Monday, April 27, 2015

France's prehistoric Chauvet cave opens


A stunning replica of the 36,000 year-old Grotte Chauvet, home to the oldest figurative cave drawings in the world and an Unesco Heritage site, opened to the public at the weekend. Here's a look inside the country's latest tourist attraction.

The grotto at Vallon-Pont d'Arc in the Ardeche region of southern France, is a reproduction of the closely guarded Grotte Chauvet, which was granted World Heritage status last year.
The French president had already officially inaugurated the museum earlier this month and it officially opened to the public on Saturday.
The replica cave, which took a team of scientists two and a half years to create, will enable tourists from around the world to continue to see the frescos of painted animals without damaging the original cave.
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Caesar did not suffer from epilepsy: scientists


    More than 2,000 years since Caesar died - assassinated by his own senators - researchers have claimed the military leader was struck by a debilitating disease in later life.
    Some academics have previously argued that Caesar suffered from epilepsy, a brain condition which causes seizures.
    But writing in the journal Neurological Sciences, researchers Francesco M. Galassi and Hutan Ashrafian have argued that the general suffered from cerebrovascular disease.
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    Viking voyages began earlier than thought


    Forget about the Viking Age beginning with the brutal sacking of Lindisfarne Priory in 793. According to new research, Norwegian Vikings began long sea voyages at least 70 years earlier, but they came looking for trade not plunder.

    Archeologists digging beneath the old marketplace of Ribe, have stumbled upon the remains of reindeer antlers from Norway, which they believe prove trade links with Vikings far to the north. 
     
    "This is the first time we have proof that seafaring culture, which was the basis for the Viking era, has a history in Ribe. It's fascinating," Søren Sindbæk, a professor at the University of Aarhus and one of the others of a new study, told ScienceNordic. 
     
    Sindbæk believes early trading trips between Norway and Denmark gave the Vikings the seafaring skills that would be used some 70 years later to strike England.

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    Sunday, April 26, 2015

    Reindeer Antlers Suggest Viking Age Began With Trade


    Antlers from Norwegian reindeer have been unearthed in Ribe, the oldest commercial center in Denmark. The antlers have been dated to A.D. 725, some 70 years before the Viking raid on the Lindisfarne monastery in northern England. “The Viking Age becomes a phenomenon in Western Europe because the Vikings learned to use maritime mobility to their advantage. They learned to master sailing to such an extent that they get to the coast of England where the locals don’t expect anything. They come quickly, plunder the unprepared victims, and leave again—a sort of hit and run,” Søren Sindbæk of Aarhus University toldScience Nordic. The Norwegian reindeer antlers suggest that Norway’s earliest so-called Vikings developed their maritime skills through trade. “Now we can prove that shipping between Norway and the market town of Ribe was established prior to the Viking era, and trade networks helped to create the incentives and the knowledge of the sea, which made the Viking raids possible. It is the first time that we can clearly link two very important phenomena, the lock and key if you like, of the Viking Age,” he said. For more, see "The First Vikings."

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    The Viking Age began in Denmark


    The story of the Vikings begins in the year 793 AD, after Norwegian Vikings landed in England on the first official Viking raid. To this day, these fierce raids are the most famous of Viking stories. Now, a new study suggests a more peaceful start to Viking seafaring -- and it all began in Denmark.


     Ribe in Denmark: Scandinavia's first town and central to the beginning  of the Viking Age
    [Credit: visitribe.dk] 

    Three archaeologists from the University of Aarhus (Denmark) and the University of York (UK) have shown that maritime voyages from Norway to Ribe, the oldest commercial centre in Denmark, occurred long before the Viking age officially began. 

    The study shows that early Vikings travelled to Ribe in South Denmark as early as 725 AD. 

    The researchers discovered deer antlers in the oldest archaeological deposits of Ribe’s old marketplace and they turned out to be the remains of Norwegian reindeer.

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    Cremated human bones in pot found in Crossrail dig suggest gruesome ritual

     A Roman shackle – one of the mass of Roman and medieval objects found during excavations at the Crossrail site near Liverpool Street station. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

    Almost 2,000 years ago somebody neatly packed cremated human bones into an old cooking pot, put the lid on, and set it by the banks of a smelly little urban river, the Walbrook in London. The discovery has deepened the mystery of scores of Roman skulls found nearby, polished till they gleam by tumbling among the pebbles of the riverbed.
    It had been suggested that the skulls ended up in the river – which vanished into culverts centuries ago – by accident, eroded out of a Roman cemetery and washed downstream until they came to rest at bends in the bank. The new finds suggest a grimmer explanation.
    Jay Carver, Crossrail’s lead archaeologist on the site yards from the bustling commuters at Liverpool Street station, said the thrifty reuse of the old pot, and its deliberate placing by the river, will force archaeologists to look again at the skulls found in this excavation and generations of previous digs around the river.
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    Tuesday, April 21, 2015

    New Thoughts on Neanderthal Cooking



    Neanderthals went extinct in most of Europe around 40,000 years ago, some 5,000 years after the arrival of the first modern humans. “The issue of Neanderthal extinction is very complex, and very little is agreed upon,” Anna Goldfield of Boston University said at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, reported in Live Science. She thinks that mastery of fire may have given modern humans an advantage over Neanderthals in the struggle for survival. Cooking would have provided modern humans with more calories from the same amount of food, and it kills bacteria, making the food safer to eat.

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    Monday, April 20, 2015

    Rare Roman owl clasp found on Danish island


    A 2,000-year-old bronze and enamel clasp has been unearthed south of the town of Nexø on the island of Bornholm. Shaped like an owl, the bronze and enamel button has large orange eyes and colourful wings. 


    A rare owl clasp has been found on Bornholm  [Credit: Bornholm's Museum] 

    “There are very few of these types of buttons,” said archaeologist Christina Seehusen from Bornholms Museum. “It is likely that someone travelling to the island carried it there.” 

    The owl was produced in regions along the Roman frontier that ran along the Danube and the Rhine at the time, so it may originate from ancient Cologne or another nearby town. The clasp was usually worn by men to hold their cloaks closed, so it is possible that a man from the island was a Germanic mercenary in the Roman army and brought the owl back to Bornholm with him. 

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    Sunday, April 19, 2015

    Thermoluminescence dating refined


    Thermoluminescence is used extensively in archaeology and the earth sciences to date artefacts and rocks. When exposed to radiation quartz, a material found in nature, emits light proportional to the energy it absorbs. Replicating the very low dose of background radiation from natural sources present in quartz is a key precondition for precise and accurate dating results. 


    Luminescing pottery [Credit: KHS HSIE] 

    Italian scientists have now developed a method to control the accuracy of the dose calibrations delivered to the samples during laboratory irradiation with heavy particles, replicating natural radiation exposure. 

    These findings have just been published by Lara Palla from the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), Italy, and colleagues in a paper in EPJ Plus. Using oxygen and lithium ions from the Tandem accelerator at INFN LABEC in Florence, they found that their measurements were accurate to within 1%, despite large fluctuations in the irradiation beam. 

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    Turin Shroud goes back on display at city's cathedral


    The Turin Shroud has gone back on public display in the Italian city's cathedral, after a break of five years.
    The 4.4-metre-long (14-ft) cloth is on show until 24 June.
    Viewings are free but must be booked. One million people have already signed up.
    Some devotees believe the shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. Sceptics point to carbon dating that suggests it is a medieval forgery from the 1300s.

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    Saturday, April 18, 2015

    Understanding popular Latin of Roman Hispania through graffiti on pottery

    'Sigillata' pottery, from Roman times, was manufactured with a mould and sometimes stamped with figures and patterns.  Credit: Universitat de València

    Te University of Valencia is studying the popular Latin of Roman Hispania through the graffiti found on 'terra sigillata' ceramic ware. As part of this approach, analyses of the graffiti kept in the Spanish Royal Academy of History have just been started with a recent publication in the journal Lucentum: Anales de la Universidad de Alicante'.

    'Research focuses on the words written on the surface of these everyday ceramic pieces which can provide linguistic data, but also territorial and ethnological information', says the author of the work, Josep Montesinos, professor of Art History at the Faculty of Geography and History. Xaverio Ballester, professor in the Department of Classical Philology at the University of Valencia is also part of the team.

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    South Iceland Cave Made before Settlement

    Kverkahellir is close to Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

    Archaeologist Kristján Ahronson has concluded that Kverkarhellir, a manmade cave between waterfall Seljalandsfoss and farm Seljaland in South Iceland, was partly created around 800 AD, before the settlement of Iceland, which, according to sources, began in 874.
    Ahronson presented the results of his analysis of volcanic ash layers from around the cave, among other findings, covered in his book Into the Ocean, at the University of Iceland yesterday, RÚV reports.
    “We are about to identify a large dump of material that looks like waste material from construction and dates to around 800 or so,” Ahronson explained. “Kverkahellir, along with Seljalandshellir, is remarkable as it is part of a number of cave sites in southern Iceland, manngerðir hellar [‘manmade caves’], that are marked by cross sculpture.”
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    Study report revisits cave of prehistoric cannibals



    In 2012, a detailed report of prehistoric cannibalism in Gough’s cave in Cheddar Gorge (Somerset), UK, attracted media attention with thenews that a group of prehistoric humans, otherwise known as Magdalenians, systematically and ritualistically consumed and utilized the remains of members of their own group about 14,700 years ago.   
    Now, a new report published in the Journal of Human Evolution sheds additional light on the discovery, narrowing the time frame in which the cannibalistic events took place and the extent of the activity.
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    More Evidence of Cannibalism Found in Gough’s Cave

    (The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London)

    Ancient human remains from Gough’s Cave, located in southwest England, exhibit signs of a sophisticated culture of butchering and carving of human remains, according to scientists from the Natural History Museum of London, University College London, and IPHES and the Universitat Rovira I Virgili in Spain. In 2011, scientists from the museum announced that the earliest-known skull cups had been found in Gough’s Cave. “We’ve identified a far greater degree of human modification than recorded in earlier research. We’ve found undoubting evidence for defleshing, disarticulation, human chewing, crushing of spongy bone, and the cracking of bones to extract marrow,” Silvia Bello of the Natural History Museum said in a press release. 

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    Friday, April 17, 2015

    Pictish fort found off Aberdeenshire coast


    Archaeologists have uncovered a "very significant" Pictish fort after scaling a remote sea stack off the coast of Aberdeenshire. 


    Archaeologists believe they have uncovered a Pictish fort off the coast  of Aberdeenshire 
    [Credit: BBC] 

    The team from the University of Aberdeen believe the ancient remains could be one of many along the coast south of Stonehaven. 

    It is the first time an official excavation has been carried out there. 

    Pictish symbol stones were said to be found on the Dunnicaer sea stack by locals in the 19th Century.

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    Ältester Nachweis von Pilzen als Nahrungsmittel


    Untersuchungen von altem Zahnstein ergaben, dass Menschen bereits in der Altsteinzeit Pflanzen und Pilze konsumierten.

    Über die Nahrungsgewohnheiten der Menschen, die im Jungpaläolithikum, dem jüngeren Abschnitt der Altsteinzeit vor 18.000 bis 12.000 Jahren während der archäologischen Kulturstufe des Magdaléniens lebten, ist nur wenig bekannt. Besonders schwer lassen sich pflanzliche Nahrungsstoffe nachweisen, denn sie hinterlassen nur geringe Spuren im menschlichen Körper. Unter der Leitung von Robert Power vom Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie in Leipzig hat ein internationales Forscherteam den uralten Zahnstein von Menschen aus dem Magdalénien untersucht, deren Überreste man in der El Mirón-Höhle in Spanien ausgegraben hatte. Die Forscher konnten nachweisen, dass diese Menschen bereits im Jungpaläolithikum zusätzlich zu anderen Nahrungsbestandteilen auch verschiedene pflanzliche Nahrungsstoffe und Pilze auf der Speisekarte hatten.

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