Monday, November 29, 2010

UK archaeologists are facing a wave of cuts that they say will lead to a loss of skills and take the teaching of the subject "back to the 1950s".

To cut its national budget deficit, the UK government has launched an austerity programme that will see research funding stay static for the next four years (see 'UK scientists celebrate budget reprieve'). But archaeology is expected to be hit particularly hard, because the subject depends on a combination of public institutions run by several different government departments that are all seeing simultaneous budget reductions. "It seems like a perfect storm of factors is coming together," says Mike Heyworth, director of the Council for British Archaeology, an educational non-governmental organization.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Antarctic ice reveals trapped secrets of climate change

Cores drilled from the icecap are going on show at London's Science Museum. The centuries-old information they contain could help scientists predict Earth's future weather

They were found deep below Earth's surface, provide vital information about our climate's history and, for the first time, will be publicly displayed in their full freezing glory. Three pieces of ice core, drilled from the Antarctic icecap, one containing bubbles of air from the year 1410, will this week be installed in a glass-fronted freezer cabinet in the Science Museum in London's new Atmosphere gallery.

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In a far corner of Greenland, hope is fading with the language and sea ice

Climate change, hunting controls and a new consumerism threaten the way of life of the Polar Eskimos of north-west Greenland. In the second of a series of dispatches, Stephen Pax Leonard reports from a community on the brink

The sun is slowly disappearing behind the cliffs towards Siorapaluk now it is gone midnight, leaving whale-shaped Herbert Island awash in crimson. It is mid-August and it is my very first evening in the settlement.

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Britain's Oldest Brain

The oldest surviving human brain in Britain, dating back at least 2000 years to the Iron Age, was unearthed during excavations on the site of the University of York’s campus expansion at Heslington East in 2008.

Archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust, commissioned by the University to carry out the exploratory dig, made the discovery in an area of extensive prehistoric farming landscape of fields, trackways and buildings dating back to at least 300 BC, and they believe the skull, which was found on its own in a muddy pit, may have been a ritual offering.

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A prehistoric star map carved on a Welsh capstone?

A recent excavation programme at a standing stone known as Trefael, near Newport (south-west Wales) has revealed that what originally was a portal dolmen in later times was transformed in a standing stone, probably used as a ritual marker to guide communities through a scared landscape.

This solitary stone has over 75 cupmarks gouged onto its upper surface. Following the complete exposure of the capstone through excavation, it is now considered by several astronomers that the distribution of the cupmarks may represent a section of the night sky that includes the star constellations of Cassiopeia, Orion, Sirius and of course the North Star.

Until recently, little was known about this stone. About 40 years ago archaeologists had speculated that it may have once formed a capstone which would have covered a small burial chamber. In order to prove or disprove this, a geophysical survey was undertaken, the results of which revealed the remains of a kidney-shaped anomaly, possibly the remnants of the cairn that would have once surrounded the chamber, with an entrance to the east.

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Face it, guys: We’re cubs compared with our forebears

I’m afraid there’s more bad news, boys.

A new book on men is out, and — guess what? — it isn’t flattering to our gender. That’s hardly surprising, given that scientists studying human males invariably conclude that we’re oversexed brutes ruled by the primitive parts of our brains.

Now you can add this: We’re also weaklings. All of us. Even the football “warriors” colliding on our TV screens this holiday weekend.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mystery shipwreck found in central Stockholm

The remains of a ship dating from the 1600s have been discovered outside the Grand Hotel in central Stockholm.

The vessel was built with an almost completely unknown technology, delighting archaeologists. The planks of the ship are not nailed down, but sewn together with rope.

The discovery was made by labourers close to the royal palace and in front of Stockholm's Grand Hotel during renovation works to a quay.

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'Ancient farm' found at site of new Forth Crossing

Archaeologists believe they may have unearthed the remains of a Neolithic farm on the site where the new Forth road bridge is to be built.

Trial trenches have been dug in a field on the outskirts of South Queensferry on land reserved for the planned Forth Replacement Crossing (FRC).

Archaeologists plan further excavations to confirm what they believe is an early version of a croft or small farm.

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Archaeologists bridge the gap between old and new

ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe they may have unearthed the remains of a neolithic farm on the site where the new Forth bridge is to be built.
The rare find offers a glimpse of how the land was used 4000 years ago.

Trial trenches have been dug across a field on the outskirts of South Queensferry on land reserved for the new crossing.

Among items dug up so far are bits of neolithic pottery, clearly decorated with patterns, as well as a flint arrowhead.

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Exeter university student sparks new Stonehenge theory

A REVOLUTIONARY new idea on the movement of big monument stones like those at Stonehenge has been put forward by an archaeology student at the University of Exeter.

While an undergraduate, Andrew Young saw a correlation between standing stone circles in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and a concentration of carved stone balls, which may have been used to help transport the big stones by functioning like ball bearings.

Young discovered that many of the late Neolithic stone balls had a diameter within a millimetre of each other, which he felt indicated they would have been used together in some way rather than individually.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

New Sutton Hoo photographs unearthed

It’s like stepping back in time. The Sutton Hoo Visitors Centre has unearthed a host of new, historically important treasures.

Like the original ship burial, this remarkable find has laid unseen and forgotten for a long time. Tucked away in a dusty storeroom were a couple of fairly nondescript cardboard boxes.

Inside these unprepossessing packages were a photographic treasure trove which sheds new light on the discovery and the excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship burial.

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Researchers Kick-Start Ancient DNA

Binghamton University researchers recently revived ancient bacteria trapped for thousands of years in water droplets embedded in salt crystals.

For decades, geologists have looked at these water droplets -- called fluid inclusions -- and wondered whether microbes could be extracted from them. Fluid inclusions have been found inside salt crystals ranging in age from thousands to hundreds of millions years old.

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Underground tunnel discovered by archaeologists at Lincoln Castle

A PREVIOUSLY unknown underground tunnel has been discovered at Lincoln Castle.

Archaeologists uncovered the medieval structure during exploratory work at ground level prior to the installation of a lift that would take people on to the castle walls.

The tunnel, which is linked to a circular room or structure, was uncovered by Lincoln Cathedral archaeologist Dr Philip Dixon and is fast becoming the talk among archaeologists and history buffs.

County archaeologist Beryl Lott described it as an exciting and unique discovery.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

EMAS Easter Study Tour to Denmark

20 - 27 April 2011

The full details of the EMAS (the University of London Extra-Mural Archaeological Society) Easter archaeological study tour to Denmark are now available online.

The EMAS Easter Archaeological Study Tour will be a tour of many of the major Early Medieval and Viking Period sites in Denmark.

The itinerary will include sites such as the Viking Age fort at Fyrkat, the amazing cemetery at Lindholme Høje with its ship-shaped setting in stone, the great mounds at Jelling together with the rune stones and, of course, the Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde and the VikingCenter at Ribe, which has been described as the best Viking museum in the world.

You can find the details here...

Roman ruins found beneath new London hotel

An entire Roman landscape has been discovered a few feet underground at Grade I listed Syon Park, West London.

The find, by Museum of London Archaeology, followed excavations in August 2008 ahead of the construction of the new London Syon Park, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, set to open in early 2011.

Revealed were a section of a road linking London with Silchester; a rural settlement; a tributary of the Thames; and human skeletons.

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New penis for statue in Silvio Berlusconi's Rome office

A marble Roman statue of Mars has had its snapped-off penis rebuilt and reattached on the specific orders of the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

The reported cost to taxpayers of the restoration – 70,000 euros (£59,500) – prompted criticism at a time when the Italian government has slashed millions of euros from the country's arts and heritage budget and parts of Pompeii are crumbling into dust.

"This is aesthetic surgery carried out on the personal whim of the prime minister," said Manuela Ghizzoni of the opposition Democratic Party

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Arbroath’s Iron-Age past revealed

RECENT archaeological discoveries at Stewart Milne Homes’ King’s Gate development have revealed exciting new evidence of life in Arbroath some 3,000 years ago.

Carried out in preparation for the development’s second phase of homes, archaeologists uncovered the foundations of two large timber roundhouses, the homes of people who farmed the rich Angus landscape during the Iron Age.

The team also recovered saddle querns, lithics and pottery which relate to pre-historic agriculture and the domestic use of the settlement.

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Learning more about Thanet's Viking past

DISCOVER the stories behind Vikings that splashed ashore at Pegwell with two forays into the past this week, on Sunday at Quex and next Monday in Broadstairs.

In the second in our occasional History Beneath Our Feet series, Marilyn Bishop from the Isle of Thanet Archaeology Society (IOTA) talks about what she describes as "one of the most fascinating yet still little-known times in the history of Thanet" – the Dark Ages.

She said: "When the Roman army departed in 410 AD the country, left to the mercy of raiders from across the North Sea, descended into chaos.

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Roman water mill found during Cumbrian dig to go on display

Remains of a Roman water mill which were unearthed during a major dig in Cockermouth this summer will be exhibited next week.

The water mill, which had been buried for nearly 2,000 years and is the first to be uncovered in Cumbria, will be put on public view in the town’s tourist information centre a week today.

In August volunteers from Heritage Lottery Fund, supported Bassenthwaite Reflections, excavated an area alongside the River Derwent at Papcastle – behind the Lakes Homecentre in Cockermouth.

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Exhibit threads Chinese, Roman empires with silk

The silk trade connection between the Chinese and Roman empires went on display in a unique exhibition in Rome that opened on Friday, including hundreds of rare artifacts from the ancient powers.

The exhibit sets a variety of Chinese and Roman archaeological treasures -- jade coffins, silk robes, musical instruments and statues -- side by side in the Palazzo Venezia museum and the old Roman Senate building in the Forum.

"The Two Empires: The Eagle and The Dragon" will run until February 6.

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Sutton Hoo dig holiday 'snaps' on display in Suffolk

Holiday "snaps" of a dig in Suffolk described as one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in the UK are being displayed for the first time.

The amateur photographs are among the few records of excavations at Sutton Hoo in 1939, the National Trust said.

School mistresses Mercie Lack and Barbara Wagstaff took pictures as archaeologists studied the construction of an Anglo-Saxon burial ship.

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Stonehenge receives millions of pounds

The Heritage Lottery Fund has offered a multimillion-pound grant to be used in restoring Stonehenge, Britain's most famous World Heritage site.

The Historic Building and Monuments Commission for England, known as English Heritage, says the money can cover two-thirds of the expenses for revamping the area around the prehistoric site.

Located in Wiltshire County, the Stonehenge is one of the world's most famous sites, which is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones.

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How did the Norse really colonize Greenland?

Almost everybody have sometime heard or read about what is often referred to as the ferocious Vikings sometimes also called Norsemen or Norse for short. You may also have heard about how the man known as Eric the Red discovered Greenland. But that is not entirely true!

But before telling the story of Eric the Red and Greenland let’s look at what could have driven the people from mostly Scandinavia going on explorations across the world. The medieval written sources and also the rune stones reveal a society which seems to somewhat have encouraged people travelling abroad to do great deeds.

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Stonehenge mystery could rest on ball bearings

Neolithic engineers may have used ball bearings in the construction of Stonehenge, it was claimed today.

The same technique that allows vehicles and machinery to run smoothly today could have been used to transport the monument's massive standing stones more than 4,000 years ago, according to a new theory.

Scientists showed how balls placed in grooved wooden tracks would have allowed the easy movement of stones weighing many tons.

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'Real' Mortimer's Hole uncovered by cave survey

Archaeologists in Nottingham say they have uncovered the true site of one of the country's most infamous caves.

Mortimer's Hole is reputed to be the route by which Edward III's troops entered the city's castle to capture Roger de Mortimer, in 1313.

The young Edward is said to have suspected Mortimer of been involved in the murder of his father, Edward II.

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Roman road junction discovered at Network Rail site

The find reveals a new junction on the historic Fen Causeway road which runs underneath Whitemoor Marshalling Yards, the site where Network Rail are building a brand new railway reycling centre worth £23 million.

The discovery points towards the town’s ancient history as a centre for settlement and trade, and provides evidence of further links to nearby settlements.

North Pennines Archaeology Ltd sent workers to the Whitemoor site to investigate the remains of the rail yard and establish whether the course of the Fen Causeway had been fully removed by the rail yard’s construction.

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Archaeologists record first of Nottingham's caves

A series of pictures.


Vikings brought Amerindian to Iceland 1,000 years ago: study

The first Native American to arrive in Europe may have been a woman brought to Iceland by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago, a study by Spanish and Icelandic researchers suggests.

The findings boost widely-accepted theories, based on Icelandic medieval texts and a reputed Viking settlement in Newfoundland in Canada, that the Vikings reached the American continent several centuries before Christopher Columbus travelled to the "New World."

Spain's CSIC scientific research institute said genetic analysis of around 80 people from a total of four families in Iceland showed they possess a type of DNA normally only found in Native Americans or East Asians.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Vikings Possibly Carried Native American to Europe

Medieval texts suggest the Vikings arrived in the New World more than 1,000 years ago.

The first Native American to arrive in Europe may have been a woman brought to Iceland by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago, a study by Spanish and Icelandic researchers suggests.

The findings boost widely-accepted theories, based on Icelandic medieval texts and a reputed Viking settlement in Newfoundland in Canada, that the Vikings reached the American continent several centuries before Christopher Columbus traveled to the "New World."

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mediaeval graffiti casts light on everyday workers at nunnery

Historians in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia announced on Tuesday that they have deciphered mysterious 500-year-old graffiti left in an old abbey attic. The etchings are likely practice drawings made by handwork apprentices.

For years people working in the former St. Katherina Church near Langerwehe had noticed the enigmatic drawings, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the LVR regional authority for monument preservation began closely examining their origins, spokeswoman Sabine Cornelius told The Local.

They were surprised to find that the forty-by-two-metre plaster wall bore the tentative marks of young apprentices in the 15th century.

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Stone age skull found in Orkney

AN ALMOST intact human skull which may date back 5,000 years has been exhumed from a tomb in South Ronaldsay in Orkney.
The burial chamber containing a collection of bones was discovered by boat owner Hamish Mowatt, who caught a glimpse inside the tomb in September, when he was tidying the garden of a bistro owned by his fiancée, Carole Fletcher.

Archeologists believe the layout of the newly uncovered tomb may shed light on the rituals and beliefs of our neolithic ancestors. Dan Lee, project officer with the Orkney Research Centre for Archeology, said: "It's an important site because it gives us the chance to investigate a tomb using modern archaeological techniques.

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Modern man outlived Neanderthals due to 'live slow and grow old' strategy

Modern man developed a better brain than Neanderthals because of our "live slow and grow old" strategy, a study claimed.

Humans became more sophisticated than other species because of our uniquely slow physical development and long childhood, it was claimed.

Other primates have shorter gestation, mature faster in childhood, reproduce at a younger age and have shorter lifespans, even when compared with early humans.

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Why urine has been such a useful commodity

Are we utilising our pee as much as we should be?

Author Sally Magnusson examines the industrial uses of human urine through history.

Hear the broadcast...

Synchrotron reveals human children outpaced Neanderthals by slowing down

Human childhood is considerably longer than chimpanzees, our closest-living ape relatives. A multinational team of specialists, led by researchers from Harvard University, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) and the ESRF, applied cutting-edge synchrotron X-ray imaging to resolve microscopic growth in 10 young Neanderthal and Homo sapiens fossils. They found that despite some overlap, which is common in closely-related species, significant developmental differences exist. Modern humans are the slowest to the finish line, stretching out their maturation, which may have given them a unique evolutionary advantage.

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Climate change 'a main threat' to St Kilda

Climate change and coastal erosion pose the biggest threats to archaeological sites on the remote archipelago of St Kilda, its owners have said.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) said abandoned buildings, including the feather store on the main island of Hirta, are at risk.

Warming sea temperatures also threaten marine life, such as plankton, on and around its sea cliffs.

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Neandertal Children Developed on the Fast Track

Parents who think their kids are growing up too fast should be glad they're not Neandertals. A new study of the fossilized teeth of eight Neandertal children finds that their permanent teeth grew significantly faster and erupted earlier than those of our own species, Homo sapiens. Taken with recent studies showing subtle differences in the brain maturation and developmental genes in Neandertals and H. sapiens, the new data suggest Neandertal kids may have reached adulthood a few years faster than modern human children do.

Researchers have long known that humans grow up slowly. We take almost twice as long as chimpanzees to reach adulthood. Our distant ancestors were more like chimps; Lucy and other australopithecines, for example, matured quickly and died young. When—and why—did we evolve the ability to prolong childhood?

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Who will pay for Pompeii?

As another disaster strikes the ancient city, Mary Beard argues that such sites are far too costly for any one country to maintain

The latest disaster to hit Pompeii was not a particularly serious one by the standards of that unfortunate city – battered by an earthquake in AD 62, destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 and hammered by Allied bombing in 1943 (there were rumours that the enemy was camped out there). Last Saturday, a small building known as the House of the Gladiators on Pompeii’s main street collapsed. One of a series of recent collapses, it was followed by the usual lamentations from the world’s press – Pompeii is falling down thanks to the neglect or corruption of the Italian authorities; the very house where the town’s gladiators once passed their short lives is no more.

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Flint tools found in 5,500-year-old tomb

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered fint tools while excavating a portal tomb dating back 5,500 years in Co

Cormac McSparron, from the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork at Queen's University, said they had expected to find human burial, but the nature of the soil at Tirnony dolmen, near Maghera, had caused any bones to decay completely.

"We have found several different types of flint tools – a couple of really fne fint knives and scrapers placed into the tomb with the personal possessions of the deceased, presumably for them to take with them into the afterlife," he said.

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Mystery treasure could be in forgotten medieval code

AN amateur enthusiast has unearthed a mysterious treasure said to bear inscriptions from a forgotten medieval code.

Ivor Miller’s find is thought to be a medieval silver seal containing a Roman-era jewel and engraved with as-yet undeciphered lettering.

Some have speculated a medieval farm labourer may have found the Roman jewel, a semi-precious stone, and handed it to their noble or lord, who placed it into their correspondence seal.

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Prehistoric Ilkley Moor carvings to be preserved in 3D

Prehistoric carvings on Ilkley Moor are to be preserved with help from the latest technology so future generations will be able to enjoy and study them.

Archaeologists hope to create digital 3D models of the carvings amid fears the originals could be eroded away.

Community archaeologist Gavin Edwards said this was an important development.

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Ausgrabungen in Burg Niendorf - ein Blick in die Geschichte Sachsen-Anhalts

Seit Mai dieses Jahres führt das Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt Ausgrabungen in Haldensleben durch. Das Grabungsareal umfasst die Wüstung Niendorf, deren Überreste sich in einer sumpfigen Niederung an der Ohre befinden. Die Entdeckungen, die hier in den letzten Wochen gemacht wurden, sind in der Tat so spektakulär, dass sie den hohen Aufwand rechtfertigen.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ancient DNA Reveals Origins Of First European Farmers

A team of international researchers led by ancient DNA experts from the University of Adelaide has helped resolve the longstanding issue of the origins of the people who introduced farming to Europe some 8000 years ago. A detailed genetic study of one of the first farming communities in Europe, from central Germany, reveals marked similarities with populations living in the Ancient Near East (modern-day Turkey, Iraq and other countries) rather than those from Europe. The results of the study will today in the online peer-reviewed science journal PLoS Biology.

Lead author Dr Wolfgang Haak, of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide, says "We have shown that the first farmers in Europe had a much greater genetic input from the Near East and Anatolia, than from populations of Stone Age hunter-gatherers who already existed in the area."

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Early Cities Spurred Evolution of Immune System?

"Amazing" DNA results show benefits of ancient urbanization, study says.

As in cities today, the earliest towns helped expose their inhabitants to inordinate opportunities for infection—and today their descendants are stronger for it, a new study says.

"If cities increase the amount of disease people are exposed to, shouldn't they also, over time, make them natural places for disease resistance to evolve?" asked study co-author Mark Thomas, a biologist at University College London.

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The brains of Neanderthals and modern humans developed differently

Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany have documented species differences in the pattern of brain development after birth that are likely to contribute to cognitive differences between modern humans and Neanderthals.

Whether cognitive differences exist between modern humans and Neanderthals is the subject of contentious disputes in anthropology and archaeology. Because the brain size range of modern humans and Neanderthals overlap, many researchers previously assumed that the cognitive capabilities of these two species were similar. Among humans, however, the internal organization of the brain is more important for cognitive abilities than its absolute size is. The brain’s internal organization depends on the tempo and mode of brain development.

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Darwin's theory of gradual evolution not supported by geological history, scientist concludes

Charles Darwin's theory of gradual evolution is not supported by geological history, New York University Geologist Michael Rampino concludes in an essay in the journal Historical Biology. In fact, Rampino notes that a more accurate theory of gradual evolution, positing that long periods of evolutionary stability are disrupted by catastrophic mass extinctions of life, was put forth by Scottish horticulturalist Patrick Matthew prior to Darwin's published work on the topic.

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Ancient DNA from European Early Neolithic Farmers Reveals Their Near Eastern Affinities

In Europe, the Neolithic transition (8,000–4,000 B.C.) from hunting and gathering to agricultural communities was one of the most important demographic events since the initial peopling of Europe by anatomically modern humans in the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 B.C.). However, the nature and speed of this transition is a matter of continuing scientific debate in archaeology, anthropology, and human population genetics. To date, inferences about the genetic make up of past populations have mostly been drawn from studies of modern-day Eurasian populations, but increasingly ancient DNA studies offer a direct view of the genetic past. We genetically characterized a population of the earliest farming culture in Central Europe, the Linear Pottery Culture (LBK; 5,500–4,900 calibrated B.C.) and used comprehensive phylogeographic and population genetic analyses to locate its origins within the broader Eurasian region, and to trace potential dispersal routes into Europe.

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Fertile Crescent farmers took DNA to Germany

DNA evidence suggests that immigrants from the Ancient Near East brought farming to Europe, and spread the practice to the region's hunter-gatherer communities, according to Australian-led research.

A genetic study of ancient DNA, published in PLoS Biology today, adds crucial information to the long-running debate about how farming was introduced to Europe's nomadic hunter-gatherer societies almost 8000 years ago.

An international research team, led by University of Adelaide experts, compared ancient DNA from the remains of Early Neolithic farmers at a burial site in central Germany with a large genetic database of European and Eurasian populations.

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World's First 'Archaeological Dig' of the Internet

Today, many Londoners are participating in a unique archaeological dig. But in lieu of shovels and pickaxes, all they will need is a computer with Internet access.

The event is called Digital Archaeology -- and it's the first ever archaeological dig of the Internet. The exhibition, held in London as part of Internet Week Europe, showcases 15 websites that were once considered groundbreaking in their prime but have since been lost to time and technological evolution.

The dig is the brainchild of Jim Boulton, managing director of a new-age advertising firm called Story Worldwide. Having worked in the digital advertising industry for the past 13 years, Boulton said he came up with the idea when he could see the inevitable end of the website era.

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50 Best Blogs for Medieval History Geeks

History fascinates most people, each with their interest piqued by different eras — though all of them eventually impacted today’s world in ways both earth-shattering and subtle. The Middle Ages, which stretched roughly from the 5th Century to the 15th Century C.E., continues to draw passionate devotees hoping to study its tenets either formally or informally. Considering that its art, literature, architecture and (to some extent) ideologies still exist today, these "geeks" certainly have many primary sources to explore! The following blogs offer them an amazing array of perspectives on a number of different medieval topics, suitable for readers of differing levels. By no means comprehensive, many recently-updated resources unfortunately ended up littering the metaphorical cutting room floor because of space constraints. Be sure to check out the others on the subject as well for a broader look at this major point in human history.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Please don't privatise Pompeii

These Italian ruins should be preserved, but not turned into a theme park

I went to Pompeii last month. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. The scale is staggering: an entire city frozen in time, at that moment in 79AD when Vesuvius called forth apocalypse on its fleeing inhabitants. I spent seven hours there and felt I'd barely scratched the surface.

I literally scratched the surface, too. I was so moved by the visit that I wanted to take a few small pieces of broken Roman wall away with me – this wasn't quite vandalism as they were already on the floor – so I put them in my pocket. Though concern about how I would explain them away at Naples airport meant I didn't in the end remove them from Pompeii. The news over the weekend that a house in the city, the so-called House of the Gladiators, had fallen down made me glad I hadn't.

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'Vikings were murdered in Oxford'

Archeological studies have revealed that Viking settlers of Oxford were brutally killed and dumped in a ditch in an ethnic cleansing plan some 1,000 years ago.

Remains of 34 to 38 young men were discovered in March 2008 during excavations for a new college building.

The bones dated back to between 960 and 1020 CE and included cracked skulls. Some of the skeletons bore stab wounds in their spines and pelvic bones. There were also signs of burning.

Five had been stabbed in the back, and one had been decapitated.

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Babies' brains 'resemble those of Neanderthals'

New-born humans' brains are about the same size and of similar appearance to those of Neanderthals, but alter in the first year of life, a new scientific study suggested.

The differences between our brains and those of our extinct relatives take shape mainly after birth and in the initial 12 months, a report in Current Biology said.

The findings are based on comparisons of virtual imprints of the developing brain and surrounding structures, called endocasts, derived from the skulls of modern and fossilised humans, including that of a newborn Neanderthal.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Dig uncovers prehistoric burials

ARCHAEOLOGISTS are unearthing another fascinating glimpse of the island’s prehistoric past.

A dig currently being carried out near the Balthane industrial estate in Ballasalla has uncovered remains of Neolithic urns dating back 4,000 years together with later Bronze Age burial cists.

Another excavation nearby has unearthed more cremation urns.

Both digs are being carried out by teams from Oxford Archaeology.

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Viking life on display in Aberdeen

An exhibition inspired by Viking life has opened in Aberdeen.

Exposure is a sound and light installation at Satrosphere and runs until 6 December.

Studies of soil samples dated up to one thousand years old at a Norse settlement in southern Greenland gave clues to the harsh life experienced by settlers at the time.

Dr Paul Adderley, environmental scientist at the University of Stirling, worked with composer Dr Michael Young of Goldsmiths, University of London.

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CSI Iron Age

Next week, a forensic anthropologist will explain how scientists reopened the oldest cold case in Irish history. Clodagh Finn on the investigation into the brutal slaying of two important aristocrats

The first thing that strikes you about one of Ireland's oldest murder victims is his beautifully manicured hands. This man, who once stood an impressive 6ft 6in tall, never did a day's manual labour in his life.

In fact, his fingerprint whorls were so perfectly preserved when his remains came out of the bog near Croghan Hill in Co Meath in May 2003 that gardai were called in to investigate a possible murder.

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Silbury Hill's Anglo-Saxon makeover

Silbury Hill acquired its distinctive shape in more modern times, according to new archaeological evidence.

It is traditionally thought that the hill, with its steep banks and flat top, was conceived and completed in pre-historic times.

But new research presented in a new book suggests the final shape was a late Anglo-Saxon innovation.

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Pompeii building collapse prompts calls for privatisation of city

Calls for Unesco world heritage site to be privatised after 2,000-year-old House of Gladiators collapses

Opposition politicians and commentators accused Italy's government of neglect and mismanagement today over the collapse of the 2,000-year-old House of the Gladiators in the ruins of ancient Pompeii.

Some commentators said the Unesco world heritage site should be privatised and removed from state control. La Stampa newspaper ran a story headlined "Pompeii – the collapse of shame," echoing national opinion over the cultural disaster.

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Experts reveal brutal Viking massacre

VIKING skeletons buried beneath an Oxford college were the victims of brutal ethnic cleansing 1,000 years ago, archaeologists have discovered.

Experts were mystified when they discovered a mass grave beneath a quadrangle a St John’s College, St Giles, in 2008.

But, after two years of CSI-style detective work, they believe they can pinpoint the exact day in 1002 AD that Danish settlers were rounded up on the streets of Oxford and murdered, before being carted out of the city gates and dumped in a ditch.

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Archaeology: 1000-year-old human skeleton found in western Bulgaria

A skeleton estimated to be more than 1000 years old was discovered in the western Bulgarian town of Kyustendil during sewage maintenance work, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reported on November 8 2010.

Experts describe the find as a "medieval Christian gravesite". As shown by the television footage, the skeleton is in very good condition, intact, with folded upper limps and prostrate legs. It was not damaged by nearby construction work, the report said.

"The skeleton is of a mature male and a Christian one at that," Doichin Grozdanov, archeaologist in Kyustendil, told the BNT.

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Items found in Monmouth shed light on Mesolithic man

The discovery of artefacts during gas mains excavations in Monmouth has helped illustrate how the River Wye supported a Stone Age camp.

Archaeologists found flint tools and bone fragments at St James's Square and Wyebridge Street.

They indicate hunter-gatherers used the River Wye for food and transport some 6,500 to 7,500 years ago.

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Megalithic tomb’s secrets revealed after 5,500 years

Flint tools from the dawn of time and an ancient blue glass bead have been uncovered by archaeologists excavating a portal tomb in Northern Ireland for the first time in 50 years.

The team are thrilled with the discoveries yielded by Tirnony dolmen near Maghera.

Portal tombs, which are among the oldest built structures still surviving in the province, are usually off limits to archaeologists as preservation orders protect them from intrusive processes such as excavations.

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Were the Romans more energy efficient than we are?

According to Eon, we could learn a lot from the Romans about energy efficiency. To coincide with the launch of their new website which apparently helps consumers measure and cut down on their energy use, they have teamed up with Prof Andrew Wilson from the Institute of Archaeology at Oxford University to come up with four ways in which the Romans were more efficient users of energy than us:

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Luftwaffe spy photo reveals lost Tudor garden

Grass rings in photograph of Lyveden New Bield's grounds reveal historically important labyrinth, says English Heritage

A German spy photograph of a ruined house in Northamptonshire surrounded by oddly marked fields, has revealed a secret unguessed at by the Luftwaffe cameraman: such important evidence of a lost Tudor garden that the site has been awarded Grade I status by English Heritage, ranking it among the most important gardens in Europe.

The garden's grass ring marks, shown clearly by the aerial, monochrome, photograph, are 120 metres across and almost certainly mark a Tudor labyrinth tracing in symbolic form the religious faith of its creator – a faith that finally cost the man his family fortune and his son's life, after the latter was exposed as one of the Gunpowder plotters.

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House of the Gladiators collapses in Pompeii

A house in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii has collapsed, raising concerns about Italy's state support for its archaeological heritage.

The House of the Gladiators was found in ruins when curators came to open the site to visitors early on Saturday.

Partially rebuilt after it sustained damage during World War II, it had not been thought at risk of collapse.

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World's oldest axe found in Australia

Archaeologists have discovered a piece of a stone axe in far northern Australia, which they believe is the oldest of its kind to have been found.

The 35,500-year-old piece was found in a remote part of the Northern Territory among traditional Aboriginal rock art paintings dating back to thousands of years ago.

The shard bears some marks which show that it was once part of a ground-edge stone axe.

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Five things archaeologists can learn from PRINCE2

I've written about PRINCE2 before. The choice to use the PRINCE2 project management methodology has to be made at corporate level; it is rarely used in archaeology because the nature of its activities and problems do not play to PRINCE2's strengths. Nevertheless, the methodology is based on common sense and experience of project management, so there should be some elements which can be applied.

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Pompeii ruin collapses amid claims site mismanaged

A 2,000-year-old ancient Roman house used by gladiators before fighting to the death has collapsed in the buried city of Pompeii, further fuelling claims the site is badly managed.

The stone house, known as Schola Armaturarum Juventus Pompeiani, crumbled into a pile of rubble and dust in the early hours of Saturday morning before visitors were allowed in.

Although the house is closed to the public, it was a popular site in the city – buried by an eruption from nearby Mt Vesuvius in AD79 – because of its beautiful gladiator frescoes painted on the outside walls.

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Beer Lubricated the Rise of Civilization, Study Suggests

May beer have helped lead to the rise of civilization? It's a possibility, some archaeologists say.

Their argument is that Stone Age farmers were domesticating cereals not so much to fill their stomachs but to lighten their heads, by turning the grains into beer. That has been their take for more than 50 years, and now one archaeologist says the evidence is getting stronger.

Signs that people went to great lengths to obtain grains despite the hard work needed to make them edible, plus the knowledge that feasts were important community-building gatherings, support the idea that cereal grains were being turned into beer, said archaeologist Brian Hayden at Simon Fraser University in Canada.

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Language and toolmaking evolved together, say researchers

Evolutionary advance saw stone-age humans master the art of hand-toolmaking and paved the way for language to develop

Stone-age humans mastered the art of elegant hand-toolmaking in an evolutionary advance that boosted their brain power and potentially paved the way for language, researchers say.

The design of stone tools changed dramatically in human pre-history, beginning more than two million years ago with sharp but primitive stone flakes, and culminating in exquisite, finely honed hand axes 500,000 years ago.

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Historical find at Leighton Buzzard golf course

An archaeological treasure has been unearthed on a golf course in Bedfordshire.

A quern stone was found by greenkeepers at Leighton Buzzard golf course as they dug out a new tee.

Club Captain Neil Bagshawe told BBC Three Counties Radio how they found it.

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Große Keltenausstellung 2012

2012 kommen die Kelten nach Stuttgart. In einer Koproduktion wird vom 15. September 2012 bis 17. Februar 2013 die wohl größte Kelten-Ausstellung seit dreißig Jahren präsentiert. Unter dem Titel „Die Welt der Kelten. Zentren der Macht – Kostbarkeiten der Kunst“ erarbeiten das Archäologische Landesmuseum Baden-Württemberg und das Landesmuseum Württemberg in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Landesamt für Denkmalpflege im Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart und dem Historischen Museum Bern eine Große Landesausstellung, die sich den Kelten im 1. Jahrtausend vor Christus als einer der prägenden Kräfte der europäischen Geschichte widmet.

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Pompeii collapse prompts charges of official neglect

Archaeologists, commentators and opposition politicians accused Italy's government of neglect and mismanagement on Sunday over the collapse of the 2,000-year-old "House of the Gladiators" in the ruins of ancient Pompeii.

Some commentators said the UNESCO World Heritage site should be privatized and removed from state control because the government had shown it was incapable of protecting it.

"Pompeii -- the collapse of shame," La Stampa newspaper headlined, echoing national opinion over the cultural disaster.

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Pompeiians Flash-Heated to Death—"No Time to Suffocate"

The famous lifelike poses of many victims at Pompeii—seated with face in hands, crawling, kneeling on a mother's lap—are helping to lead scientists toward a new interpretation of how these ancient Romans died in the A.D. 79 eruptions of Italy's Mount Vesuvius.

Until now it's been widely assumed that most of the victims were asphyxiated by volcanic ash and gas. But a recent study says most died instantly of extreme heat, with many casualties shocked into a sort of instant rigor mortis.

(Related: "Huge Vesuvius Eruption Buried Town 2,000 Years Before Pompeii.")

Volcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo and colleagues began by analyzing layers of buried volcanic ash and rock, then fed the data into a computer simulation of the Mount Vesuvius eruption.

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Bronze Age hoard found intact in Essex field

Archaeologists have unearthed a collection of Bronze Age axe heads, spear tips and other 3,000-year-old metal objects buried in an Essex field.

The items include an intact pottery container with heavy contents which has been removed undisturbed.

The materials are now at a local museum where archaeologists hope to uncover new insights into Bronze Age Britain.

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Digger finds Neolithic tomb complex

Archaeologists on Orkney are investigating what is thought to be a 5,000-year-old tomb complex.

A local man stumbled on the site while using a mechanical digger for landscaping.

It appears to contain a central passageway and multiple chambers excavated from rock.

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