Thursday, December 20, 2012

Denmark’s only medieval rowboat dated

The rowboat from Vordingborg as it was found in the old moat.
(Photo: Anders Wickström, The Danish Castle Centre)

Researchers have now assigned a date to the sensational find of a rowboat. The dating cements the small vessel’s position as Denmark’s only preserved medieval rowboat.

Archaeologists in the Danish town of Vordingborg have every reason to be excited.

During a recent excavation of the moat surrounding the Vordingborg Castle ruins, they came across a fallen castle tower and a rowboat from the Middle Ages. The latter has never previously been found in Denmark.

Lars Sass Jensen, who headed the excavation, says that a dating of the boat’s wooden planks reveals that the little vessel was in its prime around the year 1400.

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Roman settlement remains found at Kingskerswell bypass

he remains of what is believed to be a 2,000-year-old Roman settlement have been uncovered at the construction site of a new bypass.

Artefacts discovered in Kingskerswell include fragments of pots thought to be imported from southern Europe. Trenches used for defence were also found. 

Devon county archaeologist Bill Horner said it was an "exciting find".

The artefacts will eventually go on show at Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

Locals 'Romanised'
Demolition work began in October to clear the route ready for the road linking Torbay and Newton Abbot.

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Troy pottery holds a key to the great Bronze Age collapse

The end of the Bronze Age heralds the gradual decline of Eastern Mediterranean trade networks and the resulting collapse of major Late Bronze Age cities in the Levantine coast, Anatolia and the Aegean.

A political collapse

The collapse of Hittite power in Anatolia is believed to be one of the triggers for this transition. However, the nature of the transition remains controversial.

In Anatolia there are two competing perspectives; the first is that the transition was largely political with change the result of in-situ cultural transformations; the second scenario revolves around a power vacuum left in the wake of the Hittite collapse that was filled by incoming groups.

The Bronze Age city at Hisarlik – Troy (phases VI, VIIa) – in north-west Turkey, now so closely associated with Homer’s Illiad, was destroyed by conflict about 3200 years ago and straddles this period of collapse, fitting into the new geo-political landscape.

The site known as Troy lies in north-west Turkey and has been studied for decades. Part of these investigations looked at the style of pottery made before the conflict which was recognisably Trojan but after the destruction of the city had changed to a style more typical of the Balkan region.
This difference in style typology led archaeologists to believe that the local people had been forced out and replaced by external populations from the north.

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Archaeologists Date World’s Oldest Timber Constructions

Scientists Document Highly-Developed Construction Techniques of Wells Built by Early Neolithic Settlers

A research team led by Willy Tegel and Dr. Dietrich Hakelberg from the Institute of Forest Growth of the University of Freiburg has succeeded in precisely dating four water wells built by the first Central European agricultural civilization with the help of dendrochronology or growth ring dating.

The wells were excavated at settlements in the Greater Leipzig region and are the oldest known timber constructions in the world. They were built by the Linear Pottery culture, which existed from roughly 5600 to 4900 BC. The team’s findings, which have been published in the international scientific journal PLoS ONE, afford new insight into prehistoric technology. The study was conducted by archaeologists and dendrochronologists from the Institute of Forest Growth in Freiburg, the Archaeological Heritage Office of Saxony in Dresden, and the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL in Birmensdorf, Switzerland.

The four early Neolithic wells were constructed from oak wood. In addition to the timber, many other waterlogged organic materials, such as plant remains, wooden artifacts, bark vessels, and bast fiber cords, as well as an array of richly decorated ceramic vessels, have survived for millennia hermetically sealed below groundwater level. With the help of dendrochronology, the scientists were able to determine the exact felling years of the trees and thus also the approximate time at which the wells were constructed.

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First souvenirs: Enamelled vessells from Hadrians Wall

Three small enamelled metal Roman pans – the Rudge Cup, Amiens Patera and the Ilam Pan – thought to be the first souvenirs from Hadrian’s Wall are featured in a new book edited by Roman expert David Breeze.

The pans are about the size of wine glasses and are decorated with the names of forts along the western sector of Hadrian’s Wall from Bowness-on-Solway to Great Chesters. They were made in the decades following the building of Hadrian’s Wall in AD 122.

Tourist attractions across the Empire

Souvenir items for Roman tourists to buy have also been found at other famous places across the empire such as Athens, Ephesos and Alexandria.

David Breeze said: “Remarkably it seems that Hadrian’s Wall was a tourist attraction soon after it was built. None of the pans were found on the Wall, but in southern England and France.

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Teeth reveal migration patterns of ancient humans

A team of dental physical scientists have been using x-ray diffraction to study the development of children's teeth in order to track migration patterns of our ancestors. 

The team has been using the festively-named XMaS facility (X-ray Magnetic Scattering) at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble to perform detailed analysis of tooth structure and composition. The work will make it possible to re-interpret archaeological records of ancient human migrations and may also help scientists to regrow human teeth lost due to disease or age.

The composition of enamel -- the hard outer-coating on teeth -- is affected by diet. Archaeologists are able to study the ratio of elements such as strontium and lead present to find markers of the geology in the soils where the plants the person ate were grown. These variations can show a change in eating habits brought on by a migration when the person was a child, when their enamel was still forming.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ancient city of Troy rebranded itself after war

A pottery-changing event is about to take place (Image: Warner Bros/Everett/Rex Features)

EVEN ancient cities knew about rebranding. Troy was destroyed by war about 3200 years ago - an event that may have inspired Homer to write the Iliad, 400 years later. But the famous city rose again, reinventing itself to fit a new political landscape.

Troy lies in north-west Turkey and has been studied for decades. Pottery made before the war has a distinct Trojan style but after the war its style is typical of the Balkans. This led archaeologists to believe that the locals had been forced out and replaced by populations from overseas.

But when Peter Grave at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, and his colleagues examined the chemical make-up of the pottery, they realised that both pre and post-war objects contained clay from exactly the same local sources, suggesting the same people were making the pots.

"There is substantial evidence for cultural continuity," says Grave. So if the Trojans never left the city, why did their pottery style change?

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Grimm brothers' celebration awakens saga of fairy tale link to German culture

Fitcher's Bird is among dozens of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, here illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Photograph: Classic Image/Alamy

Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and roots of Nazism on agenda at Kassel congress for 200th anniversary of brothers' classic tales

Once upon a time, two German brothers began collecting the best fairytales of their age. They gathered an array of stories involving princes and princesses, forests, castles and magic, but also darker sagas of cannibalism, dismemberment, murder and evil stepmothers.

The 200th anniversary on Thursday of the first publication of the Grimm brothers' Die Kinder und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), a collection of 86 stories that became worldwide classics, is triggering a year of feverish celebrations in Germany to mark the birth of one of the most frequently read books in the world.

Academics from around the globe, meeting this week in the central German city of Kassel, close to the brothers' birthplace, are kicking off the 2013 celebrations with a Grimm brothers' congress. Participants, ranging from lexicographers to psychoanalysts, will focus on everything from the book's enduring legacy to the brothers' impact on German grammar and how they shaped the nation's erotic imagination.

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Scientists 'Surprised' to Discover Very Early Ancestors Survived On Tropical Plants, New Study Suggests

New research suggests that between three million and 3.5 million years ago, the diet of our very early ancestors in central Africa is likely to have consisted mainly of tropical grasses and sedges. (Credit: © timur1970 / Fotolia)

Researchers involved in a new study led by Oxford University have found that between three million and 3.5 million years ago, the diet of our very early ancestors in central Africa is likely to have consisted mainly of tropical grasses and sedges. The findings are published in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An international research team extracted information from the fossilised teeth of three Australopithecus bahrelghazali individuals -- the first early hominins excavated at two sites in Chad. Professor Julia Lee-Thorp from Oxford University with researchers from Chad, France and the US analysed the carbon isotope ratios in the teeth and found the signature of a diet rich in foods derived from C4 plants.

Professor Lee-Thorp, a specialist in isotopic analyses of fossil tooth enamel, from the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, said: "We found evidence suggesting that early hominins, in central Africa at least, ate a diet mainly composed of tropical grasses and sedges.
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Greenland’s Viking settlers gorged on seals

The findings challenge the prevailing view of the Norse as farmers that would have stubbornly stuck to agriculture until they lost the battle with Greenland’s environment. These new results shake-up the traditional view of the Norse as farmers and have given archaeologists reason to rethink those theories.

“The Norse thought of themselves as farmers that cultivated the land and kept animals. But the archaeological evidence shows that they kept fewer and fewer animals, such as goats and sheep. So the farming identity was actually more a mental self-image, held in place by an over-class that maintained power through agriculture and land ownership, than it was a reality for ordinary people that were hardly picky eaters,” Jette Arneborg, archaeologist and curator at the National Museum of Denmark, says.

The first Norse settlers brought agriculture and livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs from Iceland. While they thought of themselves as farmers, they were not unfamiliar with hunting.

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Norwegian Vikings grew hemp

Remnants of the Iron Age Sosteli farm in Vest-Agder County, Norway's southernmost. Hemp was cultivated here even before the Viking Age. (Photo: Morten Teinum/Visit Sørlandet)

The Sosteli farmsted, in Norway's southermmost Vest-Agder County, offers strong evidence that Vikings farmers actively cultivated cannabis, a recent analysis shows. The cannabis remains from the farmsted date from 650 AD to 800 AD.

This is not the first sign of hemp cultivation in Norway this far back in time, but the find is much more extensive than previous discoveries.

“The other instances were just individual finds of pollen grains. Much more has been found here,” says Frans-Arne Stylegar, an archaeologist and the county's curator.
Rope and textiles
Sosteli is also further away from current-day settlements than other sites where cannabis finds have been made.

Hemp is the same plant as cannabis, or marijuana. But nothing indicates that the Vikings cultivated the plant to get people high.

Most likely it was grown for making textiles and rope.

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King Richard III’s medieval inn recreated by archaeologists

Blue Boar inn rises again in model and digital form, recreated from detailed drawings found in Leicester family’s archives

The medieval inn in Leicester where King Richard III slept before riding out to meet his fate at the battle of Bosworth has been recreated by the team of archaeologists and academics who dug up a local car park this summer searching for his bones.

News of their discovery of the remains of a man with a twisted spine and a gaping war wound, in the foundations of a long demolished abbey, created ripples of excitement around the world. Results of the scientific tests on the remains have not been announced, though there have been rumours that they proved inconclusive. Although DNA has been extracted from far older bones, the success of the technique depends on the quality of their preservation.

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Staffordshire hoard site yields further 90 fragments

Staffordshire hoard: part of a helmet was among the pieces unearthed in the Hammerwich field last month. Photograph: Staffordshire county council/PA

Gold and garnet cross and eagle-shaped mount among latest items unearthed by archaeologists in Hammerwich field

More gold and silver, including a gold and garnet cross, an eagle-shaped mount, and what could be a helmet cheek piece, have been churned up by ploughing in Staffordshire in the same field which three years ago yielded one of the most spectacular Anglo Saxon hauls.

When archaeologists first scoured farmer Fred Johnson's field in Hammerwich and discovered the hoard, which comprised more than 3,500 fragments of metalwork including sword, shield and helmet mounts inlaid with pieces of garnet and enamel, they left convinced they had emptied it of every scrap of treasure. Now a 90 further pieces have been found.

The workmanship in the new finds appears identical to pieces from the original haul; the helmet cheek piece appears to match one found three years ago.

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Medieval Blue Boar Inn rebuilt virtually

The Blue Boar Inn was medieval Leicester’s ‘Grand Hotel’ and is believed to be where King Richard III stayed the night before the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. With the aid of detailed drawings, produced shortly before the Blue Boar was demolished, Richard Buckley has overseen a project to produce a detailed scale model of the building.

A lost building reborn

The Blue Boar Inn is believed to have been built in the mid-15th century on medieval Leicester’s High Street — now Highcross Street. It was a large and elaborately decorated building, which would have housed wealthy aristocrats and merchants as they travelled through the country.

In the 1830s, the Inn was demolished – and until now, the only evidence for what it looked like consisted of a pair of engravings made by Leicestershire artist John Flower in 1826.

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Staffordshire Hoard: Gold fragments found in Hammerwich

About 90 more pieces of gold and silver believed to belong to the Staffordshire Hoard have been found.

The discovery was made by archaeologists in the same Staffordshire field at Hammerwich where 3,500 pieces were found in 2009.

Some of the new pieces are fragments that fit with parts of the original hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver.

They include a possible helmet cheek piece, a cross shaped mount and an eagle shaped mount.

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Flickering embers of camp fires from 7,000 years ago

Archaeologists are investigating a possible Mesolithic campsite in the North York Moors National Park. Picture: Jon Prudhoe, West Yorkshire Archaeology Service

Yorkshire’s oldest campsite could have been unearthed in a national park.

But this was no holiday destination. The site that is being investigated by archaeologists in North Yorkshire could provide rare evidence of a nomadic lifestyle dating backing more than 7,000 years.

They are investigating a possible Mesolithic campsite in the North York Moors National Park. Fieldwork has been carried out at a number of sites across north east Yorkshire and attention is now focused on a site at Goldsborough, near Whitby.

In the autumn more than 450 flint fragments were discovered, some of which are tools about 7,000 years old. Many are burnt, indicating the presence of camp fires or hearths.

Archaeologists say it is very rare to find evidence of Mesolithic people and this discovery is the culmination of a major project that has been searching for traces of them in north east Yorkshire. 

A spokesman for the project said: “Archaeological remains are rare from the Mesolithic period.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Saxon graves uncovered at St Margaret's

Five Saxon graves have been discovered by archaeologists at St Margaret’s. The graves were unearthed at The Droveway by Keith Parfitt, of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, who also discovered Dover’s Bronze Age Boat 20 years ago.

Items found in the graves, including a warrior’s shield, are now being cleaned so that they can be studied more closely. It is hoped they might be put on display at Dover Museum.

Mr Parfitt and his team had been called ahead of plans to build on the site and initial excavations indicated there may well be graves there.

A few weeks ago, before the builders moved in, the archaeologists carried out a more thorough excavation and found five graves. One was believed to have been that of an elderly woman where a brooch was found and another was of a warrior who was buried with his shield.

“The graves were quite widely spaced apart, unlike the Anglo Saxon cemetery which we uncovered at Buckland,” said Mr Parfitt.

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Archaeology: ‘Temple of Poseidon’ found in Bulgaria’s Sozopol

One of the buildings excavated in the Bulgarian Black Sea town of Sozopol appears to have been a temple to Poseidon, going by the discovery of a large and relatively well-preserved altar to the Greek god.

This is according to Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of Bulgaria’s National History Museum.

Archaeologists found the building in front of the medieval fortified wall of the seaside town, Dimitrov said.

He said that the numerous pieces of marble found during excavations indicate that after the declaration of Christianity as the office religion of the Roman empire in 330 CE, the emperor’s order to destroy the temples of other religions was carried out, followed by the building of houses of worship dedicated to Christian saints, with iconography with features similar to that of the ancient gods.

Dimitrov said that in Sozopol, there was an example of how a temple to the Thracian horseman in the centre of the old town was converted into a church dedicated to Saint George.

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Four Species of Homo You’ve Never Heard Of, Part II

The Broken Hill Skull (replica shown) was originally designated Homo rhodesiensis. Today, it’s typically considered a member of the species Homo heidelbergensis. Image: Gerbil/Wikicommons

The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Initiative counts seven species as belonging to the genus Homo. But that’s just a fraction of all the species that scientists have proposed for our genus. Over the years, as researchers have realized fossils from different groupings actually come from the same species, anthropologists have tossed out the names that are no longer valid. Last spring, I highlighted several of these now-obscure names, as well as some recently proposed species that are not universally accepted. Here’s a look at four more proposed species of Homo that you probably won’t find in human evolution text books or museum exhibits.

Homo antiquus: In 1984, Walter Ferguson of Israel’s Tel Aviv University declared that Australopithecus afarensis wasn’t a real species (PDF). At the time, the known fossils of A. afarensis came from the site of Hadar in Ethiopia and Laetoli in Tanzania. There was a lot of physical variation among the bones in this combined collection, but many anthropologists thought the diversity was simply due to size differences between male and female members of the species. Ferguson, however, believed the bones actually represented more than one species. Based on the size and shape of the molars, Ferguson concluded that some of the larger jaws at Hadar matched those of Australopithecus africanus, a species that had only been found in South Africa. Other jaws in the collection had smaller, narrower Homo-like teeth, he said. The roughly three-million-year-old fossils were too ancient to fit with any of the previously described members of the genus Homo, so Ferguson created a new species name—H. antiquus. Ferguson’s species splitting had a larger implication: If Australopithecus and Homo had lived side by side for hundreds of thousands of years, it was unlikely that australopithecines were the direct ancestors of Homo. Ferguson’s work must not have been convincing. Almost 30 years later, A. afarensis is still around and few people have ever heard of H. antiquus.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

University of Oxford Online Courses in Archaeology

Now is the time to enrol for Hilary term online courses in Archaeology.

Each courses lasts for 10 weeks, with the expectation of c. 10 hours study a week.  Students submit two short assignments.   

Successful completion of the courses carries a credit of 10 CATS Points.

CATS Points from these courses can now be used as part of the requirement for the new Certificate in Higher Education offered by the University of Oxford.

The following courses are available: (click on the title for further information)

Greek Mythology                  Origins of Human Behaviour               Pompey and the cities                                                                                                         of the Roman World

Ritual and Religion in Prehistory                          Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers

You can find general information about University of Oxford courses here...

Time Team: the rise and fall of a television phenomenon

In mid October an all-points bulletin was emailed to Time Team staff. It announced that after 20 seasons and over 230 episodes the programme was being axed by Channel 4. A few days later news of Time Team’s demise broke in the Guardian. It was a perfunctory end for a television institution that, over two decades, made British archaeology more accessible and popular than ever. Here we chart the highs and lows of a revolutionary format that aimed to bring archaeology to the people.

20 years is a long time in television. In the immediate aftermath of a programme’s cancellation it is traditional to attempt a post-mortem of what went wrong. But in this, as in so many other ways, Time Team bucks the trend. It is practically unheard of for a factual, specialist programme to spend two decades as the public face of its subject and become a national institution along the way. While Time Team unquestionably experienced problems, particularly in its final years, this much-loved show was an astonishing success, propelling modern archaeology into the public conscious as never before.

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Letter from France: Structural Integrity

Nearly 20 years of investigation at two rock shelters in southwestern France reveal the well-organized domestic spaces of Europe's earliest modern humans

During a car ride through France's Dordogne department, it doesn't take long to realize that you're no longer in wine country. Signs and billboards bearing words like "Cro Magnon" and "Prehistorie" and "Grotte" (French for "cave") are stationed along the highways and winding roads. Here, the claim to fame isn't the terroir, but a preponderance of Paleolithic sites, such as Lascaux, Pech Merle, and Font-de-Gaume, all of which hold some of Europe's earliest cave paintings. 

New York University archaeologist Randall White has spent the bulk of the last 18 years here investigating two collapsed rock shelters once inhabited by some of Europe's first modern humans. Abri Blanchard and its neighbor to the south, Abri Castanet, sit along a cliff face in the Castel Merle Valley, just beyond the quiet, 190-person commune of Sergeac. 

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The last battle of the Vikings

The Battle of Largs was the last time a Norwegian military force attacked Scotland
It was the battle which led to the end of Viking influence over Scotland, when a terrifying armada from Norway bore down on the Ayrshire town of Largs 750 years ago.

At the beginning of the 13th century the Firth of Clyde was frontier territory.

The mainland was Scottish but the islands of Bute and Cumbrae just across from Largs were Norse.
In fact, the whole of the Hebrides - a region known as Innse Gall - gave its allegiance to the Vikings from western Norway.

"It was a war just waiting to happen," says underwater archaeologist Dr Jon Henderson.

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Concert to tell story of King Richard III’s life through medieval music

The University of Leicester will hold a concert of medieval music which will tell the story of King Richard III’s life.

Members of the archaeological team behind the search for King Richard III are organising a concert featuring music from the times and places the King would have known.

The concert will be held on Friday 11 January at the Fraser Noble Hall in Leicester and will feature a trio of leading Early Music performers.

It coincides with the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, hosted by the University’s Centre for Historical Archaeology in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History.

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You may also be interested in this Oxford Experience Summer School course "The Lifeand Times of Richard III"

Further information...

Roman Settlement and Possible Prehistoric Site Uncovered in Northern Italy

Paolo Visonà, of the University of Kentucky, works with an Italian archaeologist to uncover the base of a Roman funerary altar. (Credit: Photo courtesy of UK School of Art and Visual Studies)

Over the summer a team of faculty and students from University of Kentucky discovered evidence of not just one lost community, but two in northern Italy. Using their archaeological expertise and modern technology, data was collected indicating the existence of a Roman settlement and below that, a possible prehistoric site.

Many years ago, archaeologist and art historian Paolo Visonà, a native of northern Italy and adjunct associate professor of art history in the UK School of Art and Visual Studies at the UK College of Fine Arts, first learned of a possible ancient settlement from a farmer in Valbruna, near the village of Tezze di Arzignano. While working his family's land, Battista Carlotto had discovered artifacts that looked to Visonà like ceramics, mosaic, and glass of the Roman Empire.

Curiosity of what lay beneath the farmland was piqued in both gentlemen. With the approval of Carlotto and with little time to waste due to growing development in the area, Visonà began to research historical accounts of the region. Manuscripts found in Vicenza's Bertoliana Library confirmed Visonà's suspicion; in the late 18th century witnesses had shared accounts of seeing a Roman city's remains in the vicinity.

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Tracing humanity's African ancestry may mean rewriting 'out of Africa' dates

U of A anthropologist Willoughby believes that the items found prove continuous occupation of the areas over the last 200,000 years, through what is known as the "genetic bottleneck" period of the last ice age. Credit: John Ulan/ University of Alberta

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U of A anthropologist Willoughby believes that the items found prove continuous occupation of the areas over the last 200,000 years, through what is known as the "genetic bottleneck" period of the last ice age. Credit: John Ulan/ University of Alberta

U of A researcher and anthropology chair Pamela Willoughby's explorations in the Iringa region of southern Tanzania yielded fossils and other evidence that records the beginnings of our own species, Homo sapiens. Her research, recently published in the journal Quaternary International, may be key to answering questions about early human occupation and the migration out of Africa about 60,000 to 50,000 years ago, which led to modern humans colonizing the globe. 

From two sites, Mlambalasi and nearby Magubike, she and members of her team, the Iringa Region Archaeological Project, uncovered artifacts that outline continuous human occupation between modern times and at least 200,000 years ago, including during a late Ice Age period when a near extinction-level event, or "genetic bottleneck," likely occurred. 

Now, Willoughby and her team are working with people in the region to develop this area for ecotourism, to assist the region economically and create incentives to protect its archeological history.

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Restoration of Roman tunnels gives a slave's eye view of Caracalla baths

 Tourists will see 'maniacal Roman perfection and incredible hydraulic technology' in labyrinth under Rome's Caracalla baths

The temple to Mithras under the Caracalla baths. Initiates to the cult would line in a niche and be drenched in the blood of sacrificed bulls. Photograph: Chris Warde-Jones

In the middle of a patch of grass amid the ruins of the Caracalla baths in Rome, there is a staircase that takes visitors deep into the ground to a world resembling the lair of a James Bond villain.

"This is our glimpse at maniacal Roman perfection, at incredible hydraulic technology," said archaeologist Marina Piranomonte, as she descended and waved at a network of high and wide tunnels, each measuring six metres (20ft) high and wide, snaking off into the darkness.

The baths, on a sprawling site slightly off the beaten track in a city crowded by monumental attractions, hold their own against the nearby Circus Maximus, its shattered walls standing 37 metres high, recalling its second century heyday when it pulled in 5,000 bathers a day.

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Mosaic Floor Unearthed in Didymoteicho

well-preserved archaeological finds have been discovered during this year’s excavations at what has been identified as the ancient Plotinopolis, situated in the outskirts of modern-day Didymoteicho, northeastern Greece. Plotinopolis was a Roman city founded by the Roman Emperor Traianus, who named it after his wife Plotini.

The hill of Aghia Petra, just outside Didymoteicho, has been the focus of archaeological interest since before World War II, while in 1965 a golden forged bust of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus was found there. From 1965 onward, the 19th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities has been conducting systematic excavations in the area.

The mosaics  unearthed, form part of the floor of a typical Roman triclinium, the formal dining room in Roman houses. Monstrous ichtyocentaurs and Nereids are depicted in the mosaic unearthed, along with portrayals of the God of Eurus River and Plotini.

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Ancient stage where Nero performed as actor found

Excavation work conducted at the ancient theatre of Nikopolis [Credit: Ethnos]

Part of the paved floor of the orchestra on which Nero once stood as an… actor has recently come to light by archaeologists at the Roman theatre of Nikopolis (Epirus).

Nikopolis (the city of victory) was founded in 31 BC by Octavian in memory of his victory over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium. In further celebration of his victory, he instituted the Actian games, in honor of Apollo Aktios, to be held every five years.

Emperor Nero visited Nikopolis in 66 AD. His visit was part of his tour of Greece. During his stay, he took part in the Actian games, namely in music and drama competitions. Coins were issued bearing the Emperor’s portrait as a sign of respect, while the city’s name changed to “Neronikopolis”.

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40,000 artefacts unearthed in Marmaray excavations

Not less than thirty two wrecks all over the history of this most major trade port 
have been discovered [Credit: Hurriyet]

Excavations conducted as part of the Marmaray Project, which will connect Europe and Asia with a railway tube under the Bosporus, continue to shed light on the history of İstanbul, having facilitated the discovery of around 40,000 historical artifacts since 2004.

Zeynep Kalkan, director of the İstanbul Archaeological Museum and head of the excavations, stated that 90 percent of the excavations have been completed. They have been carried out by 500 workers and 60 experts since 2004. Around 40,000 historical artifacts which revealed the 8,500-year history of İstanbul have been discovered by the excavation team.

During the archeological dig, 36 sunken ships -- 30 of which are merchant vessels equipped with sails and five of which are galleys propelled by rowers -- that sank between the fifth and 11th centuries have been uncovered.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Evidence of world's 'oldest' cheese-making found

The cheese thought to have been made was likely to be a soft, cow's milk type

Scientists may be one step closer to uncovering the origins of cheese-making, as evidence thousands of years old has been uncovered. What would a Neolithic cheese have tasted like?

Truly an ancient art, no-one really knows exactly when humans began making cheese.
But now milk extracts have been identified on 34 perforated pottery vessels or "cheese-strainers", which date back 7,500 years that have been excavated in Poland.

It is unambiguous evidence for cheese-making in northern Europe during Neolithic times, scientists believe, and the findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature.

"We analysed some fragments of pottery from the region of Kuyavia [Poland] pierced with small holes that looked like modern cheese-strainers," says Melanie Salque, a postgraduate student at the University of Bristol's Department of Chemistry.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Researchers find clues to the Baltic Crusades in animal bones, horses and the extinct aurochs

Stanford Assistant Professor Krish Seetah and Reading University student Rose Calis analyze animal bones in the basement of Riga Castle, Latvia. Credit: Aleks Pluskowski

Stanford researchers have discovered that pagan villages plundered by medieval knights during the little-known Baltic Crusades had some problems in common with the modern-day global village. 

Among them: deforestation, asymmetric warfare and species extinction. 

According to a research paper published in Science, a project investigating the Baltic Crusades' profound environmental legacy could yield valuable insight into colonialism, cultural changes and ecological exploitation – relevant issues not only throughout history, but especially in today's increasingly globalized society.

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Iron Age Feast Found in England

Remnants of an Iron-Age feast, including cattle skulls and 13 cauldrons, have been unearthed in Chiseldon, United Kingdom, according to a report in the latest British Archaeology The discovery marks the largest grouping of early cauldrons ever found in Europe. One cauldron features a handle plate in the form of a cow's head; zoomorphic decoration is otherwise unknown on a British cauldron.

"Analysis of the interiors of the cauldrons has even revealed traces of animal fats, a tantalizing suggestion that these objects might have been used in cooking and serving meat-rich stews at Iron-Age feasts over 2,000 ago," Julia Farley, curator of European Iron Age collections at the British Museum, told Discovery News. 

Farley's colleague Jody Joy, as well as Alexandra Baldwin and Jamie Hood from the museum, are still studying the artifacts, which were found buried in a 6.6-feet-wide pit. The cauldrons were made from iron and copper alloy in the second or first century B.C.

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Send for the bard! Carnyx discovery leaves archaeologists little the wiser

In the Asterix books, Cacofonix the bard is forbidden to sing because his voice causes wild boar, villagers, Normans and Romans alike to flee. But Cacofonix does play the carnyx, a long, slender trumpet-like instrument decorated with an animal's head at the top end, and used by the Celts in the last three centuries BC.

The Greek historian Polybius (206-126BC) was so impressed by the clamour of the Gallic army and the sound of the carnyx, he observed that, "there were countless trumpeters and horn blowers and since the whole army was shouting its war cries at the same time there was such a confused sound that the noise seemed to come not only from the trumpeters and the soldiers but also from the countryside which was joining in the echo".

When the remains of seven carnyx were unearthed recently, Christophe Maniquet, an archaeologist at Inrap, the national institute for preventive archaeological research (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives), was curious to find out exactly what sound it produced when it drove the Romans mad, or was used to call upon the god Toutatis.

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When Homo sapiens hit upon the power of art

A reindeer bone engraved with two reindeer, part of the ice age art show at the British Museum. Photograph: British Museum

A staggering collection of ice age artefacts from museums across Europe will showcase the explosion of technical and imaginative skill that experts say marked the human race's discovery of art

Rail engineer Peccadeau de l'Isle was supervising track construction outside Toulouse in 1866 when he decided to take time off to indulge his hobby, archaeology. With a crew of helpers, he began excavating below a cliff near Montastruc, where he dug up an extraordinary prehistoric sculpture. It is known today as the Swimming Reindeer of Montastruc.

Made from the 8in tip of a mammoth tusk, the carving, which is at least 13,000 years old, depicts two deer crossing a river. Their chins are raised and their antlers tipped back exactly as they would be when swimming. At least four different techniques were used to create this masterpiece: an axe trimmed the tusk, scrapers shaped its contours; iron oxide powder was used to polish it; and an engraving tool incised its eyes and other details.

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The Flores Hobbit's face revealed

An Australian anthropologist has used forensic facial reconstruction techniques to show, for the first time, how the mysterious Flores 'hobbit' might have once looked.

Homo floresiensis, as the hobbit is officially known, caused a storm of controversy when it was discovered in Flores, Indonesia in 2003. Some argued the hobbit was an entirely new species, while others suggested it may have simply been a diseased specimen of an existing human species. 

Using techniques she has previously applied to help police solve crimes, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong and specialist facial anthropologist, Dr Susan Hayes, moulded muscle and fat around a model of the hobbit's skull to flesh out her face. The results show a suprisingly familiar face, with high cheekbones, long ears and a broad nose.

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