Thursday, June 30, 2011

Council boss under fire for “bunny huggers” attack

A council leader has become a hate figure among archaeologists after announcing plans to relax the need for historical surveys which are hampering new developments in the East of England.

Fenland council leader Alan Melton said the “the bunny huggers won’t like” while launching his proposals this week.

The move has sparked a storm of protest among archaeologists.

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Archaeological dig launched under car park

An archaeological dig is under way at a city centre site earmarked for redevelopment.

Specialists will be exploring the area under the Sawclose car park for three weeks to see what historical evidence is there.

A private car park behind the public spaces opposite the Theatre Royal will be shut completely while spaces in the council car park will be cut during the project

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Capita consultant on Cumbrian Roman visitor centre

Firm is lead consultant and architect on the £10.7m Roman Maryport Development

Capita Symonds is the lead consultant and architect for a Roman visitor attraction centre in Cumbria. The £10.7m Roman Maryport development is at Camp Farm, a Victorian model farm that includes a Roman fort and civilian settlement in the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The site is owned by Hadrian’s Wall Heritage and plans have been submitted to Allerdale Borough Council.

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No Family Plots, Just Communal Burials In Ancient Settlement

Human remains discovered beneath the floors of mud-brick houses at one of the world's first permanent settlements, were not biologically related to one another, a finding that paints a new picture of life 9,000 years ago on a marshy plain in central Turkey.

Even children as young as 8 were not buried alongside their parents or other relatives at the site called Çatalhöyük, the researchers found.

"It speaks a lot to the type of social structure that they might have had," study researcher Marin Pilloud, a physical anthropologist with the United States military at Joint Accounting Command, in Hawaii, told LiveScience

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Peking man differing from modern humans in brain asymmetry

Paleoanthropologists studying the fossil endocasts of Australopithecus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens have reported that almost all brain endocasts display distinct cerebral asymmetry. Peking man’s endocasts are good examples of ancestral brains and are useful in studying human evolution. However, studies examining brain asymmetries in fossil hominids are usually limited to scoring of differences in hemisphere protrusion rostrally and caudally, or to comparing the width of the hemispheres.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gloucestershire's oldest coin discovered in field

A Roman coin more than 2,000 years old has been discovered near Huntley, and a dog walker has been puzzled by finds of iron ore in the same village.

David Hutton, from Taynton, discovered the Roman coin earlier this month and has since had it confirmed that the coin is the oldest in the county.

"It's dated 147BC but the Romans didn't invade Britain until 43AD," said David, 58, who has been scouring the area with farmer Don Sherratt since they found a Roman hoard of coins in 1996.

"It's sparked a bit of a debate. It could mean the Romans were trading with a local Iron Age tribe, or it could just be that it was an old coin that came over when they invaded."

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Mildenhall: Historic silver Mildenhall Treasure to return to Suffolk

The Great Dish is the most famous object from the Mildenhall treasure which was discovered near the town in 1942.

Because of its international importance, the collection of late-Roman silver tableware has been housed at the British Museum in London.

However, the museum is now planning to return the fourth century dish to Suffolk as part of its Spotlights Tour.

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Dinghies to cover Vikings' route from Wick to Arctic

An adventurer is leading a group of seven on a quest to follow the Vikings' route by sea from Scotland to the Arctic Circle - in inflatable boats.

Pete Goss, from Cornwall, will set off later from Wick, northern Scotland, heading off to the rocky coasts of Norway and then the Arctic.

He said he hoped to complete the route, in his 20ft dinghy, in six days.

It is believed to be the first time the route has been battled in such a small inflatable boat.

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Possible holy well discovered in Cwmbran woods

Amateur archaeologists have uncovered what they say may be a holy well in woodland in Cwmbran, Torfaen.

They were working on a dig to discover more about a settlement that dates back to the 16th Century that they already knew about.

But they came across the well at Green Meadow Woods and believe it is much older.

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1,400-year-old St Paul fresco discovered in ancient Roman catacomb

The fresco was found during restoration work at the Catacombs of San Gennaro (Saint Januarius) in the southern port city of Naples by experts from the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Art.

The announcement was made on the feast day of St Peter and Paul which is traditionally a bank holiday in Rome and details of the discovery were disclosed in the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

A photograph released by the Vatican shows the apostle, famous for his conversion to Christianity from Judaism, with a long neck, a slightly pink complexion, thinning hair, a beard and big eyes that give his face a "spiritual air."

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

“Bunny-huggers” Fight Back: CBA Director in Radio 4 debate

CBA Director Mike Heyworth last night countered Fenland Council Leader Alan Melton’s controversial arguments against planning provisions for archaeological investigation.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme with Eddie Mair, Mike Heyworth stated that the councillor’s proposals were in fact illegal and that what Councillor Melton was proposing would in fact be ‘damaging to rate payers and developers.’

The ‘cost and implication of a lot of the work that’s being carried out on some sites’ and the ‘serious implications for the sub-strata and the building methodology which follows’ were amongst the reasons Councillor Melton cited as to why he feels that planning regulations need to change. He argued that there is ‘a better way of doing it’ and suggested that ‘sites can be inspected when the footings are being dug out.’

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Plans revealed for £11 million Roman centre in west Cumbria

Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd has submitted an application to build the world-class tourist attraction at Maryport to Allerdale Council.

It aims to build on the area’s strong Roman heritage and recent archeological finds across the local area.

Artists’ impressions have now been unveiled for the development at Camp Farm – a Victorian model farm including a Roman fort and civilian settlement – where many discoveries have been made.

The plans are now available to view online and Michael Baker, director of sustainable development for Hadrian’s Wall Heritage, is urging local people to give their views.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Archaeologists unearth chapel secrets

ARCHAEOLOGISTS from the Channel 4 show Time Team were back on the north Northumberland coast for a dig on an at-risk monument.

St Ebba’s chapel is a 13th century site situated on a rocky promontory at Beadnell.

The chapel itself was excavated in the mid-19th century, but remains enigmatic. It is surrounded by a series of mysterious earthworks that could be the remains of an unknown early Christian settlement.

In 1994, work was conducted at the site to investigate a strange feature that appears to have been used as a lime kiln.

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Butser Ancient Farm revamp is off to a flying start

AN OUTDOOR museum and archaeology centre has won £30,000 towards refurbishments.

The South Downs National Park Authority awarded the grant to Butser Ancient Farm, near Chalton.

The farm, which features a reconstructed Roman villa and Iron Age roundhouses, is an archaeological research site and now a well-established rural education centre, attracting 15,000 schoolchildren and 10,000 members of the public each year.

The grant will go towards a £200,000 revamp which will see a new entrance building.

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Archaeologists follow the evolution of a French town

For over six years French archaeologists have carried out excavations in the town of Bondy – situated close to the capital, Paris – discovering occupational evidence spanning 800 years (3-11 centuries AD).

Successive funerary spaces
Between the 3rd and the 5th centuries AD, a vast necropolis was established on the site. With more than 400 graves, it has now been partially excavated. The deceased were placed in coffins of which archaeologists have occasionally found traces of wood and nails.

Brought to light in 2007, seven stone sarcophagi, aligned on a north-south axis, marked the limit of the necropolis. An eighth sarcophagus is at present being excavated.

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Teams search for Bredwardine Medieval village

Archaeologists are due to start a three-week dig in Herefordshire in search of a buried Medieval village.

Herefordshire Archaeology, the county's archaeological service, and The University of Manchester, will excavate trenches in The Knapp, in Bredwardine.

Previous digs at the farm have unearthed prehistoric flint tools. The dig lasts from Monday until 17 July.

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Archaeologists furious over councillor's 'bunny huggers' jibe

Tory council leader threatened to overturn principle that developers must pay for archaeological excavation

Archaeologists have condemned a Tory council leader's threat to dismantle all archaeological controls on development, saying that the regulations are necessary to protect the UK's unique national heritage.

Alan Melton, leader of Fenland District Council, dismissed opponents of development as "bunny huggers" in a speech last week. Archaeologists fear his views reflect a national threat to all heritage protection as a result of the government's determination to simplify the planning process to encourage development.

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Experts ask to exhume Shakespeare

A team of British paleontologists have made a formal application to the Church of England to exhume the body of playwright William Shakespeare.

Experts plan to use state-of-the-art computer equipment and create a three dimensional reconstruction of the writer, Daily Mail reported.

Paleontologist Francis Thackeray says excavating the playwright's tomb, which lies inside his local parish church in Stratford-upon-Avon, can reveal the reason behind Shakespeare's death almost four centuries ago in 1616.

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The Beer Archaeologist

It’s just after dawn at the Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where the ambition for the morning is to resurrect an Egyptian ale whose recipe dates back several hundred centuries.

But will the za’atar—a potent Middle Eastern spice mixture redolent of oregano—clobber the soft, floral flavor of the chamomile? And what about the dried doum-palm fruit, which has been giving off a worrisome fungusy scent ever since it was dropped in a brandy snifter of hot water and sampled as a tea?

“I want Dr. Pat to try this,” says Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head’s founder, frowning into his glass.

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Workers find ancient burial ground

Ancient skeletal remains have been uncovered by contractors working on the largest energy project in the country.

The unrecorded burial ground was discovered on farmland in Rush, north Dublin, as EirGrid laid piping for a high voltage direct current (HVDC) underground power line.

Several skulls and bones were recovered on the strip of land near Rogerstown estuary, which locals historians believe could date back to the Vikings in the 9th century.

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Prehistoric BBQ Leftovers Found

Stone Age barbecue consumers first went for the bone marrow and then for the ribs, suggest the leftovers of an outdoor 7,700-year-old meaty feast described in the July issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The remains, found in the valley of the River Tjonger, Netherlands, provide direct evidence for a prehistoric hunting, butchering, cooking and feasting event. The meal occurred more than 1,000 years before the first farmers with domestic cattle arrived in the region.

Although basic BBQ technology hasn't changed much over the millennia, this prehistoric meal centered around the flesh of an aurochs, a wild Eurasian ox that was larger than today's cows. It sported distinctive curved horns.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Scientists want to dig up Shakespeare to find out if he smoked weed

Recently uncovered evidence suggests that William Shakespeare used marijuana, and now a team of paleontologists want to dig him up to prove it.

Francis Thackeray, an anthropologist and director of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, has made a formal request to the Church of England to unearth the playwright.

"We have incredible techniques," Thackeray told Fox News. "We don't intend to move the remains at all."

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Digging into the past

A COMMUNITY group has secured £12,000 in grant funding to carry out the first underwater archaeological dig in Coquetdale.

The Coquetdale Community Archaeology Group will be spearheading a survey and excavation work in the River Coquet near Barrowburn (pictured) from mid-July after receiving £9,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £2,500 from English Heritage. The object of the dig is to uncover more remnants of what is believed to be a mediaeval fulling mill operated by local monks.

Following erosion at Barrowburn, some remains were spotted in the bank and river by one of the group’s members last year.

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Are Vikings the next pop-culture fetish?

Is there room at the pop culture inn for Vikings? MGM sure hopes so. The formerly financially distressed studio has green lit an Irish-Canadian co-production of Vikings, a 10-episode drama series.

Produced by Michael Hirst and Morgan O’Sullivan, who have previously created The Tudors and Camelot, the series will focus on a Viking hero, Ragnar Lodbrok, who captured Paris, and be set in the 8th to 11th century.

Possibly building on the current twin pop culture successes of the recently-released film Thor and HBO’s adaptation of fantasy series, Game of Thrones, producers might feel that the warriors might get a chance in the sun. To be fair, Thrones is not exactly Viking-based, and Thor is definitely Marvel’s view of Norse mythology

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Roman baths are uncovered in York

The remains of a Roman bath complex have been uncovered in York.

The baths, which date from the second and third centuries AD, were discovered during construction of a new council headquarters building.

The edge of the complex was first discovered in the 1840s when the original railway station in the city was built on the site.

This is the first time archaeologists have been able to investigate the site since the 19th Century.

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Roman Fort Project needs your support

The Roman Fort Project is an opportunity to enable people of all ages and abilities to engage with the past. For this dream to become a reality your help is needed.

Paul Harston of Roman Tours previously built a temporary camp at Chester in 2008. Then along with Dean Paton of Archaeology for Schools, the pair decided to re-visit and re-work the idea. As part of their vision, visitors will be able to watch the construction of a fort in real-time and learn about the evolution of the site as the building work continues – all set within a historically accurate reconstructed landscape.

The project represents an opportunity to bring together period re-enactment, mainstream education and academically-focussed archaeology.

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Archaeology: New Thracian grave found in northeastern Bulgaria

Ancient Thracian golden and bronze finds have been excavated by archaeologists in the town of Opaka, district Turgovishte, in northeastern Bulgaria, private channel bTV reported on June 23 2011.

During excavations of the grave park, scientists found a preserved Thracian tumulus from 2nd century CE full of rich funeral artifacts.

The sites yielded unique discoveries - six leaves of a golden wreath and bronze figurines - and provided more proof of the continued importance of the town of Opeka in northeastern Bulgaria.

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Did climate change cause Greenland's ancient Viking community to collapse?

Our changing climate usually appears to be a very modern problem, yet new research from Greenland published in Boreas, suggests that the AD 1350 collapse of a centuries old colony established by Viking settlers may have been caused by declining temperatures and a rise in sea-ice. The authors suggest the collapse of the Greenland Norse presents a historical example of a society which failed to adapt to climate change.

The research, led by Dr Sofia Ribeiro from the University of Copenhagen, currently at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, focused on Disko Bay in Western Greenland and used a marine sediment record to reconstruct climate change over the last 1500 years.

Events which occurred during this time frame included the arrival of Norse settlers, led by Eric the Red in AD 985. After establishing a colony known as the Western Settlement the Norse traveled north to Disko Bay, a prime hunting ground for walruses and seals.

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Cutting edge training developed the human brain 80 000 years ago

Advanced crafting of stone spearheads contributed to the development of new ways of human thinking and behaving. This is what new findings by archaeologists at Lund University have shown. The technology took a long time to acquire, required step by step planning and increased social interaction across the generations. This led to the human brain developing new abilities.

200 000 years ago, small groups of people wandered across Africa, looking like us anatomically but not thinking the way we do today. Studies of fossils and the rate of mutations in DNA show that the human species to which we all belong – Homo sapiens sapiens – has existed for 200 000 years.

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Iceman's Stomach Sampled—Filled With Goat Meat

Hours before he died, "Ötzi" the Iceman gorged on the fatty meat of a wild goat, according to a new analysis of the famous mummy's stomach contents.

The frozen body of the Copper Age hunter was discovered in 1991 in the Alps of northern Italy, where he died some 5,000 years ago.

(See pictures of a re-creation of the Iceman unveiled earlier this year.)

The circumstances surrounding Ötzi's death are not fully known, but the most popular theory—based in part on the discovery of an arrowhead in his back—is that he was murdered by other hunters while fleeing through the mountains.

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Lascaux's 18,000 year-old cave art under threat

MONTIGNAC, France (AFP) – They call her the Old Lady, for she is some 18,000 years old and frail, which is why she is protected by steel doors, security cameras and the gentlest nurturing the 21st century has to offer.

Tucked away on a hillside in Montignac, in the Dordogne region of southwest France, the dame of Lascaux is an Ice Age treasure.

Her walls are covered with remarkable pictures of horses, extinct bison and ibexes, painted when Man was still a hunter-gatherer and his survival far from certain.

But the cave is also at threat from invisible invaders: microbial contaminants resulting from some awful mistakes made last century.

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Jewish bodies found in medieval well in Norwich

The remains of 17 bodies found at the bottom of a medieval well in England could have been victims of persecution, new evidence has suggested.

The most likely explanation is that those down the well were Jewish and were probably murdered or forced to commit suicide, according to scientists who used a combination of DNA analysis, carbon dating and bone chemical studies in their investigation.

The skeletons date back to the 12th or 13th Centuries at a time when Jewish people were facing persecution throughout Europe.

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Behind the scenes with the Staffordshire Hoard

BURIED away deep within Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a room which houses scenes which could come straight from a CSI police show.

Working there, with the diligence of forensic experts, are archeologists and conservators, cleaning, cataloguing and studying the breathtaking 3,500 piece collection which makes up the Staffordshire Hoard. These modern day time detectives are using a mixture of the latest technology and Mother Nature to try to solve its many riddles. Neil Elkes reports

THERE was a eureka moment when conservator Deborah Magnoler realised that there was something familiar about the ancient gold cylinder decorated with garnet stones she was cleaning.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Iron-Age brewing evidence found in southeastern France

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that the occupants of southeastern France were brewing beer during the Iron Age, some 2,500 years ago.

A paper in Human Ecology outlines the discovery of barley grains that had been sprouted in a process known as malting; an oven found nearby may have been used to regulate the process.

Beer brewing's heritage stretches back to the Bronze Age in China and the Middle East, but this is the earliest sign of the practice in France, where wine-making had already taken hold.

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Archaeological Dig begins for medieval hospital in England

Archaeological work is set to start in the northeastern English town of North Tyneside, which hopes to reveal the location of a medieval hospital.

Up to seven trenches are about to dug within Northumberland Park, which lies between Tynemouth and North Shields, as part of work to rediscover the medieval hospital of St Leonard’s. It follows work by around 30 volunteers who surveyed the area during three weekends last month.

The volunteers were trained by Alan Biggins, a professional archaeological surveyor, supported by the New Friends of Northumberland Park and North Tyneside Council.

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Oystermouth Castle discovery exceeds expectations

Remnants of an ornate medieval painting dating back to the 14th century have been discovered at Swansea's Oystermouth Castle.The surviving painting is thought to be over 700 years old and was spotted during conservation work in the historic attraction's chapel area.

Exposure to the elements has taken its toll on the painting over time but expert Cadw analysis suggests it's a double-arched canopy that contains the figures of angels.

Some of the clear elements of the painting that remain include a wing with multiple feathers and circular shapes that form a head with yellow hair surrounded by a nimbus.

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Herculaneum sewer sheds light on secrets of Roman life

Archaeologists have been discovering how Romans lived 2,000 years ago, by studying what they left behind in their sewers.

A team of experts has been sifting through hundreds of sacks of human excrement.

They found a variety of details about their diet and their illnesses.

This unconventional journey into the past took the team down into an ancient sewer below the town of Herculaneum.

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English religious art threatened by heating: experts

They survived the iconoclasm of Henry VIII and the English civil war, but beautiful examples of early religious art in churches are now under threat from neglect and even heating, experts warned Wednesday.

The painted rood screens -- the stone or wooden structures that divide the public part of a church from the priest's area -- depict saints, prophets and kings and some are viewed as masterpieces of medieval art.

Many were destroyed in religious violence in the 16th and 17th centuries because they were associated with the pope and the Catholic Church after the Reformation.

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Protein from Bones of 600,000-Year-Old Mammoth Extracted Successfully

Researchers from the University of York and Manchester have successfully extracted protein from the bones of a 600,000-year-old mammoth, paving the way for the identification of ancient fossils.

Using an ultra-high resolution mass spectrometer, bio-archaeologists were able to produce a near complete collagen sequence for the West Runton Elephant, a Steppe Mammoth skeleton which was discovered in cliffs in Norfolk in 1990. The remarkable 85 per cent complete skeleton -- the most complete example of its species ever found in the world -- is preserved by Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service in Norwich.

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Early French had a taste for beer

Evidence of beer making in Mediterranean France, as far back as the 5th century BC, has been unearthed by Laurent Bouby from the CNRS - Centre de Bio-Archeologie et d'Ecology in Montepellier, France, and colleagues. Their analyses at the Roquepertuse excavation site in Provence reveal the presence of poorly preserved barley grains suggesting germination, as well as equipment and other remains of deliberate malting in the home. Taken together, these findings suggest that, as well as regular wine making, the French had an early passion for beer brewing. The work has just been published online in Springer's journal Human Ecology.

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Shock and awe: Nijmegen helmet gives Carlisle museum a boost

Tullie House – which missed out on Crosby Garrett helmet – says saga has helped secure display items

The beautiful face with lips slightly parted and a shimmering androgynous appearance is eerily familiar. It could be the cousin of the world-famous Crosby Garrett helmet, which a small museum in Cumbria raised an astonishing £1.7m for last year, only to be outbid at auction, sparking a continuing controversy over protection for major archaeological finds in Britain.

Tullie House museum in Carlisle is being loaned the Nijmegen helmet for the opening of its new Roman gallery next week. It is one of the treasures of the Valkhof museum, at Nijmegen in the Netherlands where it was excavated, but they agreed the loan without hesitation. Other loans are coming to the gallery from the British Museum, and private collectors.

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With Roman Ruins Under Threat, Libya's Ancient Past Presses Against Its Present

According to a report on, NATO officials overseeing the aerial bombing campaign against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya could target positions nestled within an ancient complex of Roman ruins. Rebel sources claim that Gaddafi troops have stashed rocket launchers and other military equipment at the site of the ancient city of Leptis Magna, a remarkably well-preserved relic of Roman antiquity halfway down the road between Tripoli and the besieged rebel-held port of Misratah. With NATO having escalated its efforts to topple the Gaddafi regime, no archaeological treasure — not even a UNESCO heritage site such as Leptis Magna — may be entirely safe.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pictish Croy hoard to return to Highlands

Pictish jewellery uncovered at two sites in the Highlands and held in the National Museums Scotland collections are to go on show in Inverness.

A solid silver chain made of 16 links and weighing 2.88kg (6.3lb) was found in 1808 at Torvean, Inverness, during the building of the Caledonian Canal.

The Croy Hoard was dug up at Croy in 1875 by a girl planting potatoes.

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Cadw to undertake Denbigh Castle revamp

Cadw, the Welsh Assembly Government's historic environment agency, has confirmed that it is to undertake an upgrade of Denbigh Castle, which will feature a new visitor centre.

A total of £600,000 will be invested in the overhaul of the North Wales attraction as part of Cadw's £19m Heritage Tourism Project, which has received European Union support.

In addition to the new purpose-built visitor centre, town wall walks are to be opened up and the presentation and interpretation of the property improved.

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Fifty more historical sites in Shetland set to be scheduled

Around 50 more historical sites are likely to be scheduled for the first time in Shetland, following a visit throughout May by Historic Scotland’s scheduling and marine team.

The team was in the islands to assess which sites are of national importance and should be added to the schedule, which means they are protected by law.

Head of scheduling and marine Olwyn Owen said: “Local people in Unst took members of the team to see several Viking longhouses which have been newly discovered. Unst is one of very few places in Scotland where the remains of Norse settlement survive, and nowhere else have so many houses been identified. At least two of these exciting new discoveries will now be scheduled as monuments of national importance.

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Dormice, sea urchins and fresh figs: the Roman diet revealed

Dormice, sea urchins and fresh figs were among the delicacies enjoyed by ordinary Romans, British archaeologists have revealed after discovering a giant septic tank at one of the ancient cities destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.

Archaeologists found a treasure trove of everyday artefacts after digging up nearly 800 sacks of compacted human waste from the tank, which lies beneath the remains of a Roman apartment block in Herculaneum, destroyed after it was buried by ash from the volcano in AD79.

The British team has found hundreds of objects, including bronze coins, precious stones, bone hair pins and an exquisite gold ring decorated with a tiny figure of the god Mercury.

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Prehistoric stone circle discovered in Yorkshire

A stone circle that was once part of a prehistoric cairn has been discovered by a group of amateur archaeologists on Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire, England.

A cairn is a large pile of stones that marked the grave of an important individual in prehistoric times. These stones were often taken away by later farmers for building walls or cottages, and sometimes all that's left is a circle of stones from the base, as is the case here. The team says the cairn measures 27 by 24 feet. It would have been pretty high back in its glory days.

One stone had a man-made circular impression archaeologists call a cup mark. These are found all over prehistoric Europe singly or in groups, but nobody knows what they mean.

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Bronze Age discovery at Hes East

University of York Archaeology students have unearthed a rare Bronze Age cremation urn during excavations on the University’s Heslington East campus.

The collared urn containing a cremation burial, together with a further cremation without a pot, was found by students from the Department of Archaeology on the Heslington East expansion in May.

This rare find, which dates back around 4,000 years, was found when the roundabout at Heslington East was being built.

It was lifted complete by specialist conservators from York Archaeological Trust.

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Bronze Age Brain Surgeons

You might shudder at the mere thought of ancient brain surgery, but recent studies of the practice at Bronze Age sites in Turkey suggest that early neurosurgeons were surprisingly precise and that a majority of their patients may have survived.

At Ikiztepe, a small settlement near the Black Sea occupied from 3200 to 1700 B.C., archaeologist Önder Bilgi of Istanbul University has uncovered five skulls with clean, rectangular incisions that are evidence for trepanation, or basic cranial surgery. The procedure may have been performed to treat hemorrhages, brain cancer, head trauma, or mental illness. Last August Bilgi also unearthed a pair of razor-sharp volcanic glass blades that he believes were used to make the careful cuts.

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Professor Disputes Earlier Settlement in Iceland

The debate continues in Iceland on new evidence found in archeological research that there may have been people in Iceland before the “official” date of 874. In Hafnir remains of dwellings have been found, that may built earlier than that date.

This is not the first research of this type. Physicist Páll Theodórsson has written about a number of findings where C14 research has indicated burned wood that may be from the seventh century, hence placing men in Iceland 200 years before the “first” settler.

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Archaeology's Tech Revolution Since Indiana Jones

Let′s face it, Indiana Jones was a pretty lousy archaeologist. He destroyed his sites, used a bullwhip instead of a trowel and was more likely to kill his peers than co-author a paper with them. Regardless, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," which celebrates its 30th anniversary on June 12, did make studying the past cool for an entire generation of scientists. Those modern archaeologists whom "Raiders" inspired luckily learned from the mistakes of Dr. Jones, and use advanced technology such as satellite imaging, airborne laser mapping, robots and full-body medical scanners instead of a scientifically useless whip.

Such innovations have allowed archaeologists to spot buried pyramids from space, create 3-D maps of ancient Mayan ruins from the air, explore the sunken wrecks of Roman ships and find evidence ofheart disease in 3,000-year-old mummies. Most of the new toolkit comes from fields such as biology, chemistry, physics or engineering, as well as commercial gadgets that include GPS, laptops and smartphones.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Tower and the Household

6th August 2011 - 7th August 2011

This conference, the second in the Towers series, shares new research from throughout northern Europe, and addresses both the most fundamental and most neglected aspect of towers – namely how were they used and how did that change?

Further information...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

First find in Senhouse Roman Museum dig at Maryport hints at new altar discoveries

Nothing gets the hearts of history fans racing like a good old-fashioned archaeological dig. The surface-scraping going on at Maryport, the Cumbrian site once roamed by the Romans, holds an almost limitless potential for new discoveries.

Days into the dig, Eric Waters – one of the lucky squad from Newcastle University charged with getting their hands dirty in the tantalising terrain – has found the first of them, a carved red sandstone fragment of a Roman altar stone with a small scroll.

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Stones stolen from Nunney Castle in Somerset

Vandals have removed more than 30 coping stones from the perimeter wall of a castle.

The 14th century Nunney Castle in Somerset was targeted sometime this week, the parish council said.

It is not known what happened to the stones, but it is thought they might have been thrown into the moat.

Parish councillor Jeremy Gaunt said while a few stones had disappeared in the past, thefts had been nothing on this scale.

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Treasures of Heaven, Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe, British Museum

A new exhibition at the British Museum casts a sharp and sometimes sinister light on the medieval worship of relics – including fragments of the Cross, the Virgin’s breast milk and a fair number of finger nails. Martin Gayford reports

Around 828, some Venetian merchants were in Alexandria on a mission. They made their way into the Coptic cathedral where the body of St Mark the Evangelist was preserved. Having somehow squared the custodians, the Italians slit open his shroud and carried the remains to a waiting ship. They covered them with pork to discourage Muslim customs officials from looking too closely, and sailed back to the Lagoon. “History records no more shameless example of body snatching, nor any,” as John Julius Norwich put it, “of greater long-term significance.”

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Stone circle found by amateur archaeologists on Ilkley Moor

Amateur archaeologists are celebrating discovering another prehistoric stone circle on Wharfedale's moors. The identification of the previously undocumented cairn on Ilkley Moor (West Yorkshire, England) marks the latest in a series of signficant finds made by a small team of local volunteers over the past year.

Paul Bennett, Michala Douglas and Paul Hornby stumbled upon the circle, which they believe is an ancient burial site, along with another smaller monument while searching the moor earlier this year. It follows previous discoveries by the group and their friends, which included the finding of a large tomb and several other cairns at Snowden Crags and Askwith Moor in 2010.

"The circle is upon Ilkley Moor, though we want to keep its exact location quiet until we've done more work on the site, which is going to take months. This is the third previously undiscovered, prehistoric circular monument we've found on the moors north and south of Ilkley in the last few months" Mr Bennett said. "This one seems to be another burial circle.

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Broken idols of Keros: British archaeologists explain Greek mystery

To say it has been an archaeological mystery may be an understatement: why are fragments of beautiful but deliberately smashed bronze age figurines buried in shallow pits on a small, rocky Greek island whose main inhabitants have always been goats?

Today, academics at Cambridge University will release findings that shed light on the 4,500-year-old puzzle of Keros, a tiny Cycladic island in the Aegean.

It appears Keros was the ceremonial destination for a ritual that involved islanders breaking prized possessions and making a pilgrimage with fragments for burial.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Roman skeleton unearthed in Dr Jenner's garden

A SKELETON which could date back to Roman times has been discovered by celebrity archaeologists.

Professor Mark Horton and Dr Stuart Prior, from televison's Time Team, have unearthed the ancient bones in the garden of Dr Edward Jenner's museum at Berkeley.

"This is an extremely rare find of great historical significance," said Sarah Parker, director of the Jenner museum.

A dig team from the University of Bristol has been working at the site every summer since 2007. And they believe the skeleton may date back to Roman or even sub-Roman times. It was found underneath the sealed remains of part of the Anglo-Saxon Mynster, founded in the 8th Century.

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Dunwich: Time Team to visit village next week

They will undertake three days of archeological work and filming for a one-hour programme, focusing of the monastic areas of the village.

Up to 50 crew members will be involved in the production, using six vehicles – but producers have moved to reassure local people that work will be carried out as sensitively and as safely as possible.

Jim Mower, development producer of the Channel 4 show, said the work would centre on the Maison Dieu Hospital, thought to be under the Flora Tea Rooms car park, and the Greyfriars site.

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Ancient Farmers Started the First 'Green Revolution'

The 1960s marked a turning point for agriculture in Asia: that's when plant breeders launched a "green revolution" in rice production, selecting variants of a single gene that boosted yields across the continent. A new study finds that prehistoric farmers were revolutionaries, too. They apparently harnessed that same gene when they first domesticated rice as early as 10,000 years ago.

The history of rice farming is very complex, but the basic facts are well established. All of today's domesticated rice belongs to the species Oryza sativa, which descends from the wild ancestor Oryza rufipogon. O. sativa has two major subspecies, japonica (short-grain rice grown mostly in Japan) and indica (long-grain rice grown mostly in India, Southeast Asia, and southern China).

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An “incredibly rare" pre-Ice Age handaxe which may have been used to kill woolly mammoths, has been found on an Orkney beach. The Palaeolithic - or O

An “incredibly rare" pre-Ice Age handaxe which may have been used to kill woolly mammoths, has been found on an Orkney beach.

The Palaeolithic - or Old Stone Age - tool, which could be anything between 100,000 and 450,000 years old, is one of only ten ever to be found in Scotland. The axe, which was found on a stretch of shore in St Ola by a local man walking along the beach, is the oldest man-made artefact ever found in Orkney.

The stone tool, which is around five-and-a-half inches long, has been broken, and originally would have tapered to a point opposite the cutting edge, but at some point in time, the point broke off and someone reworked the flint to its present straight edge.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Human ancestors in Eurasia earlier than thought

Archaeologists have long thought that Homo erectus, humanity's first ancestor to spread around the world, evolved in Africa before dispersing throughout Europe and Asia. But evidence of tool-making at the border of Europe and Asia is challenging that assumption.

Reid Ferring, an anthropologist at the University of North Texas in Denton, and his colleagues excavated the Dmanisi site in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. They found stone artefacts — mostly flakes that were dropped as hominins knapped rocks to create tools for butchering animals — lying in sediments almost 1.85 million years old. Until now, anthropologists have thought that H. erectus evolved between 1.78 million and 1.65 million years ago — after the Dmanisi tools would have been made.

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Bulgarian Archaeologists Embark on Alpine Mission to Thracian Kings' Residence

Bulgaria's National History Museum are starting the largest alpine expedition in the history of Bulgarian archaeology in order to excavate the residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom, the state of the most powerful tribe of Ancient Thrace.

Bulgarian archaeologists uncovered the unique residence of the rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom in July 2010, after its location was initially detected in 2005.

The residence is located on the Kozi Gramadi mount in the Sredna Gora mountain, in the village of Starosel, close to the resort town of Hissar in central Bulgaria, at about 1 200 m above sea level.

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Were ancient human migrations two-way streets?

The worldwide spread of ancient humans has long been depicted as flowing out of Africa, but tantalizing new evidence suggests it may have been a two-way street.

A long-studied archaeological site in a mountainous region between Europe and Asia was occupied by early humans as long as 1.85 million years ago, much earlier than the previous estimate of 1.7 million years ago, researchers report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Early human Homo erectus is known to have occupied the site at Dmanisi later. Discovering stone tools and materials from a much earlier date raises the possibility that Homo erectus evolved in Eurasia and might have migrated back to Africa, the researchers said - though much study is needed to confirm that idea.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Archaeologists unearth Britain's 'first building boom'

Researchers have developed a new dating technique that has given the first detailed picture of the emergence of an agricultural way of life in Britain more than 5,000 years ago.

A new analysis of artefacts recovered from the first monuments built in Britain shows that the Neolithic period had a slow start followed by a rapid growth in trade and technology.

Scientists say the new approach can be used to unravel the detailed sequence of events of many more important moments in human prehistory.

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People in Bath urged to vote for Roman Baths

Civic leaders have urged people to take part in a vote to help the Roman Baths win a £100,000 prize.

The council-run complex is currently lagging behind a museum in Scotland in the public vote connected to the Art Prize Fund - a £100,000 grant for the museum judged best in the country.

The final decision on which of four attractions will get the money is down a panel of judges headed by former minister Michael Portillo, with a decision due on June 15.

But they will be swayed by the results of an online poll whose purpose is to establish the level of public support for each contender.

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A computer dating revolution (of the archaeological kind)

Innovations in programming are changing archaeologists’ perception of how settled life and early agriculture spread through Britain, David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent, reports.

The long-lost ‘history’ of prehistoric Britain, including our island’s first wars, is being re-discovered - courtesy of innovations in computer programming as well as archaeology.

Using newly refined computer systems, developed over recent years by programmers at Oxford University, archaeologists from English Heritage and Cardiff University have for the first time been able to fairly accurately date individual prehistoric battles, migrations and building construction projects.

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Archaeology dating technique uncovers 'property boom' of 3700 BC

English monuments, including Maiden Castle and Windmill Hill, found to have been built, used and abandoned in single lifetime

A new scientific dating technique has revealed there was a building spree more than 5,500 years ago, when many of the most spectacular monuments in the English landscape, such as Maiden Castle in Dorset and Windmill Hill in Wiltshire, were built, used and abandoned in a single lifetime.

The fashion for the monuments, hilltops enclosed by rings of ditches, known to archaeologists as causewayed enclosures, instead of being the ritual work of generations as had been believed, began on the continent centuries earlier but spread from Kent to Cornwall within 50 years in about 3700 BC.

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Medieval Nuns knew their fashion, historian finds

Recent research on medieval nuns shows that many of them were dressing in the latest fashions instead of simple religious habits. And while their were efforts by the church to make nuns dress more humbly, by the 14th and 15th centuries these rules were becoming less and less adhered to.

The article, “Best Clothes and Everyday Attire of Late Medieval Nuns,” by Eva Schlotheuber, appears in Fashion and Clothing in Late Medieval Europe, which was published last year in Switzerland.

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Autism May Have Had Advantages in Humans' Hunter-Gatherer Past, Researcher Believes

Though people with autism face many challenges because of their condition, they may have been capable hunter-gatherers in prehistoric times, according to a paper published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology in May.

The autism spectrum may represent not disease, but an ancient way of life for a minority of ancestral humans, said Jared Reser, a brain science researcher and doctoral candidate in the USC Psychology Department.

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Ancient Hominid Males Stuck Close to the Cave While Females Traveled, Study Says

A University of Colorado-Boulder study suggests that two species of early hominids, Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus, sported males that generally preferred to stick close to home while their female counterparts traveled the countryside. The study results may also contradict the generally accepted theory that bipedalism in humans evolved in part to enable them to travel longer distances with greater efficiency.

The study, led by adjunct professor Sandi Copeland of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, acquired key data by directing lasers through a technique called laser ablation at 19 sample teeth from Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus individuals that had been recovered in previous excavations at the famed South African caves of Sterkfontein and Swartkrans. The specimens ranged in age from 2.7 to 1.7 million years.

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Guernsey prehistoric site to be excavated

Guernsey States' archaeologist hopes to get a better understanding of early prehistoric settlements in the island with a major new excavation.

The study is being carried out ahead of work to extend the runway safety areas at Guernsey Airport.

The site will be raised by 2-3m (7-10ft) during the work.

Dr Philip de Jersey said the Neolithic and Bronze Age settlement could provide a valuable insight into some of the island's earliest inhabitants.

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7000 years old prototype of European towns found in Bulgaria

Bulgarian archaeologists discovered what they believe to be the oldest town in Europe, local media reported. Dubbed a 'proto-town', the site is situated near the town of Pazardzhic, in the center of the country.

In 2008 the team of archaeologist Yasen Boyadzhiev found in the area a large ancient graveyard, which became known under the current name of the area, Yunatsite (The Heroes). Later the excavations were extended and yesterday the researchers announced they have found a surprisingly large settlement, which during 4700-4600 BC spread over 100 000 sq m.

The site possessed all the features of an urban center, Yasen Boyadzhiev was quoted to say. His team discovered vast fortified walls – one wall five meters wide and at least five meters tall, a ditch and then another defence wall, all running along each other.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Treasure discoveries: Metal detector unearths Iron Age skeleton and jewellery

A TREASURE hunter from Weymouth unearthed an Iron Age grave containing a skeleton of a woman and a number of her belongings.

An inquest into the treasure, which was discovered by Carl Walmsley of Westham, heard how a total of 14 items were found in the grave on land near Portesham.

West Dorset coroner Michael Johnston declared that the items, including a mirror, two brooches, a bronze amulet, a coin, tweezers and a number of glass and stone beads, were treasure at the inquest held at Dorset County Hall.

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Ancient gold jewellery returns to Rhayader Museum

Two rare troves of ancient gold are being displayed together for the first time in a new exhibition.

The treasures were found 55 years apart in fields in Rhayader, Powys, but have been kept at the British Museum and the National Museum of Wales.

The Bronze Age bracelets and Roman jewellery are on loan to the CARAD Rhayader Museum and Gallery.

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Segontium Museum closes for summer amid Cadw takeover

Welsh heritage body Cadw will take over the management of the Segontium Museum and Roman fort in Caernarfon, Gwynedd.

The financially-troubled museum will remain closed this summer, although the external areas of the fort will continue to be open to the public.

Cadw will take over from from Segontium Cyf, a company run by local people.

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Roman jewels return to Rhayader

Roman jewels found on a Powys hillside over a century ago have returned home to be exhibited there for the first time.

The gold is normally kept at the British Museum in London.

A second hoard of treasure discovered in the Rhayader area half a century later will also be part of the exhibition.

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Revamped Stirling Castle reopens

The royal palace at Stirling Castle has reopened following a £12 million refurbishment to restore it to its 16th century glory.

More than five years of research has gone into the restoration project, to return the palace to the way it would have looked during the 1540s when it was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots, after it was built for her parents James V and Mary of Guise.

The revamp includes four giant tapestries and the installation of replicas of the Stirling Heads, carvings which date from after 1530.

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New View on the Origin of First Settlers in Iceland

An archeological find in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula (close to Keflavík Airport) may indicate that some men had started to come to Iceland before the year 874 AD, the year that has traditionally been considered the first year Nordic men came to Iceland to stay.

Archeologist dr. Bjarni F. Einarsson says that research at Hafnir indicate ruins of a cabin (Icelandic: Skáli) built well before the traditional year of origin of settlement.

“Usually when we find a cabin in Iceland we assume it is an ordinary farm, but then you should find outhouses as well. A thorough search by various means no other houses are found near the cabin and that makes one wonder what type of house it may have been.”

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2 million years ago, women wandered for mates when men stayed in

Women leaving home, staying away from parent's house and finding and settling with a mate far away from home, looks like all these are not signs of a modernizing society, but a practice that existed around 2 million years ago.

A study of the teeth of 19 australopithecines from South African caves suggests that females were the one to move out and away from their birth places, whereas, larger males used to stay back surprisingly close to their home and kin, a report in stated.

Debates have been on among researchers for several decades regarding human ancestors' living habits. Whether early human ancestors lived in close-knit social groups made up of related brothers and fathers, with new genes introduced by female mates gathered from other groups, has always been argued upon.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Viking treasure looters found guilty

Tuesday saw the conclusion of a groundbreaking trial against five men charged with aggravated crime against relics following the looting of Viking age coins and artefacts on the Baltic island of Gotland.

“This verdict is unique. It is the first time that anyone has been found guilty of aggravated crime against relics since the law was made more severe on these cases in 1991,“ said Marie-Louise Hellqvist of the County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen) to local paper Gotlands Tidningar.

In November last year the police recovered a silver treasure dating back to the 11th century stolen from a field in Gandarve, Alva on Gotland in 2009.

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Vikings forced out of Greenland by 'cold climate that saw temperatures plunge by 4C in just 80 years'

A cold snap in Greenland in the 12th century may help explain why Viking settlers vanished from the island, scientists claim.

Researchers reconstructed temperatures by examining lake sediment cores in west Greenland dating back 5,600 years.

Their findings indicated that earlier, pre-historic settlers also had to contend with vicious swings in climate on icy Greenland.

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Arcus adds a Viking twist to its liquor

Arcus, a Norwegian liquor producer, was out in the Norwegian woods recently to look for the same herbs that the Vikings used to make their liquor.

Pors is the name of the herb that apparently had such a strong effect on King Harald Hårfagre that he simply forgot to rule the country for about three years, according to the Snorre Saga. Now, a busload of Arcus employees finds the plant so fascinating that they want to produce liquor with it.

“Our goal is not to make people go crazy from drinking pors liquor,” says Hege Ramseng, chief of information at Arcus. “We only want to use this herb to add flavor to liquor that goes well with food, for example, aquavit.”

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Marlborough mound mystery solved – after 4,400 years

For generations, it has been scrambled up with pride by students at Marlborough College. But the mysterious, pudding-shaped mound in the grounds of the Wiltshire public school now looks set to gain far wider acclaim as scientists have revealed it is a prehistoric monument of international importance.

After thorough excavations, the Marlborough mound is now thought to be around 4,400 years old, making it roughly contemporary with the nearby, and far more renowned, Silbury Hill.

The new evidence was described by one archeologist, an expert on ancient ritual sites in the area, as "an astonishing discovery". Both neolithic structures are likely to have been constructed over many generations.

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Decision due on Segontium Museum's future, Caernarfon

Talks are due to be held to decide the future of a museum and Roman fort which has closed amid financial problems.

Segontium Museum in Caernarfon, Gwynedd, is shut until further notice and its board says it has suffered since many museum fees were dropped.

It relies on admission fees and grants from the town council.

Last month, it was claimed tourists could also be put off by litter allegedly caused by drunken youths gathering at the fort.

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Excavation at site of Roman altars find in Maryport

Experts from Newcastle University are to begin excavating an internationally important Roman site in Cumbria.

The archaeological team is focusing on the site of a major discovery of Roman altars 141 years ago.

The site where the 17 altars were found now forms part of the Roman Maryport site at Camp Farm, which is owned by Hadrian's Wall Heritage.

It is hoped the dig, which will continue into July, will shed light on the nature of religion at the time.

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Climate played big role in Viking disappearance from Greenland

The end of the Norse settlements on Greenland likely will remain shrouded in mystery. While there is scant written evidence of the colony’s demise in the 14th and early 15th centuries, archaeological remains can fill some of the blanks, but not all.

What climate scientists have been able to ascertain is that an extended cold snap, called the Little Ice Age, gripped Greenland beginning in the 1400s. This has been cited as a major cause of the Norse’s disappearance. Now researchers led by Brown University show the climate turned colder in an earlier span of several decades, setting in motion the end of the Greenland Norse. Their findings appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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No cheese for Neolithic humans in France

An excavation of a southern French burial site from about 3,000 B.C. shows that the modern humans who expanded into the area from the Mediterranean lived in patrilocal communities and did not have the genetic mutation that allowed later Europeans to digest fresh milk.

Scientists analyzed DNA extracted from the bones of 53 people buried in Cave I of the Treilles, located in the Grands Causses region at Saint-Jean-et-Saint-Paul, Aveyron in France. They were able to get useful information from 29 of those samples, 22 men, two women ad five for whom it was impossible to determine sex. Most of them appeared to be closely related, with two of them having a 99.9979% probability of being father and son and two others having a 99.9985% probability of being siblings.

The researchers were able to deduce from their findings that the peoples in this region of France were of a genetic type more closely related to Basque and Spanish populations than current western European populations. They were also more closely related to peoples in Cyprus, Portugal, Turkey, Italy and Lebanon.

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Roman ship had on-board fish tank

Hand-operated pump would have kept catch alive during long trips.

A Roman ship found with a lead pipe piercing its hull has mystified archaeologists. Italian researchers now suggest that the pipe was part of an ingenious pumping system, designed to feed on-board fish tanks with a continuous supply of oxygenated water. Their analysis has been published online in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology1.

Historians have assumed that in ancient times fresh fish were eaten close to where they were caught, because without refrigeration they would have rotted during transportation. But if the latest theory is correct, Roman ships could have carried live fish to buyers across the Mediterranean Sea.

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