Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oetzi the Iceman's nuclear genome gives new insights

Sampling the body of Oetzi (Samadelli Marco/EURAC)

 "The Iceman" has been the subject of constant study for more than 20 years

New clues have emerged in what could be described as the world's oldest murder case: that of Oetzi the "Iceman", whose 5,300-year-old body was discovered frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991.

Oetzi's full genome has now been reported in Nature Communications.
It reveals that he had brown eyes, "O" blood type, was lactose intolerant, and was predisposed to heart disease.

They also show him to be the first documented case of infection by a Lyme disease bacterium.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Arabic sources show extreme weather hit medieval Baghdad

Medieval manuscripts written by Arabic scholars can provide valuable meteorological information to help modern scientists reconstruct the climate of the past, a new study has revealed. The research, published in Weather, analyses the writings of scholars, historians and diarists in Iraq during the Islamic Golden Age between 816-1009 AD for evidence of extreme weather in Iraq, including snowfalls and hailstorms in Baghdad.

Reconstructing climates from the past provides historical comparison to modern weather events and valuable context for climate change. In the natural world trees, ice cores and coral provide evidence of past weather, but from human sources scientists are limited by the historical information available.

Until now researchers have relied on official records detailing weather patterns including air force reports during World War Two and 18th century ship’s logs. Now a team of Spanish scientists from the Universidad de Extremadura have turned to Arabic documentary sources from the 9th and 10th centuries (3rd and 4th in the Islamic calendar). The sources, from historians and political commentators of the era, focus on the social and religious events of the time, but do refer to abnormal weather events.

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America 'discovered by Stone Age hunters from Europe'

New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe – 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World.

A remarkable series of several dozen European-style stone tools, dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, have been discovered at six locations along the US east coast. Three of the sites are on the Delmarva Peninsular in Maryland, discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware. One is in Pennsylvania and another in Virginia. A sixth was discovered by scallop-dredging fishermen on the seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast on what, in prehistoric times, would have been dry land.

The new discoveries are among the most important archaeological breakthroughs for several decades - and are set to add substantially to our understanding of humanity's spread around the globe.

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Tomb exploration reveals first archaeological evidence of Christianity from the time of Jesus

The archaeological examination by robotic camera of an intact first century tomb in Jerusalem has revealed a set of limestone Jewish ossuaries or "bone boxes" that are engraved with a rare Greek inscription and a unique iconographic image that the scholars involved identify as distinctly Christian.

The four-line Greek inscription on one ossuary refers to God "raising up" someone and a carved image found on an adjacent ossuary shows what appears to be a large fish with a human stick figure in its mouth, interpreted by the excavation team to be an image evoking the biblical story of Jonah.

In the earliest gospel materials the "sign of Jonah," as mentioned by Jesus, has been interpreted as a symbol of his resurrection. Jonah images in later "early" Christian art, such as images found in the Roman catacombs, are the most common motif found on tombs as a symbol of Christian resurrection hope. In contrast, the story of Jonah is not depicted in any first century Jewish art and iconographic images on ossuaries are extremely rare, given the prohibition within Judaism of making images of people or animals.

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Scientists find clue to Neanderthal extinction

Washington: An international team of researchers, studying ancient DNA, have suggested that most Neanderthals in Europe already were largely extinct 50,000 years ago - long before modern humans first arrived in the continent.

The findings contradict the long-held notion that Neanderthal populations were stable in Europe for hundreds of thousands of years until modern Homo sapiens arrived.

The scientists say the Neanderthal human species already had died off as early as 50,000 years ago, but a small group recovered and survived for another 10,000 years in areas of central and western Europe before modern humans entered the picture.

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DNA reveals Neanderthal extinction clues

Neanderthals were already on the verge of extinction in Europe by the time modern humans arrived on the scene, a study suggests.

DNA analysis suggests most Neanderthals in western Europe died out as early as 50,000 years ago - thousands of years before our own species appeared.

A small group of Neanderthals then recolonised parts of Europe, surviving for 10,000 years before vanishing.

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Theory and method in the prehistoric archaeology of Central Europe

International Conference
„Theory and method in the prehistoric archaeology of Central Europe“
24th-26th October 2012
Mikulov – Czech Republic
Conference objectives:
  • discuss modern (and post-modern!) developments in current world archaeology
  • bridging the national and linguistic differences – English language
  • making sense of systematic research processes, scientific method and the approaches of the social sciences, and our part­ner disciplines in cultural anthropology
Find Call for Sessions here and feel free to send your proposal to theory_and_method(@) until the end of March 2012

Further information...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Four unknown shipwrecks found in Crete

Four previously unknown shipwrecks have been discovered some 30 kilometers off the Bay of Irakleio, Crete, in recent underwater exploration conducted by the ephorate of underwater antiquities.

The new finds comprise two Roman era shipwrecks, one containing 1st and 2nd-century Cretan amphorae and the other containing 5th-7th century post-Roman era amphorae, and two shipwrecks containing Byzantine amphorae, dated from the 8th-9th century and later.

The finds, which were made south and east of the Dia islet, which lies 7 nautical miles north of Irakleio, were documented and taken ashore for further analysis.

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Ancient Arabic writings help scientists piece together past climate

An Arabic manuscript written under the second half of the Abbasid Era : Wiki Commons
Iraqi sources from 9th and 10th centuries give new meteorological insights

Ancient manuscripts written by Arabic scholars can provide valuable meteorological information to help modern scientists reconstruct the climate of the past, a new study has revealed. The research, published in Weather, analyses the writings of scholars, historians and diarists in Iraq during the Islamic Golden Age between 816-1009 AD for evidence of abnormal weather patterns.

Reconstructing climates from the past provides historical comparison to modern weather events and valuable context for climate change. In the natural world trees, ice cores and coral provide evidence of past weather, but from human sources scientists are limited by the historical information available. Until now researchers have relied on official records detailing weather patterns including air force reports during WW2 and 18th century ship’s logs.

Now a team of Spanish scientists from the Universidad de Extremadura have turned to Arabic documentary sources from the 9th and 10th centuries (3rd and 4th in the Islamic calendar). The sources, from historians and political commentators of the era, focus on the social and religious events of the time, but do refer to abnormal weather events.

Read the resz of the article...

European Neandertals were on the verge of extinction even before the arrival of modern humans

New findings from an international team of researchers show that most neandertals in Europe died off around 50,000 years ago. The previously held view of a Europe populated by a stable neandertal population for hundreds of thousands of years up until modern humans arrived must therefore be revised.

This new perspective on the neandertals comes from a study of ancient DNA published today in Molecular Biology and Evolution. The results indicate that most neandertals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of neandertals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the picture. The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid.

"The fact that neandertals in Europe were nearly extinct, but then recovered, and that all this took place long before they came into contact with modern humans came as a complete surprise to us. This indicates that the neandertals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought", says Love Dalén, associate professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

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Western Neanderthals already a fading light before arrival of modern humans

Newly published results from an international team of researchers show that most of an earlier population of Neanderthals in Europe had already died off around 50,000 years ago.
Previously, the established view was of a stable Neanderthal population in Europe from nearly 250,000 to 30,000 years ago and then they disappeared from the archaeological record after modern humans arrived, however this new research suggests the accepted paradigm must be revised.

A new perspective

This new perspective on the Neanderthals comes from a study of ancient DNA published today in Molecular Biology and Evolution. The results indicate that most European Neanderthals had died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After which, a smaller group of Neanderthals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived until modern humans entered the picture.

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Cadw, the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts have been working in partnership on several projects which are aimed at improving our understanding of the historic landscape of Wales, at both the national and local levels. In 1998 and 2001, as a first step towards raising the profile of historic landscapes in Wales, Cadw, CCW and ICOMOS (UK)(International Council on Monuments and Sites) published the two-volume Register of Landscapes of Historic Interest in Wales. This advisory and non-statutory document highlights what are considered to be the best examples of different types of historic landscape in Wales. However, the selection of areas for this Register does not reduce the importance of the rest of Wales’s rich historic landscape. A good practice guide explains how the Register should be used in assessing the effect of major developments on the historic landscape. This dataset comprises GIS polygon areas, however, there are privisos and advice regarding the appropriate use of this dataset (see USE CONSTRAINTS). All planning enquiries that may effect a Historic Landscape Area should be directed to Cadw

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Bronze Age hoard declared treasure

A "significant discovery" of a Bronze Age artefacts in Carmarthenshire have been recorded as treasure. 

The museum says the hoard shows the type of weapons and dress items worn nearly 3,000 years ago [Credit: NNC]
The hoard of 13 bronze items found in a field at St Ishmael, near Kidwelly, last June, included a bracelet, fragments of a spearhead and an axe. 

The artefacts are thought to have been buried around 1000 to 800 BC, and were declared treasure by the Carmarthenshire coroner on Friday.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Unique runestone included in UNESCO list

A unique runestone that is the first to mention Norway as a country and that documents the establishment of Christianity there, has been placed on a list of world heritage documents of international importance.

The Kuli Stone. Image: NTNU Museum of Natural History of Archaeology
The Kuli Stone. Image: NTNU Museum of Natural History of Archaeology

The “Kuli Stone” is the oldest object in the newly launched register of Norway’s list of documents to be included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme. The programme is an international register of documents that are seen as important aspects of our shared international heritage. The Norwegian version was launched on 8 February 2012 and lists documents that are especially important in Norway’s history and to its cultural heritage.

The text on the Kuli Stone is the first known occurrence and use of the term “Nóregi” – “Norway” – in the country it names. The stone has additional importance as it also dates to the establishment of Christianity in the country in a phrase that is often transcribed as:

“… twelve winters Christianity had been in Norway”.

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3D plan for Newport’s Medieval Ship

A DIGITAL interpretation of Newport’s Medieval Ship will help experts piece it back together, a council report says.

Newport City Council will apply for a £21,000 grant from the Welsh Assembly Government’s museums archives and libraries division, CyMAL, to fund 3D designs of the 15th vessel.

A report to councillors says the project would see a digital reconstruction of the entire ship, based on archaeological evidence, traditional ship building knowledge and historical research.

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Norse settlement may help us adapt to global changes

limate scientists have been examining the past environments and archaeological remains of Norse Greenland, Iceland and North Atlantic Islands for several years. They have been particularly interested in the end period of the settlements in the early part of the Little Ice Age (1300-1870 CE) and have been able to analyse how well the Norse responded to changes in  economy, trade, politics and technology, against a backdrop of changing climate.

They found that Norse societies fared best by keeping their options open when managing their long-term sustainability, adapting their trade links, turning their backs on some economic options and acquiring food from a variety of wild and farmed sources. Researchers say their findings could help inform decisions on how modern society responds to global challenges but also warns of inherent instabilities that do not directly link to climate.

In the middle ages, people in Iceland embraced economic changes sweeping Europe, developed trading in fish and wool and endured hard times to build a flourishing sustainable society. In Greenland, however, medieval communities maintained traditional Viking trade in prestige goods such as walrus ivory.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lead poisoning in Rome: The skeletal evidence

A recent article in the online publication io9, “The First Artificial Sweetener Poisoned Lots of Romans“  provided a (very) brief look at some of the uses of lead (Pb) in the Roman world, including the tired old hypothesis that it was rampant lead poisoning that led to the downfall of Rome -  along with gonorrhoea, Christianity, slavery, and the kitchen sink.

The fact the Romans loved their lead is not in question, with plenty of textual and archaeological sources that inform us of the uses of lead – as cosmetics, ballistics, sarcophagi, pipes, jewellery, curse tablets, utensils and cooking pots, and, of course sapa and defrutum (wine boiled down in lead pots) – but what almost all news articles regarding the use of lead in ancient Rome seem to ignore is data from osteological evidence.

Contemporary medical knowledge allows us to understand that metabolic disorders can be caused by a lack of nutrients: a lack of vitamin C causes scurvy; and a lack of vitamin D can lead to rickets; but they can also be caused by an abundance of something, like too much fluoride, too much mercury, too much arsenic, or too much lead.

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So what have the Romans ever done for us?

Ireland’s links with the Roman empire are being investigated in a new archaeological project in which science plays a large part writes ANTHONY KING 

FIRST CENTURY AD. The Roman General Agricola reportedly says he can take and hold Ireland with a single legion. Some archaeologists have claimed the Romans did campaign in Ireland, but most see no evidence for an invasion. Imperial Rome and this island on its far western perimeter did share interesting links, however.

The Discovery Programme, a Dublin-based public institution for advanced research in archaeology, is to investigate Ireland’s interactions with the empire and with Roman Britain, aiming to fill gaps in the story of the Irish iron age, the first 500 years after the birth of Christ.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Scientists revive sacred sounds

Ancient peoples around the world seem to have designed their sacred spaces not only for ceremonial sights, but for ceremonial sounds as well, archaeologists say.

In Peru, for example, a 3,000-year-old Andean ceremonial center's design was optimized for the blare of a priest's conch-shell trumpet. In Mexico, the Chichen Itza temple site features a staircase that can make hand claps sound like the chirp of a quetzal bird. And one of the best-known ancient monuments of all, England's Stonehenge, has a layout that's acoustically pleasing as well as astronomically significant.

The big question is, did ancient societies really have acoustics in mind when they built their monuments?

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Neolithic settlers colonized Spain from N. Africa

The Neolithic period, around 10,000 BC in the Middle East, a time when the nomadic economy became permanent, founded on farming and breeding, could have arrived on the Iberian peninsula through a third route of expansion - North Africa. This is according to a study carried out by the Autonomous University of Madrid, the University of Seville and the Higher Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) and other Spanish, Portuguese and American universities. The study has been published in the journal "Quaternary Research". 

Stone Circle in Cromeleque dos Almendres [Credit: ANSA]
Until now, two routes had been traditionally accepted: one identifying a first expansion of the northern margin of the Mediterranean sea, and the second, by sea, which reached the Balearic islands from Cyprus. The new research, though, highlights a third route from North Africa, which would identify the Neolithic characteristics that are found in the south of the Iberian peninsula. 

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Solent's Stone Age village 'had modern high street links'

Work on an 8,000-year-old Stone Age settlement under the surface of the Solent in Hampshire is throwing up evidence of clear parallels of the modern "high street", archaeologists say.

After 30 years of excavating the area around Bouldnor Cliff, a boatyard was uncovered last summer, which teams have been working on ever since.

Since The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology spotted a swamped prehistoric forest in the 1980s, the Stone Age village was found by chance at the end of the last century.

Divers taking part in a routine survey spotted a lobster cleaning out its burrow on the seabed and to their surprise the animal was throwing out dozens of pieces of worked flint - which turned out to be the first sign of the village.

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‘Welsh Stonehenge’ Halts Work on Windfarm

A multimillion pound windfarm could be scrapped after a Stone Age monument was spotted on the site using Google Earth.
Work to install the 15 wind turbines had already began after experts said they were unable to find anything of historical interest on the mountaintop in Carmarthenshire, Wales.

But a weekend rambler stumbled upon a row of stones while trekking across the site on the mountain and realised they were of historical interest.

Archaeologists were called in and discovered the stones on Mynydd Y Betws were between 3,500 and 5,000 years old and could have been part of an ancient site of worship.
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'Digger nearly destroyed Betws Mountain's Neolithic stone row'

THE man who discovered the Neolithic stone row on Betws Mountain has told how the historic find came within 20 minutes of being destroyed.

Freelance archaeologist Dr Sandy Gerrard said a digger working on the construction of the 15-turbine MynyddyBetwswindfarm had to be halted in its tracks.

“In fairness to the developers they stopped work instantly – we have no criticism at all on that score,”
he told the Guardian.

“Asit is, the rowhas been cut in two places by the windfarm access road.

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Lombard cemetery unearthed near Udine

Graves unearthed in the northern Italian region of Friuli over the last several days held objects belonging to ancient Lombard warriors

Archaeologists excavated the tombs of men, women and children, some of which showed signs of past intrusions. 

Spears, swords, knives and bags containing coins and other iron objects were found in the men's tombs while combs and clips were found in the women's. 

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'Unique' 11th Century coin discovered near Gloucester

Front and back view of coin  
The silver coin was found just north of Gloucester
A "unique" medieval coin from the reign of William the Conqueror has been discovered in a field near Gloucester.

The hammered silver coin was found by metal detectorist Maureen Jones just north of the city in November.

Experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme said the find "filled in the hole" in the dates the Gloucester mint was known to have been operating.

The coin, which dates from 1077-1080, features the name of the moneyer Silacwine and where it was minted.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme said that until the coin was discovered, there were no known examples of William I coins minted in Gloucester between 1077-1080.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Suffolk Roman gold and silver coins declared treasure

The discovery of Roman gold and silver coins on farmland in Suffolk suggests "relatively high status people" lived in the area, an archaeologist has said.

Fifteen silver coins and one gold coin were found by a father and son on farmland, near Mildenhall, on 12 October last year.

A treasure trove inquest in Bury St Edmunds heard they dated to between 355 and around 402.

Coroner Dr Peter Dean recorded the discovery as treasure.

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Well-Red Vikings sail in for festival

YORK’S annual Viking invasion has created a combination between Norse history and a traditional fairy story.

A key event in this year’s Jorvik Viking festival saw youth and experience come together when Phillip Sherman, of Booster Cushion Theatre, and several young helpers performed Eric the Red Riding Hood at the Early Music Centre, in Walmgate, York.

The play involves the heroine of the story encountering a myriad of characters in a humorous retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

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Brush with the Black Death: how artists painted through the plague

From 1347 to the late 17th century, Europe was stalked by the Black Death, yet art not only survived, it flourished. So why are modern Europeans so afraid of epidemics?

The age when European art rose to glory was an age of disease and death. In 1347 the Black Death – probably bubonic plague – was brought by a Genoese ship to Sicily. In the next few years, it is estimated to have killed about a third of the entire population of Europe. Some cities, such as Venice, lost more like 60% of their people

The Renaissance was just getting started, and the plague, too, was at the beginning of its reign of terror. The Black Death was more than a medieval explosion of horror: it kept coming back. For the next 300 years and longer, plague became a regular part of life – and death – in Europe. Terrible outbreaks periodically devastated cities. One of the very last, and most terrifying, of these plagues hit London in 1665 and is described in chilling detail in one of the first historical novels, Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year.

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Mapping the Medieval Countryside project receives £528,000 in funding

A new project from King’s College London and the University of Winchester will allow researchers to explore the lands of medieval England as never before has received over half a million pounds in funding.

The three-year project is led by medieval historian Professor Michael Hicks at Winchester, and Paul Spence, Senior Lecturer at Kings’ College London’s Department of Digital Humanities. It will digitise hundreds of years worth of records showing the land held by tenants at the time of their death. The ‘Mapping the Medieval Countryside: The Fifteenth Century Inquisitions Post Mortem’ project has been made possible by a £528,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

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The Seedy, Scandalous History of Valentine's Day

Forget roses, chocolates and candlelight dinners. On Valentine's Day, that's rather boring stuff -- at least according to ancient Roman standards.

Imagine half-naked men running through the streets, whipping young women with bloodied thongs made from freshly cut goat skins. Although it might sound like some sort of perverted sadomasochistic ritual, this is what the Romans did until A.D. 496.

Mid-February was Lupercalia (Wolf Festival) time. Celebrated on Feb. 15 at the foot of the Palatine Hill beside the cave where, according to tradition, the she-wolf had suckled Romulus and Remus, the festival was essentially a purification and fertility rite.

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Snow damages Colosseum

Rome - Heavy snow has caused extensive damage to the mediaeval walled town of Urbino and further deteriorated the Colosseum in Rome, already badly in need of repair, Italian newspapers reported on Tuesday.

Partial collapses have been reported at the convents of San Francesco and San Bernardino in Urbino and the roof of the Church of the Capuchins outside the town centre has completely caved in, La Repubblica reported.

There is also water damage in the town's 12th-century Duomo cathedral.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Firm helps protect Roman ruins

Gallagher Group have helped preserve some Roman walls dug up by archaeologists – by burying them again.
After being recorded by Maidstone Archaeology Group, the walls of the Roman building near East Farleigh were due to be back-filled anyway, but fears they could be damaged by frost meant the job needed to be done quickly.

The Maidstone-based building, civil engineering, quarrying and property business provided a digger and staff for a day to get the job done.

Linda Weeks, Honorary Secretary of the Maidstone Area Archaeological Group, thanked everyone who helped out, adding: “We were concerned that the ragstone walls of the Roman buildings would have been damaged by the winter frosts, but Gallagher’s timely intervention has meant these walls have now been preserved.”

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Bulgarian archaeologists uncovers 130 ancient sites along Nabucco pipeline route

Bulgarian archaeologists surveying the route of Nabucco gas pipeline uncovered about 130 archaeological sites, Novinite Sofia News Agency reported with the reference to Bulgaria's National Archaeological Institute.

Nabucco gas pipeline is one of the Southern Gas Corridor projects, which is designed to transport gas from the Caspian region and Middle East to the European countries.

According to the Bulgarian Institute's Director Lyudmil Vagalinski, the surveying of the 420 km Bulgarian section of Nabucco has been carried out under a special GIS (Geographical Information System) technology.

He said that based on the data collected by the archaeologists, there will be excavations along the route of the Nabucco pipeline.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Roar talent at Viking festival

THE annual Jorvik Viking Festival swung into action with a skirmish in York city centre.

Viking characters wearing battle attire took over Coppergate to help start the popular festival, which is expected to attract 40,000 people.

This year marks the 27th festival and will feature more than 80 events culminating in a ferocious battle before the Festival Of Fire climax featuring fire jugglers, a firework display and the burning of a 60ft-longship on Bustardthorpe Field at York Racecourse on Saturday.

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Oxfordshire 12th Century church damaged by fire

Fire crews worked for 12 hours to save a 900-year-old Oxfordshire church from going up in flames on Sunday. 

Firefighters were called to St Mary the Virgin Church in Charlbury at 12:00 GMT as plumes of thick smoke were coming from the church roof.

They were forced to saw through the roof in order to create a fire break to stop the flames spreading.

Arson has been ruled out as the cause of the fire. The fire service said the church was empty at the time.

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In pictures: 12th Century church fire in Charlbury

A fire has significantly damaged the 12th Century St Mary the Virgin Church in Charlbury, Oxfordshire.

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Exhibition marks custodian's death at Newark Castle

The death of a Newark Castle custodian who swallowed weedkiller after his collection of artefacts was removed is being marked by an exhibition.

John Mountney who died in 1912, was the second custodian of the Nottinghamshire castle and spent years collecting items to illustrate the history of Newark.

In a dispute with the council, the castle's owners, Mr Mountney lost the collection and was left "heartbroken".

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Neanderthals Used Red Ochre Pigment 250,000 Years Ago

We have seen cave paintings where the splashy red pigment was used to create images by ancient humans in present-day Europe tens of thousands of years ago. Scientists have said that ancient humans used it generally in Europe about 40,000 - 60,000 years ago, in West Asia as long ago as 100,000 years, and by the ancients in Africa as long ago as 200,000-250,000 years. Now, a new study suggests that Neanderthals were also using it in the present-day Netherlands region of Europe as far back as 200,000-250,000 years ago, if not earlier.

The study, conducted by a team of scientists led by W. Roebroeks of Leiden University, examined and analyzed a sample of red material retrieved from excavations originally conducted during the 1980's at the Maastricht-Belvédère Neanderthal site in the Netherlands. The excavations exposed scatterings of well-preserved flint and bone artifacts that were produced in a river valley during the Middle Pleistocene full interglacial period. During the coarse of the excavation, soil samples were also collected, a typical procedure when excavating a site. Within the soil samples were traces of a reddish material. The samples were subjected to various forms of analyses and experimentation to study their physical properties. They identified the reddish material as hematite, a common mineral form of iron oxide that was used for pigmentation by prehistoric populations.

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Turkish slaves' cemetery discovered in Malta

Roadwork excavations in Marsa have revealed the archaeological remains of a Muslim cemetery dating back to 1675, confirming historians’ belief of the existence of a Turkish slave cemetery in the area. 

The archaeologist pointing to the human remains found at what is believed to be an old Muslim cemetery in Marsa [Credit: Chris Sant Fournier]
The find is being documented and excavated by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and an archaeologist specialising in documentation of human remains is closely following the investigation. 

The roadworks have been temporarily halted on the relevant sections until the preservation works are complete.
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Archaeology: More details emerge about Roman ruins in Bulgaria’s Bourgas

More details have emerged about the archaeological find of Roman ruins at a spot near Bourgas on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast – including the fact that they have been found before and funding already has been allocated to investigate them.

The ruins emerged after huge seas scoured the Black Sea coast earlier in February 2012, prompting speculation whether this represented a hitherto unknown Roman settlement or just a small sewerage or sanitation installation.

Bourgas mayor Dimitar Nikolov went to see for himself and trumpeted the find, which hit national headlines amid the bitter winter weather chaos.

But it turned out that the existence of the ruins was well-known to archaeologists and 120 000 leva (about 60 000 euro) already had earmarked to investigate the site.

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Grave discovery

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have unearthed the remains of a medieval burial ground at St Giles’ Church in Pontefract.

Ten medieval graves were unexpectedly discovered during ongoing building works at the site.

Archaeologists from West Yorkshire Archaeological Services (WYAS) also uncovered the foundations of what is believed to have been the earliest church to occupy the Market Place site.

Ian Roberts, archaeologist overseeing the work for WYAS and the Wakefield Diocese, said: “Churches invariably preserve some of the earliest medieval archaeology in our historic towns and it is only occasionally that the opportunity arises to investigate, evaluate and record the evidence that survives.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Time Team: Mary-Ann Ochota quits Channel 4 archaeological show

Time Team has been thrown into disarray after Mary-Ann Ochota became the second presenter to leave the Channel 4 archaeological programme. 

Mary-Ann Ochota, 30, who holds a master’s degree in archaeology and anthropology from Cambridge University, has left the show after a row with Prof Mick Aston, the archaeologist.
Her leaving the show comes after Prof Aston, 65, also quit the show after producers hired Ms Ochota, a former model, as the programme’s co-presenter with Tony Robinson.
Prof Ashton, who has been on the show for 19 years, said he had been left “really angry” by changes which led to the introduction of co-presenter and some archaeologists being axed.

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Reply to my complaint to Channel 4 concerning Time Team Changes

As expected, a wishy-washy response - but the more people who write in, the better!

"Dear Mr Beard,

Thank you for contacting Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries regarding TIME TEAM.

We are sorry to hear that you are unhappy with the new format of the show and that Prof. Mick Aston has decided to leave. We are saddened by Mick 's decision to leave, he has been a fantastic member of the Time Team team and we wish him well in the future.

Please be assured your complaint has been logged and noted for the information of those responsible for our programming.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.


Doug Masterson

Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries"

Please take the time to send your own comments to Channel 4.  Use the link here...

See the original story " Mick Aston quits Time Team after producers hire former model co-presenter"...

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Research: Neanderthal demise due to many influences, including cultural changes

Computer modeling shows interactions between Neanderthals and modern human ancestors

 As an ice age crept upon them thousands of years ago, Neanderthals and modern human ancestors expanded their territory ranges across Asia and Europe to adapt to the changing environment.

In the process, they encountered each other.

Although many anthropologists believe that modern humans ancestors "wiped out" Neanderthals, it's more likely that Neanderthals were integrated into the human gene pool thousands of years ago during the Upper Pleistocene era as cultural and climatic forces brought the two groups together, said Arizona State University Professor C. Michael Barton of the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity and School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

"The traditional story in textbooks doesn't fit well with what we know about hunter-gatherers. For the most part, they don't like to go far from home. It's dangerous," Barton said.

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Berlin's Pergamon Altar to close for renovations

The Great Altar of Pergamon, a sculpted frieze dating from the 2nd century BC and one of Berlin's top tourist attractions, will be closed for repair work from 2014, the museum said Tuesday. 

The Pergamon Museum -- which opened to house the Ancient Greek masterpiece in 1930 on Berlin's renowned Museum Island -- will undergo a complete renovation in several phases, between October of this year and 2019. 

"Preliminary restoration work in the Pergamon Hall will likely begin in May 2014," the state cultural authority said in a statement. 

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Mick Aston quits Time Team after producers hire former model co-presenter

Mick Aston, the archeologist, has quit Time Team after producers hired a former model as the programme’s co-presenter. 

The 65-year-old, who has been on the show for 19 years, said he had been left “really angry” by changes which led to the introduction of co-presenter Mary-Ann Ochota and some archaeologists being axed.
In an interview with the magazine British Archaeology, Prof Aston, the show’s former site director, said: “The time had come to leave. I never made any money out of it, but a lot of my soul went into it. I feel really, really angry about it.”
He was responding to changes first proposed by producers at Channel 4 in late 2010, which included a new presenter to join Tony Robinson and decisions to “cut down the informative stuff about the archaeology”.

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Click here to contact Channel 4 to tell them what you think of their decision.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Time Team Series 18 post-excavation reports now online

We are pleased to announce that the post-excavation reports for Series 18 (first broadcast in 2011) are now available to read online or download via our Time Team Reports page. This year, since Channel 4 have reorganised their Time Team website, we have also linked to the episode pages on the Channel 4 website. There it is possible to view the episodes themselves. Just click the "Watch now on 4oD" link underneath the site summary.

Wessex Archaeology are responsible for making sure that all Time Team’s trenches are properly recorded, using standard techniques, and that a report is compiled at the end of the dig, to present the results. We work closely with the people carrying out the site survey, the geophysical survey and the landscape survey, all of whose results are incorporated in our reports.

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Stonehenge as you've never seen it

Archaeologists reveal a new way of viewing Stonehenge using Google Earth software

Millions of people have used Google Earth's geo-modelling software to take a tour of the moon, Mars, foreign countries, or – let's be honest – to compare their homes with those of their neighbours. But now a new project developed by Bournemouth University academics is giving surfers access to a virtual prehistoric landscape: Stonehenge.

The World Heritage site near Salisbury is now more accessible than ever, archaeologists claim, thanks to Google's Under-the-Earth: Seeing Beneath Stonehenge project. Their last few years of findings, combined with the search giant's technology, allows surfers to visit the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls, to scout around prehistoric houses, to see reconstructions of Bluestonehenge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue and to explore the great timber monument called the Southern Circle. The sites look as they would have appeared more than 4,000 years ago – and all from the comfort of your desk.

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Ancient Greek Pills Found in Greek Shipwreck

In 130 BC, a ship fashioned from the wood of walnut trees, bulging with medicines and Syrian glassware, sank off the coast of Tuscany, Italy. Archaeologists found its precious load 20 years ago and now, for the first time, archaeobotanists have been able to examine and analyse pills that were prepared by the physicians of ancient Greece.

DNA analyses show that each millennia-old tablet is a mixture of more than 10 different plant extracts, from hibiscus to celery.

“Medicinal plants have been identified before, but not a compound medicine, so this is really something new,” says Alain Touwaide, director of the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions, which has the world’s largest digital database of medical manuscripts.

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Viking barley in Greenland

The Vikings are both famous and notorious for their liking of beer and mead and archaeologists have discussed for years whether Eric the Red (ca 950-1010) and his followers had to make do without the golden drink when they settled in Greenland around the year 1,000:  The climate was mild when they landed, but was it warm enough for growing barley?

Researchers from the National Museum in Copenhagen say the answer to the question is ‘yes’. In a unique find, they uncovered tiny fragments of charred barley grains in a Viking midden on Greenland.

The find is final proof that the first Vikings to live in Greenland did grow barley – the most important ingredient in making a form of porridge, baking bread and of course in brewing beer, traditionally seen as the staple foods in the Vikings’ diet.

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Viking axe find in Slimbridge discounted by archaeologists

An axe head found in a garden in Gloucestershire, which was claimed to be of Viking origin, is an 18th Century woodworking tool, experts have said.

It was found in 2008 by Ian Hunter Darling under a hedge at his home in Slimbridge.

Slimbridge Local History Society who said last week it was Viking have now renamed it the "Slimbridge axe head".

A meeting about the find is taking place in Slimbridge on 21 February.

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Subway excavations yield countless treasures

Greek Macedonians discovered a valuable treasure hidden in the bowels of the earth, thanks to the methodical excavations undertaken in the construction of the Thessaloniki metro. 

Many artifacts found in the excavation, from items such as gold hoops, benches, and thousands of everyday objects, up to whole churches, remnants of the glorious, long history of Thessaloniki, have come to light. The excavations were completed by the end of the year, leaving behind thousands of “mosaics” of cultures that flourished in the city. 

Archaeologists are revealing a palimpsest of the city, a city that has undergone constant and continuous phases of occupation from the 4th century BC, when it was founded in Thessaloniki, until now! “In Byzantium, Thessalonica was described as the second city of Constantinople, precisely because of its extremely important historical position in the region.”
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Delving into county's rich history

NEW details about the rich history of Britain’s biggest county have been made available to for all to see.

The clues to the past have been unearthed by local archaeology groups around North Yorkshire and have now been published on the internet.

More than 2,500 newly recorded archaeological sites - and new information on many previously known sites - have been posted by the county council in the online North Yorkshire Historic Environment Record.

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Surrey Archaeological Society Annual Symposium

Saturday, 11 February

This year's speakers include Catherine Ferguson (University of Sussex) on the Loseley manuscripts and Tudor power, Robert Davies (Surrey Wildlife Trust) looking at the revised Ancient Woodland Survey for the county. Rob Poulton (SCAU), Nick Branch (Reading University) and Richard Savage (Surrey Archaeological Society). Surrey Heritage is well represented including David Williams discussing recent Portable Antiquities Scheme finds.

To apply for tickets, please write to Emma Coburn, Surrey Archaeological Society, Castle Arch, Guildford, GU1 3SX, please enclose an SAE.

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Did Early Humans Ride the Waves to Australia?

Everybody is African in origin. Barring a smattering of genes from Neanderthals and other archaic Asian forms, all our ancestors lived in the continent of Africa until 150,000 years ago. Some time after that, say the genes, one group of Africans somehow became so good at exploiting their environment that they (we!) expanded across all of Africa and began to spill out of the continent into Asia and Europe, invading new ecological niches and driving their competitors extinct.

There is plenty of dispute about what gave these people such an advantage—language, some other form of mental ingenuity, or the collective knowledge that comes from exchange and specialization—but there is also disagreement about when the exodus began. For a long time, scientists had assumed a gradual expansion of African people through Sinai into both Europe and Asia. Then, bizarrely, it became clear from both genetics and archaeology that Europe was peopled later (after 40,000 years ago) than Australia (before 50,000 years ago).

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Archaeologists and pagans alike glory in the Brodgar complex

Archaeologists are notoriously nervous of attributing ritual significance to anything (the old joke used to be that if you found an artefact and couldn't identify it, it had to have ritual significance), yet they still like to do so whenever possible. I used to work on a site in the mid-1980s – a hill fort in Gloucestershire – where items of potential religious note occasionally turned up (a horse skull buried at the entrance, for example) and this was always cause for some excitement, and also some gnashing of teeth at the prospect of other people who weren't archaeologists getting excited about it ("And now I suppose we'll have druids turning up").

The Brodgar complex has, however, got everyone excited. It ticks all the boxes that make archaeologists, other academics, lay historians and pagans jump up and down. Its age is significant: it's around 800 years older than Stonehenge (although lately, having had to do some research into ancient Britain, I've been exercised by just how widely dates for sites vary, so perhaps some caution is called for). Pottery found at Stonehenge apparently originated in Orkney, or was modelled on pottery that did.

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Study Reveals Possible New Key to Human Evolution

For the first five years of life, human cognition slowly comes to fruition, receiving and storing information and experience from the environment and enabling humans to advance beyond the capabilities of their primate cousins, according to a study published online in Genome Research.  An international team of researchers have identified extended synaptic development in the prefrontal cortex of the human brain that sheds new light on the evolution of human cognition and suggests another reason why the human family diverged from other primates 4-6 million years ago.

"Why can we absorb environmental information during infancy and childhood and develop intellectual skills that chimpanzees cannot?" asks study author Dr. Philipp Khaitovich of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "What makes the human brain so special?"

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Raiders plundering Byzantine treasures

Treasure hunters and looters have been plundering a Byzantine cemetery and the İnceğiz caves in Istanbul’s Çatalca district for many years, despite the area’s recognition as a protected archeological site of the first degree. 

“Grave diggers have swarmed into the region when the excavation work in the cemetery came to an end in 1995 upon the order of the Archeology Museum. Unlicensed excavations take place inside the graves that were carved into stone, after [the looters] break the stone lids. History is being destroyed,” said Ahmet Rasim Yücel, the head of the Çatalca Culture and Tourism Association. 

Despite constant patrols by gendarmerie forces, controls are still lax because the area in question is too wide, according to Çatalca District Gov. Nevzat Taşdan, who also complained about the lack of means available to them in combating treasure hunters, the daily Akşam reported. 

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Wirral’s history from the Bronze Age to the Vikings to be laid bare at lecture

KEEN historians can learn more about the latest local archaeological excavations in Wirral at a talk being held next week.

The Friends of Greasby Library will host a lecture by local historian Rob Philpott who will describe how finds in a garden in Irby shed new light on settlements in the area from the Bronze Age to the arrival of the Vikings.

Roman pottery was discovered by chance, providing new evidence to link the earliest inhabitants of Wirral with later Scandinavian settlers.

And the beginnings of human settlement in Wirral have been dated to the Mesolithic period, following finds in the early 1990’s at Greasby.

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Viking axe head discovery is 'evidence of battle'

Viking axe head  
Archaeologists think the axe head could be evidence of a battle in 894 AD
A Viking axe head found in a Gloucestershire village could be evidence of a battle more than 1,100 years ago, according to archaeologists.

The wrought iron object, found in Slimbridge in 2008, has now been identified as being of Viking origin.
Historians say a band of Vikings sailed up the River Severn and fought against the Anglo-Saxons in 894 AD.
Archaeologists say where the axe head was found is where they could have tied up their ships.

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Reconstruction of Frankfurt's Old Town begins

Over the next few weeks, people walking across the Romerberg on their way to the Emperor's Cathedral will automatically find themselves facing a gigantic construction site. What's happening here in the heart of Frankfurt's old town, passers-by may ask. It is, simply put, one of the most controversial and, at the same time, one of the most spectacular reconstruction projects currently going on in Germany. While other cities squabble over the reconstruction of individual buildings, Frankfurt am Main has been discussing the reconstruction of an entire quarter.

The chronology of the steps it took to bring the project to fruition says much about the general state of mind of Frankfurt's citizenry, for it was they that helped to bring about what the casual observer might call the obvious solution. But the influence exerted by Frankfurt's inhabitants is not surprising, really. After all, the city has been referred to as the "cradle of German democracy" since the landmark events of 1848.
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Estonian students find Iron Age life smoky and cold

Ever wondered what it was like to endure an Iron Age winter?

Five students in the small Baltic state of Estonia, who have abandoned modern conveniences for a week in a replica wooden hut built on the site of an ancient hill fort, have discovered that Iron Age accommodation was mainly cold, dark and smoky.

"You can't heat and be in the building and after dark there is no light," said Kristiina Paavel, 24, one of the students.

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Dig unveils medieval remnants

AN archaeological survey carried out on a former grain silos site near Lynn’s South Quay should help to fill gaps in knowledge of that part of the town’s historic core, an expert says.

Dr Ken Hamilton, senior historic environment officer with Norfolk County Council, said the recent dig at the former Sommerfeld and Thomas site, between South Quay and Millfleet, had uncovered medieval deposits and what appeared to be a series of 18th century surfaces, like cobbles.

He said: “It’s certainly of interest because that corner is represented on historic maps but it has not been very clear what goes on at the junction of Millfleet and the Ouse. It should lead to more statements about the town’s history in that area.”

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