Monday, April 30, 2012

Stone me! Archaeologists' new theory on ancient north Pembrokeshire site

Rare finds have prompted archaeologists to rewrite the history of an ancient north Pembrokeshire stone.

The Trefael Stone, a scheduled ancient monument in a Nevern field, was originally thought to be an ancient standing stone, but is actually the capstone of a 5,500-year-old tomb, according to new research from a Bristol University archaeologist.

Dr George Nash and colleagues’ excavations at the site indicate that the 1.2m high stone once covered a small burial chamber, probably a portal dolmen, Wales’ earliest Neolithic burial-ritual monument type.

Human Genes Provide Clues to Rise and Spread of Agriculture in Prehistoric Europe

Human Genes Provide Clues to Rise and Spread of Agriculture in Prehistoric Europe
Did agriculture in Stone Age Europe rise and spread through the gradual transfer and diffusion of the farming idea from agriculturalists to hunter-gatherers, or was it brought as a package by migrating agriculturalists?  Was agriculture introduced from south to north, as the archaeological record suggests, or did it come from a different direction? 

A joint Swedish-Danish research team may have finally found some answers. 

Under the leadership of Assistant Professor Anders Götherström of Uppsala University, Sweden, and Assistant Professor Mattias Jakobsson, also of Uppsala University, researchers used advanced DNA techniques to study four skeletons of humans who lived in Sweden during the Stone Age, about 5,000 years ago. They analyzed the ancient remains of three hunter-gatherers of the Pitted Ware Culture , excavated on the island of Gotland, Sweden, and the remains of a farmer, a member of the Funnelbeaker Culture, excavated at Gökhem parish, also in Sweden.

Archaeological dig at Upton could find remains of a Roman suburb

ARCHAEOLOGISTS hope to uncover up to 1,000 years of Northampton’s history when they investigate a building site on the west of the town.

A dig on the latest phase of the Upton development is planned to take place next month.
Early examinations of the nine- acre site have suggested there could be both Iron Age and Roman finds beneath the ground.

Steve Parry, from Northamptonshire Archaeology, said: “The exciting thing about this project is that it gives us the opportunity to look at quite an extensive area.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Training Digs for the Summer

If you are thinking of taking part in a training dig this summer, you might be interested in this list of training digs and field schools on the Archaeological Events in Europe website?.

If you want to add a training dig to the list, you can find a form here...




Evidence of ancient smuggling activity has emerged from a Roman shipwreck, according to Italian archaeologists who have investigated the vessel's cargo.

Dating to the third century AD, the large sunken ship wasfully recovered six months ago at a depth of 7 feet near the shore of Marausa Lido, a beach resort near Trapani.

Her cargo, officially consisting of assorted jars once filled with walnuts, figs, olives, wine, oil and fish sauce, also contained many unusual tubular tiles.

Read the rest of this article...


Ancient DNA sheds light on spread of European farming

Analyzing DNA from four ancient skeletons and comparing it with thousands of genetic samples from living humans, a group of Scandinavian scientists reported that agriculture initially spread through Europe because farmers expanded their territory northward, not because the more primitive foragers already living there adopted it on their own.

The genetic profiles of three Neolithic hunter-gatherers and one farmer who lived in the same region of modern-day Sweden about 5,000 years ago were quite different — a fact that could help resolve a decades-old battle among archaeologists over the origins of European agriculture, said study leader Mattias Jakobsson, a population geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden.

The hunter-gatherers, from the island of Gotland, bore a distinct genetic resemblance to people alive today in Europe's extreme north, said Jakobsson, who reported his findings in Friday's edition of the journal Science. The farmer, excavated from a large stone burial structure in the mainland parish of Gokhem, about 250 miles away, had DNA more like that of modern people in southern Europe.

read the rest of this article


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cirencester Roman amphitheatre plans unveiled

Plans to revamp Cirencester's Roman amphitheatre and surrounding area have been unveiled.

The town council, which has taken over management of part of the site from English Heritage, wants to improve access and erect new information signs.

Part of the scheme would see the restoration of the historic Chesterton Obelisk which is in woodland nearby.
Martin Conyers from the town council said it was an "exciting project" for Cirencester.

The earthworks, which still exist near to the centre of the town, are the remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain.

AA Gill, drop the cheap jibes about Mary Beard – and learn something

Three years ago I took a stand against ageism at the BBC. The tide is now turning against those who judge by appearances

Mary Beard sitting on Ostia latrines in Rome
Mary Beard, the presenter of Meet the Romans, pictured in the ancient Roman public latrines of Ostia. Photograph: Caterina Turroni/BBC/Lion TV
The Sunday Times TV critic AA Gill refers to his girlfriend as "The Blonde", nothing more. I have idly wondered in the past why he chooses to describe her like this in his columns. Perhaps, because in our society, and particularly in the world of male one-upmanship, "blonde" has connotations of beauty, sex appeal and desirability. By stating so often that he has a "blonde" on his arm, Gill probably feels others will admire, respect, even envy him for attracting such a golden-haired trophy.

I write this because in my view it explains everything about the way Gill evaluates women. In his Sunday Times column this week he started his critique of BBC2's Meet the Romans by saying the presenter, Professor Mary Beard, "really should be kept away from cameras altogether". Why? "Because she's this far from being the subject of a Channel 4 dating documentary." Gill was obviously referring to Channel 4's recent controversial series The Undateables, about people with disabilities and their quest for love: a programme he described in a recent review as a "mocking freak show of grotesques and embarrassments".

Near-infrared spectroscopy illuminates medieval art

Scientists in the US and Italy have borrowed a technique more usually associated with geophysical remote sensing and applied it to medieval artwork - with stunning results. The near-infrared hyperspectral imaging of a leaf from a 15th century illuminated manuscript has produced a map of the pigment binders used by the artist.

The technique will not only allow conservation specialists to better plan strategies for restoring and stabilising paintings, but will also give art historians new insights into the materials and methods favoured by individual artists. Art historians and conservationists need detailed information about materials used by artists, such as the pigments and the organic binding agents, for example gum Arabic or egg white, which were used to carry the pigment.

Medieval May Day celebrations in Harrow Museum on bank holiday Monday

Medieval May Day celebrations in Harrow Museum on bank holiday Monday

Harrow is gearing up for its annual Medieval May Day celebrations.

Falconry displays, Morris dancers and Maypole dancers will come together to perform at Harrow Museum in Headstone Lane, next Bank Holiday Monday.

The Medieval Combat Society will be also demonstrating their fighting skills, and children can take part in a range of activities from archery to going on the rides.

People are encouraged to get into the spirit of the day by dressing up in medieval costumes.

The day will kick off at 12pm on May 7 at Harrow Museum. Adults cost £2.50, children aged from 6 to 16 are £1.50 and under 6’s are free.

New visitor centre opens at Conwy Castle

New visitor centre opens at Conwy Castle

A new 150sq m (1,615sq ft) retail and visitor centre has been unveiled at Conwy Castle in a move towards a new design concept to be implemented at Cadw-operated heritage attractions.

M Worldwide and Datum Contracts International were chosen by the historic environment agency last autumn to work on a flexible approach for Cadw's sites across Wales.

The concept aims to create retail units and visitor centres reflecting the "uniqueness" of the respective heritage site in order to improve visitor experience and attract more return visits.

Islanders Being Asked To Record Threatened Archaeological Sites

Islanders are being asked to help record how the sea is eroding Scilly’s historic coastal sites, before it’s too late.

Charlie Johns, Cornwall Council’s archaeologist, is back in the islands to set up a Shorewatch group. He’s hoping to start sessions, where volunteers will record data from areas threatened by erosion.

Charlie says a similar approach has been very successful in Scotland with each island group having it’s own Shorewatch team.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A grave dilemma

Archaelogists carefully uncover more human remains at the site of a long-lost church known as
All Saints, Peasholme

What to do with the remains of medieval Christians discovered beneath what used to be the Peaseholme Centre? STEPHEN LEWIS reports.

From a first glance, it looks just like any other building site that has been cleared ready for development.
It is only when you look closer that you notice the bones: fragments of skull sticking out of the earth; longer arm and leg bones; bits of what might be rib. With a slightly queasy feeling you realise that, yes, they are human remains.

This is where the Peasholme hostel on Peasholme Green once stood, and where, until the council decided to move into the West Offices instead, its new HQ was to be.

Artist of Running Satyr is probable author of unearthed vase fragments with erotic scenes: Bulgarian archeologist

There are erotic scenes in Ancient Greece, but never are they so big and expressive and made by such a good artist, archeologist Dimitar Nedev said in an interview with FOCUS News Agency, referring to the vase fragments unearthed in the coastal city of Sozopol during excavations.

According to a preliminary analysis of the style, the painting was made by one of the prominent artists in Apollonia – the Artist of the Running Satyr.

The painting is comprised of seven figures; the scene is erotic, with good style, expressive and very spicy, said the archeologist.

According to him the find will widen the knowledge of the region, its trade contacts, and the aesthetic and artistic criteria of ancient Hellenes and Thracians who used to live in this region, he said further.

Jeremy Deller's inflatable Stonehenge gives Glasgow a bounce in its step

The Turner prize winner's bouncy new interactive artwork, Sacrilege, kicks off the Glasgow international festival of visual art

Jeremy Deller's Sacrilege, an inflatable model of Stonehenge
King of the bouncy castle ... Jeremy Deller's Sacrilege at Glasgow Green is part of the Glasgow international festival of visual arts. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
"It's a bit weird and random," says Michael Mclaughlan, 50, bopping gently up and down in the middle of the giant inflatable Stonehenge that has sprung up on Glasgow Green. "They should get Alex Salmond down here to bounce about."

Around him, children and adults are discarding their shoes and climbing tentatively on to the grandest of bouncy castles, a large-scale interactive work by the Turner prize winner Jeremy Deller. Titled Sacrilege, it's Deller's first major public project in Scotland and a centrepiece of the Glasgow international festival of visual art which launched on Friday.

"It's something for people to interact with, it's a big public sculpture," says Deller, who was on hand for the project's launch. "It is also a way of interacting with history and archaeology and culture in a wider sense.

Where's the Beef? Early Humans Took It

When human ancestors began scavenging for meat regularly on the open plains of Africa about 2.5 million years ago, they apparently took more than their fair share of flesh. Within a million years, most of the large carnivores in the region—from saber-toothed cats to bear-size otters—had gone extinct, leaving just a few "hypercarnivores" alive, according to a study presented here last week at a workshop on climate change and human evolution at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. 

Humans have driven thousands of species extinct over the millennia, ranging from moas—giant, flightless birds that lived in New Zealand—to most lemurs in Madagascar. But just when we began to have such a major impact is less clear. Researchers have long known that many African carnivores died out by 1.5 million years ago, and they blamed our ancestor, Homo erectus, for overhunting with its new stone tools. But few scientists thought there were enough hominins—ancestors of humans but not other apes—before that to threaten the fierce assortment of carnivores that roamed Africa, or that the crude stone tools that our ancestors began to wield 2.6 million years ago could be used for hunting. Besides, it was probably much more dangerous for the puny hominins alive then, such as Australopithecus afarensis, whose brain and body were only a bit bigger than a chimp's, to grab carcasses than it was for supersized carnivores such as giant hyenas, cats, and otters to devour hominins. "One of my favorite images is of an Au. afarensis being dragged down by a giant otter," says vertebrate paleontologist Lars Werdelin at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

Erotic Greek painted vase discovered in Bulgaria

Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed an Ancient Greek vase featuring an erotic scene during excavations in the Black Sea town of Sozopol. 

The archaeological excavations in Bulgaria's Sozopol [Credit:]
The vase was found on Sunday during digs which first started in October 2011, and target the fortress wall of what once was one of the largest Greek polises on the Black Sea coast, and the ruins of the St. Nikolas of Myra monastery. 

It was discovered in the oldest archaeological layers in Sozopol dating back from the end of the 7th century to the middle of the 6th century BC, announced Prof. Bozhidar Dimitrov, Director of Bulgaria's National History Museum, who described the erotic scene on the vase as depicting "group sex".  as cited by Focus. 

"This vase, which was unfortunately found in several fragments, presents a very strong erotic scene. Several naked young people, boys and girls, are shown having sex in an unorthodox way. This is the first time such an ancient erotic scene is found in Bulgaria," Dimitrov said, as cited by Focus.

Letzte Ruhe im Kochtopf

Archäologen des Landschaftsverbandes Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) haben in einem Gräberfeld in Berghaltern (Kreis Recklinghausen) ein weiteres 2.000 Jahre altes römisches Grab entdeckt.
In dieser Urne - einem römischen Kochtopf - wurde akribisch vom Scheiterhaufen aufgesammelte Asche des Toten beigesetzt. (Foto: LWL/D. Jaszczurok)
In dieser Urne - einem römischen Kochtopf - wurde akribisch vom Scheiterhaufen aufgesammelte Asche des Toten beigesetzt. (Foto: LWL/D. Jaszczurok)

Ob hier ein Centurio oder ein anderer Soldat der römischen Armee seine letzte Ruhestätte fand, lässt sich nicht sagen. Sicher ist, dass die Asche des toten Römers im ersten Jahrzehnt nach Christus akkurat vom Scheiterhaufen aufgesammelt und im Hügelgrab in einer Urne bestattet wurde, die vorher als Kochtopf diente - eine damals übliche Praxis. 

Das Grabungsteam des LWL-Referates für Provinzialrömische Archäologie war seit März auf sieben Grabungsflächen und insgesamt 2.500 Quadratmetern auch dem Alltagsleben der Soldaten, ihrer Familien und den damaligen Bestattungsbräuchen auf der Spur. In dem künftigen Baugebiet zeichneten sich im freigebaggerten Boden die Fundamentgräben eines Grabhügels ab, den die Ausgräber bereits im Jahr 2005 angeschnitten hatten.

X-ray may reveal Bronze Age secrets

Specialist scanning equipment at a hospital's spinal unit is being used to shed light on early Bronze Age burial discoveries.

The items unearthed on a Dartmoor burial site in Devon could prove to be one of the most important archaeological finds of the last 100 years.

The excavation, co-ordinated by Dartmoor National Park Authority, discovered the collection of early Bronze Age remains in a burial cist - a stone chest containing the ashes and belongings of a dead person - on Whitehorse Hill last year.

Now, under the expert eyes of Wiltshire Council's conservation service the items are being X-rayed to see what secrets they may be hiding.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lancaster City Museum 'ideal place' for Silverdale hoard

Viking silver coin  
The hoard was declared treasure and is currently being valued
A Lancashire museum would be an "ideal place" for a hoard of Viking silver found in the county, experts say.
Gareth Williams, of the British Museum, said an assumption that large finds should go to the national museum was "an old-fashioned view".

The hoard of coins and jewellery was found near to Silverdale, in September 2011, by a metal detector enthusiast.

Mr Williams said housing it in Lancaster City Museum will help the understanding of local Viking history.
It was declared treasure by a coroner in December and is currently being valued.

Planning to protect our Roman heritage

FIREFIGHTERS have drawn up new plans to protect South Shields’s historic Roman heritage.
 They have taken details of the layout of Arbeia fort and museum to help them should fire break out.

And a similar survey has also been done at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery, in Ocean Road.

Ten other North East sites which store valuable objects have been specially scanned and surveyed in case of emergency.

Did climate change shape human evolution?

As human ancestors rose on two feet in Africa and began their migrations across the world, the climate around them got warmer, and colder, wetter and drier. The plants and animals they competed with and relied upon for food changed. Did the shifting climate play a direct role in human evolution?

The evidence so far is thin, said Richard Leakey, the renowned and who joined a score of scientists delivering their findings at a conference on and human evolution this week, held at ’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

“Is there evidence for a direct connection between changing climate and human evolution?” Leakey asked during a keynote address Thursday. “The answer so far is no. I don’t see it yet.”

Still, a number of scientists are on the hunt. Speakers talked about changes in , and how fluctuations in temperature and rainfall would have altered the landscapes. They’re studying what carbon isotopes in soil can tell us about changing plant life and temperature; what hominid teeth suggest about changes in diet; and what sediment cores from the bottom of the ocean have to say about variations in monsoon rainfall.

Dartmoor Bronze Age burial remains X-rayed in Salisbury

The excavated cist at Whitehorse Hill on Dartmoor  
The burial cist was excavated at Whitehorse Hill on Dartmoor in August 2011
Early Bronze Age remains from a burial site in Dartmoor National Park will be X-rayed at Salisbury District Hospital.

The items were found in a burial cist, a stone chest containing the ashes and belongings of a dead person.
Senior conservator, Helen Williams, said: "We have a real opportunity to research these finds and potentially discover more about the individual buried there."

The items, which include a woven bag, will be scanned at the spinal unit.

Are We Sliding Backward on Teaching Evolution?

Tennessee was the center of the national debate when it prosecuted John Thomas Scopes for the crime of teaching evolution. Now, 87 years after the Scopes “monkey trial,” Tennessee is once again a battleground over the origins of man. This month, it enacted a controversial new law — dubbed the “monkey bill” — giving schoolteachers broad new rights to question the validity of evolution and to teach students creationism.

The Tennessee legislature has been on a determined campaign to impose an ideological agenda on the state’s schools. Last week, the house education committee passed the so-called “Don’t say gay” bill, which would make it illegal to teach about homosexuality. The state senate just passed a bill to update the abstinence-based sex-education curriculum to define hand holding as a “gateway sexual activity.”

Unlike those bills, Tennessee’s “monkey bill” is now law. School boards and education administrators are now required to give support to teachers who want to “present the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of various “scientific theories,” including “biological evolution” and “the chemical origins of life.” The new law also supports teachers who want to question accepted scientific thinking on two other hobgoblins of the far right: global warming and human cloning.

MSc in Applied Landscape Archaeology

University of Oxford: MSc in Applied Landscape Archaeology

Dr David Griffiths, Reader in Archaeology at Oxford University sums up the course as follows:

"If you share with me a passion for landscape, and an urge to find out how it has all come together and changed over time, then this course could be for you. The landscapes we experience in the UK and in every other part of the inhabited world are the products of human engagement and interference with the natural environment. Agriculture, industry, warfare, settlement and belief systems have all left their mark over the centuries. We can use and develop field and investigative skills to record and interpret these, and to tell the story of the landscape. Although we make most use of UK examples on our teaching, the course has no period or regional limits - meaning you can follow your own interests. Landscape Archaeology is all about being out there together, exploring the traces of our fascinating shared past."

Application deadline Friday, 11 May 2012

Click here for further information

Monday, April 23, 2012

York Minster tantalises archaeologists with hints of Saxon church

What happened after the Romans left and the Vikings of Jorvik arrived? Two post holes and a jumble of bones may hold a clue

Field archaeologists Ian Milsted and Jim Williams in the dig site at York Minster
Field archaeologists Ian Milsted and Jim Williams in the dig site at York Minster that hints at Saxon remains. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

When the great west doors of York Minster swing open on Thursday and the Queen makes her way along the nave of the packed church for the ancient service of distributing Maundy Money, she will also be walking towards a small pit from which human bones have been pouring by the barrow load, the remains of some of the earliest Christians to worship on the site.

Tantalising finds include 30 skulls and a jumble of bones used to backfill a trench by the medieval builders of the present cathedral, and a man whose stone-lined and lidded grave was chopped off by Walter de Gray's 13th-century walls, leaving only his shins and feet in place.

Potentially the most significant finds are two nondescript round holes, with groundwater bubbling up through the mud. They are post holes that could date from the time of the earliest Christian church on the site, after the Roman empire disintegrated in the 5th century and before raiding Vikings arrived in the 8th century and the Normans in the 11th century.

Secrets revealed by dirty books from medieval times

Medieval manuscript  
Most books in medieval times were of a religious nature

The reading habits of medieval people have revealed details of their lifestyle, in research carried out at St Andrews University.

Researchers have found them to have many characteristics still found in modern readers.

They said medieval people feared illness, were selfish and often fell asleep while reading late at night.

The work used a technique developed by Dr Kathryn Rudy, which measures the dirt accumulated on medieval manuscripts.

Irish police suspect rhino horns gang in theft of saint's heart

Gardai trying to establish whether an Irish gang involved in horn trade has found another niche market in stolen items

St Laurence O'Toole heart
St Laurence O'Toole's preserved heart was kept in a heart-shaped container sealed in an iron-barred box at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. Photograph: Garda/PA

A gang trading in stolen rhino horns has been linked to the theft of a saint's preserved heart from Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.

The 890-year-old heart of St Laurence O'Toole was stolen in March by two men who prised open a protective cage.

According to the Dublin Sunday Independent, detectives have established a link with the illicit theft and sale of rhino horns, which are sold in powdered form as a traditional medicine in China.

The report said gardai were trying to establish whether an Irish gang had found another niche market in stolen items, and were in contact with other European police forces.

Moles dig up buried treasure where human trowels are banned

English Heritage keeps a careful watch as volunteers sift through hundreds of molehills on a fortress site near the Roman wall

A mole
Eheu! Talpa sum! Atque aquilam legionis XI Hispana reperi... Photograph: David Cole/Alamy
Archaeologists find it hard agree about the relative merits of excavating the ancient past or leaving it undisturbed until we have the resources and technology to preserve its remains indefinitely above ground.

It can work both ways. If it wasn't for the enterprising Birley family at Vindolanda, we would not have the extraordinary writing tablets with details of the first and 2nd century AD social engagements of garrison wives and the like. Equally, the mosaic at Woodchester in Gloucestershire remains in a very fine state because it is so relatively seldom put on show.

Nothing of this debate is known, however, to the most famous of the creatures which live amidst all the underground treasure: the UK's moles. And they are in the northern news because they have been doing some excavation of their own.

Pre-historic remains to be x-rayed at Salisbury Hospital

Nationally important pre-historic remains unearthed on a Dartmoor burial site are to be x-rayed by Wiltshire Council conservation experts at Salisbury District Hospital tomorrow (Tuesday).

An excavation, co-ordinated by Dartmoor National Park Authority, discovered an important collection of Early Bronze Age remains in a burial site situated in Dartmoor National Park.

The discovery could prove to be one of the most important archaeological finds of the last 100 years.
Wiltshire Council’s Conservation Service has been brought in to cast its expert view on the finds.

Dirty Books: Quantifying Patterns of Use in Medieval Manuscripts Using a Densitometer

Dirty Books: Quantifying Patterns of Use in Medieval Manuscripts Using a Densitometer
By Kathryn M. Rudy

Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art, vol 2 , no. 1-2 (2010)

Introduction: Although it is often difficult to study the habits, private rituals, and emotional states of people who lived in the medieval past, medieval manuscripts carry signs of use and wear on their very surfaces that provide records of some of these elusive phenomena. One of the most obvious ways in which a category of manuscripts—missals—carries signs of use is the damage often found in the opening of the canon of the mass. A priest would repeatedly kiss the canon page of his missal, depositing secretions from his lips, nose, and forehead onto the page. In the Missal of the Haarlem Linen Weavers’ Guild, made in Utrecht in the first decade of the fifteenth century, the illuminators provided an osculation plaque at the bottom of the full-page miniature depicting the Crucifixion. This plaque is designed to bear the wear and tear of the priest’s repeated kisses, for illuminators realized that priests would damage their paintings if they could not deflect the lips elsewhere. The priest in Haarlem who used this missal kissed the osculation plaque some of the time, but his lips also crept upward, onto the frame of the miniature, onto the ground below the cross, up the shaft of the cross, occasionally kissing the feet of Christ.

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Meat Eating Behind Evolutionary Success of Humankind, Global Population Spread, Study Suggests

Image from Hands Cave, World Heritage in Patagonia.

Carnivory is behind the evolutionary success of humankind. When early humans started to eat meat and eventually hunt, their new, higher-quality diet meant that women could wean their children earlier. Women could then give birth to more children during their reproductive life, which is a possible contribution to the population gradually spreading over the world. The connection between eating meat and a faster weaning process is shown by a research group from Lund University in Sweden, which compared close to 70 mammalian species and found clear patterns.

Learning to hunt was a decisive step in human evolution. Hunting necessitated communication, planning and the use of tools, all of which demanded a larger brain. At the same time, adding meat to the diet made it possible to develop this larger brain.

How Humans Became Masters of the Earth

Why is it that humans emerged from the natural world, yet we portray ourselves as modifiers of it, even its adversaries?

Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts thinks that fluctuations in the environment in which our ancestors lived were responsible. Our ancestors responded by becoming more versatile through a suite of changes that included an ability to modify our environment. Potts' theory is known as the variability selection hypothesis.

Human ancestors adapted "to novelty and to change itself," he told an audience here at a conference on climate change and human evolution at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory yesterday (April 19).

Pompeii wall collapses, despite new conservation initiative

A 2,000-year old wall surrounding an ancient villa at Pompeii has collapsed – just two weeks after the Italian government launched a 105 million euro project (£86 million) to save the precious archaeological site. 

The crumbling wall around Pompeii Photo: AFP
The Special Archaeological Superintendent for Naples and Pompeii confirmed the collapse of the red-frescoed wall next to an unidentified villa in an area already closed to the public.
The collapse of the wall is particularly embarrassing for the government as it follows several other incidents at the world heritage site in the past two year .
There is growing concern Italy's ability to protect it from further degradation and the impact of the local Mafia or Camorra.
Giulia Rodano, cultural affairs spokesman for the centre-left Italy of Values party, said there was a need to restore state funding that had been eroded by government cutbacks.

Roman artefacts at Epiacum churned up by moles

EARTH burrowing moles are responsible for digging up some of Roman Britain’s deepest secrets in a remote corner of West Northumberland.

They may be the bane of farmers across the land, but some moles are doing the human race a huge historical favour.

Epiacum, an isolated Roman fort close to the Cumbrian border 12 miles south of Hadrian’s Wall, is a scheduled ancient monument and as such, any excavation is banned on site.

But humans has never yet introduced any law understood by Mr Mole – and scores of them are churning up Roman artefacts at Epiacum – or Whitley Castle – as they push out their molehills.

Pompeii wall collapses

A 2,000-year-old wall surrounding an ancient villa at Pompeii has collapsed, just two weeks after the Italian government launched $137-million project to save the precious archaeological site.

The special archaeological superintendent for Naples and Pompeii confirmed the collapse of the red-frescoed wall next to an unidentified villa in an area already closed to the public.

The collapse was particularly embarrassing for the government because it followed several similar incidents at the world heritage site in the past two years.

There is growing concern about Italy's ability to protect it from further deterioration, amid claims that restoration funds have been diverted to the local Mafia, or Camorra.

Timber Castles: one day conference

To mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of Higham and Barker’s seminal work, Timber Castles, the Castle Studies Group is holding a one day conference on the topic on Saturday 13 October 2012 at UCL in London.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Neolithic farmers brought deer to Ireland

The origins of the iconic Irish red deer was a controversial topic. Was this species native to Ireland, or introduced?
In a new study that was published 30 March 2012 in the scientific journal Quaternary Science Reviews, a multinational team of researchers from Ireland, Austria, UK and USA have finally answered this question.

Comparing DNA

By comparing DNA from ancient bone specimens to DNA obtained from modern animals, the researchers discovered that the Kerry red deer are the direct descendants of deer present in Ireland 5000 years ago. Further analysis using DNA from European deer proves that Neolithic people from Britain first brought the species to Ireland.
Although proving the red deer is not native to Ireland, researchers believe that the Kerry population is unique as it is directly related to the original herd and are worthy of special conservation status.

Archaeologists Blast Hasty World Heritage Listings

Archaeologists inspect a talayot—an ancient watchtower—on the island of Menorca, Spain.
Photo: Jonathan Tourtellot
One of the most significant global committees that you never heard of summoned a couple of hundred experts to the island of Menorca, Spain last week. The meeting involved politics, the remnants of great civilizations, human catastrophes, architectural triumphs, religious works of art and architecture, use of tourism, the rise and fall of empires, and did we say politics?

The International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management, or ICAHM, held its first conference on how to manage the world’s myriad archaeological World Heritage sites. This wildly varied array of places encompasses many of the most celebrated sites of human cultural accomplishment and catastrophe—everything from the pyramids and Roman fortifications to Mongol-era tombs and prehistoric rock art. ICAHM’s key job is to advise the World Heritage Committee about new sites proposed for the famous list. I attended as a guest of the Congress, which paid for my travel.

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Construction works in Malta uncover ancient tombs

Archaeologists under the supervision of the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage of Malta are currently monitoring on-going excavation works at the Bulebel Industrial Estate, limits of Zejtun, after a number of tombs have been discovered last week. 

Some weeks ago, upon issuing of a MEPA development permit, a disused factory has been demolished to make way for a modern extension to the Actavis Ltd factory. 

Upon clearing the heaps of building debris after the demolition works and cleaning the rock surface, a number of rock-hewn features have surfaced.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Salford scientists reveal the 'sound of Stonehenge'

Whatever went on there, it would have impressed the ancient Britons. Even if it was only whispering.

Bits missing. But when it was all in place, there'd have been booms, rumbles, echoes and reverberations. Photograph: Jason Hawkes/Getty
Salford's clever academics, who once took me shopping in a virtual supermarket – you sat in an armchair wearing a helmet and a glove – have now recreated the sound of Stonehenge.

We are nowhere nearer cracking the mystery of the monument as a result; but who would want to be? Apart from all the mountains of remaindered books of theories, a puzzle solved is never as gripping as a conundrum still under way.

Swedish Stonehenge? Ancient Stone Structure Spurs Debate

A photo of Ales Stenar in Sweden.
An ancient megalithic structure shaped like a ship in Sweden seems to have a similar geometry to Stonehenge, and may have been used as an astronomical calendar, one scientist says.
CREDIT: Steffen Hoejager | Shutterstock

Ancient Scandinavians dragged 59 boulders to a seaside cliff near what is now the Swedish fishing village of Kåseberga. They carefully arranged the massive stones — each weighing up to 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms) — in the outline of a 220-foot-long (67-meter) ship overlooking the Baltic Sea.

Archaeologists generally agree this megalithic structure, known as Ales Stenar ("Ale's Stones"), was assembled about 1,000 years ago, near the end of  the Iron Age, as a burial monument. But a team of researchers now argues it's really 2,500 years old, dating from the Scandinavian Bronze Age, and was built as an astronomical calendar with the same underlying geometry as England's Stonehenge.

Furness Abbey grave yields treasures of a prosperous medieval abbot

Curators hail discovery of the first crozier excavated in Britain in 50 years and remarkable ring in grave that had escaped robbers

English Heritage curator Susan Harrison with the crozier discovered at Furness Abbey
English Heritage curator Susan Harrison with the crozier discovered at Furness Abbey. 
Photograph: Tony Bartholomew/English Heritag/PA
Unexpected medieval treasures have been discovered in a grave at one of the UK's most beautiful abbeys along with the bones of the abbot they belonged to – probably a well-fed, little exercised man in his 40s who suffered from arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

The discoveries were made at Furness Abbey, on the outskirts of Barrow in Cumbria, a place that in its day was one of the most powerful and richest Cistercian abbeys in the country.

Leith’s historic defences laid bare

A SECTION of Leith’s 16th century defences have been uncovered ahead of a proposed housing development.

The town ditch was constructed to protect the port from English sieges.

Archaeologists now hope to discover more about the history of Leith which hundreds of years ago was such an important port that it became pivotal to the control of Scotland

Archaeologists uncover graves of national significance near Meigle

A series of burial mounds have been excavated — thought to represent an ancient barrow cemetery — at Bankhead of Kinloch near Meigle.

Both the village and the surrounding area of Strathearn have proved a treasure trove of Pictish sites and artefacts over the years.

Despite the increase in the identification of these sites through aerial photography surveys since the 1970s, they are still generally rare and so are of immense significance.

Experts say the Meigle project represents the first complete excavation of a barrow cemetery to date, providing a unique opportunity to comprehensively analyse the monument.

Ancient graves unearthed in Strathmore

A series of burial mounds have been excavated — thought to represent an ancient barrow cemetery — at Bankhead of Kinloch near Meigle. 

Graves uncovered by the Meigle dig.[Credit: Courier]
Both the village and the surrounding area of Strathearn have proved a treasure trove of Pictish sites and artefacts over the years. 

Despite the increase in the identification of these sites through aerial photography surveys since the 1970s, they are still generally rare and so are of immense significance. 

Experts say the Meigle project represents the first complete excavation of a barrow cemetery to date, providing a unique opportunity to comprehensively analyse the monument.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Roman Baths shortlisted for the European Museum of the Year

Roman Baths
It's one of 46 venues across Europe nominated for the award Credit: ITV West

The Roman Baths have been shortlisted for the European Museum of the Year. It's one of 46 venues across Europe nominated for the award. Last year more than a million people visited the Heritage attraction. The winner will be announced on May the 19th.

Roman-age farm estate opens in West Hungary

The exterior of the Villa Romana Baláca (left) and a view of the large replica of a mosaic floor as it would have appeared in Roman times.

Central Europe's largest uncovered Roman-age farm estate with more than 20 buildings, including the remains of baths, a lapidary and a cemetery, opened its gates in Nemesvamos in western Hungary on Wednesday, a spokesperson of the Dezső Laczkó Museum in Veszprém said.

Although installation at Villa Romana Baláca is still under way to be fully ready for the summer, visitors can see museum experts making finishing touches, Mona Gaspar said. 

The site will be complete with a 700-thousand-piece replica of a mosaic floor and the addition of furniture to fully evoke Roman rural life 2,000 years ago in the Roman Empire's Pannonia province.

One of earliest farming sites in Europe discovered

University of Cincinnati research is revealing early farming in a former wetlands region that was largely cut off from Western researchers until recently. The UC collaboration with the Southern Albania Neolithic Archaeological Project (SANAP) will be presented April 20 at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA). 

UC students Kassi Bailey (yellow shirt), Michael Crusham (blue shirt), and Kathleen Forste (red shirt) at work on the excavation [Credit: Image courtesy of University of Cincinnati]
Susan Allen, a professor in the UC Department of Anthropology who co-directs SANAP, says she and co-director Ilirjan Gjipali of the Albanian Institute of Archaeology created the project in order to address a gap not only in Albanian archaeology, but in the archaeology in Eastern Europe as a whole, by focusing attention on the initial transition to farming in the region. 

"For Albania, there has been a significant gap in documenting the Early Neolithic (EN), the earliest phase of farming in the region," explains Allen. "While several EN sites were excavated in Albania in the '70s and '80s, plant and animal remains - the keys to exploring early farming - were not recovered from the sites, and sites were not dated with the use of radiocarbon techniques," Allen says.

Medieval abbot's grave discovered at Furness Abbey

The full uninterrupted grave of a Cistercian abbot has been discovered by archaeologists at the ruins of Furness Abbey, one of Britain's most influential medieval monasteries.
The full uninterrupted grave of a Cistercian Abbot has been discovered by archaeologists at the ruins of Furness Abbey

The skeleton was found by Oxford Archaeology North who were carrying out excavations during emergency repairs at the Cumbrian site.

The rare find could date as far back as the 12th century. The abbot's body was buried with a very rare medieval gilded crosier and jewelled ring.

English Heritage curator Susan Harrison told Channel 4 News: "This is really significant because it's the first time under modern conditions that an abbatial or abbot burial has been discovered intact with so much detail and information - from the skeleton to the mark of his office, his crosier, his ring, but also fragments of textile in there."

Oxford Archaeology North's Stephen Rowland told Channel 4 News: "It's extremely rare to find such a burial. Nationally he's an important person; he's a member of the Cistercian order which was the most powerful monastic order in England. He would have had estates across the Furness Peninsula, into Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire, control over large amounts of resources. He was a bit like a feudal overlord."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Funds needed to keep Viking hoard in South Cumbria

Viking silver coins  
The hoard of Viking silver coins and artefacts is valued at £49,500

A fundraising appeal is under way to keep a Viking treasure find within South Cumbria.
The Furness Hoard of Viking Treasure was found a year ago at an undisclosed site by a metal detector enthusiast.

Campaigners need to raise £50,000 to buy and put it on display at the Dock Museum in Barrow.
The Furness Maritime Trust, a charity that supports the museum, has offered £19,000, meaning fundraisers need to raise £31,000.

The hoard includes 92 silver coins, ingots and part of a bracelet

Penlee Museum shows Bronze Age necklace Penwith lunula

Penwith lunula necklace  
The lunula was believed to have been found in the Gwithian area
A Bronze Age necklace found in Cornwall in the 18th Century has returned to the county after being housed at the British Museum for more than 150 years.

The necklace, known as Penwith lunula, has been loaned to the Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance.

The crescent-shaped gold collar is thought to date back to the early Bronze Age - possibly to 2500 BC.
It was discovered in the Gwithian area of the county in 1783 and recorded by local man John Price.

Alison Bevan, director of the Penlee, said: "I had butterflies as it was put on display.