Monday, June 30, 2008

Odyssey daing update: The PNAS paper is available here.
Magnetic fields used to date Indian artifacts
You might be surprised what you can learn from a campfire. A campfire that has been cold for, say, 300 years.

Stacey Lengyel hopes she can tell, within 30 years or so, when it was used.

Lengyel, a research associate in anthropology at the Illinois State Museum, is the country's leading authority on archeomagnetic dating, a process built around two phenomena: when heated, magnetic particles reorient themselves to magnetic north; and over time, magnetic north is, literally, all over the map.
Newcomer in Early Eurafrican Population?
A complete mandible of Homo erectus was discovered at the Thomas I quarry in Casablanca by a French-Moroccan team co-led by Jean-Paul Raynal, CNRS senior researcher at the PACEA[1] laboratory (CNRS/Université Bordeaux 1/ Ministry of Culture and Communication). This mandible is the oldest human fossil uncovered from scientific excavations in Morocco. The discovery will help better define northern Africa's possible role in first populating southern Europe.
The Sirius lore
The place is the Isis-Hathor Temple of Denderah, where the priests hasten along the columned aisle to witness an important event. The principal temple is dedicated to Hathor, whereas a small adjacent one is dedicated to Isis in which a statue of the goddess is located at the end of the aisle.

It is a little before 5am on 22 July, 700 BC, the summer solstice; the priests wait to watch Sirius rise and its rays penetrate the temple to fall on Isis's gem. As they arrive the sun is still below the horizon, and they gaze impatiently for the apparent heliacal rising of the Dog Star. For the priests already knew that the appearance of Sepdet lasts only for a brief moment before Ra brightens the sky.
'Stylish' Roman life found on dig
The "stylish" lives of the affluent have been unearthed at one of the "best preserved" Roman towns in Britain by a TV archaeology team.

A bath house, villa and artefacts including a penknife were found at Caerwent, Monmouthshire by Channel 4's Time Team.

What are believed to be shop buildings on a Roman high street were also found during the dig by a team of 50.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Egypt archaeologists find ancient painted coffins
A team of Egyptian archaeologists have discovered several painted wooden coffins, including some dating back to the 13th century BC rule of pharaoh Ramses II.

"These coffins were found in the tombs of senior officials of the 18th and 19th dynasties," near Saqqara, Zahi Hawass, the director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said on Thursday.

"Some coloured unopened coffins dating back to the sixth century BC were found as well as some coffins dating back to the time of Ramses II," who ruled from 1279 to 1213 BC, he said.
Archaeologists uncover 5,000-year-old jewellery workshop
ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered was appears to have been a jewellery workshop during excavations at the 5,000-year old Souskiou-Laona settlement.

According to the Antiquities Department, a dense concentration of the mineral picrolite in the west ridge of the cliff-top settlement indicates that the spot was a workshop for the production of the cruciform figurines and large pendants.

“The assemblage mainly consists of the raw picrolite material, possibly quarried from the Troodos Mountains rather than imported in pebble form from the Kouris River valley, many waste chips flaked from that raw material in order to reduce it to convenient form and a roughout for a probable figurine,” the Department said in a statement.
Dig shows Paris is 3,000 years older than first thought
Paris has long been known to be a very old city but its history as a settlement has just been extended by more than 3,000 years.

An archaeological dig, whose findings were revealed yesterday, moves back Paris's first known human occupation to about 7600BC, in the Mesolithic period between the two stone ages.

An area about the size of a football field on the south-western edge of the city, close to the banks of the river Seine, has yielded thousands of flint arrowheads and fragments of animal bone. The site, between the Paris ring road and the city's helicopter port, is believed by archaeologists to have been used, nearly 10,000 years ago, as a kind of sorting and finishing station for flint pebbles washed up on the banks of the river.
Insights into original explorers
A replica 3000-year-old Pacific canoe, modelled on the world's first ocean-going vessels, has been tested in a world-leading Auckland wind tunnel.

Preliminary results show the canoes of the type sailed from New Guinea to Fiji, Tonga and Samoa about 1000BC were so well designed they could probably sail against the wind.

The 3m-long scale model has been tested and analysed in the University of Auckland's Tamaki campus wind tunnel, famed for its role in America's Cup yacht design.
Archaeologists Make Colonial Discovery
Archaeologists have uncovered four Colonial Period graves and the remains of a fence that bound the community cemetery in Port Tobacco, according to the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project.

The remains were found during a two-week study of historic Port Tobacco. Volunteers from Maryland, New York and New Jersey participated in the excavation of four sites that had been identified during an archaeological survey of the Colonial town site last fall.
Recreating pre-Columbian sounds
Scientists were fascinated by the ghostly find: a human skeleton buried in an Aztec temple with a clay, skull-shaped whistle in each bony hand.

But no one blew into the noisemakers for nearly 15 years. When someone finally did, the shrill, windy screech made the spine tingle.

If death had a sound, this was it.
Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim. . . . Archaeologists to Demonstrate Ancient Brewing
Last summer two Galway archaeologists proposed a theory which made worldwide headlines. They suggested that one of the most common archaeological monuments in the Irish landscape may have been used for brewing a Bronze Age Beer. They will demonstrate and discuss their experiments and research (and distribute tasters of the brew) into the enigmatic site that is the fulacht fiadh at the World Archaeological Congress ‘Fringe' at UCD on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th July.

Tough to say if they're right; just because they could use it for brewing doesn't mean they did.

UPDATE: More archy beer here.
Update on a previous post: Biblical Text-Writing May Have Poisoned Monks
Medieval bones from six different Danish cemeteries reveal that monks who wrote Biblical texts and other religious materials may have been exposed to toxic mercury, which was used to formulate just one of their ink colors: red.

The study, which will be published in the August issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, also describes a previously undocumented disease, called FOS, which was like leprosy and caused skull lesions. Additionally, the researchers found that mercury-containing medicine had been administered to 79 percent of the interred individuals with leprosy and 35 percent with syphilis.

New bit is the ink angle.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The politics of Indiana Jones v James Bond
The Prime Minister disclosed that his preference is the daredevil archaeologist played by Harrison Ford while the Conservative leader is a Bond fanatic.

Asked if he was an Indy or a Bond man in an interview with Total Politics magazine, Mr Brown said: "Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones, but I still like James Bond."

When asked the same question, Mr Cameron was more definitive. "I'm a big Bond fan," he said. "I think I've probably seen every Bond film more than three times, which is quite tragic. I even caught a bit of From Russia With Love yesterday on ITV7 or somewhere."

Thoroughly meaningless article, but I had to throw it out there.
Historic downtown Natchitoches gets a face-lift
This city's past, present and future are being revisited, improved and anticipated.

A series of projects in the downtown area has archaeologists, road contractors and commercial builders working almost shoulder to shoulder. The archaeologists are unearthing artifacts related to the city's rich history in concert with road contractors who are involved in the tedious process of renovating the bricked Front Street. And towering overhead is the quick and steady construction of an unrelated multifloor commercial project that will add more businesses, residences and a tourist attraction to the city.
Archaeologists Dig for Coventry history at Severn Trent HQ site
ARCHAEOLOGISTS have been given a few precious weeks to hunt for more evidence of Coventry's historic past before building starts on Severn Trent's new HQ.

A team from Birmingham Archaeology has been appointed by Stoford Developments, the company due to start work in August on the seven-storey building in the city centre which will house 1,700 staff.

Deputy council leader Kevin Foster has been told the site in St John's Street was once part of the Earl of Chester's hunting park. By the late 12th century the growing city had expanded into the north of the park with the laying out of Little Park Street and Much Park Street which had important commercial links to London.
Archaeologist investigating who built ancient chapel
Restoration work at San Miguel Chapel could turn up new evidence about who built what is billed as the nation's oldest church, says the group planning the restoration.

Tradition holds that Barrio de Analco, a neighborhood just south of the Santa Fe River, was founded by Tlaxcaltecan Indians—Christianized natives of Mexico who sided with the Spanish against the Aztecs in the 1500s and accompanied colonists north in the 1600s.

"The presence of Tlaxcaltecans in Santa Fe has long been assumed, but no evidence has ever been brought to light that undoubtedly proves their presence here," says a statement issued by Cornerstones Community Partnerships, which recently began assessing the chapel's condition. "Are they indeed the Indians who built San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe?"
Applied archaeology? Dutch prepare for Maya apocalypse
On December 21 2012, the "Long Count" calendar of the Maya people clicks over to year zero, marking the end of a 5,000-year era.

Belying their country's rational and laid back image, thousands of Dutch people are convinced the date coincides with a world catastrophe, the Volkskrant newspaper reports.

. . .

Mrs Faile said she was concerned that immigration was pushing the Netherlands, a low lying country protected by dikes and sea walls, beneath the waves.

"They keep letting people in. And then we have to build more houses, which makes the Netherlands even heavier. The country will sink even lower, which will make the flooding worse," she said.

Just too many snarky comments to make at this juncture. . . . .

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Blogging update No blogging this evening for two reasons:
1) I got like 3 hours of sleep last night, for no particular reason; and 2) Did you know that if you grab a stinging nettle with your bare hand and rip it out of the ground it really gets its revenge?
Medieval boat uncovered
ARCHAEOLOGISTS working on the north Suffolk coast have unearthed an early medieval boat.

Excavations being carried out in Sizewell in advance of the onshore works for the Greater Gabbard Wind Farm unearthed the remains of the craft.

The boat, which was probably a small inshore fishing vessel, had been broken up some time between the 12th and 14th Centuries and parts of the hull re-used to create a timber lining for a well, experts said.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Researchers hit a homer with 'The Odyssey'

Delving into a 3,000-year-old mystery using astronomical clues in Homer's "The Odyssey," researchers said Monday they have dated one of the most heralded events of Western literature: Odysseus' slaughter of his wife's suitors upon his return from the Trojan War.

According to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the wily hero who devised the Trojan Horse hefted his mighty bow on April 16, 1178 BC, and executed the unruly crowd who had taken over his home and was trying to force his wife into marriage.

The finding leaves many perennial questions unanswered, such as whether the events portrayed actually occurred or whether the blind poet Homer was the author of the tale.

But it casts a new sheen of veracity on a story that has existed in a hazy realm of fantasy and history since it was first composed 400 years after the Trojan War.

Seems very cool, but the keys will probably be the plausibility of their interpretations of the text.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Piles of rock, or historical burial sites?
A fierce battle is being waged in the courts over a hitherto obscure corner of North Smithfield, a place where American Indians warred with Colonial settlers over ownership of the land more than 300 years ago. Today the dispute is preservation versus progress, but property rights remain at the core of the case.

The Town of North Smithfield has filed suit in Superior Court, seeking a declaratory judgment to protect and preserve what may be hundreds of American Indian burial grounds dating from at least the 17th century. Mounds of rocks about 2 feet tall, which may mark American Indian graves, are located at the proposed Rankin Estates, a development of 120 single-family homes on 264 acres in the northwest corner of the town.

There seems to be nothing really indicting that anyone is buried on the property except for some historical references. They have a photo on the site of one of the piles o' rocks. Doesn't strike me as being anything particularly burial-related, but of course, one could remedy this whole thing by digging a couple of them up. Heck, one would be sufficient.
An e-mail interview with George Bey
George Bey, archaeologist at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., writes Dan Vergano about the complex story of the Maya collapse, how the movie Apocalypto missed essential historical points, and the surprising work that is archaeology:

Good interview, especially his observations on the Maya collapse.

UPDATE: Aha. Based on this story.
Britain’s last Neanderthals were more sophisticated than we thought
“The tools we’ve found at the site are technologically advanced and potentially older than tools in Britain belonging to our own species, Homo sapiens,” says Dr Matthew Pope of Archaeology South East based at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. “It’s exciting to think that there’s a real possibility these were left by some of the last Neanderthal hunting groups to occupy northern Europe. The impression they give is of a population in complete command of both landscape and natural raw materials with a flourishing technology - not a people on the edge of extinction.”
Archaeology - Hidden City Provides Fascinating Insight into the Structures of Hellenistic Settlements

The discovery of an ancient city buried beneath the sands of modern-day Syria has provided evidence for a Hellenistic settlement that existed for more than six centuries extending into the time of the Roman Empire. The site provides a unique insight into the structures of a pre-Roman Hellenistic settlement. The project, funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, sheds new light on city life in the Hellenistic period.
This story made the rounds of many blogs a while ago, but I didn't link to it. Apparently, a hoax: 'Lost' Amazon tribe a publicity stunt
THE man behind photos of warriors from an "undiscovered" Amazon tribe that were beamed around the world has admitted it was a publicity stunt aimed at raising awareness of logging.

Indigenous tribes expert, José Carlos Meirelles, said the tribe had been known of since 1910, and had been photographed to prove that they still existed in an area endangered by logging, The Guardian reported.

Mr Meirelles, who was working for Funai, the Brazilian Indian Protection Agency dedicated to finding remote tribes and protecting them, said he spent three years gatheiring "evidence" about the tribe, and then planned the publicity to protect them from losing their habitat.

"You could warn them," Mr Meirelles cautioned, "if only you spoke Hovitos."

Okay, I added that last little bit.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Amateur archaeologist wins grant for Lancashire dig
AN AMATEUR archaeologist has been given a lottery grant to help him dig into Lancashire's hidden past.

Paul Kay believes the moors around Lancashire have secrets to be unearthed which may give a rare insight into life in Anglo-Saxon times and earlier.

The founder of the Bolton Cambrian Archaeological and Historical Society has been awarded £9,900 by the National Lottery Awards For All scheme to help set up the society's headquarters and website, and to start exploring the moors.
Thrill of the dig
For almost two weeks, Alex Norton dug through the dark earth of Republic County and came up with almost nothing.

As others were finding beads and shards of pottery at the site of an earth lodge in what was once a Pawnee Indian village, the Kansas University junior mostly came across rocks and charcoal.

And then her trowel struck a piece of metal.
UW-L archaeology students unearth 1,500-year-old artifacts
Kassie Praska got the attention of her classmates Thursday with a loud shriek.

She’d struck an animal bone while lightly scraping the soil with a shovel in a trench about 25 yards from Sand Lake Road in Onalaska and wanted classmates in the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Archaeo-logy Field School to see it.

“Everyone usually goes to take a look when someone screams,” said Wendy Holtz-Leith, site director and an archaeologist with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center.
Baranov Museum is site of archaeology dig
The Baranov and Alutiiq museums in Kodiak are teaming up to begin an excavation at the historic Baranov Museum site as a part of their Bicentennial Archaeology Project.

This year marks the bicentennial anniversary of the construction of the Baranov Museum's Erskine House. Originally known as the Russian American Magazin, the Erskine House is the oldest building in the state of Alaska.

Kinda like robbing a police station. . . . .
Ancient Fort Opens New Chapter In First Nations' History
A fortified village that pre-dates European arrival in Western Canada and is the only one of its kind discovered on the Canadian plains is yielding intriguing evidence of an unknown First Nations group settling on the prairies and is rekindling new ties between the Siksika Nation (Blackfoot) and aboriginal groups in the United States.

This spring, students from the U of C's Department of Archaeology are spending several weeks working on a dig near Cluny, about 120 kilometres east of Calgary, as part of a project that is expected to continue for several years unearthing one of Alberta's most significant archaeological sites. Known as the Cluny Fortified Village, the site on the Siksika First Nation reservation next to the Bow River is more than 250 years old and is an enigma to archaeologists who say it may have been home to a small band of normally-sedentary people from North Dakota.
Lost civilization road. . . .found City’s oldest surviving road found by archaeology dig in Pollok Park
The ancient pathways pounded by St Mungo as he built his church at the tiny fishing settlement called Glas Gu are positively futuristic by comparison.

After lying concealed by vegetation and woodland for what may be almost 3000 years, archaeologists have unearthed what they believe to be Glasgow's oldest surviving thoroughfare.

The heavily paved road, between 50 and 100 metres in length and leading into a stone settlement protected by large earth banks and ditches, has been discovered in a densely wooded section of the city's Pollok Park by a team made up of Glasgow University academics and members of the Glasgow Archaeological Society.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ancient Australia not written in stone
Aboriginal people are thought to have inhabited the Australian continent for around 45,000 years before European contact, and are frequently cited as the oldest continuous living culture on Earth.

However, written records of their lives exist only since European contact. Many historians and archaeologists assumed that the culture and traditions of Aboriginal people had altered little over time, and that these written records were an accurate window into the lives of the ancestors of today's Aborigines.

But some archaeologists argue that this is not necessarily the case.

Interesting little article and it includes a bit of professional wrangling over how to interpret the past. This sentence:
"Her method did not investigate the nature of ancient life but instead developed interpretations of the past that merely recreated the format of Aboriginal life in the historic period," he says.

is probably. . . .true in a lot of cases and gets right to the use of ethnographic analogy in archaeology. It would be exaggerating to say that all we do is map the present onto the past, but it's probably been a larger crutch than most will admit to.
Archaeologists unearth ancient tools in South Carolina
A local man has unearthed two ancient stone tools in an archaeological dig in Allendale County, South Carolina, a rare find that could provide more information about how early Americans lived.

And if more evidence proves the artefact is a new type of tool and one archaeologist haven't found before, it could be named after Matthew Carey of Hilton Head Island.

The 22-year old, University of South Carolina anthropology major volunteered at the Topper Site where USC archaeologist Albert Goodyear has been excavating for 10 years. Carey found the tools on June 8, the last day of the 2008 dig.
Archaeology: a job that brings things of the past back to life
“Maritime archaeology is much more than simply looking for shipwrecks. It’s the study of human interaction with the sea and the marine environment.

“The practical work that I and the core team of archaeologists do is seasonal to take advantage of the calmer sea during the summer months. Marine fieldwork involves getting out on the dive boat to catch the tide. The basic archaeological techniques that you use underwater are the same as those on land, however. The time you can spend on the seabed is limited so it is good to build up as much terrestrial fieldwork experience as possible. "

It's two short essays written by two archaeologists.
Archaeology Dig Continues At Elementary School
For about a month, archaeologists have been chipping away at what used to be the Alameda Pueblo underneath Alameda Elementary School and sifting through the dirt to find remnants of ancient civilization.

Archaeologists are mostly finding pieces of pottery and animal bones, but they hope these small artifacts will lead to some big answers.

Archaeologists will analyze these remnants -- one piece dates from between 1450 and 1515 -- to see if people lived here when the Spanish conquered the area.
Archaeologist, Anthropologist to Examine Human Remains
An archaeologist and anthropologist will be at the University of Texas at Brownsville Monday to examine some human remains found at a university construction site.

The remains were found Saturday morning by construction crews.

NEWSCHANNEL 5 has learned the site was once a military base and cemetery, and university officials knew finding artifacts would be a possibility.

There's a video at the site with a little more info.
Archaeologists start digging at downtown Albany site
Archaeologists have begun excavating a site in downtown Albany, where previous digs have uncovered artifacts from the city's Dutch and English colonial roots.

The archaeological work is being done in Liberty Park, a small slice of green space near the Hudson River a few blocks from the bustling Empire State Plaza.

The park is 1 of the oldest continuous green paces in Albany, and archaeologists say its relatively undisturbed status is expected to yield a wealth of information on the city's 17th and 18th century history.

Not much else there.

UPDATE: Video report on it here.
Recent archaeology Woman sat dead in front of TV for 42 years.
THE remains of a woman have been found sitting in front of her TV - 42 years after she was reported missing.

Hedviga Golik, who was born in 1924, had apparently made herself a cup of tea before sitting in her favourite armchair in front of her black and white television.

Croatian police said she was last seen by neighbours in 1966, when she would have been 42 years old.

Pompeii Premise, fulfilled!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A few items courtesy of the EEF:

Press report: "TV~Rs Not-So-Great Pyramid"
Critical review of the latest History Channel documentary 'The
Lost Pyramid'.
"(...) The film, debuting next week on the History Channel,
follows a team of archeologists as they unearth Egypt's fourth Great
Pyramid at Giza, which, as the title says, has been lost for years to the
desert sands. Even more amazing, this new pyramid (built by the
Fourth-dynasty Pharaoh Djedefre) is actually the highest one of all~W
27 feet higher than the Great Pyramid of Cheops. "I'm a pyramid man,
and what I've seen now has made me change many things," says
Zahi Hawass, "Every history book in every language is going to be
rewritten." The only problem is that statement~Windeed, the entire
documentary~Wis arguably as solid as the crumbling pyramid itself.
Egyptologists have known about Djedefre's pyramid for years (..),
the structure isn't really on the Giza plateau, which is five miles to
the south, and while it may appear larger than Cheops, that's only
because Djedefre's hill is so high~Wthe Great Pyramid is more than
twice as tall in absolute terms. Some Egyptologists say that the
slope of Djedefre's walls~W60 degrees, as opposed to the 52-degree
slope of the major pyramids~Wmean that the star of "The Lost Pyramid"
is really just a sun temple. "It has never been lost," says Vassil Dobrev
of Cairo's French Institute of Archaeology, "and it is not even a
pyramid." (...) Dobrev (..) suspects Djedefre's pyramid is at another
place altogether, Zawyet el-Aryan, south of Giza, where the remains
of a pyramid with a 420,000-square-foot base has been found, far
bigger than the thing at Abu Ruwash, and also with Djedefre's name
on a foundation stone, he claims. (..)"

Press report: "A wake-up call for the antiquities market"
"(..) The days when you could buy anything without bothering
to find out how this [object] (..) came to tumble onto the market
are over. The latest evidence that a new stage has been reached
was a policy advisory issued by the U.S. Association of Art
Museum Directors. Its gist, The New York Times reported last
week, is that museums "normally should not acquire a work unless
solid proof exists that the object was outside its country of probable
modern discovery before 1970, or was legally exported from its
probable country of modern discovery after 1970." As the
overwhelming majority of objects knocking about the art market
come from countries that do not permit the export of antiquities,
the U.S. museums advisory amounts to underwriting, if only
unofficially, the 1970 Unesco convention banning the acquisition
of objects illicitly dug up. (..) Proven provenance documented
by early publication in art books or learned journals was at a
premium as never before. (..)." An example of the latter is formed
by recently auctioned ancient Egyptian artefacts from the well-
documented Gustave Jéquier collection, being sold at prices
very far above the estimate. Antiquities without a documented
early provenance might well cease to be marketable.
-- Slide-show on this topic:

Press report: "High-tech mummycam unwrapped",CST-NWS-mummy14.article
The Field Museum aquired digital X-ray technology,
and used it "to peer into the coffinlike sarcophagus of an
Egyptian mummy dating from 200 B.C. (..) The scientists
can't determine the mummy's sex yet but, looking at bone
growth, believe he or she was 18 to 20 years at death,
(..) probably military or merchant class. (..)''

UCLA's Encyclopedia of Egyptology (UEE), Open Version,
has put up a new entry:
-- Laurent Coulon (June 19, 2008), "Famine"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Came across the EEF wires this morning: Ancient Egyptian official building uncovered in south
A US archaeological team uncovered an ancient Egyptian
administrative building and silos dating back to the 17th dynasty (ca.
1665-1569 BC) along with an older columned hall in the southern
Egyptian town of Edfu, Egypt's antiquities department announced
Tuesday. With sixteen wooden columns, the layout of the mud-brick
hall shows that it might been part of a governor's palace, Egypt's
antiquities chief, Zahi Hawas said. The hall, which predates the silos,
had been used by scribes for accounting, opening and receiving letters,
Hawas explained. Pottery and seals that date back to the 13th dynasty
(c. 1786-1665 BC) were discovered in the hall.
A US archeological team from the University of Chicago carried out the
excavation work. "Scarab seals found inside the hall are decorated with
spiral patterns and hieroglyphic symbols including ankh sign, also known
as key of life," said head of the American mission, Nadine Moeller. The
discovery reflects the Egyptian political situation at the time when the
small kingdom of Thebes controlled Upper Egypt, Moeller said."

The project manager's web site is here

Be nice if they found a lot of textual material.
Remains of medieval bishops identified
Archaeologists have identified the remains of medieval bishops buried at Whithorn Priory in Galloway, Scotland, 600 years ago.

The bones of the six bishops were discovered over 40 years ago, but have only just been identified using the latest techniques for scientific analysis of remains.

Thought to have died between 1200 and 1360AD, the bishops were found during excavations at the priory between 1957 and 1967, but their identity has remained a mystery until now. Other items, such as fragments from vestments, silver altar vessels and a gold pontifical ring were also unearthed.
Archeologist visits ancient Seguin site
Local archeologist Robert “Bob” Everett paid a visit Thursday morning to an excavation site where hundreds of arrowheads, spear points and other Native American artifacts were recently uncovered along the banks of the Guadalupe River.

“This is the richest archeological site I’ve seen on the Guadalupe River in 35 years,” said Everett, a steward with the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Archeological Stewardship Network.
. . .

“There could have been a series of villages of different tribes over the past 11,000 years. It appears to have been heavily occupied for an expansive period of time. This could have been a major village with satellite villages strewn along the river,” Everett said.
Are finds artifacts or aging rocks?
An archaeologist with the state Department of Historic Resources is headed to western Goochland County next week with hopes of confirming a major historical find.

Chris Stevenson has gone on dozens of treasure hunts, only to be disappointed. But this one has potential, he said.

"There's something there," Stevenson said. "But whether it occurred in nature or culturally, we will have to wait and see."

The objects in question are possible sculptures and petroglyphs -- carvings made into rock -- of bears, eagles and human faces. Glyn Hall discovered the pieces while placing flags in the ground to mark boundaries for an organic vegetable garden.

Boy, I dunno. . .they have a slide show with some of the 'artifacts' but I sure can't see anything.

More odd rocks here.
Dig reveals vibrant trade for 18th-century Acadians
A dig in the P.E.I. National Park at Greenwich is showing that Acadians who farmed the area in the 18th century were successful enough to be trading and bringing in goods from around the globe.

Scientists and students are working on three pits on the Greenwich peninsula on the North Shore, which was a well established Acadian farming community in the early 18th century. They've revealed a cellar, a rock pile, and a garbage pit.
First farmers cultivated an interest in green stone beads
Fledgling farmers in the Middle East treasured ornamentation as much as irrigation. These ancient villagers traveled great distances to obtain green stone for making beads and pendants that held special meaning for them in a brave new agricultural world, a new study finds.

Bead-making began by 110,000 years ago in what’s now Israel. But an emphasis on green beads emerged only about 11,000 years ago in concert with the agricultural revolution, say archaeologist Daniella Bar-Yosef Mayer of the University of Haifa in Israel and geologist Naomi Porat of the Geological Survey of Israel in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Non-archaeology post Someone in a comment on an earlier post asked about my ancestral homeland and the potential impact of the recent floods. At the time, there wasn't a whole lot going on in that neck of the woods, but that changed last Friday. The Fond du Lac river, which flows right through the middle of town, overflowed its banks and flooded a good part of the central core. See various stories in the local paper including aerial photos.

It's a relatively small city and the ArchaeoHomestead happens to be fairly close in to the core downtown area. Happily, the floodwaters didn't quite make in into the former Archaeo Manor house. Mom reported that the water reached curb-high but didn't creep up and into the house. The basement still got a bit of water in it, but that's not really unusual.

Unfortunately, lots of stuff was right on the river, like the post office and several banks. The YMCA is right there, too, and it's closed for the indefinite future. Most of the river through that part of town is constrained by walls, canal-like, so once it hit the top it just flowed out and kept going.

From what mom says, people are making out like this is a 500-year flood. Maybe. I recall perusing a local history book and thought I remembered seeing something about a big flood either early 20th or late 19th century. And, of course, floods are worse when there's lots of people and buildings around. So, eh. Reserve a few good thoughts for the residents going through this.
There is no archaeological peace
The unsuccessful attempt to breathe life into the deflated balloon of the peace process has given rise to reports on a plethora of initiatives for the resolution of the different issues comprising the morass of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Teams of Israeli and Palestinian professionals, funded by international foundations specializing in the peace industry, hold meetings, usually abroad, and work on drafts of agreements that profess to resolve problems in such sensitive matters as Palestinian and Israeli educational curricula, determination of sovereignty, the setting of borders, economic arrangements, and the like.

Those behind the drafts acknowledge that the chances of their influencing the decision makers is not great, but they argue that the significance of the meetings lies in the very fact they are being held, and that they offer hope that a solution is possible, and only a matter of intellectual effort and goodwill.

It's an opinion piece on the recent "Israeli-Palestinian Cultural Heritage Agreement" that was splashed all over the place (except here, I think) a few weeks ago. A few interesting tidbits. Recall this post of a review that had some commentary on who "owns" the archaeological record. This piece seems to make the argument that there is no "Palestinian archaeological record" or an "Israeli archaeological record" since such entities didn't really ever exist until recently. I have some sympathy for that position and lean towards a strict(ish) territorial interpretation.
Wreck of 200-year-old British warship found
Archaeologists have hailed the discovery of a sunken British warship which vanished during the American War of Independence. In what is being described as one of the most significant maritime finds ever made in North America, the wreck of HMS Ontario was discovered almost intact in deep water at the bottom of Lake Ontario.

After 228 years, the ship's final resting place was pinpointed by enthusiasts Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville. The 22-gun warship went down during a severe gale in 1780 with 120 people on board. The mystery of its fate spawned a host of rumours, including the possibility of it carrying priceless war booty.

I remember seeing a blurb on TV about this recently. Because of the anoxic water at depth and the lack of wood boring worms, wrecks in parts of the Great Lakes can be beautifully preserved. One would expect the interior would be similarly intact (i.e., human remains and other stuff).

I also found it interesting that it was declared property of Britain. Maybe that's just a consequence of it being a warship.
Afghanistan's hidden treasures, hidden no more
IN AN act that provoked worldwide outrage, the fundamentalist Taliban rulers of Afghanistan in March 2001 destroyed the monumental statues of Buddha that had been carved into the rock cliffs of Bamiyan 1,600 years ago. The shocking destruction was not an isolated event.

As part of the same campaign, the Taliban sent hordes of militants into the Kabul Museum to smash every statue, no matter how small, that depicted a human figure or any other creature. With its strict interpretation of Islam, the Taliban believed that the artistic representation of a living thing was idolatry and therefore blasphemous.

The marauding raid seemed to signal the last gasp of the museum. "You have to remember," says Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist with the National Geographic Society, "that the museum was devastated in three ways. First, it was struck by missiles after a militia made the museum its headquarters in the civil wars [that followed the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from the country]. Then it was looted; trucks could be seen carting objects away. And then came the Taliban."

The Iraq national museum gets all the press, but this was probably far worse.
The March issue of SAA's Archaeological Record is up!

Michael Shott has an interesting article in it on the curation of private collections. I'm only about halfway through it so far, but I like it. He echoes the 'Army of Davids' meme that I've harped on several times regarding the role of amateurs. There is a lot that amateurs can do as far as reporting the locations of artifacts and sites they come across in their travels, which are far more extensive that anything that can be hoped for with professionals, just by dint of numbers. Of course, the data infrastructure is needed before adequate reporting can occur.

That's an aside though; the article is more about collections of actual objects.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Archaeologists continue searching for clues to Cahokia
Researchers are always finding pieces of broken clay pottery at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville. It's nothing to write home about.

But every once in a while, someone digs up an artifact that gets an archaeological crew really excited.

That's what happened to Susannah Fulling and Rita Cooper last week at an excavation site near Mound 34. They found a fragment of a shell cup with engraved lines that once formed a Native American symbol or pattern.

"It's cool to find things that are engraved because it adds a human element to it," said Fulling, 22, of St. Louis. "You know somebody was here, and they cared about (the object)."
"They want you to go for it!" Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard called to find lost sarcophagus
Built from polished blue basalt to transport the king's earthly remains to the next world, the elaborately decorated vessel lay hidden inside the third-largest of Giza's renowned Pyramids for more than 4,000 years. In 1837 the British colonel Richard William Howard Vyse blasted his way into Menkaure's sepulchral chamber using gunpowder and discovered the stone casket.
. . .

In a twist worthy of an Indiana Jones film, the sarcophagus was lost again the following year before it could reach British shores. The merchant ship Beatrice, which was carrying it and other antiquities found by the archaeologist, sank while sailing from Malta to Gibraltar — reportedly off the coast of Spain, near Alicante.
5000-year-old anthropomorphic figures found in Huaura, Lima
In the last days, a team of archaeologists headed by Ruth Shady has discovered a number of anthropomorphic figures believed to be some five thousand years old near the district of Vegueta in the province of Huaura on the coast north of Lima.

These relics have been unearthed in the archeological site of Vichama, or "hidden city", a place that belongs to the same civilization of Caral and which is located 159 kilometers north of Lima. Caral is considered the oldest city of America with around 5000 years old.

They have two pics of the anthropomorphic figures there, plus a couple of others. I wish the basketry had a caption.
Team excavates Roman 'warehouse'
A team of 50 are taking part in the excavation of a corner of a Roman fortress in Caerleon near Newport.

The dig will open a large trench over the building, which is believed to have supplied the Roman legion.

Dr Peter Guest, of Cardiff University, said: "Store buildings are a largely unknown feature of legionary fortresses."

I was unable to find the blog after a quick search.
Pursuit of Females Dates Way, Way Back
Durham University-led researchers say that genetic evidence from 34 skeletons dating back to around 5000 B.C. shows the deaths were the result of a tribal war over the need for female companionship.

While adult females were found among the immigrant skeletons, only men and children were found among the native group of skeletons buried in the village of Talheim. The lack of local females, the researchers said, shows that they were captured instead -- a possible primary motivation for the attack.

Must read that paper. This was also interesting to me:
German skeletal experts first suspected the deliberateness of the prehistoric attack after determining that a blow to the left side of the head killed most of the victims. This suggested the victims were bound and killed, probably with a stone axe.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Antiquities market update Insider: Guardians of Antiquity?
James Cuno, president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago, posits in his new book Who Owns Antiquity? (Princeton University Press, $24.95) that the UNESCO treaty and laws enacted around the world aimed at applying its principles have done nothing to stop looting and have succeeded only in inhibiting the global movement of art. UNESCO, he argues, has impoverished our understanding of one another and contributed to a stale, narrowly nationalistic view of culture.

More specifically, these laws have prevented museums like his from acquiring antiquities as they have in the past. He calls them "nationalist retentionist cultural property laws," and views them as one outcome of what he sees as the chauvinistic nationalism that has infected governments and led to the suppression of minorities and even ethnic cleansing. Whatever good intentions UNESCO had back in 1970, they've gone horribly wrong, implies Cuno.

Lots of stuff in this article, so it's worth reading the whole thing. I found much to agree and disagree with regarding both the book author and the reviewer (Roger Atwood). For example, Cuno argues that modern nations have little or no claim on the work of ancient societies since, as Atwood puts it, the modern nation "did not exist when ancient sites were created, its laws relating to those sites are invalid and U.S. courts should ignore them." I think that's a fair (though arguable) interpretation in some sort of theoretical sense, but realistically not terribly useful. We recognize sovereignty except in certain rare instances and, like it or not, the modern state must retain legal control over their own territory.

Atwood seems a bit Pollyanna-ish when he discusses the motivations of modern states: "The state has an interest in preserving the knowledge contained in ancient sites and preventing that knowledge from being lost forever through looting." Only in the ideal. Realistically, governments change and their priorities change and th results don't necessarily have any relation to archaeological preservation (cf. Afghanistan under the Taliban).

Still, a thought-provoking review on a number of levels.
Update on the WWI mass grave.
Archaeological Dig Under Way
John Rissetto and crews from the Office of Contract Archaeology of the University of New Mexico are digging up the soccer field at Alameda Elementary School.

That's because underneath the school lies the old Alameda Pueblo.

Rissetto said, "You're looking at where the soccer field was up here and sort of the sod that was associated with it, and then underneath you're looking at actually cultural levels, areas in which people were living and depositing their artifacts. Whether it be pottery, broken pottery or the stone materials that they were using to make their stone tools."

Short video at the link.
Philadelphia owns up to more of its history of slavery
Thousands of tourists watched last summer as archaeologists, working in the shadow of Independence Hall, unearthed remnants of the home where George Washington lived with his wife and several slaves.

Now, the city's best-known Colonial-era church is dramatically bringing to light how slaves worshiped alongside parishioners like Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross.

Historians have long known that slaves attended Christ Church — and were baptized, married and buried there. But it has not been publicized much in Philadelphia, where all men were declared to be created equal.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

ron age settlement unearthed at Seaton Burn
ONE of the most complete Iron Age settlements ever excavated in the north east has been unearthed at a Northumberland surface mine.
The remains of approximately 50 'roundhouses' in an enclosed two-hectare area were found at Banks Mining's Delhi surface mine on the Blagdon Estate near Seaton Burn.
Roman horse skeletons, chariot dug up
ARCHAEOLOGISTS have dug up the skeletons of 16 horses and a two-wheeled chariot in a grave dating back to the Roman Empire in north-east Greece, the culture ministry announced today.

Half of the horses were buried in pairs, whilst two human skeletons were also discovered in a dig near Lithohori, in the Kavala region.

Near to the remains of six of the horses archaeologists found a shield, weapons and various other accessories.
Early Humans Experimented To Get Bow And Arrow Just Right, Findings Suggest

In today's fast-paced, technologically advanced world, people often take the innovation of new technology for granted without giving much thought to the trial-and-error experimentation that makes technology useful in everyday life. When the "cutting-edge" technology of the bow and arrow was introduced to the world, it changed the way humans hunted and fought. University of Missouri archaeologists have discovered that early man, on the way to perfecting the performance of this new weapon, engaged in experimental research, producing a great variety of projectile points in the quest for the best, most effective system.

Seems like an interesting study but I wonder how they will define variation. One would expect a certain amount of stylistic variation anyhow and the type of experimentation they're talking about would seem to revolve around functional concerns. Separating the two can be tricky.
Wherein you may ponder the emic meaning and grammatical correctness of a prostitute's bikini line tatoo.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Acrobat's last tumble
crobats apparently ranked high enough in Nagar’s social sphere to serve as sacrificial offerings, the researchers report in the June Antiquity. Cuneiform texts from Ebla, a nearby site from the same time period, refer to individuals from Nagar known as húb. Scholars have variously defined húb as a term for acrobats, jugglers or horsemen.

An analysis of the most complete human skeleton found in the Nagar structure supports a translation of húb as acrobats, Oates says. The specimen’s leg, foot and toe bones display signs of enlarged muscles and energetic activity associated with acrobatics, her team finds.
Native Alaskans trace ancestry to 10,000-year-old skeleton
The fact that Southeast Alaska Native elders approve of the experiment - just as they earlier endorsed requests to examine the human remains - contrasts sharply with the protests and pitched legal battles Indian leaders in Washington state waged over the fate of "Kennewick Man," the 9,000-year-old Columbia River skeleton.
Tlingit elder Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute - the Southeast Alaska Native non-profit group that's helping stage the study - partially credits the institute's Council of Traditional Scholars.

"When this 10,300-year-old person was found on Prince of Wales, the way it was interpreted was that we had one of our ancestors offering himself to give us knowledge," Worl said. "They were also saying that if our culture is going to survive and flourish, then we have to be receptive to science."

Will work at Allendale County archaeological dig rewrite human history?
For the past 10 years, University of South Carolina archaeologist Dr. Albert Goodyear has been digging up artifacts that indicate humans lived here 37,000 years before the Clovis people arrived. His is a controversial theory he tries to prove each time he dusts off a rock or stone tool fragment.

What he's finding at Topper is strengthening his argument. The artifacts Goodyear has uncovered are the oldest carbon-dated relics ever found in North America, at 50,000 and 51,000 years old.

Couple photos and a video at the link.
Drinking Jugs Point the Way to an Archaeological Find
When searching for 17th-century courthouses, it might be good to keep in mind spirits -- the alcoholic, not ghostly, kind.

Back then, around the 1670s, it seems councilmen and judges spent a fair amount of their time swilling liquor, so remnants of their wine bottles and beer tankards are easy to find. In fact, it was pieces of those stone and glass vessels that led a team of archaeologists to discover the original Charles County courthouse, the oldest government building in Maryland whose remnants could never be located -- until now.
The Archy Channel has a new video up: TREASURE IN THE ANDES: CHAVIN DE HUANTAR, PERU.
Ancient laborer burial ground excavated near Rome
First-century burial grounds near Rome's main airport are yielding a rare look into how ancient longshoremen and other manual workers did backbreaking jobs, archaeologists said Monday.

The necropolis near the town of Ponte Galeria came to light last year when customs police noticed a clandestine dig by grave robbers seeking valuable ancient artifacts, Rome's archaeology office said.

Most of the 300 skeletons unearthed were male, and many of them showed signs of years of heavy work: joint and tendon inflammation, compressed vertebrae, hernias and spinal problems, archaeologists said. Sandy sediment helped preserve the remains well.

Be interesting to see how they compare to the workers' burials at Giza.
Jordan archaeologists unearth 'world's first church'
Archaeologists in Jordan have unearthed what they claim is the world's first church, dating back almost 2,000 years, The Jordan Times reported on Tuesday.

"We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from 33 AD to 70 AD," the head of Jordan's Rihab Centre for Archaeological Studies, Abdul Qader al-Husan, said.

He said it was uncovered under Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates back to 230 AD, in Rihab in northern Jordan near the Syrian border.
More Stonehenge-related news 'Cursus' Is Older Than Stonehenge: Archeologists Step Closer To Solving Ancient Monument Riddle

A team led by University of Manchester archaeologist Professor Julian Thomas has dated the Greater Stonehenge Cursus at about 3,500 years BC – 500 years older than the circle itself.

They were able to pinpoint its age after discovering an antler pick used to dig the Cursus – the most significant find since it was discovered in 1723 by antiquarian William Stukeley.

When the pick was carbon dated the results pointed to an age which was much older than previously thought – between 3600 and 3300 BC – and has caused a sensation among archeologists.

I have to say, I'm liking this new round of inquiry, mainly because they're looking well beyond the actual monument. It's my impression that while this isn't exactly new, there's more emphasis on
Researchers from University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) have recently completed work on the results of three closely related Bronze Age round barrows excavated at Cossington, Leicestershire.

Their excavations revealed a variety of burial practices from Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and Anglo Saxon times, showing how the three barrows were used in repeated ceremonies to honour the dead. They offer the first definite example of an Anglo Saxon cemetery sited on an earlier monument to be found in Leicestershire.
Mexican archaeologists unearth ruins of Aztec palace
Mexican archaeologists said Monday they have unearthed the remains of an Aztec palace once inhabited by the emperor Montezuma in the heart of what is now downtown Mexico City.

During a routine renovation project on a Colonial-era building, experts uncovered pieces of a wall as well as a basalt floor believed to have been part of a dark room where Montezuma meditated, archaeology team leader Elsa Hernandez said.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

There goes the neighborhood Archaeologists move in

HEREFORDSHIRE Council is digging the dirt ahead of a key development in Ledbury.

The Master’s House - site of a £2.9million library and community building - is being searched for remains.

An investigation starts this Monday, and will see archaeologists dig a 20 metre square trench.

The routine work is expected to take a week, while any finds will go on show in the completed building.

Aside: When we moved to an apartment on the edge of an expensive part of Seattle the rear window on my Mustang shattered due to a short in the defroster. So for the first month or so there was a big blue tarp over it. Happily the wheels were still okay so at least I didn't have to put it up on blocks.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Blogging update Posting will be light for the next day or so. I'd like to say it's because I am working on a dreadfully important paper, or going on an exciting trip, or engaging in an important home project.

In reality, I have a new idol to worship.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Suffolk Atlantis to reveal its murky secrets
Dunwich, on the Suffolk coast, was a thriving metropolis before a series of storms and sea surges consigned the city to the North Sea five centuries ago.

Stuart Bacon, a marine archaeologist, has spent the last 30 years trying to discover the secrets of the city through a series of dives, but due to extremely poor visibility he has never seen the ruins.

Scientists will use the latest acoustic imaging technology to penetrate thick layers of silt and create the first images of the lost city, which lies between 10 and 50ft down.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Archaeologist, comedian, princess
Walk past Maggie Spivey in the Yard or on the streets of Cambridge, and you might find her with head down, eyes glued to the ground. She’s not being anti-social, or lamenting a flubbed grade — this dynamic archaeology concentrator just knows that often the most fascinating stories can be found underfoot.

Spivey, who hails from the small town of Hephzibah, Ga., didn’t arrive at Harvard with plans to study archaeology. But when she sat down with the “Courses of Instruction” book, highlighter at the ready, it soon became clear where her interests lay.

Artist's conception of what Maggie Spivey may have ought to look like:
More photos of the new pyramids finds are here.
Ancient "Human Sacrifices" Found in Peru, Expert Says
Three possible human sacrifice victims have been found at a 4,000-year-old archaeological site in Peru, an archaeologist says.

The apparently mutilated, partial skeletons (see photos) could overturn the peaceful reputation of the Pre-Ceramic period (3000 B.C. to 1800 B.C.) in the Andes mountains—a time generally seen as free of ritualized killing and warfare.

Outside experts caution, however, that such claims remain unproven.

Alejandro Chu Barrera, who led the dig, said: "We found two pairs of legs—probably young females around their 20s—and the decapitated body of a young male in his 20s."

They don't present much evidence of sacrifice, in the form of cut marks on the relevant bones though. Interesting nonetheless.
Recent archaeology Archaeology at the U. of C.
More than 20 million visitors came to Chicago for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Now, an archaeology class at the University of Chicago is trying to uncover what they may have left behind.

Rebecca Graff’s class is conducting an ecavation at the former site of the Fair, hoping to understand more about the event and those who attended. (video at the site)

I just spoke with someone about the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition coming up next year. It was centered on the south end of the UW campus (the link has lots of photos) and one wonders what might be sitting around under the ground in that area.
Archaeology exhibit, new curator to raise visibility of artifacts stored off campus
"It's the first exhibit done in almost 20 years," said campus archaeologist Laura Jones. "It's really about making the collection accessible and making people realize we have it. I've done some temporary exhibits, but this is the first time any of the older collection has been out of storage. It's a landmark in the history of Stanford archaeology that we're finally able to get some of the material out to where people can see it."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Team digs up Delaware's past
The edge of the trowel scrapes through the dirt – scrfft, scrfft – as Terri Lottmann kneels in a small hole, peering at a mound of white chunks emerging from the ground.

Pieces of red brick, shards of oyster shells and a hunk of bone protrude out of the dark, moist dirt.

It looks like a pile of old buried trash – and that’s exactly what it is: 17th-century debris, used to fill in an old cellar.
Humans May Have Come To New Zealand Later Than Thought
Radiocarbon dating of rat bones and rat-gnawed seeds reinforces a theory that human settlers did not arrive in New Zealand until 1300 A.D. _ about 1,000 years later than some scientists believe, according to a study released Tuesday.

The first settlement date "has been highly debated for decades," said Dr. Janet Wilmshurst, a New Zealander who led the international team of researchers in the four-year study. The team carbon dated rat bones and native seeds, and concluded that the earliest evidence of human colonization in the South Pacific country was from 1280 A.D. to 1300 A.D.
Tsunami or melting glaciers: What caused ancient Atlit to sink?

At the bottom of the sea, some 300 meters west of the Atlit fortress, lies one of the greatest archaeological mysteries of the Mediterranean basin. About 20 years ago, archaeologists discovered a complex of ancient buildings and ancient graves with dozens of skeletons at the underwater site of Atlit-Yam. The team of marine archaeologists that excavated the site, headed by Dr. Ehud Galili of the Israel Antiquities Authority, came to the consclusion that an ancient settlement once existed there, but sank beneath the surface of the sea some 8,000 years ago.

Eh. I can see a tsunami destroying a coastal village, but how could it submerge it? Evidence has been found that the Thera eruption caused significant damage to coastal sites on Crete, but none of them was submerged. They mention rising sea levels, but I wonder if it could be simple tectonics that you see around the southern shores of the Med.
Living in the 'bowels of the earth'
Traditionally, the general public associates caves with damp and darkness, long-extinct animals and primitive humans. But in reality caves form a distinctive type of archaeological site as they have been used by humans for a variety of purposes throughout history and have played their own role in the development of human civilisation. The long history of human cave-use may be a global phenomenon, but it is well-represented here in Greece and has been the focus of much study lately.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Why I am an anti-intellectual
I am most certainly an anti-intellectual. . .Being anti-intellectual is not the same as being anti-intellect. My beef is with a particular social class -- the "intelligentsia" -- and not with the practice of using one's intellect to reflect on experience. In my experience, intellectuals (as a class) are ideologically intolerant, easily offended by ordinary humor, and pretentious in their prejudices, which they disguise as universal truths.

I link only to make two distinct points: 1) Beware of the overuse of jargon as it's often just used to dress up mundane arguments in (un-)attractive multisyllabic garments; and 2) Conversely, accept that some jargon is necessary.

#1 gets a lot of use in the archy literature, especially in the 1970s and '80s when the New Archaeology was attempting to be really science-y. Part of the problem was a lack of formal theory, so a lot of times people would take a fairly trivial bit of empirical generalizing -- "People tend to live near fresh water" -- and dress it up in the language of systems theory or whatever other exciting! new! theory! was in vogue at the time -- "Interdependent groups of regularly socially interacting humans, whether by kin-based associations or through mutual trade/exchange networks, spend a high proportion of their temporal existence congregating for both habitation and central-place-based accumulation of both comestibles and non-food resources near, or at least in reasonable proximity to, sources of non-salinated water."

I suppose technically the same thing continues into the modern era, what with post-modernist advocates employing their own form of hyper-syllabated (to join the crowd) prose. I try not to read that stuff though.

HOWEVER, don't dismiss stuff just because it's got some jargon in it. Sometimes you just can't string together a bunch of normal-English words to get a complex and unintuitive idea across easily and on a regular basis. Dunnell used to call this stuff a 'metalanguage', meaning a sort of shorthand set of terms used to convey more complicated ideas. Of course, to understand it, you have to be keen to the metalanguage. Physics wouldn't have gotten very far if you had to explain longhand what a "subatomic particle" was all the time.

I think Popular Science or Popular Mechanics used to do a column on interpreting journal prose. They'd take a paragraph out of some paper and then deconstruct it in more user-friendly terms. Always thought that was a good idea.

Via Insty.
Breaking news Egypt discovers missing sections of Sphinx road, bottom part of pyramid

"The missing sections of the so-called Sphinx road and the
bottom part of an unknown pyramid in Sakkara area have
been discovered in southwest Cairo, the Egyptian SCA
said on Tuesday. (..) Zahi Hawwas noted that it is believed
that the discovered parts are connected to the passage leading
to Anubis Temples. He also announced the discovery of the
bottom part of a pyramid, which was believed to belong to
King Menkauhor (from 2,444 B.C. to 2,436 B.C.) of the
Fifth Dynasty."

Just came over the EEF wire. The new pyramid seems the most interesting to me, especially if it contains new texts in any existing chambers. More undoubtedly coming on this.

UPDATE: Also via EEF, a bit more information with two photos. Apparently, Lepsius had discovered the pyramid but it hadn't been investigated further. No cartouche yet so whether it's really OK is still up in the air.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Archaeology students hit paydirt at Sheridan's Pioneer Hill
Broken pieces of pottery, old animal bones and glass medicine bottles buried beneath the surface on Pioneer Hill in Sheridan have given archaeology students a reason to cheer while digging up the past.

Ten students enrolled in Field Experience in Archaeology, a summer anthropology course at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, have spent hours since early May in Veterans Park at the site of the restored Boxley Cabin. The Sheridan Historical Society invited the university's Department of Anthropology to do the dig.
Archaeologists hopeful they have found graves of First World War 'lost army'
Archaeologists searching for a mass grave containing the bodies of hundreds of British and Australian soldiers killed in a First World War battle have unearthed human remains.

The team is now confident it has discovered the final resting place of 399 soldiers who went missing after a battle in northern France in 1916.

The "lost army" was killed in an allied attack at Fromelles in July 1916, and its discovery would be the biggest of its kind since the 1920s, when efforts to recover bodies lost in the mud of the Western Front ended.

I've seen a few articles on this recently but I wasn't going to post it because it's pretty recent. OTOH, it's a good story from a non-archaeological standpoint.
Stonehenge update Leave these stones their eternal secrets
As we move back in time, the theories slowly pile up and we come across news that researchers had shown the stone circles had been used as a giant computer; that others had found it was really an observatory for studying stars and predicting the seasons; that a couple of individuals had demonstrated clearly that its rings had acted as a docking pad for alien spaceships; while University of British Columbia researcher Anthony Perks produced the jaw-dropping idea that the great henge had been built as a giant fertility symbol, constructed in the shape of the female sexual organ.

Artist's conception of what. . . .errrr, never mind.
The great walk into China's past
Unlike more familiar archaeology projects in which a single site is excavated, the scientists are using a field research method called a "regional settlement pattern survey," in which researchers tramp methodically across hundreds or even more than 1,000 square miles.

Spaced 50 yards apart, they walk abreast, scanning the ground for artifacts such as pottery shards and bits of ancient tools. Each discovery is identified and evaluated for its age, and the exact location is noted on a map.

What scientists have found in the last 13 years in Shandong is helping to reshape ideas about the first flowering of Chinese civilization, one of the world's earliest. It also shows that the so-called Dong Yi people were not barbarians at all. They lived in complex city-state societies, ruling surrounding villages that produced food and trade goods and supplied soldiers and labor to build the leaders' walled, moated cities.

regional surveys don't get a lot of press which is too bad since they are invaluable.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Dig aims to uncover lost villages
A team of archaeologists is hoping to solve a centuries-old mystery and discover the remains of two medieval ancient towns in Carmarthenshire.

The settlements are believed to be within the grounds of Dinefwr Park and Castle near Llandeilo.

Their existence is recorded in several medieval documents and researchers are hoping to pinpoint the exact locations later this month.
Medicinal mercury in Medieval bones Medicinal mercury in Medieval bones
Kaare Lund Rasmussen and co-researchers from the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, The Institute of Anthropology, Archaeology and Linguistics in Hojbjerg, and the Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel studied bones that had been interred in Danish cemeteries. Two Franciscan friaries, a Cistercian abbey and a parish churchyard at various locations were examined.

Leprosy and syphilis were each identified by the type of bone lesions observed and a third condition, known as focal osteolytic syndrome that was identified as recently as 1996, was also detected in some of the skeletons. Individual specimens from 12 individuals were radiocarbon dated by gas proportional counting and the more sensitive technique of accelerator mass spectrometry. The ages were adjusted to allow for the effects of diet.

They found a relationship between certain type of bone lesions -- indicating certain diseases like syphilis and leorpsy -- and higher amounts of mercury. Today we go bonkers when someone breaks a fluorescent bulb but it was routinely used to treat disease.
DNA reveals sister power in Ancient Greece
Women were thought to have had little power in ancient Greece, unless they married a powerful man and were able to influence him. But a team of researchers testing ancient DNA from a high status, male-dominated cemetery at Mycenae in Greece believe they have identified a brother and sister buried together in a richly endowed grave, suggesting that she had as much power as him.
In memorium: Daris Swindler Sad news from the world of anthropology on the not-so-recent passing of Daris Swindler:
Dr. Daris Swindler traveled the world for his work — conducting archaeological digs in Egypt and Pakistan, traveling to Easter Island to study early settlement patterns of the first inhabitants.

But the former Edmonds resident was just as happy helping a neighbor to identify a shark tooth as he was working on headlining investigations.

Dr. Swindler, a renowned anthropologist and teacher, died Dec. 6 while undergoing cancer treatment in Spokane. He was 82.

Wiki page here.

I spent a field season in Egypt with Swindler in the Valley of the Kings and he was a great guy to work with. We were clearing and mapping uninscribed tombs (see Don Ryan's pages here) and Swindler worked on the human remains found therein. One day I saw him standing by the river gazing pensively at the sunset and obviously having a bit of pleasant quiet time. So of course I had to ruin it. I walked up behind him and pretended to be a local bugging him to go for a ride in a sailboat. He ignored me at first, but I persisted ("Good price! Good price!") and he eventually turned around and looked like he was going to slug me. Happily, he also had a good sense of humor.

Requiescat in pace, Daris.