Thursday, January 31, 2013

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Archaeological Events

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Zooarchaeology Short Courses

Zooarchaeology Lab
University of Sheffield

Zooarchaeology Short Courses

Sheffield has a long history of zooarchaeology teaching and research, and today it is home to one of the largest and most active zooarchaeology research teams in the UK. Our members work throughout the UK and Europe as well as contributing to projects in Asia and Africa, and have research interests that span the period from the Palaeolithic to the recent past.

Understanding Zooarchaeology I: an introductory short course for professionals, students and enthusiasts
18-20th March 2013

NEW! Understanding Zooarchaeology II: an advanced short course for archaeology and heritage professionals, students, and enthusiasts
21-22nd March 2013

Visit the website...

Ashmolean Museum in Oxford acquires Renaissance silverware

A stunning collection of Renaissance silverware worth tens of millions of pounds has been bequeathed to Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum.
The haul of nearly 500 items, described as the most important gift to a British museum for over a century, was donated by the late collector Michael Wellby.
The collection includes a rare lapis lazuli bowl, made by Dutch goldsmith Paulus van Vianen, valued at £3m.
A selection of the objects will go on temporary display from next month.
They will be housed in the museum's West Meets East gallery before the entire collection is showcased in a permanent gallery.

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Snail shells yield ancient climate clues

An old wives' tale that snails can be a sign of changing weather should not be dismissed out of hand, European researchers say, as they may give climate clues.

Snails climbing a plant or post supposedly means rain is coming, the tale goes, but a study led by the University of York in Britain goes one better: It shows snails can provide a wealth of information about the prevailing weather conditions thousands of years ago.

Analysis of the chemistry of snail shells recovered from Mediterranean caves, and dating back as far as 9,000 years, shows the western Mediterranean was not the hot dry place it is now but warmer, wetter and stickier, a university release reported Wednesday.

Archaeological sites around the Mediterranean basin from the time when the first farmers arrived in Italy and Spain contain an abundance of land snail shell remains, the researchers said.

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Digital dig: The scanning technology revolutionising archaeology

Archaeologists may not need to get their hands so dirty any more, thanks to the kind of digital technology being pioneered at Southampton University.
Its 'µ-VIS Centre for Computed Tomography' possesses the largest, high energy scanner of its kind in Europe: a 'micro-CT' machine manufactured by Nikon.
Capable of resolutions better than 0.1mm - the diameter of a human hair - it allows archaeologists to carefully examine material while still encased in soil.
Using visualisation software, archaeologists can then analyse their finds in 3D. This keeps the material in its original form, and postpones any commitment to the painstaking process of excavation by hand.
Graeme Earl and Mark Mavrogordato of Southampton University, and Alexandra Baldwin of the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research at the British Museum, explained how they have worked together to unlock the secrets of a cauldron found at a site in Chiseldon, Swindon - the largest archaeological find of its type in Europe.

Watch the video...

UK treasure hunters warned off important sites

Cley Hill near Warminster, is one of the historic areas threatened by illegal metal detecting activity [Credit: This is Somerset]

A surge in the number of metal detector enthusiasts in the wake of the astonishing discovery of a hoard of Roman coins on the Wiltshire-Somerset border is being blamed for damage to a number of nationally-important archaeological sites in west Wiltshire.

Police chiefs, English Heritage and the National Trust said yesterday they are concerned about a spate of illegal metal detecting activity at important sites on the western edge of Salisbury Plain – which are all ancient Iron Age settlements and hillforts.

Damage has been done to Battlesbury Hill, Cley Hill, Bratton Camp and Scratchbury Hill, around Warminster, and ‘nighthawking’, or illegal metal detecting under the cover of darkness, is being blamed.

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Sicilian mummies reveal their secrets

A desiccated face looks out from an Italian catacomb. Sicilian mummies are revealing details of life and death centuries ago [Credit: Vincent J. Musi/National Geographic]

The desiccated dead of Sicily from the late 16th to the mid-20th century, arrayed in crypts and churches, are “a unique treasure in terms of both biology and history”, says anthropologist Dario Piombino-Mascali of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity in Palermo.

Investigation in their case means x-ray exams and CT scans. And what lies within? For one thing, evidence of a good diet, says Piombino-Mascali. But gastronomic affluence came with a price. Isotopic probes of the bones also show signs of maladies like gout and skeletal disease, which tended to afflict the middle and upper classes in preindustrial societies.

Discoveries in Sicily are coming from unlikely places. Karl Reinhard, a forensic scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and his graduate students recently conducted a pilot program to see what they could glean just by examining intestines. Their subject was “Piraino 1”, a male in his 40s who lived at the turn of the 19th century in northeastern Sicily.

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Harvard Uses 3-D Printing to Replicate Ancient Statue

Joseph Greene, (right) Assistant Director, Semitic Museum and Adam Aja, Assistant Curator of Collections, Semitic Museum discuss the creation of a digital 3-d model of a lion statue dating to the Nuzi period inside the Semitic Museum at Harvard University.

3-D printing may be the wave of the future, but the technique—which is shaking up how architects, scientists, arms manufacturers and countless others go about their trade—will also now redeem the past.

Our story begins some 3,300 years ago, when a rampaging army ransacked the town of Nuzi whose ruins now lie southwest of the modern day Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The conquerors—the Assyrians, one of the more bullying empires of Mesopotamian antiquity—overran the town’s defenses, burned down its buildings, slaughtered or enslaved its inhabitants and looted its temples. What was not plundered was left, in many instances, smashed, tossed down wells and discarded in the smoldering wreck of the city. And there it lay for millennia until a team of archaeologists spearheaded by a number of American universities excavated the site in 1930 and unearthed its broken treasures.

Among the finds at Yorghan Tepe (the modern day name for the site where Nuzi once stood) were a set of lions thought to have flanked an installation of a statue of the goddess Ishtar. These and other objects were, under the colonial administration of the time, divided between local authorities and foreign archaeologists. The remains of one lion—fragments of its hindquarters and front paws—were claimed by Harvard’s Semitic Museum, while another more intact one made its way to the University of Pennsylvania. A decade ago, the two lions were reunited when Penn allowed their statue to be sent to the Semitic Museum on loan; it’s believed the lions were once mirror images of each other (their tails move in opposite directions).

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Delancey Park Neolithic grave protection plan submitted

A Neolithic grave in Guernsey could be half-buried in soil and grassed-over to preserve it.
Guernsey Museums and Art Galleries has asked for planning permission to conduct the work in Delancey Park and put up an information sign.
States Archaeologist Dr Philip de Jersey said covering part of the stones would hopefully protect them.
He said: "People have lit fires in between them so they crack... there's been graffiti... we want to stop that."
The grave was discovered and excavated in 1919, 1932 and in the summers from 2009-2011.

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Sicilian Mummies Bring Centuries to Life

Mummies line the shelves of a crypt in Piraino, Sicily.

Arrayed in crypts and churches, with leering skulls and parchment skin, the desiccated dead of Sicily have long kept mute vigil.
But now, centuries later, these creepy cadavers have plenty to say.
Five years into the Sicily Mummy Project, six macabre collections are offering scientists a fresh look at life and death on the Mediterranean island from the late 16th century to the mid-20th.
Led by anthropologist Dario Piombino-Mascali of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity in Palermo (map), the ongoing investigation is revealing how religious men and their wealthy supporters ate, interacted, dealt with disease, and disposed of their dead.

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What Does First-century Roman Graffiti Say?

Ancient graffiti (in red) is covered by tourists' markings inside Rome's Colosseum.

A facelift of the Colosseum in Rome that began last fall has revealed centuries of graffiti. Removing the accumulated grime and calcification, experts discovered layers of inscriptions on the section of a wall seen here—designs in red and faded gray from antiquity, and lettering in black left by visitors in modern times.
Built in the first century, the Colosseum may have held crowds as large as 50,000 people. Its numbered entrances and covered passages were designed to get spectators in and out quickly and to separate the high and mighty from the hoi polloi. (Read about Rome's border walls in National Geographic Magazine.)
The wall in this picture flanked a passage that led to an upper tier. There, women, children, and slaves perched in the cheap seats to watch the bloody spectacle of gladiators and wild beasts battling for their lives on the arena floor 60 feet (18 meters) below.

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Escrick sapphire ring's mystery history sparks meeting

The style and material of the ring makes it hard to date the university said

A sapphire ring found in North Yorkshire has sparked a meeting of experts to determine exactly when it was made.
The ring has baffled archaeologists because it is unlike any other according to the Yorkshire Museum.
The intricate ring, presumably made by a highly skilled craftsman, is on show at the Museum in York.
Natalie McCaul, from the museum, said the meeting may "shed new light on the ring" and "reveal some of its secrets".
The museum said the ring's style and material made it hard to date but it could have been made any time during the seventh to 11th centuries.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bishop Odo and the Bayeux Tapestry

Bishop Odo and the Bayeux Tapestry

A Lecture by


Friday, 15th  February 2013 at 7.00pm

Activity Space 1, Clore Learning Centre
Museum of London, London Wall


Oldest stone hand axes unearthed

Scientists have unearthed more than 350 ancient tools in Konso, Ethiopia that were used by humans' ancient ancestors. The tools, which span roughly 1 million years of evolution, show a gradual progression to more refined shaping.

Scientists have unearthed and dated some of the oldest stone hand axes on Earth. The ancient tools, unearthed in Ethiopia in the last two decades, date to 1.75 million years ago.

The tools roughly coincided with the emergence of an ancient human ancestor called Homo erectus, and fossilized H. erectus remains were also found at the same site, said study author Yonas Beyene, an archaeologist at the Association for Research and Conservation of Culture in Ethiopia. Collectively, the finding suggests an ancient tool-making technique may have arisen with the evolution of the new species.

"This discovery shows that the technology began with the appearance of Homo erectus," Beyene told LiveScience. "We think it might be related to the change of species."

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20 Bizarre Examples Of Medieval Marginalia

Some crazy examples of what people in the Middle Ages drew in their manuscripts. Lots of sex and violence.

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Ancient grave with gold wreath found in Thessaloniki

One of the eight gold wreaths which came to light during the Thessaloniki subway works
[Source: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ]

Excavation work during construction of a new subway network in Greece's second largest city has discovered an ancient wreath made of gold that was buried with a woman some 2,300 years ago.

Archaeologists say Friday's find in Thessaloniki occurred on the site of an ancient cemetery in the west of the northern port city.

A total 23,000 ancient and medieval artifacts have been found during archaeological excavations connected with the construction since 2006.

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Roman-era glass workshops found near Naples

The Macellum, meat and fish market, in the ancient Roman city of Puteoli [Credit: Wikicommons]

An ancient road on which glass-making workshops of artisans renowned for their skill in the first century A.D. of the Roman Empire has been found near Naples. The road, Clivius Vitrarius, recently surfaced in Pozzuoli during excavations for maintenance work on a modern road. 

The unexpected discovery occurred when the road sunk after heavy rain. In repairing it, workers came across archaeological finds and called the experts in from the Naples superintendent's office, who in turn brought to light ancient structures near the area which housed Roman baths, as reported by the newspaper Corriere del Mezzogiorno.

The latest excavations have added interesting historical information on Clivius Vitrarious, the road of the glass-making artisans famous throughout the Roman Empire, alongside their artisan counterparts north of modern-day Milan.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

EMAS Easter Study Tour to Yorkshire

EMAS Easter Study Tour to Yorkshire
28 March to 3 April 2013

Details of the EMAS Easter Study Tour to Yorkshire are now online here...

Please note that in order to be guaranteed a place on this study tour you must apply by 20 February at the latest.

You can download an application form here... 

Sealing Norse Greenlanders’ fate?

The mystery of what happened to Greenland’s Norse population is one step closer to being solved, as new evidence suggests that the colony did not die out because its inhabitants were unable to adapt to their new environment.

The first Viking settlers arrived in c.AD 1000, and over time their population swelled to around 3,000 people. By the 15th century, however, they had vanished, with no explanation provided by contemporary written sources. This disappearance has long been debated by archaeologists, with some suggesting that the farming communities were defeated by climate change, which made it difficult to cultivate cereal crops for bread and beer, and limited wild plant resources.

Research published in the Journal of the North Atlantic suggests that the Norse colonists simply adapted their diet to cope with their new circumstances, developing a taste for seals.

A team of Danish and Canadian archaeologists have examined 80 skeletons excavated from Norse settlement sites in western and south-western Greenland. Isotope analysis revealed that the population adopted an increasingly marine-based diet, with 50%-80% of their food consisting of seal meat by the 14th century.

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Meet the Hobbit

Modern humans can now look their recently discovered relative, Homo floresiensis, in the face thanks to a new reconstruction unveiled at an archaeological conference in Australia.

This species of early human was first identified in 2003 when researchers led by Professor Mike Morwood and Thomas Sutikna found the remains of nine individuals in Liang Bua, a large limestone cave on the remote island of Flores, Indonesia (CWA 22).

Among these was the almost-complete skeleton of a 30-year-old woman, popularly known as ‘Hobbit’ because of her short stature and large feet, whose appearance has now been recreated by Dr Susan Hayes, an anthropologist at the University of Wollongong who specialises in facial approximation. Referring to CT scans and the remains themselves, Dr Hayes digitally rebuilt the woman’s anatomy layer by layer.

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Archaeologist Uncovers Clues To Ancient Roman Vineyard

An American classics professor has uncovered ancient grape seeds that could provide insight into Roman Chianti vineyards.

One of the world’s authorities on the Etruscans, Nancy Thomson de Grummond is the M. Lynette Thompson Professor of Classics and Distinguished Research Professor at Florida State University. She unearthed 150 waterlogged grape seeds during a dig in Cetamura del Chianti, an ancient hilltop located in the heart of the Chianti district of Tuscany near Siena, during the summer of 2012.

De Grummond serves as project director of archaeological excavations at Cetamura del Chianti, which is in an area once inhabited by the Etruscans and then the Ancient Romans. Faculty and students of Florida State University have conducted research at the archaeological site since it opened in 1973.

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Research Team Investigates Demise of Neanderthals in Spain

La Roca dels Bous, a Paleolithic site located near the southeastern Pyrenees of Spain, has been cited by archaeologists as a key location with Neanderthal-related remains that may shed light on the changes that may have contributed to the demise of the Neanderthals in Europe. Now, a team led by Dr. Rafael Mora of the University Autonomous of Barcelona will be returning to the site in 2013 to excavate and explore lithic assemblages, fossil bone, and other remains that may date as far back as 50,000 BP. The excavations may help research efforts focused on constructing a better understanding of the factors that may have contributed to the decline and eventual disappearance of humanity's most closely related extinct human species. 

The project, part of the European project POCTEFA, combines the efforts of the University Autonomous of Barcelona, ArchaeoBarcelona and resources from three countries -- France, Spain and Andorra -- and will employ innovative digital technology for collecting, organizing and storing data, in part through hand-held tablet devices. In this way a large body of information can be more efficiently and accurately collected and then more easily used for analysis and reporting of finds. The results should also provide a valuable reference for further study by researchers and students worldwide.  "It is the first archaeological site in Spain that has been turned into a museum exhibition with digital technology", reports the team leadership. "Using an iPad you can take an interactive tour through videos, photos and 3D applications. Furthermore, the exact location of the findings is mapped via laser triangulation to provide an unparalleled experience."[1]

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bulgaria Funds Varna Roman Baths Restoration with BGN 3 M

The Roman Baths are one of the most valuable monuments of culture in Bulgaria's Black Sea city of Varna.
Photo by
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance MinisterSimeon Djankov, has pledged the significant amount of BGN 3 M for restoration and conservation of the historical Roman Baths in the Black Sea city of Varna.
The sum came as a pleasant surprise to archaeologists who have asked for BGN 200 000.
Djankov made the pledge during a discussion organized by the Bulgarian Standard daily in Varna in the frame of the newspaper's campaign "The Miracles of Bulgaria."
The Minister stated the idea to provide significant funds under the Via Ponticaprogram was not to give more money for archaeological research, but to make existing archaeological sites more attractive in order to boost tourism. He called on archaeologists to be creative in inventing names and stories around their discoveries.
The program is named after the Via Pontica bird migration flyway.

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Royal commission-Cadw merger opposed, inquiry finds

There is overwhelming opposition to plans for a shake-up of the body that investigates historic sites in Wales, Assembly Members have warned.
Heritage Minister Huw Lewis wants to merge the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) with the Welsh government's conservation service Cadw.
But an assembly committee inquiry found academics and heritage group unease.
Mr Lewis says change is needed to withstand an era of spending cuts.

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Living conditions and indoor air quality in a reconstructed Viking house

Jannie Marie Christensen  & Morten Ryhl-Svendsen 

How harmful to a person’s health were the indoor conditions in Danish Viking Age houses? 

We do not have much direct evidence describing that. But we know that currently exposure to smoke from the solid fuel used for cooking and heating in open fireplaces in Third World homes is in harmful levels. It is among the top ten global risks for mortality and lost years of healthy life. Fuel smoke accounts for about 3 % of the global burden of diseases, mainly for women and young children, e.g.; lower respiratory infections, pulmonary diseases, and lung cancer

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Where were the Viking brew houses?

Graham Dineley, craft brewer & Merryn Dineley, independent researcher

We have been studying traditional malting and beer brewing techniques for 15 years. 
Graham is a craft brewer with 30 years’ experience of making beer from the grain. 
Merryn is an archaeologist, completing her M.Phil ‘Barley Malt & Ale in the Neolithic’ at 
the University of Manchester in 1999 and continuing research independently since then. 
The brewing of ale is a skilled craft that has hardly changed over the millennia.  For the 
last few years we have been looking into the potential archaeological evidence for the 
brewing of ale at Viking sites.

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Pre-Roman decapitated skeleton unearthed in UK

The skeleton found on the old allotment land at Soham [Credit: Cambridge News]

Archaeologists have unearthed decapitated human remains beneath former allotment land in Soham.

Experts from the Hertford-based firm Archaeological Solutions are currently excavating a Roman settlement on land off Fordham Road, before 96 homes are built on the site.

Among the wealth of artefacts found are a number of human burials thought to predate the Roman settlement, including one where the person was decapitated before being put in the ground.

Andrew Peachey, a specialist in prehistoric and Roman pottery at the company, said: “Prior to the Roman settlement, the margins of the Fen and island [of Ely] were heavily exploited by prehistoric settlers, including one who appears to have been decapitated before being placed in a crouched burial in a circular pit. 

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Ovarian tumor found in a Roman-age skeleton

This shows an ovarian tumor, with teeth and a bone fragment inside, found in a Roman-age skeleton: Macroscopic view of the ovarian teratoma, with two teeth adhering to the inner surface. Two more teeth were found, along with a small bone fragment [Credit: ANTROPÒLEGS.LAB - UAB]

A team of researchers led by the UAB has found the first ancient remains of a calcified ovarian teratoma, in the pelvis of the skeleton of a woman from the Roman era. The find confirms the presence in antiquity of this type of tumour - formed by the remains of tissues or organs, which are difficult to locate during the examination of ancient remains. Inside the small round mass, four teeth and a small piece of bone were found.

Teratomas are usually benign and contain remains of organic material, such as hair, teeth, bones and other tissues. There are no references in the literature to ovarian teratomas in ancient remains like those found in this study, led by the researcher Núria Armentano of the Biological Anthropology Unit of the UAB and published in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Entombing the Tomb of the Gladiator: Who Will Save the Roman Ruins?

A worker searches a site along the Via Flaminia in northern Rome where a mausoleum was found and believed to be the tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus, a general and statesman in the late second century AD, Oct. 21, 2008.

When archaeologists announced the discovery of the tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus in Rome in 2008, the find was heralded as the most important in decades. Built in the shape of a temple, with tall fluted columns and an intricately carved sarcophagus, it was the final resting place for the Roman general who served as inspiration for Russell Crowe‘s character in the movie Gladiator, unearthed a the site of a planned housing project some 1,800 years after its construction.
In contrast, the December 2012 announcement regarding the tomb was much more muted. Italy’s cash-strapped ministry of culture declared it was unable to find the several million euros that would be required to protect the ruins and turn them into a tourist attraction. Instead, the Gladiator’s Tomb, as the site has come to be known, would likely have to be buried once again.

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Aerial snow photos help archaeologists explore Wales' landscape

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) says snow "evens out" the colours of the landscape allowing complex earthwork monuments to be seen more clearly like this view of the motte and bailey Castell Crugerydd alongside the A44 near Llandegley, Powys.

View the photos...

New Dates for the Bronze Age

When I was an undergrad in 1990 we were taught that all six periods of the Scandinavian Bronze Age were 200 (or in one case 300) years long. The most recent radiocarbon work shows that they all had different lengths and were more likely 130-280 years long. And the periods with the most abundant metalwork finds, II and V, are the two shortest. So their previously known status as metal-rich eras looks even more pronounced now, and the intervening periods look even poorer.

Per I. 1700-1500 cal BC (200 yrs)
Per. II. 1500-1330 (170 yrs)
Per. III. 1330-1100 (230 yrs)
Per. IV. 1100-950/20 (165 yrs)
Per. V. 950/20-800 (130 yrs)
Per. VI. 800-530/20 (275 yrs)

Each of these periods translates to a list of artefact and monument types that are commonly found together. Their relative ordering through time has been known since the 1880s. Current work looks at the absolute dates at which these typological laundry lists were current. It uses a new technology, radiocarbon dating of cremated bone, and new applications of Bayesian statistics, which allow us to constrain the uncertainty of the radiocarbon results using stratigraphical observations. The latter means that if we know that grave B was later than grave A because one sat on top of the other, then we can tell the software to disregard parts of the probability distributions that gainsay this observation.

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Skeleton of Richard III may have been found -- but where will it end up?

A stained glass window at Cardiff Castle depicts King Richard III and Queen Anne Neville. (University of Leicester)

Archaeologists may have uncovered the skeleton of the lost English king Richard III. But if they have, what should be done with the remains?

That question is causing contention among Richard III enthusiasts, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal. The University of Leicester, which is overseeing the excavation and analysis of the remains, has jurisdiction over the remains, but various societies dedicated to the king have their own opinions.

Two groups, the U.S.-based Richard III Foundation and the Society of Friends of Richard III based in York, England, argue that the remains should be reburied in York, because Richard III was fond of that city, the Journal reported. The Richard III Society, which has been involved with the archaeological dig in Leicester that uncovered the remains, is officially neutral — a stance which itself has triggered anger.

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10 of the best medieval walled cities

For history buffs, photographers and anyone who’s ever said “Wow!” there’s nothing quite like the sight of a medieval walled city approached from a distance.
Then there are the explorations within, tours of castles, walks along the walls and shops and restaurants in medieval squares.
Many cities still have their medieval walls predominantly intact in various parts of the world. Did I mention my obsession? I’ve visited quite a few.

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Robert Hardy and Judi Dench in a 1960 BBC television production of Henry V
Medieval prisoners of war were much more widely traded for ransoms than has been previously recognised, according to University of Southampton research.
A study of the Hundred Years War reveals a well-organised trading market in English and French soldiers.
One soldier claimed to have been taken prisoner 17 times, says historian Dr Remy Ambuhl.
The protected and financially valuable status of soldiers saw the first use of the phrase "prisoner of war".
Historian Dr Ambuhl says that ransoming prisoners captured in medieval battles was much more common across all ranks of soldiers than had previously been understood.
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Neanderthal cloning chatter highlights scientific illiteracy

Harvard geneticist George Church speaks to Reuters reporters about cloning during an interview in Boston, Massachusetts January 23, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

After spending the weekend reading blog posts claiming that he was seeking an "extremely adventurous female human" to bear a cloned Neanderthal baby - which was news to him - Harvard geneticist George Church said it may be time for society to give some thought to scientific literacy.
Church became the subject of dozens of posts and tabloid newspaper articles calling him a "mad scientist" after giving an interview to the German magazine Der Spiegel.
In the interview, Church discussed the technical challenges scientists would face if they tried to clone a Neanderthal, though neither he nor the Der Spiegel article, which was presented as a question and answer exchange, said he intended to do so.

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Before and after photographs of damaged fresco. Image: Auron Tare

Important medieval frescoes of St. Premte Chapel in the remote village of Valsh in central Albania, have suffered irreparable damage at the hands of thieves who tried to prize them from the walls.

The frescoes mainly depict religious scenes, some of which were created by Onufri, a 16th century icon painter who spent a period of his life in Valsh. Widely considered to be Albania’s greatest icon painter, Onufri is renowned for his colours and style and introduced greater realism and individuality into facial expressions, breaking with the strict conventions of Byzantine art. His works were signed with the title “Protopapas” (Greek: Πρωτόπαππας), demonstrating a senior position in the church hierarchy.

Irreversible damage

Initial damage to the frescoes was sustained on 30 December 2012 when the Chapel was closed and unguarded. Local people made the discovery soon after and notified the authorities – but no action was taken – allowing the thieves to strike again on 4 January 2013.

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Dog evolved 'on the waste dump'

Wolves that coped best with cereals in their diet may be part of the story of domestication

Anyone who owns a dog knows that it will rummage around in the kitchen bin looking for food, given half a chance.

But this annoying behaviour may have a more profound undercurrent than we realise, according to scientists.

A new study of dog genetics reveals numerous genes involved in starch metabolism, compared with wolves.
It backs an idea that some dogs emerged from wolves that were able to scavenge and digest the food waste of early farmers, the team tells Nature journal.

No-one knows precisely when or how our ancestors became so intimately connected with dogs, but the archaeological evidence indicates it was many thousands of years ago. 

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

UK dig discovers 9,000-year-old remains

Archaeologists have proved for the first time that people started living in the Didcot area as early as 9,000 years ago.

Oxford Archaeology has been excavating land at Great Western Park, where more than 3,300 homes are being built, to detail the site’s history.

The two-and-a-half-year dig has uncovered the remains of a Roman villa, and early Bronze Age arrowheads which will now go on display.

Rob Masefield – director of archaeology at RPS Planning, which is managing the investigation – said one of the most important discoveries was hundreds of flints dating back over 9,000 years to the Mesolithic period.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Church moved and rebuilt at Beamish Museum

An ancient church in northern England has been dismantled, moved more than 40 miles (60km) across the River Tees and rebuilt at the Beamish Museum in County Durham.

St Helen's stood in its original location in Eston near Middlesbrough for some 900 years, but after being vandalised it had been slated for demolition.

It has taken 16 years to find the funding to rebuild it in its new home, and the restorers are now looking for some Georgian box pews to recreate a fitting interior.

Watch the video...

Have a Neanderthal baby and save humanity

The life of a Neanderthal family, as depicted by the Neanderthal Museum in Krapina, Croatia. Photograph: Nikola Solic/Reuters

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – simply rent your womb out to Prof George Church, Harvard, and a Nobel prize is yours

If you're a young, single and adventurous female human and wondering what to do with the womb you have just lying around inside you collecting dust, an opportunity has arisen. You can bear a Neanderthal baby.

This is a once in an aeon chance to have your very own bundle of fur; a little Ug Jnr with your eyes and smile but the back hair of its great-great-great-great-great (etc) grandfather.

Prof George Church of Harvard Medical School believes that he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA, and is seeking a volunteer have the "neo-Neanderthal" embryo implanted into her uterus. Church believes that a new race of human could be beneficial if we end up facing an apocalypse at some point, so the lending of your womb could potentially save humanity. Or at the very least produce a subspecies that would be good at heavy lifting and killing the DNA-reconstructed mammoths we will inevitably recreate as well.

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Newcastle's Society of Antiquaries celebrates its 200th birthday

They're getting a little antique themselves, at 200-plus. But Newcastle's antiquaries retain a youthful curiosity and zest. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

From the Roman inscription that proved that Hadrian built Hadrian's Wall, through "horrific" mousetraps and the world's largest collection of bagpipes, to a 19th century gibbet, the Society has collected widely and is looking forward to the next 100 years and more. Alan Sykes potters along

At noon this Wednesday the Lord Mayor of Newcastle will unveil a plaque celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The plaque will be on the corner of the Bigg Market and Grainger Street in the city centre, on the site of the Turk's Head Inn, where the Society was founded. The inn also had a popular cock pit, but it is unknown whether local bookseller John Bell and the 16 other men who decided to establish the Society will have also paused to enjoy a cock fight – although the society's collection does include spurs for fighting cocks.

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