no cultural affiliation to extant groups is established, defining "Native American" as any group here before the arrival of Europeans would mean that 3[a][2][C] wold apply. This may not be the case, IMO. The statute as quoted above seems plainly worded to refer to existing tribes only, and as the courts have already established, simple geographic proximity is not sufficient to establish cultural affiliation. Hence, it may not have been an issue anyway.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cemetery archaeology AND Egyptomania Mummy-Shaped Coffin Found While Moving Cemetery
Dan Allen, an archaeologist hired by developers, has seen it all over the years while clearing coffins and bodies.

But, a discovery made Tuesday is rare. Allen and other archaeologists found a pre-Civil War cast-iron coffin shaped like an Egyptian mummy while moving a cemetery for developers at a site on Whites Creek Pike in North Nashville.

“I've only seen three of these in my life,” Allen said. The headstone lay near the site. “It says her name was Mildred Casey, which was her maiden name,” Allen said. Casey was 54-years-old when she died in 1851. A more typical box-type casket was found next to Casey's, likely her husband.

Odd though, since they mention the condition of the clothing but later say they won't open it up due to something called "Coffin liquor".
Blogging update

Back from short break. Blogging will resume. . .today sometime.

FYI, I was off, um, studying Native American culture for. . . .uhhhhh. . .important cross-cultural comparative research. . . .stuff. Yeah.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Blogging update

No blogging for approximately 4 days as I wil be. . . ummmm. . . .elsewhere.

Doing something else.

Something important.

Archaeologists find five headless sphinxes in Luxor
Archaeologists in Luxor, central Egypt, have found five headless sphinxes which belonged to a sphinx-lined avenue connecting a temple built by pharaohs in the city with Karnak, antiquity administrators in Cairo said.

Scientists are now trying to discover whether the figures match four broken sphinx heads, found a long time ago, sources said.
Roman art excites archaeologists
They gave us straight roads, sewers and bloodthirsty gladiatorial combat, but it is the Roman eye for beauty which is currently exciting archaeologists in Norfolk.

A spectacular villa dating from the reign of the emperor Commodus is being painstakingly re-excavated in the county after lying untouched for more than 80 years.

First uncovered by locals in 1922, the site in Gayton Thorpe, near King's Lynn, would have been home to generations of wealthy Romano-Britons.
Phoenician tombs found in Sicily
Archaeologists have unearthed 40 sarcophagi in what was once the sacred Phoenician burial grounds of Birgi, near the ancient colony of Motya .

The tombs were discovered by chance by a group of construction workers excavating the foundations of a house close to the westernmost tip of Sicily near Marsala, culture officials said .

Archaeologists said the sarcophagi were made of simple stone slabs and resembled those found on display outside the museum on the neighbouring island of Motya (present-day Mozia), site of a prosperous Phoenician colony .
Summer heatwave unearths historic past
THE summer heatwave has helped more than 100 early settlements buried underground to be identified, archaeologists said.

Historians taking aerial photographs of buried forts and monuments said the dry and warm summer meant they could be seen more clearly through ripening crops and scorched grass.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) in Edinburgh said it was one of the best aerial surveys done since records began 30 years ago.
Ancient plumbing unearthed
Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed an ancient water system. The network of reservoirs, drain pipes and underground tunnels served one of the grandest palaces in the biblical kingdom of Judea.

Archaeologists first discovered the palace in 1954, but recent excavations unearthed nearly 70sq m of a unique water system.

The infrastructure of the palace was remodelled throughout the centuries to fit the needs of the Babylonians, Persians, Romans and Hasmoneans who ruled the Holy Land, said Oded Lipschits, a Tel Aviv University archaeologist.

That's the whole thing.
Archaeologists excited at chance to dig up Queen's back gardenBack to Communities
A team of television archaeologists today told of their excitement at the chance to dig up Britain's most famous back garden.

Experts from Channel 4's Time Team, are preparing to spend the bank holiday weekend wielding shovels in the garden of Buckingham Palace searching for secrets from the past.

On a visit to the site today, host Tony Robinson said that the dig had been given a personal seal of approval from the Queen.
There’s a fort at the bottom of my garden
DIGGING in the back garden became much more than a weekend pastime for Ann and John Hearle when they discovered their lawn was once the site of an Iron Age hill fort.

For the past eight years the Hearle’s garden and surrounding fields, in the village of Mellor near Stockport, has been a huge archaeological site, revealing evidence of human occupation from the Mesolithic Period (around 10,000 years ago) up to the present day with the only gap being the Dark Ages.

“At the moment there are enormous holes between the vegetable patch and the village church,” said Ann Hearle. “I’ve lived here for 22 years, and my husband for 38 years, but we didn’t notice anything until the drought of 1995, when a green line appeared.”
Archaeology work in old tavern site could delay school's plans
The possible remains of Americans Indians in a South Natick parcel could delay Eliot Montessori School's plans to build a new school.

Town officials said the state plans to start digging on the 4.68-acre site of the old Morse Tavern to see if it contains bones or historical artifacts. The Rte. 16 property is owned by the school and is where the school plans to move.

But the parcel also used to be a center for the Praying Indians before settlers founded Natick. The abandoned tavern that sits on it, called Peletiah Morse Tavern, is from 1749.
Archaeologists discover more than 70 ancient settlement areas in Yozgat
Archaeologists working at the ancient settlement of Tavium located in what is today Yozgat have discovered more than 70 previously unknown ancient settlements in the area.

The Central Anatolian province, mostly famous for the Chalcolithic Period discoveries at its Alişar Tumulus and the Hittite era artifacts at Kerkenes, is likely to hold much more archaeological wealth than previously believed, and archaeologists say the new studies will shed more light on history.

Austrian archaeologist Professor Karl Strobel, who is currently heading surveys and excavations at the ancient city of Tavium, said he and his assistant Cristoph Gerber have identified the previously unknown settlements in a very large area that stretches as far as Yozgat's borders with Çorum, Kırıkkale and Kırşehir.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kennewick Man update Missed this from a couple of weeks ago: Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA) will introduce a bill that seeks to prevent future legislation from applying NAGPRA to older remains. Actual text of the bill is here.

Seems to be adding two specific items to the existing Act, one a definition, the other an ammendment. The added definition:
"Native American" means cultural items that have a significant and substantial genetic or cultural relationship, based on factors other than geography alone, to a presently existing tribe, people, or culture that is now indigenous to the United States.

and the amendment:
Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to restrict excavation, examination, investigation, or scientific study under the ARPA Act of 1979 of any cultural item found on Federal land that has not been determined to be the property of an Indian tribe or a Native Hawaiian organization.

The new definition is directly aimed at recent attempts to broaden the definition of "Native American" to any non-European remains regardless of whether or not they have a direct relation to existing tribes.

There is an extensive article on NAGPRA in the latest American Antiquity which no doubt has much bearing on whether this legislation is needed or not; I read it a couple of weeks ago and was going to post on it, but haven't gotten around to it yet. My first impression (see here) is that the new definition codifies the court rulings that specify that NAGPRA doesn't even come into play (though ARPA does) with remains of a certain age. This is what the famous "or was" bill was all about. That is, NAGPRA needs remains to be "Native American" to even apply, and this bill restricts that definition to remains that can be directly linked to existing tribes through something other than simple geographic proximity.

The second part looks to prevent the rounds of lawsuits regarding these sorts of remains. That is, if it's not under NAGPRA (i.e., not "Native American" in the above definition) it's under ARPA and suits claiming NAGPRA jurisdiction are automatically off the table.

Must go re-read that article. More will no doubt follow.
Aztecs butchered, ate Spanish invaders
Skeletons found at an unearthed site in Mexico show Aztecs captured, ritually sacrificed and partially ate several hundred people traveling with invading Spanish forces in 1520.

Skulls and bones from the Tecuaque archeological site near Mexico City show about 550 victims had their hearts ripped out by Aztec priests in ritual offerings, and were dismembered or had their bones boiled or scraped clean, experts say.

The findings support accounts of Aztecs capturing and killing a caravan of Spanish conquistadors and local men, women and children traveling with them in revenge for the murder of Cacamatzin, king of the Aztec empire's No. 2 city of Texcoco.

The prisoners were kept in cages for months while Aztec priests from what is now Mexico City selected a few each day at dawn, held them down on a sacrificial slab, cut out their hearts and offered them up to various Aztec gods.

Doesn't say if this all was published elsewhere or not. Actually, there's not much in the article on what sort of work was done at the place. There's a well mentioned where personal items were thrown in that was apparently excavated. Darn irritating it is.

Also see this: A Russian cosmonaut will whack a golf ball from the international space station in a publicity stunt on Thanksgiving Day, NASA officials said Tuesday.
And not quite as off-topic The Manolo posted about a National Geographic feature on shoes, both modern and ancient. The photos are brilliant. There was some news a while back about some shoes found in a well or something. Has anyone ever done an archaeology of footwear?

"You can't go wrong with a nice fitted black leather boot with a four-inch heel."

Errrrrr, no comment.

Update: Here's something on hidden shoes.

And apparently it's a widespread phenomenon.
SHOUT IT OUT, BRUTHA! Death to Caps Lock
"The Caps key is an abomination," Hintjens writes on his blog. "It's a huge key, stuck right there where the Ctrl used to be, and as far as I know, it's only used by 419 scammers and Fortran programmers."

Zealous net newbies have also subjected the Caps Lock key to overuse, composing e-mails and newsgroup posts entirely in capital letters, an ugly and inelegant style of communication akin to screaming. In fact, the Capsoff organization's slogan is "STOP SHOUTING!"

The antagonism toward the Caps Lock key extends beyond its misuse by 13-year-old trolls and naive users. Caps Lock is also responsible for failed entries of passwords and other case-sensitive phrases. Users of word processors are forced to retype any text that was entered with Caps Lock accidentally turned on.

They really ought to put the dumb thing in some other location on the keyboard, as it's too close to the Shift key.

I could go into an extended discussion here of various aspects of keyboard design, evolutionary history, and its relation to archaeology, but I shan't bore you. I'll just toss it out there for your edification.

However, SJ Gould did write an essay on the whole QWERTY issue and concluded that the standard explanation of the key layout -- originally designed to keep users from typing to fast in order to keep mechanical arms from sticking together without the user knowing it -- is only partly true. It stuck because a particular typing instruction company standardized on that layout.

You know, kinda like how we got stuck with this bizarre bit of software kludgework known as "Windows". . . .

VIa Instapundit.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Archaeologist takes stories to Web
After decades of digging in the dirt for traces of history, archaeologist Richard Pettigrew has turned his attention to dust.

Specifically, the dust collecting on the thousands of reports of past archaeological projects. He already knew that the heart of archaeology is stories - tales about those who came before us, where and how they lived, the things they made, the way they adapted to the rhythms of the earth - and now he's dusting off those stories and getting them out to people other than his fellow diggers and researchers.

Pettigrew is the founder of the Eugene-based Archaeological Legacy Institute and The Archaeology Channel, a Web-based resource that offers free streaming video and audio programs on an array of topics that range from the native people of Western Oregon to the Neolithic settlements of Turkey.

We link to The Archaeology Channel often and it's a good resource. Though It probably ought to be in the Links then, eh? WIll be done soon.

What the Web needs is something like this for site reports.
The Homo hobbitus saga continues. . . Indon Hobbit 'was disabled caveman'
Nicknamed the hobbit, the 1m skeleton was by far the smallest ever found, with a brain the size of a grapefruit.

However, a new study contends the remains probably belonged to an early human suffering from microcephaly, a condition that causes an abnormally small head and other deformities, London's Sunday Times reports.

The paper quotes a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of America's most respected scientific institutions, as suggesting the initial evaluation of the remains was flawed.

“The skeletal remains do not represent a new species, but some of the ancestors of modern human pygmies who live on the island today,” the report said.

More at Time:
The PNAS team closely examined the one almost complete skull unearthed at Flores and say they found no evidence that it was belonged to anyone but a modern human. The skull was shaped asymmetrically, which the researchers argued was due to the effects of microcephaly. They also say that many of the features of the jaw and teeth cited as evidence that it belonged to a separate species-such as the lack of a chin-could be seen among modern Flores pygmies. It's that last part — the fact that a population of pygmies can still be found living just a stone's throw away from the Liang Bua cave where the original bones were found — that helped clinch the argument for Robert Eckhardt, a developmental geneticist at Penn State and another author of the PNAS paper. "If you look throughout the area, there are plenty of populations where the average male is under a meter and a half [4'11''] and females are shorter," he says. "If the people there are short now, so were the people who lived there 20,000 years ago."

And at Eurekalert.

And Hawks has a lengthy discussion of the actual paper. Some of his conclusions:
I completely accept the argument that LB1 is pathological. A corollary is that the skeleton cannot be a convincing type specimen for a new species.

But this isn't only about LB1: there are the other small specimens. This paper makes clear that none of the features of the LB6/1 mandible are outside the range of local peoples. This is not a case of two specimens that must share some rare pathology; the paper argues that they are two specimens that share a regionally-common suite of characteristics. They aren't, in other words, unusual.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Search for Civil War soldier's grave unearths unknown graveyard
The exhumation of a Civil War veteran's grave in northern Illinois has unearthed a mystery graveyard.

Archeologists from the University of Illinois' Public Service Archaeology Program began the dig in July in an oak grove in North Aurora. They were looking for Clark Smith's grave. But by Wednesday, they had found at least 19 other caskets.

Officials say the only record of a graveyard on the site is in an 1871 atlas. One page of the book shows a tiny cross west of a schoolhouse along the road.

Illinois Historic Preservation Agency officials say archeologists are going to research historical records and examine the remains for identifying traits.

Whole thing.
"This represents one of the great dangers of archaeology. . . ." Archaeologists thrown by twister
Five archaeologists sheltering in a temporary canteen were picked up and thrown through the air by a freak tornado.

The portable building at Baston Fen, Lincolnshire was flipped over several times and the students and archaeologists inside were thrown around.

Four of the team were taken to Peterborough District Hospital with what were described as minor injuries. The worst injury is thought to be a broken foot, a quarry spokeswoman said. One was treated at the site.

A witness described how the tornado lifted debris, including planks of wood and sheets of metal, almost 200ft into the air.
Yet another Washington road project Viaduct: Cost not the only caution
They were expert basket makers. They were constructors of beautiful longhouses. They were skilled and patient fishermen who respected their food source and knew not to take too much. They were homeschoolers and storytellers, and they could make canoes without anything from True Value.

They were here long, long before the Dennys came around town shopping.

They were the ancient original habitants of what is now Seattle, and there is speculation that their remains are beneath the Jell-O-like soils that lie on top of Elliott Bay and downtown Seattle.

It's actually an opinion piece by some singer in a local band. It does, however, demonstrate that the myth of the ecologically correct Native American is alive and well among the populace.
First Tut, now Cleo in Dr Zahi's sights
In little over two months, famed Egyptologist Dr Zahi Hawass hopes to unearth the discovery of his lifetime: the tomb of one of history's greatest women, Cleopatra.

The celebrity archaeologist, who is on a whistle stop lecture tour of South Africa, said that "the discovery would even be bigger than that of King Tut".

Hawass told The Star on Wednesday that he suspects Cleopatra is buried with her Roman lover Mark Antony at a temple 30km from Alexandra called Tabusiris Magna.

"I believe it is a very sacred place and this is where they would have hidden Cleopatra and Marc Antony from Octavian," Hawass explained.

Eh. We'll see. Although if it's under the water table in an accessible location (i.e., in oxygenated water) then the chances of finding anything organic (i.e., bodies) is slim.
PETA is in the way
Archaeologists discover permafrost mummy with fur coat.
Research workers of the German archaeological institute have discovered a mummy in permafrost at excavation work in Mongolia of approximately 2,500 years old. At the "sensational find" of a sepulchre chamber of the Scythian rider people a crew of the German television sender ZDF were present. In front of the camera the archaeologists opened the sepulchre where the mummy of the Scythian soldier was stored. The mummy, conserved in permafrost, carried still a fur coat and had a decorated gilded head ornament. According to the scientists the discovery is similar with those of the legendary Ötzi in 1991, and the tattooed siberian ice princess from 1993.

That is also The Whole Thing.
Archaeological find slows beach work
An archaeological discovery on Lake Worth's beach could delay a nineteen million dollar renovation project.

The city manager says they would have to bring in a professional archaeologist to consult as the project moves forward.

Florida's Division of Historical Resources has logged more than 200 archaeological sites in Palm Beach County, including three on Lake Worth's coastline, where human remains and fragments of ceramic pots date to 500 B-C.

The latest remains were found beneath condominiums earmarked for removal under the renovation project. Florida law gives state archaeologists jurisdiction over construction projects that unearth human remains.

That's the whole thing.
Flipper = airhead? New brain claim divides Dolphin experts
CONTROVERSIAL research claiming dolphins are marine dimwits rather than among the most intelligent of animals has split Australian scientists.

The scientific and marine conservation communities were divided yesterday in response to a South African academic's research showing dolphins are less intelligent than lab rats or goldfish.

The study, by the University of the Witwatersrand's Paul Manger, claims the large brains of marine mammals such as dolphins and whales are to help cope with being warm-blooded in cold water and not a sign of intelligence.

Didn't hear about this originally (but then, it's not exactly archaeology).

"They do have pretty complicated behaviour. There's nothing complex in chimpanzees, orang-utans or gorillas," he said.

"I've worked with a number of different species and dolphins definitely look like they're thinking about you, and reacting to you and other things in their environment.

"This is compared to another species I worked with, the bandicoot, where you could stand there and they would repeatedly run into your legs."

I suppose that last line is worth reading the article for. I also question the assertion that higher primates don't have complex behaviors.

Update: Hawks has a link to an original article and a comparison to an Onion article. Both mention the fact (?) that dolphins don't seem to know enough to jump over either nets or short obstacles to escape their particular predicaments.
Dead Sea Scrolls update Archaeologists Challenge Link Between Dead Sea Scrolls and Ancient Sect
New archaeological evidence is raising more questions about the conventional interpretation linking the desolate ruins of an ancient settlement known as Qumran with the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found in nearby caves in one of the sensational discoveries of the last century.

After early excavations at the site, on a promontory above the western shore of the Dead Sea, scholars concluded that members of a strict Jewish sect, the Essenes, had lived there in a monastery and presumably wrote the scrolls in the first centuries B.C. and A.D.

Many of the texts describe religious practices and doctrine in ancient Israel.

But two Israeli archaeologists who have excavated the site on and off for more than 10 years now assert that Qumran had nothing to do with the Essenes or a monastery or the scrolls. It had been a pottery factory.

There's a link to a BAR article that is sub-only.

Hard to tell what to make of this, though to be honest I'd never really thought about what the specific links supposedly were that made the connection between the scrolls in the caves and that particular settlement, other than proximity. I do recall one television thing where what I thought was Qumran was surveyed and the various ritual bathing areas were shown. I suppose even a monastery has to do something for a living (like today's Benedictines). So I'll punt on this one and just throw it out there for anyone else to provide commentary/links upon.
Archaeologists find terracotta figurines older than those buried with Chinese first emperor
Chinese archaeologists have discovered two terracotta figurines dating back to about 2,500 years ago, older than the famous terracotta warriors buried with first Chinese emperor Qinshihuang.

The rough-hewn, 10-centimeter tall statues might be the oldest terracotta figurines produced by the Qin State at the beginning of the Warring States Period (475 BC-221 BC), said some experts.

The two figurines were found at the ruins of Yongcheng, an ancient Qin State capital, in northwest Shaanxi Province, according to local media reports.
Fight! Fight! Students warn pupils about their universityAug 15 2006
DISGRUNTLED students who are taking legal action after teaching hours on their courses were slashed are advising A-level pupils to think twice before applying for the same university.

The three mature students voiced their concerns about the University of Wales, Newport, yesterday, three days before this year's A-level results are released.

Yeah, what else is new.

Okay, maybe other universities take the care and feeding of graduate students reasonably seriously.
More skeletons found at Prestwich site
The building of a R5,6-million heritage centre to house the centuries-old human remains found in Prestwich Street in Green Point, has led to the discovery of more remains.

The city advertised on Monday for interested or affected parties to comment following the new discovery.

During the building work, more skeletal remains were found by construction workers and an archaeologist was called in, as required by law.
Study sheds light on First Nations society
Rather than living as simple hunters and gatherers, First Nations people of the Canadian prairies some 2,000 years ago formed a complex society, says a university archaeologist.

Dr. Dale Walde of the University of Calgary said he’s unearthed evidence pointing to a theory that pegs area aboriginals first developing impressive social structures some 1,700 years earlier than many researchers believe.

“I was exploring the question of how sophisticated these people might be,” said Walde of his recent article published in World Archaeology in response to papers suggesting Natives on the northern plains lived at very low levels of social organization before the arrival of Europeans.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Blogging update

Yeah, no blogging for a few days. I've been busy volunteering for a local event and haven't been around a computer much. Expect posting to resume. . . .eh, Sunday or Monday.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pluto saved! Maybe. Nine Planets Become 12 with Controversial New Definition
The tally of planets in our solar system would jump instantly to a dozen under a highly controversial new definition proposed by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Eventually there would be hundreds as more round objects are found beyond Neptune.

The proposal, which sources tell is gaining broad support, tries to plug a big gap in astronomy textbooks, which have never had a definition for the word "planet." It addresses discoveries of Pluto-sized worlds that have in recent years pitched astronomers into heated debates over terminology.

The definition: "A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet."

The fallout basically conflicts with our notions of what a "planet" is (or should be), largely, I think, because we've been conditioned by the earliest definitions of what "planets" are (basically, points of light in the sky that don't move like stars do) and the standard characterization of planets in textbooks, movies, etc., that is, a large body rotating around a star with one or more satellites around it.

The problem with the simple definition -- body orbiting a star -- has been known for some time: A pair of round objects that orbit around a point in space that is outside both objects—meaning the center of gravity (or barycenter) is between the two planets in space as with Pluto and Charon—would be called double planets. The gravity of two bodies affects each other; therefore, there is never a case where one body orbits another where one of them remains perfectly stationary (that is, where the barycenter is the exact center of one [larger] body). The sun and earth technically "orbit" each other but the sun is so much larger so the earth-sun barycenter is very close to the center of the sun, and thus we consider it to be a classic "orbit". The Earth-moon barycenter is still within the Earth, but not at the Earth's center. As noted, the Pluto-Charon barycenter is outside of Pluto and they could thus be said to orbit one another, making Charon a "planet" while our much larger Moon is not.

It sounds like a reasonable definition, one that more or less creates a good intensional definition and also satisfies our colloquial interpretation of what a planet ought to be. It seems that the further recommendations are the main complicating factor and what will cause people the most grief. On the one hand, it's just semantics, since astronomers are more concerned with solving cosmological problems than debating what a particular word means. But we still need to communicate and in that sense a proper definition is vital.

Again, it happens all the time in archaeology. "Site" is probably the most famous example; we all know what a "site" is, it's a place where there's lots of junk and where archaeologists dig stuff up. OTOH, we know that artifactual material is spread across the landscape in a continuum and that just collecting stuff from the larger concentrations will skew our view of both the material record and landscape use. Is a single projectile point a "site"? A stone tool with its manufacturing debris?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

We won't be fooled screwed again Digging up the past under the Alaskan Way Viaduct
Significant archaeological finds, especially tribal burials, can delay or even kill a construction project.

The state is still smarting from its surprising find in 2003 of Tse-whit-zen, an Indian village and burial ground in Port Angeles. Construction was under way to build a dry dock when some 335 intact Indian skeletons were unearthed at the shoreline site. The state walked away from the unfinished project in 2004, after spending nearly $90 million.

No one expects a find like Tse-whit-zen under the viaduct, said Kate Stenberg, the state's environmental manager for the viaduct-replacement project. But the department isn't taking any chances, either, on a highway project that could cost between $2.5 billion and $4 billion.

More like $8 billion, but that's beside the point. I have a feeling the tribal consultations are more directed at CYA than any real quest for information; not that that's a bad thing, the more people are really involved the less likely they are to react in knee-jerk fashion.

Monday, August 14, 2006

This just in from the EEF. Sometimes correspondent Jasmine Day has just gotten her book published:

by Jasmine Day

The riddle of the 'curse of the pharaohs' is finally solved via a radical
anthropological treatment of the legend as a cultural concept rather than a
physical phenomenon. The most penetrating study of the curse ever conducted
shows that its structure and meaning changed over time, as public attitudes
toward archaeology and the Middle East were transformed by events such as
the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. Victorian women writers likened
unwrapping to rape, but to exploit the growing popularity of Egyptology,
Hollywood turned mummies from victims into monsters, destroying the curse's
power to challenge abuses of human remains. So mummies came to symbolise
everything wrong and rotten: pollution, age, death, difference and defiance
of authority, becoming imaginary friends or cautionary examples for

"The Mummy's Curse" uncovers forgotten nineteenth century fiction and
poetry, revolutionises the study of mummy horror films and reveals the
prejudices embedded in children's toys. Original surveys and field
observations of museum visitors demonstrate that media stereotypes (to
which museums inadvertently contribute) promote vilification of mummies,
which can invalidate demands for their removal from display. "The Mummy's
Curse" asks: must we debase other cultures in order to practise our own?

List of contents online at:

Published by Routledge (London and New York), 2006
208 pp, b&w illustrations
Paperback RRP: £18.99 (ISBN 0-415-34022-5)
Hardcover RRP: £60.00 (ISBN 0-415-34021-7)

Available at online and shopfront booksellers and various museum and
university bookshops.

Even apart from the analysis, the book ought to be worth it just for the source data from the last decades.

Go buy it.
Neanderthal update Sleep with Neanderthals? Apparently we (homo Sapiens) did
Though it's been 150 years since mysteriously humanlike bones first turned up in Germany's Neander Valley, the find continues to shake our collective sense of human identity.

Neanderthals are humanity's closest relatives, with brains at least as big as ours, and yet we don't know whether we should include them as members of our own species.

No longer does science consider them our direct ancestors but some suspect Neanderthals and modern homo Sapiens interbred during the 20,000 some-odd years we co-existed in Europe. The archaeological record doesn't tell us one way or another, but earlier, researchers announced they would seek more clues by scraping DNA from Neanderthal bones and teeth.

Doesn't actually provide any stunning new data about this, just more of a review of the upcoming genetic studies that are planned.
Late-Pleistocene extinctions update Drought killed giants
DROUGHT, rather than Aborigines, killed off the giant marsupials that once roamed Australia's arid interior, research has shown.

New dating techniques used at a dig in western NSW allowed Victorian researchers to age the fossils of giant marsupials and humans, showing a 10,000-year gap between the last marsupial and first human.
Debate over the fate of mega fauna has raged in Australian archeology since mammologist and palaeontologist Dr Tim Flannery blamed human hunters in a best-selling book published a decade ago.

The article doesn't quote any critics, only that "International archaeology experts have peer reviewed the research, which will appear in the journal (subs: italics) Quaternary Research this month." Which, of course, doesn't mean that it's "accepted", just that it's worthwhile to publish. Expect the Overkill crowd to have some criticism.
Care is exercised during gravesite dig
Those personally connected to the dig taking place here — where it is believed the graves of a Civil War veteran and 11 other unknown people have been discovered — are lauding the efforts of landowners and archaeologists alike.

The Tollview Venture group owns the property south of Butterfield Road, where a long-forgotten cemetery containing at least 12 bodies has been unearthed. Excavation will resume next week in an attempt to either locate more graves or deem the digging process complete.

When word of the gravesites first was made public, concerns surfaced about whether landowners would handle any investigation properly. An initial fear was that the land might be commercially developed without regard for the possibility of what — or who — lay beneath the surface.
Humble, historic cabin reels anthropologists in
Gleaming, multimillion-dollar buildings at the University of Alaska Fairbanks stand as symbols to the advancement of science in the North and a research budget of more than $120 million.

But if you know where to look on the campus of 5,600 students, tucked in a remnant of the boreal forest you can find a smaller testament to research in a different age.

The Rainey-Skarland cabin, a single-story, 1,142-square-foot building, has been home to northern anthropologists since 1936 and a social center for researchers studying the history of Alaska's indigenous populations.
Residents sift for Buffalo's past
A Chinese vase. A small glass eye.

More than 100 amateur archaeologists are digging through an Erie County landfill this weekend for pieces of the area's past.

The director of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo says, quote, "Everything helps connect us to the time when the Erie Canal was the center of the world."
Slavery archaeology update Archaeologists seek clues into evolution of slave life
What’s new is the emphasis on slave history. “We have reams of information about Thomas Jefferson and the things he did,” said Don Gaylord, archaeological analyst. Most of Monticello’s inhabitants were enslaved, he said, “and there’s really very, very little written about them. The vast majority are invisible to the historical records.”

Site 8 and the neighboring Site 7 are of particular interest to Monticello’s archaeologists because they predate all other known non-Native American settlements on the mountain, Neiman said. The tobacco-farming slaves of Jefferson’s father, who resided in Shadwell, lived in cabins there in the mid-18th century. (Jefferson didn’t move in until 1769, once construction of Monticello was under way.) In the 1760s, however, the settlement was abandoned, and later plowed to make way for wheat cultivation.

It's about how the settlement patterns of slaves may have changed in response to different agriculture. Though the headline makes one think of physical evolution; don't know if anyone's studied that in detail yet.
CSI: Sedgeford

Archaeologists have found some unusual burnt remains in a Roman corn-drying oven at Sedgeford in Norfolk: human remains.

The mysterious burnt body was discovered during work at the Roman agricultural processing plant, being carried out as part of the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Project.

Foul play seems highly likely.
Archaeology, water centers prepare to open at Diamond Valley
Long before tract homes and mini-malls covered the land, mastodons and other creatures roamed Riverside County.

Among the inhabitants was a mastodon now known as Max. The remains of the largest mastodon ever discovered in the western United States were unearthed during construction of Diamond Valley Lake and they will be a centerpiece of a museum slated to open next month.

The Western Center for Archaeology & Paleontology will house many of the almost 1 million specimens unearthed during construction of the reservoir.

Friday, August 11, 2006

And now. . . .the news from the EEF

Press report: "Egypt Museum opens second mummy room"
"The Egyptian Museum opened a second mummy chamber
yesterday where the mummies of 11 figures from the 20th
dynasty were put on display (..) first discovered in 1881 in
a cache in Deir al-Bahari on Luxor's west bank and in 1898
in the second cache of King Amenhotep II's tomb in the Valley
of the Kings. (...) " The mummies of Ramses III, high priest of
Amum Pinumdjem II, and Ramses IV are mentioned.
-- Another press report:
"A new hall for Pharaonic mummies at the Egyptian museum"
-- And a video report of the BBC [submitted by Albert Prince
"New mummies go on display in Cairo"
[look under 'Video and Audio News'; pick 'more Video/Audio
news', and Search for "mummies".]

'Expedition', the magazine of the University of Pennsylvania Museum
of Archaelogy and Anthropology, Volume 48, Number 2 (Summer 2006)
has appeared and is a special issue on Egyptology!
With articles by Josef Wegner, Kei Yamamoto, Jennifer Houser Wegner,
Dawn McCormack, Vanessa Smith, Nicholas S. Picardo, and Stine Rossel.
Two of the articles are available online:
-- Josef Wegner, "The Archaeology of South Abydos--Egypt's
Late Middle Kingdom in Microcosm"
-- Jennifer Houser Wegner, "David Randall-MacIver--
Explorer of Abydos and Curator of the Egyptian Section"

The recent issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine
and Hygiene has the following article:
Fabrizio Bruschi et al., "Cysticercosis in an Egyptian mummy of
the late Ptolemaic period", Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 74(4), 2006,
pp. 598-599
Only the abstract is available for free online:
"We describe here an ancient case of cysticercosis that was
discovered in an Egyptian mummy of a young woman of about
20 years of age who lived in the late Ptolemaic period."
This "pig tapeworm" infection shows that in Hellenistic Egypt,
pigs were farmed.
Press reports about this find already appeared in January,
see EEF NEWS (381) and see

Online version of: G. Zaki Said, "The management of skeletal injuries in
ancient Egypt", in: AO Dialogue, vol. 15, no. I, pp. 12-13 (2002) - pdf-file
(208 KB):
"... Mummified bodies, wall paintings and hieroglyphs have shown some of
the orthopaedic practices of that time. The reduction of fractures by
manipulation, either unaided or with the help of pads, cushions, etc, was
practised with great skill ..."

Online version of: Margaret Alice Murray, "Catalogue of the Egyptian
antiquities in the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh", in:
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 33,
pp. 465-531 (1899) - pdf-file (3.5 MB):

The American Journal of Archaeology issues of this year
(AJA 110.1 (Januari 2006) and AJA 110.2 (April 2006)) contain
several relevant book reviews (available online in PDF):
-- Review by Joyce Haynes of:
Emily Teeter (with Post-Pharaonic Seals and Seal Impressions, by
T.G. Wilfong), Scarabs, Scaraboids, Seals, and Seal Impressions
from Medinet Habu

-- Review by Salima Ikram of:
Stephen Sidebotham and Willemina Wendrich, Berenike '98. Report
of the 1998 Excavations at Berenike and the Survey of the Egyptian
Eastern Desert, Including Excavations in Wadi Kalalat

End of EEF news
Maritime archaeologists‘ fascination with hardy cannons
THE indestructible nature of cannons that were made 500 years ago and which long outlived the ships they protected as they rounded the South African coastline in the 16th century, is being highlighted at a maritime archaeological conference in Mossel Bay this week.

Artillery historian Gerry de Vries gave a presentation on 12 antique cannons recovered from the Portuguese ships Sao Bento and Santiago.

These vessels, which were lost en route to India and China in the 16th century, foundered off what are now Port St Johns and Port Edward on the Transkei and KwaZulu Natal coastline.

Interesting bit:

Marine archaeologists are in discussions with government on the new firearms legislation as, apparently, no provision has been made for the retention of harmless but historic weapons like these in working order.

Firearms historians like De Vries are concerned that, if blanket legislation remains in place, then unique and irreplaceable objects like the Portuguese cannons will be lost forever as living artifacts.

So apparently there is some question as to whether stricter gun laws(?) will allow the ownership of old, working cannon.
Antiquities Market update Greek Police Seize Illegal antiquities
Police confiscated more than 100 ancient vases and marble fragments during a raid on an Aegean Sea island restaurant, authorities said Thursday.

Officers from the special antiquities squad seized dozens of complete pots - including 10 large vases used to transport wine and food - as well as a rare bronze double ax and four marble column bases, police said.

The raid took place on Wednesday on the small island of Koufonissi.

Not much else there.
Errrrrr. . . . Renowned Egyptologist John Anthony West brings Emmy-winning research to UCI conference (mild snark and red flags added)
Renowned (by whom?) Egyptologist, scholar and Pythagorean, John Anthony West (The Traveler's Key to Ancient Egypt, Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt), will be at the Conference of Precession and Ancient Knowledge (CPAK) this fall at UCI. West will share his insights and the results of years of exhaustive study on ancient Egypt. The Conference will take an in-depth look into many important but little known (because they don't exist) aspects of the very ancient past.

Joined by other innovative scientists, thinkers (because no one else really does, right?) and researchers for this third annual conference, West will show that Egyptian architecture and art disclose a richer and more universal wisdom (smarmy New Age claptrap word) than conventional Egyptology has assumed. Other presenters include: best-selling author, GRAHAM HANCOCK , (The Sign and The Seal, Fingerprints of the Gods and Heaven's Mirror), archaeo-astronomer WALTER CRUTTENDEN, author of Lost Star of Myth and Time, Mayan scholar JOHN MAJOR JENKINS, author of Maya Cosmogenisis 2012, GEOFF MARCY, professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, and famed geologist ROBERT SCHOCH , author of Voices of the Rocks, known for re-dating the Sphinx.

West will present evidence that shows that ancient cultures, particularly that of Egypt, were likely more advanced than many scholars now believe. According to West, the ancient Egyptians themselves attributed their wisdom (smarmy New Age word alert again) to an earlier age going back over 10,000 years. West set out to test the hypothesis that the Sphinx was much older than its conventional date of 2500 BC. His findings provide the first hard evidence (???)that an earlier age of civilization preceded the known development of civilization in the Nile valley. That over 100 years of digging all over the place has yet to discover evidence of. But I digress. . .)

An accomplished author, West's plays have been produced on stage, television and radio, and he writes articles, essays and criticism for The New York Times Book Review, Conde Nast's Traveler and other general interest and specialized newspapers and magazines in America and abroad (Hmmmm. . didn't see The Journal of Field Archaeology, The Journal of Archaeological Science, Egyptian Archaeology, or any other peer-reviewed journal listed. . .). He won an EMMY Award for his 1993 NBC Special Documentary The Mystery of the Sphinx, hosted by Charlton Heston.

I'm surprised this got onto EurekAlert, as they're generally pretty straightlaced as far as science reporting goes. It doesn't seem a total waste, however; I recognize Geoff Marcy from numerous astronomy docs, and he doesn't seem to be a left-fielder amongst astronomers. Then again, his biography page has this for his topic: He will be going out on the edge of astronomical research and discussing a subject that NASA would like to avoid.

This is the conference page: The Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge is an academic conference bringing together some of the greatest thinkers in Archaeo-Astronomy and Esoteric Archaeology to discuss the topic of precession, both from a modern and ancient perspective, hear arguments supporting a cyclical theory of civilization (tied to precession) and its possible causes, and highlight potential archaeological, mythological or astronomical evidence surrounding these theories. The mission of the conference is to develop a true dialog among experts in a wide range of fields to illuminate the ties between ancient cultures, mythology, and our ancestral knowledge of the stars.
CSI: Wherever Forensic archaeology and crime investigations
The use of forensic archaeology in crime investigations in Britain began in the mid-1980s and has developed massively since. The techniques deployed first received widespread public attention when Fred and Rosemary West's house at Cromwell Street, Gloucester, was searched in February 1994. Nine sets of human remains were found buried there.

Fewer than a dozen forensic archaeologists are regularly called on by police forces across the country to assist in search operations. Often they use geophysics equipment, such as ground penetrating radar, to identify "hotspots" which should be excavated.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Not archaeology (yet), but cool Breakthrough gives 3-D vision of dawn of life
A new technique allowing virtual dissections of half-billion year old fossil embryos is producing the first three-dimensional images of the dawn of life.

It reveals a universe of detail impossible using previous methods, and researchers at Bristol University in southwestern England said it was pushing back the frontiers of science much as the scanning electron microscope did half a century ago.

"We are looking at the dawn of life," lead researcher Phil Donoghue told Reuters. "Because of their tiny size and precarious preservation, embryos are the rarest of all fossils."

Should be applicable to other remains, ya? Mummies? Though maybe an entire body is too big to scan in this much detail. Actually, I'm having some difficulty coming up with what you could use it on. Pots? No, unless they're sealed and you want to know what's in them. Hmmm.
Archaeology Magazine has some stuff up on Pisa Wreck dig. Well, dig/dive.
Theban Mapping project update
The past year has been a busy one for the Theban Mapping Project. We worked for about two months in the spring of this year, continuing to clear KV 5, and, as usual, continued to find more chambers. I think the total number of rooms has now reached about 128, and there is no sign that we've yet reached the end. Future seasons will undoubtedly turn up even more parts of this most perplexing tomb.
Bill would allow study of ancient remains
A federal law governing protection of American Indian graves would be amended to allow scientific study of ancient remains discovered on federal lands if the remains have not been tied to a current tribe, under a bill proposed by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.

The bill marks the latest step in a dispute sparked by the 1996 discovery of Kennewick Man, one of the oldest and most complete skeletons ever found in North America.

Indian tribes and researchers battled over rights to the 9,300-year-old remains for nine years before a federal court sided with the scientists, allowing them to study the bones.

This may or may not be anything relevant. Susan Bruning has an article in this quarter's American Antiquity analyzing NAGPRA with respect to the issues brought up in the Kennewick case. It seems to be a response to the "or was" rewording from last year that, critics argued, would allow repatriation even if remains can't be tied to a particular tribe (I have argued otherwise elsewhere). Scientific study is allowed in some cases even when a tribal affiliation has been demonstrated, although generally only when the study has a definite end point. I'll be extracting some of that article for your perusal later.
Heh Saugus doorstop is ancient artifact
A rock that has been propping open doors in the Zapolski household for decades is actually a 4,000-year-old Native American axe.

"My mother used it as a doorstop," said Kathy (Johnston) Zapolski this week.

Zapolski’s 90-year-old aunt, Adele Colby, recalls that some time in the early 1900s her father (Zapolski’s grandfather) was attempting to plant a garden in his backyard on Willis Street when he came across a slightly-rounded, carved rock that resembled part of an Indian tool, possibly an axe. Willis Street is located off Winter Street, less than a quarter of a mile from the Saugus River.
Golden daggar update 'Sensational' golden dagger reveals the secrets of life in Thrace 5,000 years ago
A well-preserved 5,000-year-old golden dagger recovered from a tomb in Bulgaria has been described as a "sensational" find that sheds light on the long-lost civilisation of Thrace and shows the Thracians to be sophisticated metal-workers rather than illiterate, bloodthirsty savages.

The artefact, which archaeologists think dates to 3,000BC, is the latest in a series of finds in central Bulgaria that have led to the region being called the "Valley of the Thracian Kings".

"It's really a sensational discovery," said Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the Bulgarian National Museum of History. "The dagger, which we believe is made of gold and platinum, most probably belonged to a Thracian ruler or to a priest."
Here's a PDF article from Expedition Magazine on Abydos.
China's earliest handicraft workshop discovered in central China province
Chinese archaeologists may have found one of the world's oldest handicraft workshops, dating back more than 3,600 years, in central China's Henan Province.

Covering about 1,000 square meters, the workshop used turquoise to make elaborate and ornate works of art. The workshop was found in the village of Erlitou of Yanshi City and is part of the ruins of the imperial city belonging to the Xia dynasty (2100 B.C.-1600 B.C.), China's earliest.

The imperial city was discovered two years ago.
Time team bid to dig up secrets of Ice Age
SHEFFIELD University archaeologists are searching for clues about Ice Age artists who lived at Creswell Crags – the first major investigation at the site since the 1920s.
The team will work with experts from the British Museum at the site on the border of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and in the Church Hole cave for the next two weeks.
The dig is hoping to unearth major finds from prehistoric times when hyenas, Neanderthals and human hunter-gatherers lived at the site.
Skeleton found where bones unearthed
Archaeologists have found an intact skeleton in a Fairfield park where human bones were unearthed over the weekend.

The skeleton was found in Sturges Park Tuesday and officials have ordered the town not to allow a contractor to work in that area of the Mill Plain Road park.

The skeleton, found in the same location where the Westport contractor unearthed a skull and bones Saturday afternoon, was in a rotted casket. The skeleton's hands were crossed in front of its pelvis.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Roman wall unearthed at city site

Archaeologists working in Leicester say they will be able to find out more about the city's history after the discovery of part of a Roman wall.

The find was made by experts excavating the new Shires Shopping Centre site on Freeschool Lane.

It is a large section of wall and an archway, believed to be part of a market hall.

The building was first discovered in the 1950s under High Cross Street, but this section of the wall had collapsed.
Archaeologist's work may make case for 'Georgia martyrs'
The weathered skull in Chris Stojanowski's luggage passed through Atlanta's airport security without turning a single head.

As cold cases go, the cranium in his custom-made carry-on case was a classic. A long time ago, someone lost his head — this particular head — near present-day Darien, on the Georgia coast.
Now Stojanowski, a bioarchaeologist at Arizona State University's new School of Human Evolution and Social Change, wants to find out more about the brittle skull which, until recently, was gathering dust in a Georgia laboratory.

Good article.
Ancient bison teeth provide window on past Great Plains climate, vegetation
A University of Washington researcher has devised a way to use the fossil teeth of ancient bison as a tool to reconstruct historic climate and vegetation changes in America's breadbasket, the Great Plains.

The teeth hold evidence of the type of vegetation that grew in a particular location at a particular time, and that in turn provides information about climate fluctuations occurring on the plains, said Kathryn Hoppe, a UW acting assistant professor of Earth and space sciences.

"Bison eat mostly grass, so they provide a good way to measure grassland productivity," Hoppe said. "Much of the rangeland and farmland in this country was originally native grasslands, so if you want to measure how the productivity of agricultural lands has changed over time, bison seem like a good way to go."
Bulgarian archaeologist unearths dagger
A 6-inch-long gold and platinum dagger believed to be 5,000 years-old has been unearthed in central Bulgaria, the archaeologist leading the excavations said Monday.

Bozhidar Dimitrov, the head of the National Museum of History, said the finds were perfectly preserved and would soon go on display in the museum.

Other finds include a small golden plaque, silver vessels, bronze and silver ritual knives, and ancient pottery.

"The mounds near Dabene seem part of a complex — some of them resemble tombs, while others appear to be ritual sites where ancient people buried gifts for the gods," Hristov said.

That's the whole thing.

Update: ore from The Scotsman.

Update II: And from the BBC avec picture:

Monday, August 07, 2006

Last weeks news from the EEF

Press report: "Science takes centuries off mummy's looks:
After 2,300 years, Nefrina emerges as a woman of beauty
and character, but the Reading Public Museum is keeping
her visage under wraps for now. "
A facial reconstruction of a mummy from Akhmim is
"reserved for an unveiling early next year as the museum gears
up for a major exhibit centering on the mummy in 2008." (..)
"They used a newly developed handheld laser system to scan the
surface of both the mummy and her sarcophagus -- the first time
it's been tried on Egyptian archeological material."

Press report: "Dry run for the big day"
"It took eight hours for a replica of the 125- tonne red granite
statue of Ramses II to make its overnight journey from Tahrir
Square to the planned Grand Egyptian Museum."

End of EEF News.
Thievery! Indian bowls, bottles taken from locked room at Southern Arkansas University
An invaluable collection of intact bowls and bottles crafted centuries ago by Caddo Indians has been stolen from a storeroom at Southern Arkansas University, where they were awaiting return to members of the tribe.

Whoever took the artifacts, bearing intricate designs characteristic of the Caddo, will probably be able to dispose of them quickly on the antiquities black market, said David Jeane, a research archaeologist at the university.

“The Caddo were probably some of the finest ceramists of any of the North American Indians,” Jeane said. “Their pots are considered high art and they will go rapidly on the market.”

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Peru link to Indian archaeological find?
Geologists have discovered a striking archaeological feature on a hillock in the Kutch district of the western Indian state of Gujarat.

This feature is shaped like the Roman numeral VI. Each arm of this feature is a trench that is about two metres wide, two metres deep and more than 100 metres long.

The feature has evoked the curiosity of archaeologists because such signs have mostly been observed so far in Peru.

Ergh. The headline is misleading -- it doesn't anything particularly to do with Peru. It's an interesting feature though, that will be difficult to date. Suppose it depends on how regular the lines actually are.

U.K. census finally online -- 921 years later
The Middle Ages met the Internet age Friday when the Domesday Book, a survey of England conducted almost 1,000 years ago, went online.

The Domesday Book -- the oldest record held by Britain's National Archives and one of the country's most valuable documents -- details the landholdings and resources that belonged to King William the Conqueror in 1085. It gives a minute record of the wealth of England and the families settled throughout the countryside at that time.

Now, the text of the book in the original Latin, along with an English translation, was put online at
Hmmmmm. . . . Expert: Tablet May Have Oldest Writings
An almost 7,000-year old stone tablet found in Bulgaria bears carvings that might turn out to be one of the world's oldest inscriptions, a prominent Bulgarian archaeologist said Thursday.

"These signs are unique and apparently bear a meaning," Nikolai Ovcharov told a press conference. Ovcharov said he had received the tablet from a private collector who had unearthed it 20 years ago.

Seems rather dubious, due to the lack of context.
Cuba: New Aboriginal Settlement Found
Recent underground explorations in the locality of Boquerones in the central Cuban province of Ciego de Avila have yielded new evidence of aboriginal settlements.

Expedition head, speleologist Felix Pereira, told ACN that a new archeological site had been found in a local cave. Surface exploration down to 50 centimeters exposed fragments of Silex, a stone used by Cuban aboriginals for tools and food remains of fish, crabs and shells.
Biblical archaeology update Old Testament dispute continues
Some scholars are busily debunking the Bible's account of the great King David, asking: Was he really all that great? Was he largely legendary, Judaism's version of Britain's legendary King Arthur or totally fictional?

. . .

Though some scholars claimed David never existed, in 1993 archaeologists discovered a stone inscription from 835 B.C. that mentions "the house of David." The authors say that established the existence of a dynastic founder named David and that shortly after his 10th-century era a line of kings "traced their legitimacy back to David."
22 Post Sassanid Cemeteries Discovered in Kurdistan
22 cemeteries, 11 historic hills, 3 archeological regions, and a number of clay dishes all dating back to the post Sassanid era were found by experts and archeologists in the city of Marivan, Iranian western province of Kurdistan. In addition, a historic fortress which was being used during the different periods that followed the Arabs' barbaric invasion of the Persian Empire and the beginning of the Islamic era in 651 AD as well as a pre-historic graveyard were discovered in a nearby village.
‘Bog bodies’ shed light on Iron Age life
Life in the Iron Age may have been nasty, brutish and short, but people still found time to style their hair and polish their fingernails — and that was just the men.

These are the findings of scientists who have been examining the latest preserved prehistoric bodies to emerge from Ireland’s peat bogs, the first to be found in Europe for 20 years.

One of the bodies, churned up by a peat-cutting machine at Clonycavan near Dublin in 2003, had raised Mohawk-style hair, held in place with gel imported from abroad.

Nothing really new, but a good little article anyway.
KV-64(?) update Radar surveys suggest another tomb in the Valley of Kings
Another unopened tomb may lie hidden next to King Tut's burial chambers, archaeologists report.

In an in interview with Archaeology Magazine, archaeologist Nicholas Reeves of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project (ARTP), reveals that radar surveys suggest an undiscovered burial shaft, similar to a burial cache opened earlier this year dubbed KV 63, lies buried about 50 feet north of King Tut's tomb.

"My aim in posting our data was not to claim a prize for discovering the next Tutankhamun. It was to alert people to the immense potential the Valley of the Kings still holds, despite two centuries of serious archaeological abuse," Reeves says. The newly reported find, tentatively "KV64", may contain more burial materials from Tut's tomb, or perhaps the burial chamber of one of his wives.

That's the whole thing. The interview is here. Sayeth Reeves:
What I want from the announcement of "KV64" is for the treasure potential of the site to focus attention on the less spectacular though just as important aspects of work in the Valley of the Kings. We need to rein in our natural desire for more tombs, for the quick fix, to systematize our efforts and put a lot more emphasis, while we can, on every aspect of the Valley's miraculously preserved record.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Remote sensing update Australian archaeologists find ancient settlement in Syria

Australian archaeologists have used American spy satellite images to find the remains of ancient human settlements in Syria.

The researchers, led by Australian National University PhD student Mandy Mottram, say the declassified images from the 1960s allowed them to predict where ruins were hidden beneath the ground.

Ms Mottram says the remains of pottery factories, tombs and an ancient basilica were among the finds in an area northeast of Syria's second largest city, Aleppo, in the Euphrates River valley.

She says the basilica may have tumbled at some stage during an earthquake because there were a couple of large earthquakes that hit the region in medieval times.

"But it's still got walls preserved and it quite possibly was part of a monastic community which existed on the top of this mountain," she said.

Ms Mottram's team hopes to establish a record of human occupation dating back 1 million years.

That's the whole thing.

Student archaeologists dig on Eastern Pequot reservation land

For more than 300 years, a few piles of rock have sat in a valley on the Eastern Pequot Tribe's reservation without getting much attention.

But for the last five weeks, students from the University of Massachusetts Boston, along with tribal members, have dug through and around those rocks to chart the tribal history that once stood all around them.

"We had no idea the complexity of this site," said lead anthropologist Stephen Silliman, an assistant professor at UMass Boston. "A lot of things were going on here."
Maui Waui update Maui Temples Reveal Polynesian Past
An ancient temple system on the Hawaiian island of Maui is about 400 years older than previously thought, according to an extensive archaeological study.

The finding contradicts a prior theory that Maui’s temples were built within a span of just a few decades around the year 1600. Some researchers now think the temples were built over the course of 500 years, with construction cycles peaking during periods of significant political change.

Blogged earlier. Updated.
Greek archaeologists confirm authenticity of 'Theseus Ring'
The long-lost 'Theseus Ring,' a gold ring found in the Plaka district of Athens in the 1950s and generally dismissed as a fake, has been identified by Greek archaeologists as a genuine 15th century BC artifact, reports said Wednesday.

The Greek press had reported the discovery of a gold signet ring, with dimensions 2.7 x 1.8 cm dating from the Minoan period, and the National Archaeological Museum wanted to purchase it for 75,000 euros from the woman who owned it.
Venture Smith update Archaeologists find no DNA in search for slave 'Paul Bunyan'
Archaeologists excavating the 200-year-old graves of a slave family said Tuesday that they recovered no genetic material from the man dubbed "the black Paul Bunyan."

Scientists had hoped to find DNA that would trace Venture Smith's life back to Africa, filling in the gaps of one of the earliest and most important slave biographies. Descendants had hoped genetic evidence would support the tales of a 6-foot-1 lumberjack slave whose fabulous feats of strength helped win his freedom.

"We didn't get much," Nicholas F. Bellantoni, Connecticut's state archaeologist, said about Venture Smith's grave. "Everything had been decomposed."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Breaking news: Lost city. . .found? Lost city 'could rewrite history'
The remains of what has been described as a huge lost city may force historians and archaeologists to radically reconsider their view of ancient human history.

Marine scientists say archaeological remains discovered 36 metres (120 feet) underwater in the Gulf of Cambay off the western coast of India could be over 9,000 years old.

The vast city - which is five miles long and two miles wide - is believed to predate the oldest known remains in the subcontinent by more than 5,000 years.

Color me skeptical. The heavy use of Graham Hancock as an expert ought to send up a red flag the size of Cleveland. More probably, it's a far more recent site with bad C14 dates.

Update: Actually, it seems to be old news that is not terribly convincing. So, eh, file this one in the same drawer with the Bosnian pyramids.
Brian Hunt (via EEF) sends along two new articles posted on the Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA) web site:

Conservation at Giza

Flint tools at Giza
Teacher or Scholar? Brannon Denning subbing at Instapundit has a couple of links up to a discussion about the following paper:

Is There a Correlation between Scholarly Productivity, Scholarly Influence and Teaching Effectiveness in American Law Schools? An Empirical Study
This empirical study attempts to answer an age-old debate in legal academia: whether scholarly productivity helps or hurts teaching. The study is of an unprecedented size and scope. It covers every tenured or tenure-track faculty member at 19 American law schools, a total of 623 professors. The study gathers four years of teaching evaluation data (calendar years 2000-03) and creates an index for teaching effectiveness.

This index was then correlated against five different measures of research productivity. The first three measure each professor's productivity for the years 2000-03. These productivity measures include a raw count of publications and two weighted counts. The scholarly productivity measure weights scholarly books and top-20 or peer reviewed law review articles above casebooks, treatises or other publications. By comparison, the practice-oriented productivity measure weights casebooks, treatises and practitioner articles at the top of the scale. There are also two measures of scholarly influence. One is a lifetime citation count, and the other is a count of citations per year.

These five measures of research productivity cover virtually any definition of research productivity. Combined with four years of teaching evaluation data the study provides a powerful measure of both sides of the teaching versus scholarship debate.

The study correlates each of these five different research measures against the teaching evaluation index for all 623 professors, and each individual law school. The results are counter-intuitive: there is no correlation between teaching effectiveness and any of the five measures of research productivity. Given the breadth of the study, this finding is quite robust. The study should prove invaluable to anyone interested in the priorities of American law schools, and anyone interested in the interaction between scholarship and teaching in higher education.

Which basically provides numbers for what most university students have known for ages: That being a great and productive scholar doesn't necessarily translate well into the classroom. I suspect that this carries over from the law schools into virtually every other discipline at the academy. I suspect most people assume there is a negative correlation: that good instructors are probably not as productive in terms of publications as their. . .instructively challenged peers. I can think of 3 reasons why people think this:

1) Time: Being a good instructor takes a decent amoutn of work, both in planning lessons and in honing one's delivery. Some people are naturally very good at lecturing, but most of us have to work at how we present material. That can often take time away from researching and writing.

2) The popularizer effect: Most people within a discipline have an automatic suspicion for colleagues who are good at conveying material to non-experts. Some of it may be envy at the guy splashed all over television and making more money than they are, but it's also a function of having to dumb down the issues for a lay audience. One automatically assumes that they must not know what they're talking about if they aren't using all the jargon, the cautions, the subtlties, etc.

3) The really smart ones just don't think like the rest of us: We tend to think that the more brilliant a person is, the more they just can't relate to us mortals. The classic absent-minded professor schtick. A corrolary might be that they also must be incredibly arrogant (cf., Professor Kingsfield of The Paper Chase).

But besides the impressions, a probably undeniable fact is that teaching is generally considered a chore and doesn't count as much in tenure decisions (thought this is changing). The main metrics for tenure are publications and citations. Consequently, natural selection acts to promote and retain people who publish a lot and teaching ability is just a hanger-on without any fitness value. Some professors are indeed excellent and prolific researchers and outstanding lecturers to boot. But since teaching ability isn't usually rewarded as highly, this is a rare combination.

We were having this discussion at the office yesterday regarding tenured positions at certain pretigious business schools going to highly published researchers, while a slew of adjuncts will teach for years and never get tenure. Perhaps this is the way many departments are moving, segregating teaching from research. Personally, I don't believe this is a good direction to be headed since I think it is vitally important that it is really the duty of researchers to communicate their findings to the public. And not just because many of them operate on the public dime either; supposedly we're all doing this to further some common goals of humanity. We owe it to the rest of humanity to explain what we're doing and why we think it's important. Not to preach, but to explain; preachiness just breeds resentment. We;re all fond of saying communication is the key to good relationships, but we need to practice that in our professional lives as well.

Hey, maybe more academics should take up, say, BLOGGING.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Maui architecture, social growth studied
A U.S. scientist says the growth of indigenous architecture and social complexity on the Hawaiian island of Maui occurred during a span of at least 500 years.

In the most detailed study to date on the antiquity of the island's extensive temple system, researchers challenge previous conceptions of ancient Hawaiian civilization by identifying cycles of temple construction that coincide with politically charged periods of warfare and island consolidation.

"Because the islands are relatively isolated from the rest of the world, the development of monumental architecture and complex society in Hawaii is of keen interest to archaeologists," said Northern Illinois University Assistant Professor of Archaeology Michael Kolb. "In many ways, Maui represents an excellent test case for state development.

Update: More here.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rolling stones helps broch study
Archaeologists and volunteers spent more than two years constructing a 10m tall replica of an Iron Age stone-built tower - only to demolish it.

The project, run in a quarry at Spital, near Thurso, Caithness, was part of research into brochs.

There are estimated to be 200 of them lying in ruins in the region.

What a broch is.
A 3,000-year-old voyage of discovery
IN ANCIENT times, when Scotland was virtually covered in dense forest, there was only one way to get around. Traveling by boat helped early Scots to find food and trade goods with their neighbours.

Now, with the excavation of a 3,000-year-old log boat, archaeologists are hoping to learn more about how prehistoric Scots used the vast network of rivers and lochs.

The Bronze Age dug-out was found in mudflats at Carpow, on the south side of the River Tay estuary, in autumn 2001. A group of three amateur archaeologists – Scott McGuckin, Martin Brooks and Robert Fotheringham – had spotted the worn but still recognisable prow of boat sticking out from the mud and peat.