Sunday, February 28, 2016

No Wool, No Vikings

Fosen Folk High School students sailing a square-sail-rigged boat in the Trondheim Fjord. Square sails were the norm in Viking days. Photo by Claire Eamer

Gray clouds hang low over the Trondheim Fjord, a huge, convoluted indentation in the central Norwegian coast. A gusting wind blows the tops off the waves, tosses rain in my face, and fills Braute’s great square sail. It heels over, water splashing over its leeward gunwale and through the oar-ports, soaking everyone on that side of the long, open, Viking-style wooden boat.

Braute is sailing out from Fosen Folk High School, located in Rissa, on the north shore of the fjord. I’m sharing a hard wooden bench with some of the school’s students—mostly young Norwegians, with a sprinkling of foreigners. They’ve just spent nine months studying traditional skills that date back to the Viking Age, from boatbuilding and sailing to traditional farming and wool working.

On this, the last trip of the school year, we’re heading for Utsetøya, a little island near the mouth of the fjord. That’s where the school’s small flock of sheep, which provides both meat and wool, runs wild for most of the year, hemmed in only by the sea. Most of Fosen’s student body is crammed aboard Braute and two other Viking-style boats, along with staff, food, mounds of camping gear, and one shivering Canadian journalist. The plan is to camp on the island for several nights, check on the flock, and collect next year’s supply of raw wool.

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Did the Vikings use crystal 'sunstones' to discover America?

Vikings may have used the interaction of sunlight with particular types of crystal to create a navigational aid that may even have worked in overcast conditions.

Leif Erikson discovers America. (Photo: Christian Krogh/Wikimedia Commons)

Ancient records tell us that the intrepid Viking seafarers who discovered Iceland, Greenland and eventually North America navigated using landmarks, birds and whales, and little else. There’s little doubt that Viking sailors would also have used the positions of stars at night and the sun during the daytime, and archaeologists have discovered what appears to be a kind of Viking navigational sundial. But without magnetic compasses, like all ancient sailors they would have struggled to find their way once the clouds came over.

However, there are also several reports in Nordic sagas and other sources of a sólarsteinn “sunstone”. The literature doesn’t say what this was used for but it has sparked decades of research examining if this might be a reference to a more intriguing form of navigational tool.

The idea is that the Vikings may have used the interaction of sunlight with particular types of crystal to create a navigational aid that may even have worked in overcast conditions. This would mean the Vikings had discovered the basic principles of measuring polarised light centuries before they were explained scientifically and which are today used to identify and measure different chemicals. Scientists are now getting closer to establishing if this form of navigation would have been possible, or if it is just a fanciful theory.

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World famous ancient Siberian Venus figurines 'are NOT Venuses after all'

Close microscopic inspection reveals them as being far from idealised female forms. 
Picture: Hermitage Museum

New groundbreaking research shows that a celebrated collection of prehistoric Venus figurines are - in fact - a fashion show of ordinary people of all ages from some 20,000 years ago.
Close microscopic inspection reveals them as being far from idealised female forms. Rather, many are male, and others are children, the new research shows. 

It's true that in the past some of the woolly mammoth tusk carvings were known to be clothed. Notably, these were called alluringly Venus in Furs figurines. They were dressed for protection from the Siberian winter, and are possibly the oldest known images anywhere in the world of sewn fur clothing. Yet even deep in Soviet times, the figurines were hailed for their feminine features, and seen as the idealised female form.

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Non-Destructive Testing Determines Diet From Teeth

CANTERBURY, ENGLAND—A team from the University of Kent, led by biological anthropologist Patrick Mahoney, used 3-D microscopic imaging to examine the teeth of children between the ages of one and eight years who lived near Canterbury Cathedral during the medieval period. Dental micro-wear texture analysis allowed the researchers to measure microscopic changes in the surface topography of the teeth without damaging them, and offered clues to how hard the food was that the children had been eating. The team found that weaning had begun for the youngest children, and that their diets became tougher at the age of four.

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Engraved Mesolithic pendant unearthed in the UK

An 11,000 year old engraved shale pendant discovered by archaeologists during excavations at the Early Mesolithic site at Star Carr in North Yorkshire is unique in the UK, according to new research. 

The sacred prehistoric stone pendant, discovered by archaeologists in Yorkshire. It was probably worn by a shaman carrying out hunting-related rituals 
[Credit: Harry Robson , University of York] 

The artwork on the tiny fragile pendant, uncovered by a research team from the Universities of York, Manchester and Chester, is the earliest known Mesolithic art in Britain. Crafted from a single piece of shale, the subtriangular three-millimetre thick artefact measuring 31mm by 35mm contains a series of lines which archaeologists believe may represent a tree, a map, a leaf or even tally marks. 

Engraved motifs on Mesolithic pendants are extremely rare and no other engraved pendants made of shale are known in Europe.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

France's earliest 'Muslim burials' found

The individuals appear to have been buried in accordance with Islamic rites

Researchers have identified what may be the earliest Muslim burials in France.

The three skeletons unearthed at Nimes show indications of Islamic burial rites and are thought to date to the eighth century AD.

A team used DNA, radiocarbon dating and archaeological analysis to show the individuals may have been North African soldiers from a brief occupation of southern France by an Islamic army.

Details of the analysis are published in the journal Plos One.

In each of the three graves, the bodies were placed on their right-hand sides facing south-east - in the direction of Mecca. The way the burial pit was dug, with a lateral niche closed off by slabs or stones also corresponds to a traditional Islamic burial practice.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Tourists in their millions are 'wearing out Pompeii'

The Temple of Apollo, one of the areas most affected by heavy foot-fall. 
Photo: Ian Scott/Flickr

Tourists on cruises are being advised to change their itineraries and check out lesser-known archaeological sites.

Last week, the five towns of Cinque Terre announced that they could no longer cope with the barrage of tourists making their way along the breathtaking coastal walkways. Tourist numbers will be capped and once the daily limit is reached, no more people will be allowed into the Unesco site.

It seems that Pompeii too is struggling from the high numbers of visitors traipsing round the ancient site - and one group in particular is thought to be to blame.

"Cruise-tourists are wearing out the ruins of Pompeii. The entrance steps of the Temple of Apollo, in particular, have been ruined by the influx of tourists,” claimed Adele Lagi, from Unesco, at a conference organized by the non-profit organization I Love Pompeii.

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Six breathtaking Roman ruins that you've never heard of

The bikini isn't as modern as you might think. Photo: Kenton Greening

 Italy has so much history that it's hard to know where to visit when the weekend arrives. Here are six uniquely, fascinating and downright spiffing Roman sites that are well worth a visit.

The Anfiteatro Campano in Campania was built in the first century AD and is 49m high, with a circumference of 170 metres. It once hosted thousands of baying, bloodthirsty Romans who came to watch gladiators perform.

Although the ruin might not be quite as well preserved as the Flavian Ampitheater in Rome, a visitor ticket costs just €2.50 – some €10 less than the price of a visit to the Colosseum.

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Neanderthals mated with modern humans much earlier than previously thought, study finds

COLD SPRING HARBOR LABORATORY—Cold Spring Harbor, NY - Using several different methods of DNA analysis, an international research team has found what they consider to be strong evidence of an interbreeding event between Neanderthals and modern humans that occurred tens of thousands of years earlier than any other such event previously documented.

Today in Nature the team publishes evidence* of interbreeding that occurred an estimated 100,000 years ago. More specifically the scientists provide the first genetic evidence of a scenario in which early modern humans left the African continent and mixed with archaic (now-extinct) members of the human family prior to the migration "out of Africa" of the ancestors of present-day non-Africans, less than 65,000 years ago.

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Dunwich: The storms that destroyed 'lost town'

In the 11th Century Dunwich was the 10th largest town in England

Evidence of violent storms that destroyed a lost town known as Britain's Atlantis has been uncovered.

The finds were uncovered off the coast of Dunwich, Suffolk - a small village which in the 11th Century was one of the largest towns in England.

The town was hit by a succession of storms in the 13th and 14th centuries and is now largely below the sea.

Researchers said sediment gathered from the cliffs independently corroborated the historical record.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Remains Found of 7,000-Year-Old Man Buried Upright

The young man was buried in a vertical pit in a 8,500-year-old cemetery, one of the oldest ever found in Europe.

A Mesolithic site in Germany has revealed the 7,000-year-old remains of a young man buried there in a strange upright position.

Placed in a vertical pit, the body was fixed upright by filling the grave with sand up to the knees. The upper body was left to decay and was likely picked at by scavengers.

The unique burial was found near the village of Groß Fredenwalde, on top of a rocky hill in northeastern Germany, about 50 miles north of Berlin.

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Medieval trading ship raised to surface 'almost intact' after 500 years on riverbed in Netherlands

Divers helped to excavate the "cog" before making it stable for removal  
YouTube, Ukraine Today

A medieval ship has been raised after half a millenium of resting on a riverbed in The Netherlands.
Archaeologists have confirmed that the find is a 15th century "cog" - a trading vessel used to sail the North and Baltic Seas, according to Sky News.

While evacuating the port of the city of Kampen, construction workers came across the skeleton of the ship underwater beneath sand and silt.

It measures approximately 20 metres by eight, weighs about 40 tonnes, and is believed to have lain there for about 500 years.

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Anglo Saxon gold mount 'mystery' in Norfolk

The triangular gold mount, found near Fakenham, is less that an inch in width and length

A "mystery" gold mount found in a Norfolk field has provided "another piece of the jigsaw" for historians looking for Anglo-Saxon settlements. 

The item was found near Fakenham and is possibly from a sword grip, but experts say it has differences to similar finds.

Dr Andrew Rogerson, county archaeologist, said: "It's a fragment, but there's no context for it."
No evidence of dwellings has ever been found in the village.

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Archaeologists Discover Late Roman Graves at Ancient Thracian Tomb Ostrusha near Bulgaria’s Kazanlak

Two of the three graves from the Late Roman period found at the Ostrusha Tomb near Bulgaria’s Kazanlak and Shipka. Photo: Archaeologist Meglena Parvin / TV grab from PressTV

Three funerals from the Late Roman period have been discovered during recent excavations at the Ostrusha Tomb, one of the most famous Ancient Thracian burial mounds (tumuli) in the Valley of Thracian Kings near the town of Kazanlak in Central Bulgaria.

The three graves, which date back to the second half of the 4th century AD, were found during rescue excavations in the late fall of 2015 by archaeologist Diana Dimitrova from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia and Meglena Parvin from the Iskra Museum of History in Kazanlak.

Their findings have just been presented during the 35th Regional Conference of the Archaeologists from Southeast Bulgaria hosted by the Museum in Kazanlak, which featured 15 participants with 11 reports, reports Darik Stara Zagora.

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1st Century bar? Archaeological find in France offers glimpse into ancient tavern

Finally a decent place to eat! Archaeologists digging in southern France have found a restaurant-like structure roughly 2,100 years old, making it one of the earliest such taverns in the western Mediterranean.

The dining complex in the ancient town of Lattara was open for business as the Romans conquered the area, bringing with them ideas that would shake up the local economy and way of life. According to the tavern’s discoverers, Lattara’s people were farmers before the Romans marched in; after the Roman takeover, new kinds of jobs likely arose – and so did dining out.

“If you’re not growing your own food, where are you going to eat?” says archaeologist Benjamin Luley of Gettysburg College, co-author of a new study in Antiquity describing the site. “The Romans, in a very practical Roman way, had a very practical solution … a tavern.”

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Bronze Age wheel at 'British Pompeii' Must Farm an 'unprecedented find'

A complete Bronze Age wheel believed to be the largest and earliest of its kind found in the UK has been unearthed.

The 3,000-year-old artefact was found at a site dubbed "Britain's Pompeii", at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire.

Archaeologists have described the find - made close to the country's "best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings" - as "unprecedented".

Still containing its hub, the 3ft-diameter (one metre) wooden wheel dates from about 1,100 to 800 BC.

The wheel was found close to the largest of one of the roundhouses found at the settlement last month.

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Perfectly preserved bronze age wheel unearthed in Cambridgeshire

The largest and most perfectly preserved bronze age wheel ever discovered in the UK, made of oak planks almost 3,000 years ago, has emerged from a site in Cambridgeshire dubbed a Fenland Pompeii.

“This site is one continuing surprise, but if you had asked me, a perfectly preserved wheel is the last thing I would have expected to find,” said the site director, Mark Knight, from the Cambridge university archaeology unit. “On this site objects never seen anywhere else tend to turn up in multiples, so it’s certainly not impossible we’ll go on to find another even better wheel.”

Archaeologists are carefully excavating the wheel, which was found still attached to its hub and scorched by fire that destroyed the settlement built on stilts over a tributary of the river Nene.

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Scientists Can Now 3D Print Otzi The Mummified Ice Man

Otzi, for those not up on their 5,300-year-old mummified men, died and was frozen in the Alps near Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. His body is one of the best preserved human mummies in Europe and now he’s getting a 3D-printed makeover.

Researchers and engineers have worked together with 3D-printing firm Materialise to perfectly scan Otzi. This allows researchers to 3D print his tortured frame over and over again and, in an interesting episode of Nova, an artist will create a perfect replica of the mummy for study by researchers and potential museum-goers. Otzi, for his part, his hanging out in a climate-controlled vault in Italy so he doesn’t degenerate.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Lost in Translation? Ibn Fadlan and the Great Unwashed

Lost in Translation? Ibn Fadlan and the Great Unwashed

14–15 March 2016 

MBI Al Jaber Building, Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Ibn Fadlan’s vivid eye-witness report of his mission to the Bulgars on the Middle Volga in 921/2 is probably one of the most widely known and intensively studied of early Arabic texts. Yet the importance of Ibn Fadlan and his mission has yet to receive a full and rounded assessment.

Our two-day interdisciplinary conference will draw on historians, numismatists, textual scholars and archaeologists and will attempt to set Ibn Fadlan’s account within the broader context of tenth-century Europe, the Islamic world and the Eurasian steppes.

Further details...

Effort to unlock secrets of 3,700-year-old woman 'Ava'

A skull and other remains were found at a Middle Bronze Age burial site almost 30 years ago

An archaeologist hopes to gain new insights into the life of a young woman who died more than 3,700 years ago.

The woman's bones, including a skull and teeth, were discovered at Achavanich in Caithness in 1987.
Unusually, she was buried in a pit dug into solid rock and her skull is an abnormal shape which some suggest was done deliberately using bindings.

Maya Hoole believes advances in technology could reveal more about the remains known as "Ava".

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FOCUS ON TUVA: Stunning treasures - and macabre slaughter - in Siberia's Valley of the Kings

In all, some 9,300 decorative gold pieces were found here, not including the 'uncountable golden beads'. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

The royal tomb known as Arzhan 2 in the modern-day Republic of Tuva - to many, the most mysterious region in all Russia - is some 2,600 years old but its valuables match any trove from any era anywhere in the world. 

Here inside a mound 80 metres wide was buried a warrior tsar with a sway that plainly reached over a vast territory of mountains and steppes, and whose magnificent possessions indicated close contacts with other civilisations.

Forget the notion of barbaric Siberian nomadic tribes in this epoch: well, don't quite forget. These ancient warriors used the skulls of their vanquished foes as drinking cups, according to no less an authority than Greek historian Herodotus.

And this queen or concubine was almost certainly sacrificed to that she could be buried beside the dead ruler. And yet, as the pictures show, their exceptional artwork predates the influence of the Greeks, and displays a high degree of sophistication.

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New-found ruin could be linked to Massacre of Glencoe

The site in Glen Coe where the turf building was found

Archaeologists are to investigate the remains of a turf house building that they believe could have a connection to the Massacre of Glencoe.

The ruin was recently discovered at Achtriochtan, one of the places where some of the 38 murdered members of the MacDonald clan lived.

The killings in Glen Coe in February 1692 were carried out on the orders of the government.
A National Trust for Scotland team will visit the site next week.

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Mysterious Graves Discovered at Ancient European Cemetery

This six-month-old baby is one of the oldest infant skeletons found in Europe. It was buried 8,400 years ago by hunter-gatherers near Berlin.

One of the oldest cemeteries in Europe has recently been discovered, with graves dating back almost 8,500 years. Two of the most intriguing finds are the skeleton of a six-month-old child and a mysterious upright burial of a man in his early 20s.
The German cemetery, called Gross Fredenwalde after a nearby village, belongs to a time known as the Mesolithic, when Europe was populated by hunter-gatherers. At a press conference Thursday morning in Berlin, excavators announced that nine skeletons have been uncovered on the hilltop burial site so far, five of them children younger than 6 years old. And the researchers found ample evidence that more graves remain unexcavated.
“It’s rare for the Mesolithic to find multiple graves in one place,” says forensic anthropologist Bettina Jungklaus, who excavated one of the bodies. “They were mobile people, ranging over the landscape.”

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Monumental Roman arcade found in Britain

It is rare to find the remains of the above-ground parts of Roman buildings in Colchester. Generally only the foundations of buildings survive and, even then, these more often than not have been partly or wholly dug up in the past to rob out the building materials which they contain. Fortunately, things are different at 97 High Street because, not only are there parts of a collapsed Roman building there, but the original structure just happens to have been something extra special – an impressive arcade of monumental proportions. 

Monumental Roman arcade found in Britain The arcade is unique in size, built in monumental proportions [Credit: The Colchester Archaeological Trust] 

The arcade was over 100 metres long and perhaps 8 metres or more in height. Its exact plan is yet to be recovered, but the arcade appears to have been made up of a square monumental gate flanked on each side by 12 or so arches to make about 24 in all. This impressive structure provided a grand entrance into the precinct of the Temple of Claudius. Both structures are unparalleled in Britain and are on a scale with buildings in Rome. A similar arcade is currently being investigated in Picardy in France, at the small town of Pont-Sainte-Maxence about 25 miles north of Paris. This arcade is of unprecedented scale in Gaul but it is significantly smaller than ours in Colchester.

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Ancient Greek manuscripts reveal life lessons from the Roman empire

How to live, the Latin way. A 12th-century manuscript with material copied from the earlier texts – an important source for Professor Dickey in her research. 
Photograph: Zisterzienserstift Zwettl

Ever been unsure about how to deal with a drunken family member returning from an orgy? A collection of newly translated textbooks aimed at Greek speakers learning Latin in the ancient world might hold the solution.
Professor Eleanor Dickey travelled around Europe to view the scraps of material that remain from ancient Latin school textbooks, or colloquia, which would have been used by young Greek speakers in the Roman empire learning Latin between the second and sixth centuries AD. The manuscripts, which Dickey has brought together and translated into English for the first time in her forthcoming book Learning Latin the Ancient Way: Latin Textbooks in the Ancient World, lay out everyday scenarios to help their readers get to grips with life in Latin. Subjects range from visiting the public baths to arriving at school late – and dealing with a sozzled close relative.

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bronze Age burial near Stonehenge discovered by badger

A Bronze Age cremation burial has been discovered near Stonehenge after being accidentally dug up by a badger.

Objects found in a burial mound at Netheravon, Wiltshire, include a bronze saw, an archer's wrist guard, a copper chisel and cremated human remains.

Experts believe the burial may have been that of an archer or a person who made archery equipment. 

The artefacts date back to 2,200-2,000BC, senior archaeologist Richard Osgood, of the MOD, said.

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Archaeologists uncover buried village on Anglesey

Remains of a house found at Rhuddgaer, near Newborough by 
the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust

Archaeologists in Gwynedd have discovered what is thought to be a buried village on Anglesey.

The discovery was made at Rhuddgaer, near Newborough, following a survey using technology to map out buried features without digging holes.

The village is believed to date back to the 7th or 8th Century, after the Romans had fled Britain.

The Gwynedd Archaeological Trust said: "We don't have any others to compare it to as this is a first."

Volunteers joined students and staff from Bangor University to revisit the location where a fourth or fifth Century coffin was found in the 1870s. The coffin is now in Bangor Museum.

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Iron cannon found during Portsmouth harbour dredging

The cannon was found by contractors working to widen and deepen Portsmouth Harbour

An iron cannon has been unearthed during dredging work on Portsmouth Harbour.

The relic was recovered during a seabed clearance to prepare for the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. 

Experts believe, although cannons can indicate the presence of unknown shipwrecks, it was an "isolated discovery".

It is being held at the Mary Rose Museum before tests are carried out to determine its age.

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Clues about human migration to Imperial Rome uncovered in 2,000-year-old cemetery

Isotope analysis of 2000-year-old skeletons buried in Imperial Rome reveal some were migrants from the Alps or North Africa, according to a study published February 10, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Kristina Killgrove from University of West Florida, USA, and Janet Montgomery from Durham University, UK.

Previous work has focused on the overall human migration patterns within the Roman Empire. To understand human migration on a more granular level, the authors of this study examined 105 skeletons buried at two Roman cemeteries during the 1st through 3rd centuries AD. They analyzed the oxygen, strontium, and carbon isotope ratios in the skeletons' teeth to determine their geographical origin and diet.

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Remains of 'extraordinary' Roman arcade found in Colchester

Ruins of the 120-metre-long Roman arcade - the largest of its kind in Britain - discovered in Colchester beneath land intended for new apartments 

An artist's impression of the frontal structure for the Temple of Claudius, named after the Emperor Claudius (inset) Photo: RMR Freelance Art/Archant/Alamy

The remains of Britain’s largest Roman covered walkway have been uncovered in one of the most spectacular archaeological finds in decades. 
The ruins of the 120-metre-long walkway, or arcade, were found in Colchester, beneath land intended for a new apartment block. 

Consisting of a covered walkway, enclosed by a line of arches on both sides, to provide shelter for pedestrians, it was built as the frontal structure for the Temple of Claudius, erected around 50 years earlier.  

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700-year-old Danish 'Civil War' coins uncovered

The instability of the era is said to be reflected in the poor quality minting and low silver content of the coins. Photo: Viborg Museum

A hoard of 700 year-old coins has been found by a group of metal detectors in a Jutland field being excavated by archaeologists, the Viborg Museum announced on Wednesday. 

Coins dating back to a tumultuous period of civil war in Denmark were found in a field south of Foulum and are being put on display at the Viborg Museum.

The museum said that three members of the Central Jutland Detector Society (Midtjysk Detektorforening) discovered the mediaeval coins, which are thought to have been hidden during the first half of the 1300s, a period of internal unrest in Denmark which culminated in a temporary end of royal rule.

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9,200-year-old settlement discovered in Sweden

The discovery of the world's oldest storage of fermented fish in southern Sweden could rewrite the Nordic prehistory with findings indicating a far more complex society than previously thought. The unique discovery by osteologist Adam Boethius from Lund University was made when excavating a 9,200 year-old settlement at what was once a lake in Blekinge, Sweden. 9,200-year-old settlement discovered in Sweden 

Excavation team in Blekinge, Sweden [Credit: Lund University] 

"Our findings of large-scale fish fermentation, a traditional way of preserving fish, indicate that not only was this area settled at that time, it was also able to support a large community," says Adam Boethius, whose findings are now being published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. 

The discovery is also an indication that Nordic societies were far more developed 9,200 years ago than what was previously believed. The findings are important as it is usually argued that people in the north lived relatively mobile lives, while people in the Levant -- a large area in the Middle East -- became settled and began to farm and raise cattle much earlier.

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Freilegung des "Herren von Boilstädt" abgeschlossen

Das Highlight der Ausgrabungen im Zuge von Bauarbeiten zur Ortsumfahrung Gotha-Sundhausen in den Jahren 2012 und 2013 waren zwei frühmittelalterliche Bestattungen, die im Block geborgen wurden. Die Freilegung der beiden Bestattungen und die Restaurierung der Funde sind nun abgeschlossen und wurden heute der Öffentlichkeit präsentiert.

Anlässlich der Bauarbeiten zur Ortsumfahrung Gotha-Sundhausen wurden von August 2012 bis November 2013 archäologische Ausgrabungen durch das Thüringische Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie (TLDA) nötig. Bei einer Trassenlänge von rund 3 km wurden insgesamt 2,5 ha ausgegraben. Es konnten dabei Befunde unterschiedlicher Zeitstellung dokumentiert werden, darunter eine Siedlung der jungsteinzeitlichen sog. Linearbandkeramik (ab 5500 v. Chr.), eine Siedlung der frühen Bronzezeit (um 2000 v. Chr.), Grabhügel der späten Bronzezeit (ca. 1000 v. Chr.) sowie Siedlungspuren und Bestattungen aus der Eisenzeit (ca. 500 v. Chr.) bis ins frühe Mittelalter.

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Friday, February 05, 2016

Legal bid fails to rebury remains of 2,500 year old tattooed 'ice princess'

After archeologists dug up the ancient mummy - preserved in permafrost - natural disasters were unleashed in Siberia, court told.

A mannequin - an exact replica - is displayed in the museum but on 'special occasions' VIPs would be 'provided the opportunities to see the real mummy'. Picture:

An appeal will be launched after a court this week rejected a demand by the the leader of the Teles ethnic group in the Altai Mountains to order the reburial of the world famous tattooed remains of 'Princess Ukok', dug from her tomb in 1993 by leading Russian archeologists.

A court in Gorno-Altaisk rejected his lawsuit, allowing the relic to remain in the care of the National Museum in the city, capital of the Altai Republic.

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DNA evidence uncovers major upheaval in Europe near end of last Ice Age

A photograph of les Closeaux at Rueil-Malmaison, Paris Basin, France. Credit: L. Lang

DNA evidence lifted from the ancient bones and teeth of people who lived in Europe from the Late Pleistocene to the early Holocene—spanning almost 30,000 years of European prehistory—has offered some surprises, according to researchers who report their findings in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on Feb. 4, 2016. Perhaps most notably, the evidence shows a major shift in the population around 14,500 years ago, during a period of severe climatic instability.

"We uncovered a completely unknown chapter of human history: a major population turnover in Europe at the end of the last Ice Age," says leading author Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.

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Historic church discovered in Turkey’s Nevşehir ‘could change history of Orthodoxy’

Another historical church has been discovered underground during excavations in Turkey’s Cappadocia region, with experts saying the frescoes inside could change the history of Orthodoxy


Yet another historical church has been unearthed in the Cappadocia region of Central Anatolia and experts are excited about its frescoes, which depict scenes hitherto unseen.

 The church was uncovered by archeologists during excavation and cleaning work in an underground city discovered as part of the Nevşehir Castle Urban Transformation Project, implemented by the Nevşehir Municipality and Turkey’s Housing Development Administration (TOKI). 

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Humans evolved by sharing technology and culture

Blombos Cave in South Africa has given us vast knowledge about our early ancestors. In 2015, four open access articles, with research finds from Blombos as a starting point, have been published in the journal PLOS ONE. 

Humans evolved by sharing technology and culture This image shows Blombos Cave, South Africa [Credit: University of Bergen] 

"We are looking mainly at the part of South Africa where Blombos Cave is situated. We sought to find out how groups moved across the landscape and how they interacted," says Christopher S. Henshilwood, Professor at the University of Bergen (UiB) and University of the Witwatersrand and one of the authors of the articles.

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Europe’s First Modern Humans May Have Been Replaced

TÜBINGEN, GERMANY—A new genetic study suggests that some 50,000 years ago, all non-Africans dispersed rapidly from a single population, and that around 14,500 years ago, there was a major turnover of the population in Europe. Researchers reconstructed the mitochondrial genomes of 35 hunter-gatherers who lived in Italy, Germany, Belgium, France, the Czech Republic, and Romania between 35,000 and 7,000 years ago.

The mitochondrial DNA of three of these individuals, who lived in what is now Belgium and France more than 25,000 years ago, belonged to haplogroup M. Haplogroup M is now very common in Asian, Australasian, and Native American populations, but had not been found in Europe, leading to the argument for multiple migrations. “When the Last Glacial Maximum began around 25,000 years ago, hunter-gatherer populations retreated south to a number of putative refugia, and the consequent genetic bottleneck probably resulted in the loss of this haplogroup,” Cosimo Posth of the University of Tübingen said in a press release

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From genes to latrines: Vikings and their worms provide clues to emphysema

In a paper published today in Nature: Scientific Reports a group of researchers led by LSTM have found that the key to an inherited deficiency, predisposing people to emphysema and other lung conditions, could lie in their Viking roots.
Archaeological excavations of Viking latrine pits in Denmark have revealed that these populations suffered massive worm infestations (link is external). The way that their genes developed to protect their vital organs from disease caused by worms has become the inherited trait which can now lead to lung disease in smokers. 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema affect over 300 million people, or nearly 5% of the global population. The only inherited risk factor is alpha-1-antitrypsin (A1AT) deficiency, and this risk is compounded if individuals smoke tobacco.

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Viking 'sunstones' put to the test

Ancient records tell us that the intrepid Viking seafarers who discovered Iceland, Greenland and eventually North America navigated using landmarks, birds and whales, and little else. There's little doubt that Viking sailors would also have used the positions of stars at night and the sun during the daytime, and archaeologists have discovered what appears to be a kind of Viking navigational sundial. But without magnetic compasses, like all ancient sailors they would have struggled to find their way once the clouds came over. 

Viking 'sunstones' put to the test Leif Erikson discovers America 
[Credit: Christian Krogh/WikiCommons] 

However, there are also several reports in Nordic sagas and other sources of a sólarsteinn "sunstone". The literature doesn't say what this was used for but it has sparked decades of research examining if this might be a reference to a more intriguing form of navigational tool.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Headteacher mocked on Twitter for claiming evolution is not a fact

Richard Dawkins weighs in on social media debate after Christina Wilkinson said there was ‘more evidence that Bible is true’

Christina Wilkinson, who runs a Church of England school, sparked a social media row with her remarks. Photograph: St Andrew’s C of E primary

A primary school headteacher has been mocked on Twitter after claiming that evolution was “a theory” and there was “more evidence that the Bible is true”.

Christina Wilkinson, of St Andrew’s Church of England school in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, made the remarks in a tweet responding to London headteacher Tom Sherrington, who urged teachers to stick to science when teaching the origins of life.

Wilkinson wrote: “Evolution is not a fact. That’s why it’s called a theory! There’s more evidence that the Bible is true.”

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Rome's lonely Pyramid of Cestius gets a new lease of life

Eternal City’s only surviving pyramid dating from conquest of Egypt looks to attract more visitors after extensive clean-up funded by Japanese patron

The Pyramid of Cestius in Rome is the city’s only such monument. Photograph: Domenico Stinellis/AP

Rome’s only surviving pyramid from ancient times is being put in the spotlight after a Japanese clothing magnate helped pay for an ambitious cleanup.

Archaeologists are eager to show off the monument, constructed around 2,000 years ago as the burial tomb for a Roman praetor, or magistrate, named Caius Cestius.

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