Monday, March 30, 2020

Two of Europe’s Biggest Cairns are About to Be Buried in Trash


Two of the biggest European cairns are facing destruction in the World Heritage city of Maulbronn, Germany. If it happens, the prehistoric monuments would be lost and scientific investigation impossible. This would be extremely unfortunate for all the citizens who would like to see these huge prehistoric cairns restored – not buried under trash.

If the present owners of the city’s quarry - Lauster-Steinbruch Stuttgarter Straße - had their way, the mighty buildings would be sold to the landfill operator Fischer in Weilheim and be covered by 400,000 cubic meters of construction waste.

The Massive Cairns of Maulbronn
In the archaeology of Western Europe these impressive relics are generally referred to as megalithic cairns , but they are totally undervalued in Maulbronn. In other parts of Europe, these monuments have been investigated and restored for almost 70 years.

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New Sutton Hoo Movie Rights the Wrongs of Archaeological Snobbery


The new Sutton Hoo movie, called The Dig, that is due to be released on Netflix is going to tell the real story behind one of Britain’s greatest archaeological discoveries. It dramatizes the excavation at Sutton Hoo in England that changed our understanding of the history of Europe in the Dark Ages . It will also address a decades-old injustice and finally gives credit to the amateur archaeologist who was behind the historic discovery.

The movie focuses on the discoveries made at Sutton Hoo in Eastern England, by a self-taught archaeologist, Basil Brown, who was born near Ipswich in 1888. He had been a farmer, milkman and woodcutter, before securing a job with Ipswich Museum. Brown was poor and had no formal education in archaeology, but he had made some important historical finds in previous years. Brown was a simple country fellow and often used string to hold up his work pants.

Sutton Hoo Movie Tells Story of Eccentric Genius
In 1938 a local widow by the name of Edith Pretty asked Ipswich Museum to excavate some 18 mounds on her land. These were well-known to locals and were the source of many legends. The museum sent out Brown, who was the only person available to investigate the site and he was later helped by Mrs. Pretty’s gardener and gamekeeper.

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7 Historic European Castles Virtually Rebuilt Before Your Very Eyes

A reconstruction of Spiš Castle in eastern Slovakia.
BUDGET DIRECT

While some centuries-old castles are still standing tall, others haven’t withstood the ravages of time, war, or natural disaster quite as well. To give you an idea of what once was, Australia-based insurance company Budget Direct has digitally reconstructed seven of them for its blog, Simply Savvy.

Watch below as ruins across Europe transform back into the formidable forts and turreted castles they used to be, courtesy of a little modern-day magic we call GIF technology.

1. SAMOBOR CASTLE // SAMOBOR, CROATIA

The only remaining piece of the 13th-century castle built by Bohemia’s King Ottokar II is the base of the guard tower—the rest of the ruins are from an expansion that happened about 300 years later. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Croatian city of Samobor, which bought the property in 1902.

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Defiant British Museum appoints Mary Beard as trustee

Professor Mary Beard, who has been appointed as a trustee of the British Museum. 
Photograph: Michael Bowles/Rex/Shutterstock

Board approves the ‘perfect candidate’ after she was rejected by No 10 for her pro-European views.

Renowned classicist Mary Beard has been chosen as a trustee of the British Museum, despite Downing Street blocking her nomination last year because of her pro-European views.

Under the museum’s constitution, its board can pick five of the 25 trustees. Downing Street approves most of the others and after it rejected Beard, the board appointed her itself.

The Cambridge don, who will take up the role for an initial period of four years on Monday, said she was delighted. “It was a visit to the BM which first inspired me to work on the ancient world,” she told the Observer. “I have been a huge beneficiary of this and other museums in the country over the past 60 years, and am now delighted to be able to give something back.”

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

How Stone Age humans unlocked the glucose in plants

Ground stones were a 'major evolutionary success' as they allowed people to unlock the energy in plants by making flour. 
Image credit - José-Manuel Benito Álvarez/Wikimedia commons

Early cave paintings of hunting scenes may give the impression our Stone Age ancestors lived mainly on chunks of meat, but plants – and the ability to unlock the glucose inside – were just as key to their survival. 

Plants rich in starch helped early humans to thrive even at the height of the last Ice Age, researchers say.

While the evidence around meat eating is clear, the role of plant foods is less understood. Animal bones can last millions of years and still show cuts made by human butchering tools, whereas almost all plant remains disintegrate.

But new studies into the remains of plants that do exist are uncovering why and how our ancestors ate them.

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Bone analyzes tell about kitchen utensils in the Middle Ages


Clay pots? Wooden spoons? Copper pots? Silver forks? What materials has man used for making kitchen utensils throughout history? A new study now sheds light on the use of kitchen utensils made of copper.

At first thought, you would not expect hundreds of years old bones from a medieval cemetery to be able to tell you very much – let alone anything about what kinds of kitchen utensils were used to prepare food.

But when you put such a bone in the hands of Professor Kaare Lund Rasmussen, the bone begins to talk about the past.

A warehouse full of bones
- For the first time, we have succeeded in tracing the use of copper cookware in bones. Not in isolated cases, but in many bones over many years, and thus we can identify trends in historical use of copper in the household, he explains.

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Neanderthals ate sharks and dolphins

There is evidence of the intensive and long-term exploitation of marine food resources at Figueira Brava JOAO ZILHÃO

Neanderthals were eating fish, mussels and seals at a site in present-day Portugal, according to a new study.

The research adds to mounting evidence that our evolutionary relatives may have relied on the sea for food just as much as ancient modern humans.

For decades, the ability to gather food from the sea and from rivers was seen as something unique to our own species.

Scientists found evidence for an intensive reliance on seafood at a Neanderthal site in southern Portugal.

Neanderthals living between 106,000 and 86,000 years ago at the cave of Figueira Brava near Setubal were eating mussels, crab, fish - including sharks, eels and sea bream - seabirds, dolphins and seals.

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HABITATS ET SÉPULTURES DU NÉOLITHIQUE AU HALLSTATT À BRÉVIANDES (AUBE)


À​ Bréviandes (Aube), une fouille de l’Inrap a livré des habitats et des sépultures du Néolithique ancien jusqu’au Néolithique récent. La Protohistoire est également représentée sur le site avec une trace d’occupation au Bronze ancien, une nécropole du Bronze final et une fosse de combustion du Hallstatt ancien à début moyen.

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Cave find shows Neanderthals collected seafood, scientists say

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal created for the Natural History Museum in London. 
Photograph: Richard Gray/Alamy

Neanderthals made extensive use of coastal environments, munching on fish, crabs and mussels, researchers have found, in the latest study to reveal similarities between modern humans and our big-browed cousins.

Until now, many Neanderthal sites had shown only small-scale use of marine resources; for example, scattered shells. But now archaeologists have excavated a cave on the coast of Portugal and discovered a huge, structured deposit of remains, including from mussels and limpets, dating to between 106,000 and 86,000 years ago.

Researchers say the discovery shows that Neanderthals systematically collected seafood: in some layers the density of shells was as high as 370kg per cubic metre. They say this is exciting because the use of marine resources on such a scale and in such a way had previously been thought to be a trait of anatomically modern humans.

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German archaeologists unearth massive mammoth tusk


Bavarian authorities announced Friday evening that archeologists had found an unusually large, ice-age mammoth tusk during an excavation .

The tusk, measuring nearly 2.5 meters (8 ft) in length, was found southeast of the city of Regensburg as archeologists were looking for remains of a 15th-century town, Bavaria's Regional Office for Cultural and Historic Preservation said in a press release.

"With its 2.45-meter length, including tip tooth, this tusk is an extraordinarily complete find. An absolute stroke of luck," said Gertrud Rössner, the head of the state's geological and paleontological mammal collection.

Read more: Stone-Age 'chewing gum' reveals human DNA

Mammoths lived in Bavaria, Germany's most southwest state, until 20,000 years ago. In it is not usually for mammoth remains to be unearthed in Bavaria but finding such a long and complete tusk is extremely rare, the office said.

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Tests to determine age of Cerne Abbas Giant

Cerne Abbas Giant

Archaeologists are hoping to establish the age of an ancient naked figure sculpted into a chalk hillside.

Soil samples have been extracted from the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset. Tests are expected to reveal a "date range" for when the landmark was created.

It is hoped results, on soil samples from the giant's elbows and feet, will be available in July.

The technique used will be the same as that used to date the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire in the 1990s.

Prof Phillip Toms, of the University of Gloucestershire, will attempt to date the samples using a technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL).

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

How Bad was Life in Medieval Europe Really?


When we think about the life in medieval Europe, we tend to conjure up grim and dismal images of war, poverty, sickness, and the Dark Ages . But was it truly so dark? Is there more to it, or are we mistaken?

In our latest article we are going in depth to uncover all the little details that made up the lives of all classes of medieval society: from lords to peasants, soldiers to courtiers. It is time to finally approach this subject from a realistic point of view - no embellishment, no escaping the true facts. So now we go back in time to those illustrious Middle Ages and dig deep into the lives of those that came before us.

Understanding Life in Medieval Europe
It is widely agreed that the Middle Ages in Europe lasted roughly from the 5th century to the 15th century AD. In some places it declined sooner, others later, but in general it began giving way to the Renaissance period and the famed Age of Discovery around the 15th century, as lifestyle began to drastically advance all around Europe. But how was life for the denizens of medieval societies during this long period?

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The Celtic Ogham: An Ancient Tree Alphabet that May Disappear Before Showing its Roots

An ancient ogham stone on the top of Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. ( Cynthia /Adobe Stock)

In secluded fields, on the walls of churches, and beneath construction sites, stones have been found with intricate markings that rise from the lower left up to the center and then down to the lower right. This is the ancient Celtic Tree Alphabet known as Ogham (pronounced owam). Archaeological linguists have managed to translate the symbols, yet no one knows for certain how or why this language came into existence. Efforts are being made to preserve the relics; however, the stones are weathering and crumbling at an alarming rate.

Attempts to Save the Unique Ogham Inscriptions
There are roughly 400 stones known to contain Ogham markings, 360 of which are in Ireland. The rest have been discovered scattered across Wales, Scotland, England, and the Isle of Man. The oldest relic is believed to date back to the 4th century AD, but one must assume that earlier examples existed on perishable mediums, such as wood, possibly as far back as the 1st century AD.

For the most part, the messages contain names of people and places, perhaps to demarcate boundaries and property. These old, weathered rocks are covered with lines and slashes, cut directly into the stone. Before the realization that Ogham was a distinct language, many believed the cuts to be merely decorative.

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What chemical analyzes of human bones tell us about kitchen utensils in the Middle Ages


Clay pots? Wooden spoons? Copper pots? Silver forks? What materials has man used for making kitchen utensils throughout history? A new study now sheds light on the use of kitchen utensils made of copper.

At first thought, you would not expect hundreds of years old bones from a medieval cemetery to be able to tell you very much – let alone anything about what kinds of kitchen utensils were used to prepare food.

But when you put such a bone in the hands of Professor Kaare Lund Rasmussen, University of Southern Denmark, the bone begins to talk about the past.

A warehouse full of bones
– For the first time, we have succeeded in tracing the use of copper cookware in bones. Not in isolated cases, but in many bones over many years, and thus we can identify trends in historical use of copper in the household, he explains.

The research team has analyzed bones from 553 skeletons that are between 1200 and 200 years old. They all come from nine, now abandoned cemeteries in Jutland, Denmark and Northern Germany. The skeletons are today kept at Schloss Gottorf in Schleswig, Germany and at the University of Southern Denmark.

Some of the bones examined are from Danish cities such as Ribe and Haderslev, while others are from small rural communities, such as Tirup and Nybøl.

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Trnava archaeologists made a 6,000-year-old discovery Čítajte viac: https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22359494/trnava-archaeologists-made-a-6000-year-old-discovery.html


Ceramic fragments found under the fortification wall prove the skilfulness of the Lengyel culture.

Archaeologists discovered in Trnava's Zelený Kríček settlement hole many decorated ceramics fragments, antler tools and fragments of stone tools older than 6,000 years.

The investor is building a polyfunctional object near the gallery and the research, according to its head, Andrej Žitňan, uncovered an object which could be a part of the larger settlement discovered four years ago at Františkánska Street.

The discovery is located outside the middle age centre of the town just in front of the town's fortification wall.

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Fine-tuning radiocarbon dating could 'rewrite' ancient events

A human femur, thought to be from medieval times, being sampled for carbon dating
[Credit: James King-Holmes/Science Photo Library]

Radiocarbon dating, invented in the late 1940s and improved ever since to provide more precise measurements, is the standard method for determining the dates of artifacts in archaeology and other disciplines.

"If it's organic and old - up to 50,000 years - you date it by radiocarbon," said Sturt Manning, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Classical Archaeology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Manning is lead author of a new paper that points out the need for an important new refinement to the technique. The outcomes of his study, published in Science Advances, have relevance for understanding key dates in Mediterranean history and prehistory, including the tomb of Tutankhamen and a controversial but important volcanic eruption on the Greek island of Santorini.

Radiocarbon dating measures the decomposition of carbon-14, an unstable isotope of carbon created by cosmic radiation and found in all organic matter. Cosmic radiation, however, is not constant at all times. To account for fluctuations of cosmic radiation in the Earth's atmosphere, the radiocarbon content of known-age tree rings was measured backward in time from the 20th century, for thousands of years.

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Oldest Circular Structure Discovered – and It’s Made of Mammoth Bones

25,000-year-old mammoth bone structure, Kostenki, Russia: 12.5 meters in diameterA.E. Dudin

Mysterious bone circle built 25,000 years ago from the remains of at least 60 mammoths seems to have been too big – and smelly – to be a dwelling, archaeologists posit

While glaciers rolled over Eurasia as the Ice Age reached its peak, prehistoric persons in what is today Eastern Europe eschewed fleeing south, possibly because it didn’t occur to them, and built structures against the desperately cold winds from the material they had at hand: mammoth bones.

Now archaeologists are reporting the discovery of the oldest and biggest of the roughly 70 circular structures made of woolly mammoth bones that’s ever found in Eastern Europe. Measuring over 12.5 meters in diameter and dating to about 25,000 years ago, this third such structure, unearthed in Kostenki, Russia, is so huge that no less than 60 mammoths were used to build it, an international team of archaeologists report in the journal Antiquity on Monday.

“Mammoth bones are very heavy and building the circular structure represents a huge investment of time and energy by the humans that built this,” lead author Dr. Alexander Pryor of the University of Exeter tells Haaretz.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Investigating a pre-Roman oil press

The oil press under excavation

Excavations near Ferrandina in southern Italy, an area rich in sites dating from the Iron Age to the Lucanian period (8th-3rd century BC), have been investigating an ancient olive oil press identified during preventative archaeological work in 2007.

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Man Fearing Coronavirus Apocalypse Returns Stolen Ballista


The COVID-19 or coronavirus outbreak has shaken many around the world. In Israel, a man with a guilty conscience, who fears the virus could result in the end of the world, gave back a Roman catapult stone he stole many years ago. This ballista stone was probably fired during the Siege of Jerusalem , some 2000 years ago.

Small numbers of people have begun to worry about an apocalypse, those with a guilty conscience want to put things right before the end of the world. According to HAARETZ “some people are stirred by the notion of impending doom to return antiquities they stole years or even decades ago.”

Mysterious Culprit Sees Sense
The identity of the culprit is unknown. He used an intermediary Moshe Manies to return the item because he was too shamefaced or frankly scared of facing any punishment. The stolen item was returned to the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) by Mr. Manies.

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The tooth enamel of the Atapuerca hominids grew faster than in modern humans


The CENIEH has conducted the first study which tackles counting the two types of enamel growth lines, in Lower Pleistocene and Middle Pleistocene populations in Europe. The data obtained in this research, together with those from other studies under way, could constitute the first solid evidence showing that the hominids from the Sierra de Atapuerca reached maturity earlier than modern humans

The Dental Anthropology Group of the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) has just published a paper in the journal Scientific Reports, led by the paleoanthropologist Mario Modesto-Mata, which counts for the first time the two types of growth lines observed in the tooth enamel of Lower and Middle Pleistocene hominids in Europe. This investigation has focused in particular on the species recognized at the sites in the Sierra de Atapuerca. The results indicate that the growth rate of the enamel in these hominids could have been up to 25% faster than in Homo sapiens.

This work, in which New York University and University College London as well as other institutions also participated, studies in minute detail the formation of enamel in the Atapuerca hominids, both at the sites of Sima del Elefante (1.2 million years), Gran Dolina-TD6 (Homo antecessor: 850,000 years) and Sima de los Huesos (430,000 years), in addition to in a fairly extensive collection of Homo sapiens teeth.

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Rare Roman coin minted in London among record number of treasure discoveries


Roman relic: The coin is one of a record number of treasures
A rare Roman coin minted in London thousands of years ago is among record amounts of treasure declared today.
The bronze coin is thought to be one of the last made during the reign of the British rebel emperor Carausius whose brief reign from AD 286–293 saw Roman Britain break away from the wider empire in continental Europe.
Found in Hampshire, it has been donated to the British Museum which today revealed the number of treasure discoveries — which covers gold and silver more than 300 years old and other ancient objects — has hit a record level again.
According to its annual report there were 1,311 finds across England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year. 
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British Museum says metal detectorists found 1,311 treasures last year

A Roman Britain coin, known as a radiate, found in Headbourne Worthy in Hampshire. 
Photograph: British Museum

An astonishingly well-preserved medieval brooch featuring what could be dragon and dog decorations is among a record number of objects discovered last year by the nation’s army of metal detectorists.

The British Museum on Tuesday announced that 1,311 finds which are defined as treasure had been found by members of the public across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2019.

They also included an iron age drinking set, a solid gold bronze age arm ring and a coin which helps tell the story of Carausius, a usurper emperor who in 286AD broke Britain away from Europe, in an adventure which ended badly.

Michael Lewis, the head of the British Museum’s portable antiquities scheme, said the 1,100-year-old brooch discovered in Norfolk was a particularly striking and rare discovery.

“It is an amazing example of Anglo-Saxon art of the period,” he said. “When the finder found it the reaction was, is this old? It could be something more modern which was inspired by the past. Your gut reaction might be that it was Victorian.”

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Islamic-Era Palace Gate Uncovered in Spain

(Piet Theisohn via Wikimedia Commons)

ANDALUSIA, SPAIN—According to a Times of London report, traces of a multilevel gateway to the massive fortified palace built in the tenth century A.D. by Abd-al-Rahman III, the first caliph of Cordoba, have been uncovered in southern Spain. Alberto Canto of the Autonomous University of Madrid said that the gate is thought to mark the eastern entrance to the palace parade ground at the ruins of the royal city of Medina Azahara.

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Mysterious bone circles made of mammoth remains help explain how man survived Ice Age

The majority of the bones found at the site are from mammoths. A total of 51 lower jaws and 64 individual mammoth skulls were used to construct the walls of the 30ft by 30ft structure and scattered across its interior. ( PA )

Mysterious bone circles made from the remains of dozens of mammoths have helped shed light on how ancient communities survived Europe's Ice Age.

Around 70 of these structures are known to exist in Ukraine and the west Russian Plains.

The bones at one site are more than 20,000 years old, new analysis suggests, making it the oldest such circular structure built by humans discovered in the region.

Researchers said the bones were most likely sourced from animal graveyards, and the circle was then hidden by sediment and is now one foot below current surface level.

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Mysterious Ice Age structure made from hundreds of mammoth bones discovered in Russia


Around 25,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers used the bones from 60 mammoths to build a large circular structure in Russia.

And no one knows why.

Researchers have excavated the site in an attempt to understand it, but they don't know why the structure was built, according to a new study.

This isn't the first "mammoth house" to be found in Russia, but it is the oldest and largest, measuring 41 feet across.

In the 1960s and '70s, researchers found similar, smaller buildings at the site, which they dubbed Kostenki 11. It's 310 miles south of Moscow and now home to a museum, the State Archaeological Museum-Reserve Kostenki.

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Fife farmer, 80, to face trial accused of carving path through ancient Angus standing stones site

Forfar Sheriff Court

An 80-year-old Fife farmer has denied damaging standing stones in a nationally important Neolithic or Bronze Age Angus site by carving a path through it for tree-clearing works.

Andrew Simpson will face trial later this summer in relation to four charges connected to alleged damage to the registered stone circles at Baldovie Wood, near Kirriemuir.

Prosecutors say he caused damage to two stone circles and three monoliths with mechanical works and then tried to repair it by replacing the stones after being told he should not.

The Cupar farmer has been charged under the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act but was not present at Forfar Sheriff Court when his case called on Thursday and tendered a not guilty plea by letter.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Historic Welsh sites to be protected by vandalism patrols

Archaeologist Tomos Jones says pieces of Preseli bluestone have been put up for sale online

Plans to tackle heritage crime have been extended to protect historic sites across Wales.

Archaeologists, national park officials and Dyfed-Powys Police officers have held a meeting to discuss growing concerns about vandalism.

At the conference in Llandrindod Wells, Powys, areas at risk of damage were outlined and training was given on how to best protect remote monuments.

Police, Cadw wardens and park rangers will regularly patrol sites.

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Saturday, March 14, 2020

Whale Bone Genetics and the Extraordinary Closure of a Broch

The Cairns and the sea. Looking across Windwick Bay. 
Photo: Bobby Friel @Takethehighview

New DNA results shed light on Iron Age use of whale bone and the remarkable process of ending a broch two thousand years ago.

Results of DNA investigations undertaken on a large collection of whale bone from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Iron Age archaeological site of The Cairns, have afforded a glimpse into the complex relationship of Iron Age communities with whales.

In particular, the identification of multiple whale bones as belonging to a single large fin whale shows how its carcase was strategically and even ceremonially used and deposited during the ending of the monumental broch.

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Additional Remains of Viking Settlement Discovered in Dublin


DUBLIN, IRELAND—According to an RTÉ News report, ongoing excavations on Ship Street next to Dublin Castle have revealed centuries of the city's history, including additional remains of a previously discovered early Viking settlement. Archaeologists led by Alan Hayden of Archaeological Projects Ltd. have discovered that Dubh Linn, the "Black Pool" on the River Poddle from which the city derives its name, stretched more than 1,300 feet beyond its previously known extent to the dig site. The Vikings first settled on Dubh Linn, and according to historical sources, anchored up to 200 ships there. Hayden noted that this new information also explains the reference to the pool in the name of Dublin's oldest church, St. Michael le Pole, which was founded in the sixth century A.D. and whose remains lie near the excavation area.

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Dublin's earliest Viking settlement seen in new light

The dig is taking place beside Dublin Castle

An archaeological excavation has changed our picture of Dublin's earliest Viking settlement with the black pool or Dubh Linn now known to be a lot bigger than first thought.

The dig beside Dublin Castle has also uncovered the city's oldest police cells and a punishment burial.

The excavation is taking place on Ship St near where the remains of one of the Dublin's oldest churches - St Michael le Pole that was founded in the 6th century - are known to be.

Archaeologist Alan Hayden from University College Dublin said the work has uncovered the cells from a police station on Chancery Lane built in 1830, and beside it are walls from a medieval farm.

There are 12th Century quarries which provided the stone to build Dublin Castle and its walls.

The most important discovery yet is that Dubh Linn - the pool on the River Poddle where the Vikings first settled - was much bigger than originally thought.

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Archaeologists make 'exciting' discovery in Caernarfon


ORIGINAL parts of the Caernarfon town walls have been unearthed during the construction of a new community health centre.

Several other signifcant artefacts, which date as far back as the 13th century, have also been discovered during a survey conducted by Conwy Valley-based CR Archaeology.

The discoveries made at Antur Waunfawr's Porth yr Aur site have come as a result of building work taking place for their new Beics Antur project.

The yard was formerly owned by local transportation company, Pritchard Bros, and it is adjacent to the medieval town walls, which are designated as a Scheduled Monument by CADW.

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How AI could help translate the written language of ancient civilizations

The OI began archaeological expeditions to the ancient city of Persepolis in the 1930s, where the uncovered tens of thousands clay tablets containing cuneiform. A collaboration between the OI and the Department of Computer Science using a machine learning program could allow faster translation of these tablets 
[Credit: the OI]

Twenty-five centuries ago, the "paperwork" of Persia's Achaemenid Empire was recorded on clay tablets—tens of thousands of which were discovered in 1933 in modern-day Iran by archaeologists from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. For decades, researchers painstakingly studied and translated these ancient documents by hand, but this manual deciphering process is very difficult, slow and prone to errors.

Since the 1990s, scientists have recruited computers to help—with limited success, due to the three-dimensional nature of the tablets and the complexity of the cuneiform characters. But a technological breakthrough at the University of Chicago may finally make automated transcription of these tablets—which reveal rich information about Achaemenid history, society and language—possible, freeing up archaeologists for higher-level analysis.

That's the motivation behind DeepScribe, a collaboration between researchers from the OI and UChicago's Department of Computer Science. With a training set of more than 6,000 annotated images from the Persepolis Fortification Archive, the Center for Data and Computing-funded project will build a model that can "read" as-yet-unanalyzed tablets in the collection, and potentially a tool that archaeologists can adapt to other studies of ancient writing.

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Scottish storms unearth 1,500-year-old Viking-era cemetery

Archaeologists and volunteers are working to preserve human bones exposed by recent storms in an ancient cemetery above a beach on the Orkney Islands.
(Image: © ORCA Archaeology)

Powerful storms on the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland recently exposed ancient human bones in a Pictish and Viking cemetery dating to almost 1,500 years ago. Volunteers are piling sandbags and clay to protect the remains and limit the damage to the ancient Newark Bay cemetery on Orkney's largest island. 

The cemetery traces its origins to the middle of the sixth century, when the Orkney Islands were inhabited by native Pictish people, akin to the Picts who inhabited most of what is now Scotland.

It was used for almost a thousand years, and many of the burials from the ninth through the 15th centuries were Norsemen or Vikings who had taken over the Orkney Islands from the Picts. But waves raised by storms are eating away at the low cliff where the ancient cemetery lies, said Peter Higgins of the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology (ORCA), part of the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

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Science Notes – Early medieval insights from birch bark tar

Ceramic vessel 1112 from Ringlemere; the interior was coated in a black residue that contained birch bark tar. [Image: © Trustees of the British Museum]

Birch bark tar (manufactured by the heating of bark in airtight conditions) has long been prized for its sticky, water resistant, and biocidal properties. Throughout human history it has seen a wide range of uses, including as a sealant (for example, in waterprooing vessels), an adhesive (for hafting weapons, repairing ceramics, or assembling composite objects like jewellery), and in perfume and medicine.

Archaeological evidence demonstrates that our predecessors were making this substance as far back as the Palaeolithic (the earliest discovery dates back c.185,000-135,000 years), and its use has continued into the modern day in eastern and northern Europe. In western Europe and Britain, though, it has been generally believed that its use was limited to prehistory, with birch bark tar being displaced by pine tars during the Roman period. As we will explore during this month’s Science Notes, though, the identification of birch bark tar at two early medieval sites in the east of England indicates that this technology was in use much later here than was previously believed.

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Ancient Art Found in Basque Country Changes Understanding of Prehistoric Society

The crude red outline and interior color wash is typical of pre-Magdalenian Paleolithic art, over 20,000 years oldB. Ochoa / M. García-Diez / I. Vigiola

Spain and France are hot spots of Paleolithic sites and art going back thousands and tens of thousands of years. On the other hand, the enigmatic Basque Country, which straddles the border between those two countries, was considered to be a graphic void. There were plenty of Stone Age sites there, where prehistoric peoples had clearly lived, but art had only been found in a measly six caves.

Thus, the full extent of ancient art in Basque Country just hadn’t been noticed, argue authors Blanca Ochoa of the Universidad del Pais Vasco in Spain, with fellow archaeologists Marcos García-Diez and Irene Vigiola-Toña, in a recent paper in the journal Antiquity, describing in exquisite detail the newly discovered parietal pictures in Danbolinzulo Cave.

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L’AGGLOMÉRATION ANTIQUE ET MÉDIÉVALE DE MOUGON À CROUZILLES (INDRE-ET-LOIRE)


À Mougon, en Indre-et-Loire, les archéologues de l’Inrap viennent de fouiller un site exceptionnel où se superposent des ateliers artisanaux, des habitations et un ensemble sépulcral sur une période qui s’étend du Haut-Empire au début du Moyen Âge.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Huge 1,500-Year-Old Arrowhead Released From Melting Glacier


Archaeologists in Norway have uncovered a 1,500-year-old iron arrowhead in a melting glacier.

The team of investigators inspecting Jotunheimen, a massive melting Norwegian glacier, have so far found over 2000 relics and now an arrowhead dating back to the Germanic Iron Age. Measuring seven inches long and weighing little over an ounce ‘ Climate Change ’ is being held responsible for revealing the ancient Viking's missed shot that had been embedded in a glacier for 1,500 years.

An Ancient Landscape of Unspeakable Beauty
The ancient Germanic Iron Age arrowhead was forged in iron and was discovered with its arrow shaft, and even a feather from its flight, locked in a glacier in southern Norway. The team of scientists noted that climate change has made its way to the Jotunheimen glacier and the warmer air temperature is causing the ice to melt which in turn freed the ancient artifacts.

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Remains of Anglo-Saxon princess who could be the Queen’s earliest known relative discovered by scientists in Kent


Eanswythe, the daughter of King Eadbald, is believed to have founded England’s first nunnery before her life was cut short, likely as a result of bubonic plague

An Anglo-Saxon princess who was one of England’s earliest Christian saints has been identified by scientists in a church in Kent.

Some historical evidence suggests that she may be the present Queen’s earliest known relative whose remains have so far been identified.

Dating from the mid-seventh century AD, the princess was the daughter of King Eadbald (literally “the prosperous one”), the ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Kent, who was that micro-country’s monarch from 616 (or 618) to 640.

Parts of the Kentish royal dynasty’s lineage are unclear but some interpretations of their genealogy suggests that he was the present Queen’s 40th great grandfather.

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5000-year-old sword discovered in an Armenian Monastery in Venice

After the restoration, it's difficult to guess the dagger's real age — about 2,000 years old! 
(Photo: LWL / Eugen Müsch)

Less than a year after it was recovered from an archeological site in Germany looking like little more than a rusty lump, an ornate 13-inch Roman dagger has been returned to its former glory.

The spectacular weapon and its accompanying belt, which lay buried for an estimated 2,000 years, was discovered in a trench in the Roman burial ground of Haltern am See. The region, once the site of a massive military camp, bore witness to several devastating battles between the Romans and Germanic tribes.

"This combination of a completely preserved blade, sheath and belt, together with the important information about precisely where they were found, is without parallel," Michael Rind, director of archaeology at the Westphalia-Lippe Landscape Association (LWL), told the Times.

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Unearthed 2,000-year-old Roman dagger restored to its former glory

After the restoration, it's difficult to guess the dagger's real age — about 2,000 years old! 
(Photo: LWL / Eugen Müsch)

Less than a year after it was recovered from an archeological site in Germany looking like little more than a rusty lump, an ornate 13-inch Roman dagger has been returned to its former glory.

The spectacular weapon and its accompanying belt, which lay buried for an estimated 2,000 years, was discovered in a trench in the Roman burial ground of Haltern am See. The region, once the site of a massive military camp, bore witness to several devastating battles between the Romans and Germanic tribes.

"This combination of a completely preserved blade, sheath and belt, together with the important information about precisely where they were found, is without parallel," Michael Rind, director of archaeology at the Westphalia-Lippe Landscape Association (LWL), told the Times.

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Monday, March 09, 2020

Bones found in Kent church likely to be of 7th-century saint

Researchers examine the remains at St Mary and St Eanswythe’s church in Folkestone. 
Photograph: Mark Hourahane/Diocese of Canterbury/PA

Bones discovered more than a century ago in a Kent church are almost certainly the remains of an early English saint who was the granddaughter of Ethelbert, the first English king to convert to Christianity, experts have concluded.

Saint Eanswythe, the patron saint of the coastal town of Folkestone, is thought to have founded one of the first monastic communities in England, probably around AD660. She died a few years later, while still in her teens or early 20s.

In 1885, workers renovating the parish church of St Mary and St Eanswythe close to Folkestone harbour found a lead container of human remains in an alcove – probably hidden to avoid the destruction of relics during the Reformation.

The bones, which comprised about half of a skeleton, were assumed to belong to Eanswythe. But it was not until January this year, following a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, that a team of experts set up a temporary laboratory in the church, which was closed for five days.

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Current Archaeology Awards 2020: Photos

Julian Richards presents Alison Sheridan with the award for Archaeologist of the Year 2020 at the Current Archaeology Awards. [Photo credit: Current Archaeology]

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Experts amazed after 'incredibly rare' Roman artifact found in Lincolnshire field

The incredibly rare artifact was found in a field (Image: Lincolnshire County Council)

A metal detectorist has amazed experts after finding an incredibly rare Roman artifact in a Lincolnshire field.

Jason Price, from Grantham, was searching in a field near Leasingham when he unearthed a colourful horse brooch.

The 48-year-old, who is an armed forces veteran, was left gobsmacked by the find, which one local expert says has rewritten the understandings of Roman brooches.

The brooch, which is only the second of its kind to be found in the UK, was unearthed when Jason was on  a 'Detecting for Veterans' weekend, and is set to go on display later this year.

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UN CIMETIÈRE JUIF DU MOYEN ÂGE À CHÂTEAUROUX (INDRE)


À Châteauroux, les archéologues de l'Inrap semblent avoir mis au jour l'ancien cimetière juif de la ville, une découverte exceptionnelle, les cimetières juifs du Moyen Âge ayant pour la plupart disparu en France, après leur appropriation par la couronne.

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