Wednesday, March 31, 2010

EMAS Easter Study Tour

Those of you not fortunate enough to be on the EMAS (University of London Extra-Mural Archaeological Society) Easter study tour to the Peaks and Fens area, can follow the trip on the Archaeology Study Tours Blog.

The study tour runs from 1 – 6 April and you can find the Blog here…

Rosslyn Chapel was haven for bees

An ancient chapel has revealed a new mystery with the discovery of a 600-year-old hive built into the stones.

Builders renovating Rosslyn Chapel, which was made famous in The Da Vinci Code, found the "unprecedented" hive while dismantling a rooftop pinnacle.

The bees entered the hive through a hole in a carved flower crafted by the chapel's master stone masons.

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Men owe women for 'creating beer' claims academic

One of man’s great pleasures might be a pint of beer at the local – but an academic has claimed it would never have existed without the entrepreneurial skills of women.

Jane Peyton, 48, and author and historian, said women created beer and for thousands of years it was only they who were allowed to operate breweries and drink beer.

The drink is now almost exclusively marketed to men - with television characters such as Homer Simpson the epitome of the beer-loving male.

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Sarcophaguses found in Georgia

Ancient graves were found in the Urbnisi village of the Kareli region during the construction of a highway. About 20 sarcophaguses were discovered dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries.

Road department representatives invited a group of archaeologists from the Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University to the area to examine the findings. The relevant activities are being implemented by the group chaired by Vakhtang Licheli.

According Licheli, 20 Christian sarcophaguses were found.

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Time Team Old Dock which made Liverpool world port leader to open for public perusal

A massive quayside gateway which turned Liverpool into the world's leading trading port 300 years ago will reopen as a tourist attraction with a series of insider tours for the public.

The Old Dock provided a revolutionary trading route between the Mersey, America and Africa when it was built by visionary canal engineer Thomas Steers in 1715 as a solution to overwhelming ship traffic.

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Rosslyn Chapel discovery is causing a buzz

The ancient Rosslyn Chapel, beloved as the key to mysteries surrounding The Da Vinci Code, the Holy Grail and the Knights Templar, has thrown up another unfathomable puzzle: what lies behind the secret of the bees?

Builders renovating the 600-year-old chapel have discovered two beehives carved within the stonework high on the pinnacles of the roof. They are thought to be the first man-made stone hives ever found.

It appears the hives were carved into the roof when the chapel was built, with the entrance for the bees formed, appropriately, through the centre of an intricately carved stone flower. The hives were found when builders were dismantling and rebuilding the pinnacles for the first time in centuries.

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Transport body confirms digs plan

Archaeological digs will take place at sites proposed for the construction of a new bridge across the Forth, it was revealed.

Transport Scotland has worked with Historic Scotland to identify several areas north and south of the estuary.

A "Time Team" will be appointed to look for historical objects on Government-owned land at St Margaret`s Hope and Echline Fields.

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Ceiling collapse at Nero's golden palace in Rome

Part of the ceiling over the palace of the Roman emperor Nero has collapsed in Rome, prompting fresh concerns over the stability of the ancient complex.

The damaged section at the Domus Aurea (House of Gold) complex was about 60 sq m (645 sq ft), officials say. No-one was injured.

Art official Antonello Vodret said it was one of the biggest collapses at the monument in the past 50 years.

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New Forth crossing to be a bridge to the past

THE NEW Forth crossing will be a bridge to the past as it emerged an archaeological team is to be appointed to the project.

Transport Scotland is to appoint a “time team” to carry out studies on the land needed for the bridge.

Under the year-long project, which starts this summer, the team will recover and record any items of historical interest found.

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Pilgrims to be offered '3-D view' of Turin Shroud

Church authorities in Turin have condemned plans to sell 3-D spectacles to pilgrims viewing the Holy Shroud when it goes on display for six weeks after Easter.

According to Bruno Fabbiani, an expert at Turin Polytechnic in holograph technology and printed images, the 3-D glasses will enable pilgrims to see details invisible to the naked eye, such as the wounds on the figure of the man on the linen cloth. The Turin Shroud is held by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ but regarded by sceptics as a medieval forgery.

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New Written Language of Ancient Scotland Discovered

Once thought to be rock art, carved depictions of soldiers, horses and other figures are in fact part of a written language dating back to the Iron Age.

The ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind mysterious, carved stones that new research has just determined contain the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843.

The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland.

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Don’t let Abbey go to wrack and ruins

Slightly bemused that so far English Heritage is nowhere to be seen or heard now our Abbey Ruins are crumbling.

Or the Heritage Lottery Fund or the European Structural and Cohesion Funds (I had to look that one up admittedly) or any of those organisations that exist to preserve our heritage. Is it because no one likes us because we demolished loads of our historic buildings in the past, including bulldozing our stunning Georgian legacy?

Because we’re sorry, really, for the sins of our forefathers – we’d like to look as posh as Bath or Cheltenham (but hey we have Slough and Swindon nearby, both of which help make us look slightly more genteel than we really are). And it wasn’t us who decided the King’s Meadow baths should go – it was the council.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Type of Human Discovered via Single Pinky Finger

A new type of prehistoric human has been discovered via DNA from a child's pinky finger found in a central Asian cave, a new study says.

"We had no inkling that this thing existed, and suddenly it's there. That in itself is a remarkable discovery," said Terry Brown, a geneticist at the University of Manchester in the U.K. and co-author of a news article released alongside the study Wednesday by the journal Nature.

If confirmed by further genetic testing, the discovery—dubbed X-woman—will mark the first time that a new human species has been identified solely on the basis of DNA (quick genetics overview).

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Climatologists claim to have found Biblical plagues

Researchers studying global warming claim they have found proof of the biblical plagues which were first reported in the Bible and in the flick “The Ten Commandments”.

The move will anger religious groups because the researchers claim that the plagues were not caused by a psychopathic thunder god punishing Egypt for its treatment of workers, but a chain of natural phenomena triggered by changes in the climate and environmental disasters that happened hundreds of miles away.

In a new series to be broadcast on the National Geographical Channel, archaeologists will say that the the plagues occurred at the ancient city of Pi-Rameses on the Nile Delta, which was the capital of Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Rameses the Second, who ruled between 1279BC and 1213BC.

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University students to live like ancient Roman gladiators

Twenty students from the University of Regensburg plan to live and train in the style of Roman gladiators from 79 AD and stage a battle for scientific research this summer, the project's Bavarian organisers said on Monday.

“We know hardly anything about the gladiators,” historian Josef Löffl said. “There are a lot of myths and clichés attached.”

Löffl and his colleagues plan to find out this August whether they can make modern young men into authentic gladiators following the Roman example.

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Photo competition to showcase Colchester's history

KEEN photographers can win the chance to become an archaeologist for a day in a new photo competition.

Colchester’s Archaeological Trust has launched the competition with the aim of inspiring people to discover and record some of Colchester’s hidden historic gems.

Chris Lister, archaeological surveyor at the trust, said: “Whilst our work mainly focuses on what is beneath the ground it’s just as important to look up and take note of what currently surrounds us.

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Experience history hands-on at archaeology camp

Western Michigan University and the Fort St. Joseph Museum would like to invite members of the public to join them for a week of excavations at the site of Fort St. Joseph during the 2010 Field School in Historical Archaeology. This is an excellent opportunity to experience history hands on and to learn what it means to be an archaeologist.

During each camp participants will be given the opportunity to research the history of Fort Saint Joseph, a unique former missionary and trading post that has at various points in time been under the control of France, Great Britain, Spain and the United States. In addition to participating directly in the archaeological excavations, campers will be exposed to the many aspects of what it means to be an archaeologist, from working in the lab to drawing conclusions about the people that once inhabited a site.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Man, made: getting face to face with Earth's "great apes"

Paleoanthropologists at the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, used the most current knowledge about the lineage of humankind, coupled with the best fossils, to create 27 model heads representing various species of hominid.

The lesson contained in these haunting faces from the past: The course of evolution never runs smoothly.

“It reinforces that many, many species were produced, but we’re the only surviving one,” says Ian Tattersall, paleoanthropologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History here in New York. “We’re not the result of a singleminded struggle from primitive to perfection.”

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Biblical plagues really happened say scientists

The Biblical plagues that devastated Ancient Egypt in the Old Testament were the result of global warming and a volcanic eruption, scientists have claimed.

Researchers believe they have found evidence of real natural disasters on which the ten plagues of Egypt, which led to Moses freeing the Israelites from slavery in the Book of Exodus in the Bible, were based.

But rather than explaining them as the wrathful act of a vengeful God, the scientists claim the plagues can be attributed to a chain of natural phenomena triggered by changes in the climate and environmental disasters that happened hundreds of miles away.

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Linton students dig down into village history

TWENTY young people from Linton Village College (LVC) spent a weekend digging for buried treasure as they took part in an archaeological excavation in the college grounds.

The students, aged 11 to 16, are members of the Linton Heritage Project, which has been awarded a £25,000 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help young people find out about the history of their school site.

Among the objects discovered in the test pits, some up to 70cm deep, were several Neolithic flint tools from around 3000 BC. Most of the finds dated from the Roman period and included fragments of pottery, roof tiles and a kitchen colander.

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Underground Liverpool dock uncovered

A piece of Liverpool's buried past is to go on show to the public for the first time.

As these pictures show the historic Old Dock at Liverpool - now below the Liverpool One - will become the city's latest visitor attraction.

It has been hidden underground for nearly 200 years but property developer Grosvenor has partnered with the museum's service to put part of the remains on display.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Environment honour for Birdoswald Roman fort team

Birdoswald Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria has picked up another accolade for environmental excellence.

It is returning to traditional ploughing methods to create a wildflower meadow for visitors. The site was given a silver award from the Cumbria Business Environmental Network for its continuing commitment to ‘green’ management which has put energy saving, recycling, composting and supporting wildlife at the top of the agenda at the English Heritage property.

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Fall and Rise of the Roman World c. 200-700 CE

CFP: Fall and Rise of the Roman World c. 200-700 CE, XIX Finnish Symposium on Late Antiquity, Tvärminne, Finland, 15-16 October, 2010

The XIX Finnish Symposium on Late Antiquity will be organized on October 15-16, 2010. The aim of the symposium is to bring together students and scholars with an interest in Late Antiquity from a variety of universities and disciplines. This year, we explore the aspects of depression, recovery and renaissance related to the every-day life, but suggestions for papers dealing with other topics will also be considered. Our main aim is to stimulate interdisciplinary dialogue between philology, archaeology, history, theology and other disciplines that deal with Late Antiquity. Geographically, the focus of the symposium is on the Mediterranean world.

This year's symposium features three invited speakers : Chris Wickham (Oxford): Rural realities: Spain and Sicily aound 600 ; Leslie Brubaker (Birmingham): Embedding sacred images in everyday life: representation and transformation of culture in Byzantium; Kate Cooper (Manchester): The transformation of the Roman Household at the end of antiquity.

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Meals of The Last Supper grew bigger in the last thousand years

A new study examining artistic depictions of the Last Supper over the last thousand years has concluded that the food portions depicted in the famous scene have been getting larger throughout the centuries.

Brian Wansink, of Cornell University, and Craig Wansink, of Virginia Wesleyan College, examined 52 pieces of art that shows the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, an important event written about in the Christian gospels. The two brothers call this "perhaps the most commonly painted meal," making it their choice to see how artists portrayed the sizes of foods and plates.

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Archaeology versus aircraft

Steam billows from the sulphurous hot springs of Le Masse di San Sisto and the conversation among languid bathers turns to politics and Silvio Berlusconi’s latest embarrassments as well as the more pressing matter of how best to prepare a wild fennel and tomato pasta.

With the sun setting over what might be the ruins of a nearby Roman temple, which no one has had the inclination to excavate, Mario Bracci, an architect who teaches archaeology, reflects on the deep and mostly unknown history of an undeveloped area that its conservative inhabitants, renowned for their inertia, would rather like to stay that way.

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Medieval sculpture, modern problems

Our heritage of high crosses, some of them 12 centuries old, is under attack from weathering, erosion and wear-and-tear – so how can we ensure they will still be here for future generations? asks BRIAN O'CONNELL

WHILE roads and domestic plumbing were both high-profile casualties of the recent cold spell, some of our historic outdoor artefacts also felt the worst effects of the weather. The high cross known as Muiredach’s Cross in Monasterboice, Co Louth, was recently reported to be in increasing peril having suffered a hairline fracture, caused by water seeping into the sandstone and expanding when the cold spell hit. Muiredach’s Cross dates to the 10th century, and was built in honour of an abbot who lived on the monastic site. It contains 62 carvings from the Old and New Testaments, and was probably built for education purposes.

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2,000-year-old Roman artefact goes on show

A RARE Roman cup found by a metal detector in Winterton is heading for display at the North Lincolnshire Museum.

The cup is thought to be a rare example of a soldier's souvenir from Hadrian's Wall.
The treasure, which is up to 2000 years old, is made from copper alloy, and decorated with rows of enamelled squares.

A North Lincolnshire Museum spokesperson said: "The Winterton Cup is a Roman copper alloy cup with the base missing, much of the enamel has not survived but there is enough there to show that the same four colours are repeated throughout the design.

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New Thanet archaeological finds on show at weekend

This weekend a display of exciting discoveries archaeologists are making on the route of the new East Kent Access Road between Richborough and Manston will go on show.

An archaeology roadshow will be held at Margate Library in Cecil Street on Saturday (March 27) and outside Debenhams at the Westwood Cross shopping centre on Sunday 28th.

As well as range of family orientated activities, some of the finds unearthed so far will be on display and there will be a small exhibition. Archaeologist David Crawford-White, who is the archaeology outreach officer for the road scheme, will be on hand with the latest news.

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Second dig on Staffordshire Hoard site to learn more about the treasure

A SECOND dig at the site of the Staffordshire Hoard has finished as archaeologists try to learn more about the Anglo Saxon treasure.

The dig, led by Staffordshire County Council’s principal archaeologist Steve Dean, was an attempt to find out why the Hoard was left in a field for an amateur metal enthusiast to discover centuries later.

Five trenches and ten test pits were dug to find clues about the landscape at the time the £3.3 million treasure was buried.

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Buildings at medieval County Durham village protected

Vital repair work is to be carried out on crumbling buildings at a deserted medieval County Durham village.

The future of the three structures at the abandoned village of Barforth, near Darlington, has been assured thanks to a pledge from Natural England.

The organisation will fund a project which will protect an historic bridge, a 12th Century chapel and a medieval dovecote from further deterioration.

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Neanderthal may not be the oldest Dutchman

People may well have been roaming the land we now call the Netherlands for far longer than was assumed until recently. There is evidence to suggest that the country was home to the forebears of the Neanderthals. Amateur archaeologist Pieter Stoel found materials used by the oldest inhabitants in the central town of Woerden. These artefacts were shown to be at least 370,000 years old, which takes us back to long before the time of the Neanderthals.

Our ancient forebears are often described as cavemen but that is not entirely accurate. There were no caves in this environment, explains Pieter Stoel:

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Looking for Medical Miracles in Medieval Manuscripts

Did monks in the Middle Ages know more about medicine than we thought? A German medical historian is combing medieval manuscripts looking for recipes that could be helpful today. Pharmaceutical companies have taken a keen interest in his research.

"This medication is delicious," says Johannes Mayer, 56, looking ecstatic. "And it actually helps against digestive disorders and colds."

Its composition is as surprising as its effect: Caraway soaked in vinegar, dates pickled in red wine, dried ginger and green pepper. All of this is crushed with a mortar and pestle and combined with baking soda and honey to make a sticky paste.

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A New Human Relative from the Siberian Mountains

Have scientists identified a "homo incognitus" -- a previously unknown human species? Finger bones dating from 30,000 years ago were unearthed in southern Siberia. Its genes differ from those of modern humans as well as Neanderthals, and German scientists think they are onto a sensation.

John Krause checked his findings again and again. Somehow he couldn't believe what the analysis was showing. The scientist wanted to make sure he was right before phoning his boss, the renowned evolutionary genetics specialist Svante Pääbo. Did the DNA really stem from a previously unknown human form?

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Shining a light on the past

How to bring out the best in ancient artefacts

LOOK at an ancient coin under ordinary light and the chances are that its features, worn down by its passage from hand to hand, will be hard to make out. Point a spotlight at it, though, so that the face of the coin is illuminated from an acute angle, and the resulting shadows will emphasise any minor details.

This is the basic principle behind a novel technique that is helping archaeologists reveal previously invisible clues hidden in the worn or damaged surfaces of any objects they uncover. From wall paintings in Herculaneum to Scandinavian stone tools to rock art in Libya, polynomial texture mapping, as the process is known, is proving an invaluable way to illuminate the past.

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Lichfield Cathedral to be part of Staffordshire Hoard’s Mercian Trail

Lichfield Cathedral will be part of a new Mercian Trail, being created as part of plans to showcase the magnificent Staffordshire Hoard on Anglo Saxon gold treasures.

And as part of the celebrations to mark the announcement that the Art Fund has saved the largest archaeological Anglo-Saxon find ever unearthed for the nation; the Cathedral has been chosen for an exclusive advance preview of a National Geographic film about the Hoard’s discovery.

The film Saxon Gold: Finding the Hoard will be shown on Friday night at 7.30pm.

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Repair and archaeological work at Bury St. Edmunds nears completion

Important work to safeguard the boundary wall of the historic Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, England, is nearing completion thanks to a £100,000 grant from English Heritage.

Repairs to painstakingly rebuild and underpin the precinct north wall have been going on for seven weeks largely behind the popular aviary in the Gardens and away from public gaze.

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Religious beliefs are the basis of the origins of Palaeolithic art

This statement isn't new, but for years anthropologists, archaeologists and historians of art understood these artistic manifestations as purely aesthetic and decorative motives. Eduardo Palacio-Pérez, researcher at the University of Cantabria (UC), now reveals the origins of a theory that remains nowadays/lasts into our days.

"This theory is does not originate with the prehistorians, in other words, those who started to develop the idea that the art of primitive peoples was linked with beliefs of a symbolic-religious nature were the anthropologists", Eduardo Palacio-Pérez, author of the study and researcher at UC, explains to SINC.

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Team digs for clues at Staffordshire Hoard site

EXPERTS have spent the week digging up the Hammerwich field where the Staffordshire Hoard was found. But the archeologists say there is definitely no more gold on the site.

They have been examining the land off Barracks Lane, pictured below, in an attempt to find out more about its history.

Staffordshire's county archaeologist Stephen Dean said: "Last July we were very much looking to recover material, but we knew we needed to come back.

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DNA identifies new ancient human dubbed 'X-woman'

Scientists have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human through analysis of DNA from a finger bone unearthed in a Siberian cave.

The extinct "hominin" (human-like creature) lived in Central Asia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago.

An international team has sequenced genetic material from the fossil showing that it is distinct from that of Neanderthals and modern humans.

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Dig for Bronze Age King's Ditch in Herefordshire

Archaeologists have begun excavating a site in Herefordshire, which they believe may reveal a 3,000-year-old earth trench called the King's Ditch.

Border Archaeology firm is digging in the former Kemble car park in Aubrey Street, Hereford, near the cathedral.

It said the ditch was an important Bronze Age site that could yield historical treasures and it expected to find it about 4m (13ft) underground.

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Odenwaldlimes-Kolloquium mit ca. 400 Teilnehmern

Vom 19. bis 20. März fanden in Michelstadt im Odenwald ein wissenschaftliches Kolloquium und eine Exkursion zu den neuesten Forschungsergebnissen des Hinteren Odenwaldlimes statt. Veranstaltet wurde das Kolloquium, das mit ca. 400 Teilnehmern eine große Resonanz fand, von der Interessengemeinschaft Odenwald e. V. (IGO) und der Hessischen Landesarchäologie.

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Zeitreise ins Geiseltal

Ausstellung »Elefantenreich - Eine Fossilwelt in Europa« in Halle eröffnet

Ausgestorbene Giganten stehen im Mittelpunkt der neuen Sonderausstellung im Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte in Halle: die Eurasischen Altelefanten, die vor 200.000 Jahren in unseren Breiten heimisch waren. Im Braunkohletagebau von Neumark-Nord kamen ihre Knochen zum Vorschein, die von den Sedimenten eines verlandeten Sees eingebettet worden waren. Die Präsentation der Ergebnisse der jahrelangen Erforschung dieser weltweit bedeutendsten Fundstelle des Elephas antiquus ist alles andere als knochentrocken - in Halle wird ein äußerst lebendiges Bild der damaligen Umwelt gezeigt.

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London museums and galleries to adopt American-style charges

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has put forward plans to use a system similar to one found in New York, where visitors to a museum or gallery should pay a so-called ‘recommended’ fee to enter. There are many museums and galleries in London that are free to enter but without a fee to get in, many of the younger generation are not appreciating what they are visiting, the mayor believes.

A ‘suggested’ fee is in place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and after the mayor’s recent visit to the city, he has decided to implement a similar system in London. He claims that people can put their own price on their visit. This will avoid putting people off from visiting, he says, pointing out that the system has worked very successfully in the US. Mayor Johnson believes there is no reason that it will not be just as lucrative across the pond.

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Tudor Mongrel Stole the Show at DFS Crufts 2010

DFS Crufts Hosted Mary Rose Dog before She Returns Home After Nearly 500 Years

A 16th century sea dog, the only female crew member aboard Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose, took pride of place at DFS Crufts this year as special guest of the Kennel Club.

Visitors to the world's largest and greatest dog show met 'Hatch', a two-year old mongrel lost aboard the ill-fated Tudor warship 465 years ago, and found out more about the fundraising appeal to provide her with a permanent home at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fingerbone points to a new type of human who fell off the family tree 30,000 years ago

A new species of ancient human that lived side by side with Homo sapiens and Neanderthals as recently as 30,000 years ago has been discovered, rewriting the history of humanity’s spread around the world.

The creature, nicknamed “X-woman” by researchers, is the first human cousin to be identified purely from a DNA sample — extracted from a bone fragment of a little finger found two years ago in a Siberian cave.

The discovery, which has amazed and delighted scientists, shows that the human family was more diverse in prehistoric times than had been appreciated. It suggests that many different kinds of humans left Africa separately and then thrived for thousands of years, before Homo sapiens emerged as the sole survivor.

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English Heritage welcomes PPS5 the Planning Policy Statement for the Historic Environment

English Heritage welcomes the new Planning Policy Statement for the historic environment (PPS5) that has been launched yesterday. The Government's Statement on the Historic Environment is also launched today and provides the context for PPS5 and sets out how heritage contributes to a wide range of government objectives.

PPS5 (which was consulted on under the title Draft PPS15) brings a new, integrated approach to the historic environment removing the distinction between buildings, archaeological remains and landscapes. It is a major step forward in achieving Heritage Protection Reform.

English Heritage took a lead in preparing the Practice Guide that accompanies PPS5. It explains how the policies in the PPS can be applied and explains how the historic environment should be integrated into and considered during the planning process.

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Fossil may be evidence of unknown hominid

A fossilised finger found in a Siberian cave contains mitochondrial DNA that may come from a previously unknown human ancestor.

Research published online today describes mapping the DNA from what appears to be a youngsters little finger. Either that or the middle finger of a Hobbit. The digit was found in 2008 in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia.

The sample was compared to the DNA of 54 modern humans and six Neanderthals - none matched. The boffins think the Siberian shared a common ancestor with modern humans - and Neanderthals - until about a million years ago.

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Ancient DNA suggests new hominid line

Genetic data unveil a shadowy, previously unknown Stone Age ancestor

A new member of the human evolutionary family has been proposed for the first time based on an ancient genetic sequence, not fossil bones. Even more surprising, this novel and still mysterious hominid, if confirmed, would have lived near Stone Age Neandertals and Homo sapiens.

“It was a shock to find DNA from a new type of ancestor that has not been on our radar screens,” says geneticist Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. These enigmatic hominids left Africa in a previously unsuspected migration around 1 million years ago, a team led by Pääbo and Max Planck graduate student Johannes Krause reports in a paper published online March 24 in Nature.

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Did Climate Change Drive Human Evolution?

There's a plan afoot among evolutionary scientists to launch a big new project — to look back in time and find out how climate change over millions of years affected human evolution.

A panel of experts from the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., has given its blessing to the plan. They say it could unveil a whole new side of human history.

Anthropologist Rick Potts, who heads the human origins department at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, has been pushing the idea that "climate made us" for years.

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Ancient 'X-Woman' discovered as man's early ancestors are pictured together for the first time

A mysterious species of ancient human has been discovered in a cave in southern Siberia.

Nicknamed X-Woman, scientists say the human lived alongside our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago.

The discovery, which could rewrite mankind's family tree, was made after analysis of DNA from a fossilised finger bone.

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Scientists reveal discovery of fourth human species

A fourth type of hominid, besides Neanderthals, modern humans and the "hobbit", was living as recently as 40,000 years ago, according to research published in the journal Nature .

The discovery by Svante Pääbo and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, is based on DNA sequences from a finger bone fragment found in a Siberian cave.

It further enriches the scientific picture of human life in the recent geological past. "Forty thousand years ago, the planet was more crowded than we thought," said Terry Brown, an expert in ancient DNA at Manchester University.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Staffordshire Hoard saved for the nation

The collection - the largest ever find of Anglo-Saxon gold - was unearthed on Staffordshire farmland by a metal detector enthusiast last year and later valued at £3.3 million.

Today the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), the Government's fund of last resort for heritage items at risk, pledged £1,285,000.

The grant, added to the amount already raised during a nationwide fundraising drive, means that the hoard can now be purchased and displayed permanently in the UK.

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12th century music manuscript discovered at the Heart of Hawick

Rachel Hosker, Archive Manager, and her staff at the Heritage Hub, Heart of Hawick, in Scotland, have unearthed an incredibly rare music manuscript. The 12th century music manuscript would have been used by monastic orders for Holy Week and has excited medieval music experts throughout the world.

On Monday 19 April, Matthew Cheung Salisbury, Worcester College, Oxford University will be visiting Heart of Hawick to talk about the importance of this document and how it was used - with some excerpts of the manuscript being played for the first time since its discovery.

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The Otepää Gonne

Location: Estonia Length: 29 min

In 1955, Estonian archaeologist Osvald Saadre found in Otepää Fortress a room containing pieces of bronze. These pieces were parts of the oldest Estonian firearm, dating back to the late 14th Century. This documentary follows the course of an experimental archaeology project, as archaeologist Jaak Mäll works to reconstruct a functional copy of the Otepää gonne (gun), remaining as faithful as possible to the gunsmithing techniques of the period and to conducting test-firings using gunpowder made in accordance with the formulas and methods of the time.

Watch the video...

Farming's rise cultivated fair deals

Blanche DuBois, Tennessee Williams’ wide-eyed protagonist who relied on “the kindness of strangers,” had nothing on ancient farmers.

In rapidly expanding settlements, early cultivators had no choice but to bargain for daily goods with lots of folks they didn’t know. A fundamental redefinition of a fair deal soon followed, according to a new cross-cultural study.

Around 10,000 years ago, residents of large farming communities had to learn to make fair exchanges with strangers and to retaliate against selfish exploiters, researchers propose in the March 19 Science.

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Stone Age could complicate N.Sea wind farm plans

Energy firms taking part in a North Sea boom for offshore wind farms will have to watch out for remains of Stone Age villages submerged for thousands of years, an expert said on Tuesday.

A region dubbed "Doggerland" connected Britain to mainland Europe across what is now the southern North Sea until about 8,000 years ago, when seas rose after the last Ice Age.

It is now the site of a planned vast expansion of offshore wind power by 2020 to help combat climate change.

"We've begun to think about how we'd tackle any archaeological finds," Adrian Fox, supply chain manager of the Crown Estate which leases land off Britain, told Reuters during a conference in Oslo about offshore wind.

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Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire hoard saved by £1.3m heritage grant

The Staffordshire hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure found last year will receive a £1.3m Heritage Memorial Fund grant to allow it to remain in Midlands museums

A grant of £1,285,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) will keep the glittering treasures of the Staffordshire hoard, the most spectacular heap of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, in the region where an amateur metal detector found it last summer after it spent 1,300 years buried in a nondescript field.

The grant goes to Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent museums, which will share the treasure, having raised the £3.3m necessary to pay Terry Herbert, who found the gold, and farmer Fred Johnson, the owner of the field where it was discovered.

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New method could revolutionize dating of ancient treasures

Scientists today described development of a new method to determine the age of ancient mummies, old artwork, and other relics without causing damage to these treasures of global cultural heritage. Reporting at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they said it could allow scientific analysis of hundreds of artifacts that until now were off limits because museums and private collectors did not want the objects damaged.

"This technique stands to revolutionize radiocarbon dating," said Marvin Rowe, Ph.D., who led the research team. "It expands the possibility for analyzing extensive museum collections that have previously been off limits because of their rarity or intrinsic value and the destructive nature of the current method of radiocarbon dating. In theory, it could even be used to date the Shroud of Turin."

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23,000 year old stone wall found at entrance to cave in Greece

The oldest stone wall in Greece, which has stood at the entrance of a cave in Thessaly for the last 23,000 years, has been discovered by palaeontologists, the ministry of culture said Monday.

The age of the find, determined by an optical dating test, singles it out as "probably one of the oldest in the world", according to a ministry press release.

"The dating matches the coldest period of the most recent ice age, indicating that the cavern's paleolithic inhabitants built it to protect themselves from the cold", said the ministry.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Canterbury Tales manuscript to be digitized

Experts from The University of Manchester's John Rylands Library are to spend four days at a beautiful seventeenth century mansion to capture its world famous Canterbury Tales manuscript on camera.

From today to March 25th, visitors to the National Trusts' Petworth House, Sussex, will be able to watch the team of four as they work with cutting edge equipment to record the early 15th century Chaucer manuscript in close detail.

It is part of a 18-month project - funded by JISC - which showcases The University of Manchester as one of the country's leading centres for digitisation of rare books, manuscripts and archives.

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Staffordshire Hoard saved for the West Midlands

The Staffordshire Hoard is to remain in the West Midlands after the £3.3m purchase price was met.

The Anglo Saxon treasure was found in a field in Staffordshire by a metal-detecting enthusiast last July.

A grant of £1.285m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has been added to the money raised by a campaign led by Stoke and Birmingham councils.

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Scientists use carbon-dating to check wine vintages: study

Ever paid top dollar for a bottle of wine that says on the label it's from a much-sought-after year, only to find that it tasted like cheap, non-vintage plonk?

Well, a team of researchers in Australia, who think "vintage fraud" is widespread, have come up with a test that uses radioactive carbon isotopes left in the atmosphere by atomic bomb tests last century and a method used to date prehistoric objects to determine what year a wine comes from, or its vintage.

The test works by comparing the amount of carbon-12 and carbon-14 in grapes.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Portable Antiquities Conference Presentations Now Online

Last weekend the CBA co-organised, along with the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies (ICCHS), a conference on Portable Antiquities: Archaeology, Collecting and Metal Detecting.

Papers were deliberately included that represented a range of perspectives and opinions from archaeological, metal detecting and collecting communities and backgrounds. Among the items discussed and presented was the much-awaited new Portable Antiquities Scheme website (pictured), which will be made live in early April. Recent doctoral and Masters-level research into and involving metal detecting was also presented, demonstrating the wide range of research potential that is possible, particularly when active cooperation between archaeologists and metal-detector users is sought and cultivated.

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Lava bread, anyone? Pompeii snack bar rises from ashes after 2,000 years

Roman thermopolium destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in AD79 has been restored

THE LAST patrons who stood at the L-shaped counter of Pompeii's best-known snack bar eating the house-speciality – baked cheese smothered in honey – had to leave in a hurry owing to violent volcanic activity. But after an unforeseen break in business of 1,921 years, the former holiday hotspot of ancient Rome's in-crowd will finally re-open for business this weekend.

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Human ancestors walked comfortably upright 3.6 million years ago, new footprint study says

A comparison of ancient and contemporary footprints reveals that our ancestors were strolling much like we do some 3.6 million years ago, a time when they were still quite comfortable spending time in trees, according to a study which will be published in the March 22 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Anatomical fossils have given scant confirmation about when our ancestors developed a fully modern gait. Although some researchers have argued that the 4.4 million-year-old ancient human Ardipithecus ramidus ("Ardi") described in October 2009 was adept at walking on her hind legs, many disagree.

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Die älteste Siedlung Nordrhein-Westfalens

Die Spuren der Vergangenheit reichen in Nordrhein-Westfalen Tausende von Jahren zurück - unter anderem in Nottuln-Uphoven. Hier fanden Wissenschaftler der Abteilung für Ur- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie der Universität Münster unter Leitung von Christian Groer den Nachweis für die bislang älteste dauerhafte Besiedlung der nordwestdeutschen Tiefebene.

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Sommer waren im Mittelalter feuchter als heute

Wissenschaftler analysieren Sommertrockenheit vom hohen Mittelalter bis in die Gegenwart anhand der Jahrringe von Eichenhölzern

Der "Schwarze Tod", eine schwere Pestepidemie, hat im 14. Jahrhundert in Europa ein Drittel der Bevölkerung dahingerafft. Dass es zu einer solchen Katastrophe kommen konnte, lag wahrscheinlich auch an den damaligen klimatischen Bedingungen.

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Ridgeway Vikings exhibition attracts huge crowds

THOUSANDS gathered at an exhibition in Weymouth to see the archaeological treasures unearthed during building of the town’s Relief Road.

The Pavilion Ocean Room was transformed into an Aladdin’s Cave of ancient bones, Iron Age pottery, jewellery and other finds.

Crowds filled the hall keen to learn more about the discoveries, including the Viking remains found in a mass grave at the top of Ridgeway.

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Work begins on the site of an old jail in Oxfordshire

Work has begun to transform a 199-year-old jail in an Oxfordshire town into new flats, shops and restaurants.

The former Abingdon Gaol was built in 1811 by Napoleonic prisoners and became a leisure centre in 1974 before closing in 2002.

Part of the site will start to be demolished this week followed by an archaeological investigation.

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Skeletons reveal nunnery link

AN archaeological dig at a ruined Buckfastleigh church has revealed evidence of a Saxon nunnery at least 1,000 years old.

A team led by archaeologists from Manchester University discovered female skeletons in the dig at Holy Trinity Church.

They say it revealed that there had been an earlier building on the site, believed to be dating back to pre-Norman times.

It is most likely to have been a nunnery.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Niall Ferguson: 'Rid our schools of junk history'

leading British historian has called for a Jamie Oliver-style campaign to purge schools of what he calls "junk history".

Niall Ferguson, who teaches at Harvard and presented a Channel 4 series on the world's financial history, has launched a polemical attack on the subject's "decline in British schools", arguing that the discipline is badly taught and undervalued. He says standards are at an all-time low in the classroom and the subject should be compulsory at GCSE.

Ferguson makes the comments in an essay to be released this week. It begins: "History matters. Many schoolchildren doubt this. But they are wrong, and they need to be persuaded they are wrong."

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Friday, March 19, 2010

How discovery off the Norfolk coast holds the key to Norway's past

It is just eight inches long, but its discovery changed what we know about prehistoric Europe and our ancestors.

The harpoon, which was found by a Lowestoft fishing trawler in 1931, was yesterday under the lens of a Norwegian television crew, who are making a documentary on the origins of Norway.

It is 14,000 years old, but in perfect condition, the points carved into it still sharp. It would have been used for hunting by modern man in late Paleolithic or early Mesolithic times; a time before written records when people lived in hunter-gatherer communities.

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New lessons from York’s Medieval massacre

A major international conference next week will take a fresh perspective on one of the darkest episodes in English medieval history - the mass suicide and murder of Jewish men, women and children in York in 1190.

The University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies will host the conference which brings together scholars from a range of disciplines to examine the events of 1190. It will feature speakers from the USA, Canada and Europe as well as the UK.

The massacre on the site of Clifford's Tower in York was one of a series of attacks on local communities of Jews across England in 1189-90.

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Greenland Vikings ‘had Celtic blood’

Greenland Vikings ‘had Celtic blood’
Norsemen who settled in southern Greenland carried more Celtic than Nordic blood – but they were still decidedly Scandinavian

An analysis of DNA from a Viking gravesite near a 1000 year-old church in southern Greenland shows that those buried there had strong Celtic bloodlines, reported science website

The analysis – performed by Danish researchers on bones from skeletons found during excavations in south Greenland – revealed that the settlers’ Nordic blood was mixed with Celtic blood, probably originating from the British Isles.

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See also Vikinger havde keltisk blod i årerne

Professor Geoffrey Rickman: head of Roman history at the University of St Andrews

Professor Geoffrey Rickman was a man of integrity whose scholarship was never advertised. He was devoted to the study of ancient history and especially Rome: appropriately he was known at St Andrews University, where he taught for more than 35 years, as “the father of ancient history”. He was an inspiring teacher and a charismatic lecturer who was respected and much admired by generations of students. He built up, by his own sheer enthusiasm and commitment, the Department of Ancient History to one of international repute. His qualities of wisdom and incisiveness were widely recognised in the university community where he held various important posts. As Master of the United College in the 1990s, for example, he oversaw the introduction of the modular system. For five years after his retirement Rickman was an inspiring chairman of the council of the British School in Rome. It was an institution to which, like St Andrews, he was devoted.

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Fresh dig at Staffordshire hoard treasure site

Another dig is to be held at the site of where the UK's largest haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure was discovered.

The original find of 1,500 gold and silver pieces was made by metal detectorist Terry Herbert in a farmer's field in Staffordshire in July 2009.

Experts say the new dig is not expected to turn up any more gold, but could reveal how the original items came to be there.

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Sofia Metro Construction Stumbles upon Invaluable Archaeology Site

The construction of the second metro line in the Bulgarian capital Sofia has been stopped over the discovery of a unique archaeology site.

On Monday the builders came across a medieval church located in the very downtown of Sofia, next to the Tzum retail center. This led to a temporary termination of the construction work.

Bulgaria’s Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov and the Chief Architect of Sofia Petar Dikov inspected the site on Tuesday.

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Rich archaeological findings in Logas region

The riverside region of Logas, in Elati, northwest Greece, was a residential settlement until the Hellenistic Period while the first dwellings date back to the Neolithic Period, based on the findings unearthed during excavations conducted for the Ilarion Dam that is under construction.

The archaeological site spans an area of more than 455 stremma and this year's excavations focused on Bronze Age and Neolithic Period findings that include, among others, 81 pottery items, 24 clay statuettes and tools.

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"Hobbits" Had Million-Year History on Island?

Newfound stone tools suggest the evolutionary history of the "hobbits" on the Indonesian island of Flores stretches back a million years, a new study says—200,000 years longer than previously thought.

The hobbit mystery was sparked by the 2004 discovery of bones on Flores that belonged to a three-foot-tall (one-meter-tall), 55-pound (25-kilogram) female with a grapefruit-size brain.

The tiny, hobbit-like creature—controversially dubbed a new human species, Homo floresiensis—persisted on the remote island until about 18,000 years ago, even as "modern" humans spread around the world, experts say.

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'Hobbit' island colonised much earlier than thought

Flores, the Indonesian island where skeletal remains of famous "hobbit hominids" were found in 2003, was colonised by humans much earlier than thought, scientists said on Wednesday.

Humans settled in Flores around a million years ago, at least 120,000 years sooner than previously estimated, they reported in the journal Nature.

Flores leapt into the headlines seven years ago when archaeologists found the skeletal remains of tiny humans who measured only a metre (3.25 feet) in height, weighed just 30 kilos (65 pounds) and had the brain the size of a chimp's.

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Antiquities not just another brick in wall

Our parents had taken us to Pompeii, the Roman town frozen in the moment it was buried in lava on August 24, 79AD. It was 34 years ago, on a bright winter's day, and we wandered the streets, peering in shops and tiny houses, and envisaged life before Vesuvius struck.

Visitor access was almost unfettered: few guards, no security cameras. We were respectful, even as young teenagers, but we spied an American tourist who was not. I have never forgotten watching transfixed as he used his pocket knife to prise a handful of tiny, coloured tiles from the wall and trouser them, a souvenir of one of the world's most wondrous archaeological sites.

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Radiography of the past: First Specialization Forum

In the framework of the FP7 Marie Curie – People IAPP project RADIO-PAST*, a series of three High Formation Summer Schools (2010-2012) will be organized at the archeological site of Ammaia. The first “Specialization Forum” will focus on more traditional approaches to urban survey (ancient sources, archive data and historical cartography, GIS processing, surface artifacts collection…), on a wide range of remote sensing techniques, (vertical and oblique airborne photography, satellite imagery, multispectral remote sensing, LiDAR…), on topographical and microtopographical survey, and on geomatics and GIS integrated data processing. The course will be based on theoretical topics and case studies and will imply field activities and applications with the aim to practice, collect, process and output data sets based on the use of different methods and techniques. The teaching staff consists of academic and specialist lecturers from a wide range of excellent European research institutes.

Further information...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Weymouth ridgeway skeletons 'Scandinavian Vikings'

Fifty-one decapitated skeletons found in a burial pit in Dorset were those of Scandinavian Vikings, scientists say.

Mystery has surrounded the identity of the group since they were discovered at Ridgeway Hill, near Weymouth, in June.

Analysis of teeth from 10 of the men revealed they had grown up in countries with a colder climate than Britain's.

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New light on Kent's past

A book shedding new light on Kent's history Kentish Sites and Sites of Kent was launched yesterday at County Hall, Maidstone. Finds from the four excavations reported in the book were on display and there was a demonstration of flint knapping from Phil Harding before the book was formally presented to Councillor David Brazier, Deputy Cabinet Member for the Environment and the Council's Heritage Champion.

Councillor Brazier commented 'the range of techniques that archeologists use today is impressive. Experts can look at tiny remains of ancient seeds and say what crops prehistoric farmers were growing. High powered scientific techniques like radiocarbon dating give accurate dates back into prehistoric times. The results are fascinating and all this work has come about because of intervention by the County Council's own archaeological team.'

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Hobbit origins pushed back

Stone tools reveal that hominins lived on the Indonesian island of Flores a million years ago.

When the remains of tiny hominins — nicknamed hobbits — were found on the isolated Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, it sparked an epic hunt to understand the origins of these diminutive cousins of modern humans.

Now, discoveries of stone flakes used as primitive tools on the island suggest that the hobbit's ancestors were there a million years ago, at least 120,000 years earlier than previously thought (A. Brumm et al. Nature doi:10.1038/nature08844; 2010). "Whatever species made it to the island 1 million years ago, it was probably an ancestor of Homo floresiensis," says William Jungers, an anthropologist at Stony Brook University in New York.

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Medieval child's brain to unlock human thought processes

The almost perfectly preserved brain of a medieval toddler who died 800 years ago is set to provide ground-breaking information into human thought processes.

The brain was found mummified inside a wooden coffin in boggy soil close to Quimper, in Brittany, before being placed in formalin solution.

The boy, who was around 18 months old, appeared to have died of a skull fracture before his head was placed in a leather envelope, and then on a pillow in the 13th Century.

It was exhumed in 1998 and after more than a decade of research scientists have now identified neurons and cerebral cells that are still intact.

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Monasterboice high crosses may be moved to visitor centre

THE internationally-famous high crosses at Monasterboice, Co Louth, may be moved indoors to protect them from erosion by weather and pollution.

Some erosion is already visible, including a crack in one of the most important crosses.

A conservation study on the monastic site, just outside Drogheda, says there are between 70,000 and 100,000 visitors to it each year and the tour guides work on a voluntary basis.

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Archaeologists to dig up William Shakespeare’s garden at New Place, Stratford–upon–Avon

Planners behind the groundbreaking archaeological investigation at Shakespeare's final home, at New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon, are inviting the public to get involved when it starts next week (March 26 2010).

Three locations have been earmarked for excavation around the picturesque site, and a special walkway and viewing platform are being installed so visitors can get a closer look at the trenches and talk to the archaeologists while they work.

The Dig for Shakespeare project will involve a team of archaeologists from Birmingham Archaeology, helped by volunteer diggers in three different trenches in the Bard's backyard.

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Medieval pottery and old bikes found in town's archaeological dig

POTTERY dating back to the late medieval era and old bike parts from a shop in the 1970s were found during a Bideford archaeological dig.

Torridge District Council's Bridge Street car park has undergone an archaeological dig to confirm the contents of a site before possible redevelopment.

Archaeologists were optimistic about findings on the car park because of the area's medieval road lanes and maps and etchings showing buildings from the 17th century.

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Illegal metal detecting crackdown

Archaeologists are to team up with police in a bid to crack down on illegal metal detecting in Norfolk.

Norfolk has the highest number of recovered artefacts in the country declared treasure and a successful long-established working relationship with legitimate metal- detecting enthusiasts.

There were 109 cases of items found in Norfolk being declared treasure in 2008-09. Recent finds include a hoard of 24 Henry III short-cross pennies in Breckland, and an early Saxon gold spangle from south Norfolk.

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Evidence of 250,000-year-old man in Bingham

BINGHAM residents have discovered that an extinct human species existed in the area more than 250,000 years ago.

After four years of field-walking, results of Bingham Heritage Trails Association's investigation will be published shortly.

The group also discovered that the nearby Roman town of Margidunum was larger than previously thought with development along the Fosse Way.

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Previews of Staffordshire Hoard film to be shown in Stoke-on-Trent

Special preview screenings of a National Geographic film about the Staffordshire Hoard are to take place at The Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent

Saxon Gold – Finding the Hoard is narrated by Bernard Hill of Titanic and Lord of the Rings fame, and two screenings will take place on March 26 at 3pm and 6pm.

Richard Belfield, the film’s executive producer, will be at the museum’s Forum Theatre to give an introduction.

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Dig reveals medieval pottery under proposed building site

The foundations of medieval homes, pottery and a well have been uncovered during an archaeological dig in Keynsham.

Avon Archaeological Unit was called in by Keynsham businessman John Paget after he got planning permission to build new retail and office units off Temple Street.

Keynsham has a long and colourful history and one of the largest Roman villas in the country was discovered in the cemetery at the top of Durley Hill

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Bulgaria: Archaeologists Finally Put Date on Ancient Starosel Tomb

A team of archaeologists from the Bulgarian National History Museum, with the help of a German lab, has finally managed to estimate the time of the construction of the largest underground temple on the Balkan Peninsula, the Thracian Starosel tomb to the fourth century BC.

In the summer of 2009, the archaeological team, led by Dr. Ivan Hristov, took samples from a stake in the middle of the tomb where gifts to the Greek goddess of the hearth Hestia were laid, reported recently.

The sample underwent radio carbon dating analysis in Dr. Bernd Krommer’s laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, which showed that the stake was burned in the period after 358 BC, when the temple was constructed, and the earth was heaped on top of it to form a burial mound.

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Estimate puts mankind's ancestors at 18,500 1.2M years ago

From the composition of just two human genomes, geneticists have computed the size of the human population 1.2 million years ago from which everyone in the world is descended.

They put the number at 18,500 people, but this refers only to breeding individuals, the "effective" population. The actual population would have been about three times as large, or 55,500.

Comparable estimates for other primates then are 21,000 for chimpanzees and 25,000 for gorillas. In biological terms, it seems, humans were not a very successful species, and the strategy of investing in larger brains than those of their fellow apes had not yet produced any big payoff. Human population numbers did not reach high levels until after the advent of agriculture.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

51 Headless Vikings in English Execution Pit Confirmed

Naked, beheaded, and tangled, the bodies of 51 young males found in the United Kingdom have been identified as brutally slain Vikings, archaeologists announced Friday.

The decapitated skeletons—their heads stacked neatly to the side—were uncovered in June 2009 in a thousand-year-old execution pit near the southern seaside town of Weymouth (United Kingdom map).

Already radio-carbon dating results released in July had shown the men lived between A.D. 910 and 1030, a period when the English fought—and often lost—battles against Viking invaders. (Related: "Viking Weapon-Recycling Site Found in England?")

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Teeth tests show victims from mass war grave in Weymouth pit could have been Swedish

"Painstaking" analysis of teeth from ten of the executed corpses found in a mass grave on the Weymouth Olympic Relief Road last summer has revealed the slaughtered remains may have belonged to Vikings from Scandinavia and the Polar regions.

Isotope tests showed the men had grown up in a cold, non-chalk climate with a predominantly protein-based diet, nodding to research collected on bodies from Swedish and Arctic Circle sites.

Strontium and oxygen samples were used to determine the local geology and climate of their native countries, supported by carbon and nitrogen investigations reflecting their likely eating patterns.

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Weymouth Relief Road archaeology day school

Spaces are still available on the Weymouth Relief Road archaeology day school this Saturday, 20 March.

Tickets cost £12, and the day includes presentations by Oxford Archaeology, Wessex Archaeology and Dorset County Museum, as well as having access to the exhibition.

To book a space call Dorset County Council senior archaeologist Claire Pinder on 01305 224921, you will then be able to pick your ticket up on the door.

Limited space – over 200 tickets sold so far!

If you don’t book, you can’t come in!

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Saxon object mystery for Canterbury experts

A Saxon object which was uncovered in an archaeological dig in Kent cannot be identified by experts.

The circular silver, bronze and wooden disk was found in a Saxon burial ground at The Meads, Sittingbourne, in 2008.

Despite using microscopes, X-rays and reading articles about burial grounds, the Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) has been unable to identify it.

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Medieval Child's Brain Found Preserved


* Intact neurons and cells were identified within an 18-month-old child's brain from the 13th century.
* The remains were found in northwestern France where salty clay soil and fresh and briny water all worked to naturally preserve the brain.
* The find reveals how well human brain cells can potentially survive the centuries.

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How Nature Inspired the Alphabet

32,000 years ago, ancient humans gathered in a cave in Lascaux, France, where, by firelight, they created the first hand-drawn forms--scenes depicting man's relationship with the natural world. The favorite subject in those first drawings was the ancient ox, so impressive in stature and strength, that it was deified by our earliest ancestors. This reverence for nature remained as civilizations formed, and with it, written language. It is no wonder then that subtly hidden within our alphabet today lie the remnants of these ancient forms--many of which reflect the earliest relationships between man and nature. To find them, you just have to look a little closer.

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When did the first 'modern' human beings appear in the Iberian Peninsula?

Research carried out by a group of archaeologists from the Centre for Prehistoric Archaeological Heritage Studies of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (CEPAP_UAB) at the Cova Gran site (Lleida) has contributed to stirring up scientific debate about the appearance of the first 'modern' human beings on the Iberian Peninsula and their possible bearing on the extinction of the Neanderthals. The samples obtained at Cova Gran using Carbon 14 dating refer to a period of between 34,000 and 32,000 years in which this biological replacement in the Western Mediterranean can be located in time, although the study regards as relative the use of Carbon 14 for dating materials from the period of transition of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic period( 40,000 and 30,000). The results also support the hypothesis that there was neither interaction nor coexistence between the two species.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Visitors queue to see return of Staffordshire Hoard in Birmingham

CROWDS of new, intrigued visitors have flocked to see previously unseen items from the Staffordshire Hoard in Birmingham.

They spoke about their fascination with the hoard as part of it returned to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

A selection of about 60 items has gone on display including helmet fragments, a crumpled gold cross and parts of animal ornaments.

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Fenwick human remains dated to medieval times

Human bones found in a Northumberland garden have been dated to the 13th or 14th centuries.

The remains, which include a skull, were found in the Fenwick area, between Matfen and Stamfordham, in February.

The county council's archaeological team said the bones could be linked to a medieval settlement known to have existed in the area.

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Thessaloniki metro works reveal archaeological finds

A large early Christian Basilica (1st to early 4th century AD) and an important late Byzantine period (1204-1430) building were unearthed at a same number of Thessaloniki metro construction sites over the recent period.

Part of a three-aisled, 50-metre-long basilica was unearthed during earthworks for the construction of the Sintrivani station and according to archaeologists it belongs to a cemetery.

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Archaeological finds at The Meads, Sittingbourne

Archaeologists are puzzled over a mystery object uncovered at The Meads, Sittingbourne.

The item, which was found during a dig of the site in 2008, was put on public display along with several other items including swords and shield bosses at the Forum Shopping Centre on Friday.

It could take months of research before the team working on the project discover what the item is.

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GeoKnowledge Workshop

A free workshop on Heights and Flights - Learning and Teaching with Landmap

Friday 26 March 2010

University of Leicester

Landmap is a JISC Spatial Discovery service which provides access to and support for a range of satellite, airborne and feature datasets. The Landmap Service in the past year has focused on supporting the use of spatial data by providing online courses and learning and teaching materials through a new Learning Zone which caters for students/researchers and teachers/lecturers.

This workshop will introduce the new Learning Zone facility via a mix of presentations and 'hands on' practical sessions. Academic staff who wish to use the materials for teaching are particularly welcome to attend.

Applying: Places are limited. The deadline for registration is 24 March 2010.


"Wrapping and Unwrapping the Body - Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives"

The Institute of Archaeology, UCL is holding a conference

"Wrapping and Unwrapping the Body - Archaeological and Anthropological

on the 20th-21st May 2010. The conference is free to attend, please book in

Registration and details...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Decapitated Viking Skeletons found near Weymouth

The archaeological news recently has been full of articles concerning the decapitated skeletons found during the excavations for the Weymouth Relief Road.

With so many news reports it is often difficult to separate the journalistic hyperbole from the facts, and one often has to look at several reports even to begin to get the full picture.

This website draws together the important facts and gives links to informative press releases. The last page contains links to a video and collections of pictures of the excavations.

You can find the website here…

The long battle for the Staffordshire treasure hoard

For 1,400 years, a stash of Anglo-Saxon artefacts remained buried — until it was found last year by a man with a metal detector. It throws fascinating new light on clashes in the Dark Ages, but now we must win the fight to keep this precious hoard in Britain

It’s a misty dawn in Middle England, some time in the 7th century. A small band of armed men struggle up a wooded hill. At the summit they pause. While one keeps watch, the others tip their loot on to the ground. They divide up the jewels and coins, then they turn to the rest of the booty: swords, crosses, saddle fittings, which are mostly gold and exquisitely made. They hammer at them with stones and the hilts of their knives, they rip the pommels from the swords and stuff the blades into their jerkins, smash the helmets and bend the arms of the crosses until they look like nothing more than twisted pieces of metal. They stuff the small gold and bejewelled fragments into leather pouches, grub out a hole in the earth, and bury their cache. Then they disappear over the hill as swiftly as they came.

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Flaming torches light up Britain's Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall, a Roman-era fortification spanning the width of northern England, was lit up from end-to-end by volunteers carrying flaming torches.

As night fell, 500 gas flames were lit at 250-metre intervals for 84 miles (135 kilometres) from Wallsend in northeast England to Bowness-on-Solway in the northwest.

This created a coast-to-coast line of light along the route of a path which runs next to the wall.

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Dig may find signs of Viking town in Thetford

Archaeologists hope to find signs of an old Viking town during excavations in Norfolk.

The dig at the Anchor Hotel in Bridge Street, Thetford, is being carried out ahead of a possible redevelopment of the area.

The proximity of the Little Ouse river means there is every likelihood of well preserved remains under the car park, Breckland District Council said.

It is expected the work will take up to six weeks, depending on what is found.

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Bulgaria Archaeologists, Architects Move to Save Cybele Temple

A commission of archaeologists and architects is set on securing a National Monument status for the temple of Greek goddess Cybele in Bulgaria’s Balchik.

The absolutely unique Cybele temple was uncovered by accident in April 2007 at the construction site of a hotel owned by a local entrepreneur.

The special commission has been appointed by Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov in order to figure out how to preserve the temple.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ridgeway Viking grave: Historian's hope

HISTORIAN Stuart Morris is hoping the bones will shed more light on when Vikings were first believed to have arrived on the British Isles at Portland in 787.

He said Anglo Saxon chronicles have shown that on their arrival the Shire Reeve, or sheriff of Dorchester, travelled to Portland to meet and trade with the Vikings but was killed.

And Mr Morris is hoping the discovery of the bones on the Ridgeway might reveal what happened when the Shire Reeve met them.

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Unseen Staffordshire Hoard treasure back on display in Birmingham

Helmet fragments previously unseen in Birmingham will go on display when items from the world’s largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure returns to the city tomorrow (Saturday).

A selection of 59 items will be on display including helmet fragments with animal decorations and warriors. Other artefacts to be displayed include

fragments of decoration of eagles and ducks, a crumpled gold cross and a red garnet stud.

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Ridgeway Viking grave: Finds to go on display

FINDS from the Viking grave and other archaeological sites unearthed along the route of the Weymouth Relief Road are going on display later this month.

The Pavilion Ocean Room will be turning into an Aladdin’s cave of archaeological treasure as exhibits are laid out.

During the free event, ancient bones, Iron Age pottery, shale jewellery and many other finds will be on display.

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1,000-Year-Old Massacre Uncovered in England

A macabre and forgotten episode from the Dark Ages has been uncovered by British researchers after they examined dozens of beheaded skeletons.

Mystery surrounded the identity of the victims since they were discovered by accident last June near Weymouth, Dorset, England, when workers at a 2012 building site, stumbled across a burial pit.

The grave contained a mass of bones and 51 skulls neatly stacked in a pile.

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Beheaded Vikings found at Olympic site

They were 51 young men who met a grisly death far from home, their heads chopped off and their bodies thrown into a mass grave.

Their resting place was unknown until last year, when workers excavating for a road near the London 2012 Olympic sailing venue in Weymouth, England, unearthed the grave. But questions remained about who the men were, how long they had been there and why they had been decapitated.

On Friday, officials revealed that analysis of the men's teeth shows they were Vikings, executed with sharp blows to the head around a thousand years ago. They were killed during the Dark Ages, when Vikings frequently invaded the region.

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Warmington's buried treasure may reveal what the Romans did for us

Historians investigating a hoard of Roman coins unearthed in south Warwickshire are hoping to ensure they remain in the county - and to solve the mystery of who buried them.

The cache of 1,146 silver denarii dating from 209 BC to 64AD - the largest in the county - was found by metal detector enthusiast Keith Bennett and declared treasure trove last year.

The coins themselves shed light on the brutal and often corrupt machinations of the Roman Empire, but Warmington Heritage Group is trying to find out why they were buried and what they reveal about life in the area in the first century AD.

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People's army takes over Hadrian's wall in light spectacular

An army that would have astonished the emperor Hadrian is set to take over his Roman wall tomorrow night, lighting a chain of beacons from the Tyne to the Solway Firth.

Thousands have been recruited for what will be an 84-mile variation on Antony Gormley's invitation to the people of the UK to occupy the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square – a brief but spectacular moment of public art.

Designed to highlight Britain's biggest ancient monument and bring an early spring to the northern tourist economy, the event will feature scenes that would have earned an instant court martial in Hadrian's day.

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Centre of archaeology controversy

He was either one of the most industrious and productive forgers ever known or, as his supporters claimed, Emile Fradin, who has died at 103, was the victim in France's archaeological equivalent of the nationally divisive false treason Dreyfus case of 1894.

Fradin, a barely literate but shrewd peasant farmer, was accused of trying to bamboozle the archaeological establishment by creating an unknown neolithic culture buried on or near the family farm at Glozel, Vichy.

In March 1924 the cow pulling his plough was said to have stumbled into a hole, which apparently contained an underground chamber floored with clay tiles and containing a skull, carved bones, and pots and clay tablets with strange symbols on them.

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Mittelalterliches Gewerbe in Langenthal

Seit August 2009 führt der Archäologische Dienst des Kantons Bern in Langenthal Ausgrabungen durch. Hier, in der ehemaligen Schwemmebene der Langete, konnten erstmals mittelalterliche Befunde dokumentiert werden, die ein neues Licht auf die Geschichte der heutigen Stadt Langenthal werfen.

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Römische Strasse im Kanton Zürich kann nun über 3 km verfolgt werden

Im Herbst 2009 konnte die von Oberwinterthur (Vitudurum) nach Pfyn (Ad Fines) im Kanton Zürich führende römische Strasse gleich an zwei Stellen gefasst werden. Der eine Fundpunkt liegt in Rickenbach, die andere Fundstelle rund 800 m südwestlich davon in Wiesendangen.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

University of Oxford Online Courses in Archaeology

Exploring Roman Britain (starts April 2010)

Origins of Human Behaviour (starts April 2010)

Pompeii and the Cities of the Roman World (starts May 2010)

Ritual and Religion in Prehistory (starts April 2010)

Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers (starts May 2010)

Click on the course title for further details.

Scottish MP demands return of the Lewis Chessmen

A Scottish Member of Parliament is demanding that the entire collection of Lewis Chessmen be permanently kept in Scotland. He is upset that the British Museum, which houses some of these medieval figures, is now saying that the chessmen were created in Norway instead of northern Scotland.

Western Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil said “The British Museum’s treatment of this link raises real questions about where the chessmen should be displayed permanently.

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Donegal skeletons may offer clue on cystic fibrosis

WHAT COULD A collection of medieval human skeletons found in south Donegal tell us about cystic fibrosis in Ireland? A new study plans to find out – by analysing DNA from the skeletons’ teeth for mutations in the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene, writes CLAIRE O'CONNELL

Archaeologists unearthed the 1,250 skeletons during excavations in late 2003 along along the route of the N15 Bundoran-Ballyshannon bypass at Ballyhanna.

The site is thought to have been used for burials around the 12th century AD, and for several years researchers at IT Sligo and Queen’s University Belfast have been analysing the remains for evidence of diet and health, in a project funded by the National Roads Authority.

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Wolfson Foundation grant will help Jorvik Viking Centre put baffling remains on show

THE Jorvik Viking Centre is celebrating a huge cash boost only weeks after the completion of a £1million upgrade.

Bosses at York Archaeological Trust said they hoped the £150,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation would enable them to find a home at Coppergate for some of the region’s most significant archaeological finds of recent years.

John Walker, head of the trust, said he would like to bring to Jorvik the ancient remains of ten Roman York residents which were unearthed at a dig in The Mount area in 2004.

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County’s Roman site to feature on TV

TV crews are set to descend on a historic Shropshire Roman city for a new documentary to be viewed by millions.

A planning application is expected to be rushed through Shropshire Council next week for the construction of a replica Roman villa at Wroxeter, near Shrewsbury, at a site near the old barns.

Roger Pittaway, clerk of Wroxeter and Uppington Parish Council, said the project, which will use authentic materials, was discussed at a meeting this week.

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Archaeologists unearth rare finds in Aiane, Kozani

Rare finds, among them the architectural ruins of tombs, pottery and clay statuettes, were brought to light during archeological excavations conducted at the Royal Necropolis in the region of Livadia, near the village of Aiane in the prefecture of Kozani, northwestern Greece.

The land of Aiane is rich in unique and rare archaeological finds, according to the head of the 30th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in charge of the excavations, referring to recent discoveries that include 25 tombs dating back to the Archaic and Classical Period and 4 tombs of the late Bronze Age.

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Bulgarian Archaeologists Make Breakthrough in Ancient Thrace Tomb

One of Bulgaria’s top Ancient Thrace sites, the Starosel Tomb, has been dated to the 4th century BC after years of research.

With German help a team of archaeologists of the Bulgarian National History Museum led by Dr. Ivan Hristov has managed to estimate the timing of the construction of the largest underground temple on the Balkan Peninsula, the Starosel Tomb, located in the Hisarya Municipality, Plovdiv District.

In the summer of 2009, the archaeological team took samples from a stake in the middle of the tomb where gifts to the Greek goddess of the hearth Hestia were laid.

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Decapitated bodies found in Dorset burial pit were executed Vikings

Fifty beheaded young men found in a burial pit last year were probably executed Vikings, archaeologists revealed today.

Teeth samples from 10 of the decapitated warriors discovered in Weymouth, in Dorset, show that they were Scandinavian invaders who fell into the hands of Anglo Saxons.

Dating back to between AD910 and AD1030, the mass war grave is among the largest examples ever found of executed foreigners buried in one spot.

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Weymouth ridgeway skeletons 'Scandinavian Vikings'

Fifty-one decapitated skeletons found in a burial pit in Dorset were those of Scandinavian Vikings, scientists say.

Mystery has surrounded the identity of the group since they were discovered at Ridgeway Hill, near Weymouth, in June.

Analysis of teeth from 10 of the men revealed they had grown up in countries with a colder climate than Britain's.

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See also In pictures: Burial pit (BBC)

Archaeologists uncover headless corpses of 51 Vikings executed by Saxons in Dorset killing field

They knelt and cowered together - a once proud and fearless band of raiders stripped and humiliated by their Saxon captors.

One by one, their executioners stepped forward, uttered a prayer and brought their axes and swords crashing down on the necks of the Viking prisoners.

The axes fell until the roadside was sticky with blood from the decapitated corpses of the 51 men, most barely in their twenties.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ancient Norse Settlements Hit Cold Spell

A long cooling period may have led to famine in Greenland and Iceland more than 1,000 years ago.

New research reveals just how bad an idea it was to colonize Greenland and Iceland more than a millennium ago: average temperatures in Iceland plummeted nearly 6 degrees Celsius in the century that followed the island's Norse settlement in about A.D. 870, a climate record gleaned from mollusk shells shows.

The record is the most precise year-by-year chronology yet of temperatures experienced by the northern Norse colonies, says William Patterson, an isotope geochemist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, who led the new work. The study will appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Artisans in bid to solve mystery of ancient carvings

EASTER Ross artisans are taking part in a research project, trying to solve the mysteries of ancient carvings.

Fearn sculptor Barry Grove and Tain glass artist Brodie Nairn are working with the National Museum of Scotland and Aberlady Heritage in a project to see if empty eye sockets in historic carvings could have been filled with a form of glass eye. And Mr Grove is attempting to re-create a 14ft Pictish carved stone, working with a 2ft fragment of the original found at Aberlady, East Lothian.

He said: “From research it is thought the original was about 14ft high and there have been many discussions with academics to ensure it is as accurate as it can be.”

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Lumineszenz stellt archäologische Uhr auf null

Ein Forscherteam des Atominstitutes der Technischen Universität Wien hat mittels strahlenphysikalischer Methoden geholfen, das Rätsel der sogenannten Ziegelroith zu entschlüsseln.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Citizenship and History news: Africans in Roman York?

Citizenship and History-related news: forensic tests on a 4th century corpse found in a stone coffin in York more than 100 years ago have revealed North African socialites may have been high-flyers in multi-cultural Roman Britain.

Archaeologists used isotope analysis to scrutinize the skull, facial features and food and drink traces left in the body of The Ivory Bangle Lady, a skeleton discovered in a grave full of exotic bracelets, earrings and jewellery on the city’s Sycamore Terrace in 1901.

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Chester Walls project aims to fix historic towers

RE-OPENING the towers on the City Walls is an ambitious project costing almost one million Euros.

The European Union money will pay for the repair and restoration of the towers – including King Charles’ Tower on the north east corner of the walls.

Legend has it King Charles watched his army defeated by the Parliamentarians in the battle of Rowton Moor while standing on the tower on September 24, 1645.

There used to be a small museum within the tower, open to the public at weekends, but it closed due to cuts.

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