Monday, December 21, 2020

£1m grant to investigate secrets of Viking-age Galloway hoard uncovered by metal detectorist

pieces from the 10th-century treasure trove, known as the Galloway Hoard, which was found by a metal detectorist in a field in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014 and acquired by NMS in 2017, will go on display in an exhibition next year.

National Museums Scotland (NMS) will carry out the three-year project, entitled “Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard”, in partnership with the University of Glasgow to examine the objects in detail.

The 10th-century treasure trove, which was found by a metal detectorist in a field in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014 and acquired by NMS in 2017, will go on display in an exhibition next year.

The research will involve precise dating of the items and, it is hoped, identification of their places of origin, which are thought to range from Ireland to the Byzantine empire and perhaps beyond.

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A mystery woman dressed in silk and gold found buried under the London streets was from the elite of the Roman Empire, researchers say

An artist's reconstruction of the burial of the Spitalfields Roman woman.
Museum of London Archaeology

    A woman who lived in the 4th century AD and was buried in a stone sarcophagus under a market in London, England, was part of Rome's elite, researchers have said. 

    The woman was first discovered among rows of graves in March 1999 under London's Spitalfields market.

    While the researchers were aware that she came from a lavish background, recently published books revealed the extent of her wealth. 

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Early humans may have survived the harsh winters by hibernating

The site at Sima de los Huesos was a mass grave 400,000 years ago. Photograph: César Manso/AFP/Getty Images

Bears do it. Bats do it. Even European hedgehogs do it. And now it turns out that early human beings may also have been at it. They hibernated, according to fossil experts.

Evidence from bones found at one of the world’s most important fossil sites suggests that our hominid predecessors may have dealt with extreme cold hundreds of thousands of years ago by sleeping through the winter.

The scientists argue that lesions and other signs of damage in fossilised bones of early humans are the same as those left in the bones of other animals that hibernate. These suggest that our predecessors coped with the ferocious winters at that time by slowing down their metabolisms and sleeping for months.

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Researchers win £1m grant to unlock secrets of Viking-era treasure trove

The Galloway Hoard has been acquired by National Museums Scotland.
Photograph: National Museums Scotland/PA 

Researchers in Scotland hope to unlock the secrets of a stunning Viking-age hoard after a receiving a £1m grant to examine the provenance of the 10th century haul that lay undisturbed for a thousand years before being unearthed by a metal detectorist.

The incredible discovery of the Galloway Hoard, comprising more than 100 objects including silver jewellery and ingots, was made in September 2014 in a field in Dumfries and Galloway. It has since been acquired by National Museums Scotland (NMS).

NMS will carry out a three-year project, “Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard”, in partnership with the University of Glasgow, to examine in detail the objects, due to go on display in an exhibition next year.

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Monday, December 14, 2020

Neolithic Scotland: the Big Picture and Detailed Narratives in 2020

Rhind Lectures 2020
December 18 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

The Scottish Neolithic clearly fascinated Alexander Henry Rhind and he made important, and very early, contributions to its understanding. In the 170 years since Rhind’s prehistoric exploits, our understanding and perception of this fascinating period in Scotland’s past have been utterly transformed.

This series of six lectures will offer an in-depth assessment of the current state of our knowledge about the period c.4000-2500 BC, when new ways of living and of making sense of the world appeared and developed in Scotland. This involved the active production of food, as opposed to its procurement from wild resources, which had characterised subsistence strategies over the preceding millennia. Globally, the advent of food production with the possibilities it brought for accumulating surpluses has conventionally been hailed as a revolution, with major long-term consequences for the ways societies operated. 

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Thursday, December 10, 2020

Radiocarbon dating revealed mosaic at Chedworth Roman Villa was designed and created in the fifth century

Britain's 5th Century mosaic

Archaeologists have discovered Britain's first known 5th Century mosaic at a Roman villa in Gloucestershire.

Radiocarbon dating revealed a mosaic at Chedworth Roman Villa was designed and created in the middle of the fifth century.

This shows sophisticated life continued within the luxury mansion decades after Britain ceased to be part of the Roman Empire and had entered the Dark Ages.

Previously, it had generally been believed that all towns and villas were largely abandoned and fell into decay following the economic crash at the end of the fourth century.

Chedworth is one of the largest Roman villas known in the country and one of the best-preserved, with 35 exposed rooms and significant features including fine mosaics.

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Stunning dark ages mosaic found at Roman villa in Cotswolds

An archaeologist works on the mosaic at Chedworth Roman villa.
Photograph: Stephen Haywood/National Trust

Fifth-century discovery suggests break with Rome did not cause steep decline in living standards for all

Life at the start of the dark ages in Britain is generally thought of as a pretty uncomfortable time, an era of trouble and strife with the departure of Roman rulers resulting in economic hardship and cultural stagnation.

But a stunning discovery at the Chedworth Roman villa in the Cotswolds suggests that some people at least managed to maintain a rich and sophisticated lifestyle.

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Child's Bones Buried 40,000 Years Ago Solve a Longstanding Neanderthal Mystery

We don't know whether it was a boy or a girl. But this ancient child, a Neanderthal, only made it to about two years of age.

This short life, lived about 41,000 years ago, was uncovered at a famous archaeological site in southwestern France, called La Ferrassie. The remains of several Neanderthals have been found there, including the most recent discovery, the child, known only as La Ferrassie 8.

When the ancient remains were first found – most at various stages of the early 20th century – archaeologists had assumed the skeletons represented intentional burials, with Neanderthals laying their departed kin to rest under the earth.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2020

'Mystery' pit skeleton found during Bishop's Stortford digs

The skull and collarbone of the body had collapsed into the remains of its ribs, while the rest of the body fell into the pit

A skeleton discovered leaning against the sides of a pit with its legs outstretched is "a little mystery", an archaeologist has said.

The find was made during an excavation at Whittington Way, Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire, along with Bronze Age and Roman burials.

Project manager Louise Moan said the site had evidently been "a sacred place" for centuries.

The skeleton was one of hundreds of finds from two digs in the town.

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Norway excavates a Viking longship fit for a king

Pyramids, castles, palaces: symbols of power and status have taken many forms down the ages, and for the Vikings what really counted was the longship.

This month Norwegian archaeologists hope to complete their excavation of a rare, buried longship at Gjellestad, an ancient site south-east of Oslo. It is the first such excavation in Norway for about a century.

Most of the ocean-going ship has rotted away over the centuries, but archaeologist Dr Knut Paasche believes the layout of the iron nails will still enable a replica to be built eventually.

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) revealed it to be about 19m (62ft) long and 5m (16ft) wide - putting it on a par with the well-preserved Oseberg and Gokstad Viking ships on display in Oslo.

Those ships were found on the western side of the wide Oslo Fjord.

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Largest Viking DNA Study

(Dorset County Council/Oxford Archaeology)

Viking mass grave, England
The largest-ever study of Viking DNA has revealed a wealth of information, offering new insights into the Vikings’ genetic diversity and travel habits. The ambitious research analyzed DNA taken from 442 skeletons discovered at more than 80 Viking sites across northern Europe and Greenland. The genomes were then compared with a genetic database of thousands of present-day individuals to try to ascertain who the Vikings really were and where they ventured. One of the project’s primary objectives was to better understand the Viking diaspora, says University of California, Berkeley, geneticist Rasmus Nielsen.

It turns out that the roving bands of raiders and traders, traditionally thought to have come only from Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, were far more genetically diverse than expected. According to Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen, one of the most unexpected results was that the Viking Age of exploration may have actually been driven by outsiders. The researchers found that just prior to the Viking Age and during its height, between A.D. 800 and 1050, genes flowed into Scandinavia from people arriving there from eastern and southern Europe, and even from western Asia.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Special Viking grave with beads and brooches found in Central Norway

Maria Vestvik and Elise Kjørsvik from the NTNU Museum at the Viking grave. 
(Photo: Eystein Østmoe, NTNU University Museum)

She was placed in a burial chamber and took several hundred miniature beads with her on her last journey. Who was the woman who was buried by Valsøyfjord over 1000 years ago?

It had been an uneventful excavation season at Hestnes in Heim municipality. After several weeks of digging, archaeologists had found nothing but some post holes and cooking pits.

When traces of some kind of rectangular construction emerged, field manager Eystein Østmoe didn’t think they had found anything exciting. On the contrary: it was most likely the remains of some modern, boring artefact.

But he changed his mind when a dark layer of soil with a greasy texture surfaced. This often signals the remains of a human body that has been lying in the ground for a very long time.

“It was a big surprise. There weren’t any other graves nearby,” says Østmoe.

“And it was an even bigger surprise when the grave turned out to be something we’ve hardly ever seen before in Central Norway,” he adds.

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The huge 6th century AD Roman / Byzantine kiln for the industrial production of construction materials such as bricks and tiles has been discovered in Bulgaria’s Danube city of Silistra but outside the fortress walls of the Antiquity and medieval city of Durostorum – Dorostol – Drastar.  Photo: Silistra Regional Museum of History

A huge industrial kiln, or furnace, for the production of ceramic construction materials such as bricks and tiles, which dates back to the 6th century AD, more specifically to the reign of Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Emperor Justinian I the Great, has been discovered during rescue excavations in the Danube city of Silistra in Northeast Bulgaria.

Today’s Silistra is a successor of the major Ancient Roman, Early Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian city of Durostorum – Dorostol – Drastar. Learn more about it in the Background Infonotes below!

The industrial kiln for the making of construction materials, however, has been discovered “extra muros", i.e. outside the walls of the ancient and medial city of Durostorum – Drastar, during rescue excavations for clearing a plot for the construction of state-sponsored housing.

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Melting ice patch in Norway reveals large collection of ancient arrows

An arrow from c. AD 700 as it was found lying on the stones in the scree, close to the melting ice. Credit: Innlandet Fylkeskommune

A team of researchers affiliated with a host of institutions in Norway and one in the U.K., has unveiled their findings after collecting and studying a very large number of ancient arrows they found near a melting ice patch in Norway's Jotunheimen Mountains. In their paper published in the journal The Holocene, the group describes how they kept their research secret to avoid the possibility of others contaminating the site and what they have learned about the arrows thus far.

Back in 2006, archeologist Reidar Marstein found an ancient shoe lying near a melting ice patch (which subsequent recent has shown to have formed approximately around 5600BC) in the Jotunheimen Mountains. The shoe was initially believed to have been from the Viking era, but subsequent study showed it to be approximately 3,300 years old.

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Block excavation of early Celtic tomb near the Heuneburg in southern Germany

The burial chamber can be seen within the bright gravel ring. The burial chamber is filled with humus. The light gravel ring comes from lower altitudes and was excavated by the early Celtic builders when the grave shaft was created [Credit: State Office for Monument Preservation in the Stuttgart Regional Council/Michael Lingnau]

The Heuneburg is a prehistoric hillfort by the river Danube in Hundersingen near Herbertingen, between Ulm and Sigmaringen, Baden-Wurttemberg, in the south of Germany, close to the modern borders with Switzerland and Austria.

Since 2019, the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments (LAD) in the Stuttgart Regional Council has been investigating an early Celtic large burial mound in the Bettelbuhl area in the Danube plain below Heuneburg.

Because it is not possible to uncover the burial on site in a professional manner, the entire burial chamber was recovered en bloc. 

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Pompeii: Dig uncovers remains of rich man and slave killed by Vesuvius

The discovery was made in a villa on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city (EPA)

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of two men who died in the volcanic eruption that destroyed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago.

One was probably a man of high status, and the other his slave, officials at the Pompeii archaeological park said.

They "were perhaps seeking refuge" from the eruption "when they were swept away", director Massimo Osanna added.

Pompeii was engulfed by a volcanic eruption from Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

The eruption buried Pompeii in ash, freezing the city and its residents in time, and making it a rich source for archaeologists.

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Au Pègue, une équipe d'archéologues de l'Inrap fouille une domus dont elle a mis au jour le portique et une pièce d'apparat décorée d'une grande mosaïque à motifs géométriques, ainsi que des espaces dévolus à l'activité artisanale et plusieurs aménagements hydrauliques.

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Frühchristliche Fische

Grabungen geben Einblicke in den Kirchenbau

Archäologinnen und Archäologen der Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU) haben bei Feldarbeiten eine frühchristliche Basilika im Südosten der Türkei erschlossen. Acht Wochen lang legten die Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler um Prof. Dr. Engelbert Winter reich ornamentierte Mosaike mit Fisch-Darstellungen sowie bemalte Marmorreliefs frei. "Die Funde werfen ein neues Licht auf die Entwicklung des Kirchenbaus im Nahen Osten zwischen dem 4. und 7. Jahrhundert nach Christus", erläutert Engelbert Winter von der Forschungsstelle Asia Minor im Seminar für Alte Geschichte.

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Study Rewrites History of Ancient Land Bridge Between Britain and Europe

New research suggests that climate change, not a tsunami, doomed the now-submerged territory of Doggerland

As recently as 20,000 years ago—not long in geological terms—Britain was not, in fact, an island. Instead, the terrain that became the British Isles was linked to mainland Europe by Doggerland, a tract of now-submerged territory where early Mesolithic hunter-gatherers lived, settled and traveled.

Doggerland gradually shrank as rising sea levels flooded the area. Then, around 6150 B.C., disaster struck: The Storegga Slide, a submarine landslide off the coast of Norway, triggered a tsunami in the North Sea, flooding the British coastline and likely killing thousands of humans based in coastal settlements, reports Esther Addley for the Guardian.

Historians have long assumed that this tsunami was the deciding factor that finally separated Britain from mainland Europe. But new archaeological research published in the December issue of Antiquity argues that Doggerland may have actually survived as an archipelago of islands for several more centuries.

Co-author Vincent Gaffney, an archaeologist at the University of Bradford, has spent the past 15 years surveying Doggerland’s underwater remains as part of the Europe’s Lost Frontiers project. Using seismic mapping, computer simulations and other techniques, Gaffney and his colleagues have successfully mapped the territory’s marshes, rivers and other geographical features.

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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Swedish runestones open gateway to ancient Viking civilization

The Jarlabanke Bridge is a common starting point for a tour of Runriket, a collection of ancient runestones in Sweden that sheds light on the country's Viking past. The original bridge once helped Vikings cross over a bog.

Vallentuna, Sweden (CNN) — Drive north of the Swedish capital for about half an hour and you'll reach the lakeside district of Vallentuna, a pleasant community with cobblestone churches, picnic areas and playgrounds.

It's also a journey deep into Sweden's ancient Viking past.

Scattered among Vallentuna's greenery are dozens of mystical runestones that form the gateway to a 1,000-year-old Viking civilization now believed to be one of Scandinavia's most significant historic sites.

Known as Runriket, or Rune Kingdom, this collection of more than 100 Viking age runestones -- ancient lichen-crusted slabs of Old Norse inscriptions -- are beautiful relics that shine a light on modern Sweden's past, revealing surprising truths about its ancestors.

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Monday, November 16, 2020

Archaeologists Discover ‘Amazing’ Iron Age Grave In Lofoten

Norwegian archaeologists have found a remarkably well-preserved skeleton believed to date from the Iron Age during an excavation on the Lofoten Islands.

Earlier this year, a team of archaeologists were surprised to discover a femur and hip bone during a routine excavation on Gimsøya island in Norway's Lofoten.

The work continued, and the team was astonished to discover the entire upper body skeleton completely intact.

Archaeologist Anja Roth Niemi from Norway's Arctic University Museum is the project manager. She told NRK that parts of the grave are incredibly well-preserved, which is surprising given the work that went on in the area during the 1950s and 1960s.

“The upper body has not been disturbed by soil levelling or other human activity. It is absolutely amazing,” she said.

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Nächste Runde im Streit um das Alter der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra

Die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra gilt als die älteste konkrete astronomische Darstellung der Welt. Lange Zeit war sich die Fachwelt einig, dass der Fund der Bronzezeit zugeordnet werden kann. Zwei deutsche Prähistoriker behaupteten in diesem Jahr, dass die Scheibe aus der Eisenzeit stamme und lösten damit eine Kontroverse aus. Nun ist in der von der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften herausgegebenen Fachzeitschrift »Archaeologia Austriaca« eine Erwiderung erschienen - die Autoren bekräftigen die Datierung der Himmelsscheibe in die Bronzezeit.

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Stonehenge in southern England ranks among the world's most iconic archaeological sites and one of its greatest enigmas. The megalithic circle on Salisbury Plain inspires awe and fascination—but also intense debate some 4,600 years after it was built by ancient Britons who left no written record.

The monument's mysterious past has spawned countless tales and theories. According to folklore, Stonehenge was created by Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend, who magically transported the massive stones from Ireland, where giants had assembled them. Another legend says invading Danes put the stones up, and another theory says they were the ruins of a Roman temple. Modern-day interpretations are no less colorful: some argue that Stonehenge is a spacecraft landing area for aliens, and even more say it's a giant fertility symbol in the shape of female genitalia.

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Construction Workers Unearth Ancient Greek Gem in Downtown Athens


Α spectacular ancient Greek sculpture was unearthed in the downtown Agia Irini (St Irene) Square of Athens on Saturday during construction work.

The news was shared by Kostas Bakoyannis, the mayor of the city of Athens, through a Facebook post.

There is still not much information about how old the sculpture is or who it depicts.

Some speculate the marble head belongs to an ancient Greek God, probably Zeus, others say it depicts a prominent ancient Athenian.

Others claim that the sculpture is typical of the type of Hermes Propylaeus of Alkamenos, and it is believed to date back to the 4th or 3rd century AD.

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Friday, November 06, 2020

Slaves in the Viking Age: how prevalent were enslaved people in Viking societies?

“The Vikings were not only slavers, but the kidnapping, sale and forced exploitation of human beings was always a central pillar of their culture.” So says Professor Neil Price in his thought-provoking new book The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings.

The place of slavery in Viking culture isn’t something that always gets referenced in popular history, so I asked Professor Price why that was when I interviewed him for the HistoryExtra podcast.

“Slavery studies in the Viking Age have been attracting more and more attention over the past 15 years or so. It’s one of those things I think that we’ve always known about. Every description of raids that comes from that time talks about people being taken away into captivity. It’s not like we didn’t know. And even if you look at the later sources, like the famous Icelandic sagas, there are lots of enslaved people in those stories.

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Friday, October 30, 2020

The Roman Balneum In Rafina: A Monument Reveals Itself

The olive press [Credit: Ephorate of Antiquities of East Attica]

What can the excavation of a Roman bath and its surroundings reveal? If the monument is located near an ancient municipality about which we know very little, such as the municipality of Arafinos (i.e. Rafina), it can bring to light valuable information possibly related to it. And if it is linked to other important findings, such as an inscribed olive press basin ‒ unique in its inscription ‒ it can provide information that may perhaps change views and beliefs about the rural life of late antiquity. The Athens and Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) visited the archaeological site of the Roman Balneum in Rafina ‒ where since 2013 a systematic excavation is being conducted with the cooperation of the Department of History and Archaeology of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Eastern Attica ‒ and talked to the site’s excavators.

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‘Lost’ medieval bridge discovered under the River Teviot

Ancrum Bridge has been hidden beneath the waters of the River Teviot for centuries.

Archaeologists deem the Ancrum Bridge one of the 'most important medieval structures' in Scotland.

One of the oldest bridges in Scotland has been discovered underwater in a river, with archaeologists deeming it to be the most important medieval structure in the country.

The ‘lost’ Ancrum Bridge has been hidden beneath the waters of the River Teviot in the Scottish Borders for centuries, and has been carbon-dated back to the 1300s, to the reigns of David II of Scotland and Edward III of England.

The standing bridge is around 100 years older than others known to exist, and monarchs such as as James V and Mary Queen of Scots would have used it as part of ‘Via Regia’ (The Kings Way), on its way from Edinburgh to Jedburgh and the border with England.

Using radiocarbon dating of the bridge timbers, experts confirmed a date of the mid-1300s, making this the oldest scientifically dated remains of a bridge ever found in its original position across one of Scotland’s rivers.

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How dogs tracked their humans across the ancient world

Libyan rock art that may date back 7000 years depicts a hunter and his dog.

Sometime toward the end of the last ice age, a gray wolf gingerly approached a human encampment. Those first tentative steps set his species on the path to a dramatic transformation: By at least 15,000 years ago, those wolves had become dogs, and neither they nor their human companions would ever be the same. But just how this relationship evolved over the ensuing millennia has been a mystery. Now, in the most comprehensive comparison yet of ancient dog and human DNA, scientists are starting to fill in some of the blanks, revealing where dogs and humans traveled together—and where they may have parted ways.

“It’s a really cool study,” says Wolfgang Haak, an archaeogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. “We’re finally starting to see how the dog story and the human story match up.”

Dogs are one of the biggest enigmas of domestication. Despite decades of study, scientists still haven’t figured out when or where they arose, much less how or why it happened. A 2016 study concluded that dogs may have been domesticated twice, once in Asia and once in Europe or the Near East, but critics said there wasn’t enough evidence to be sure. A few years later, researchers reported signs of dogs in the Americas as early as 10,000 years ago, yet those canines appear to have vanished without a genetic trace. Other studies have found evidence of ancient dogs in Siberia and elsewhere, but scientists don’t know how they got there or how they’re related.

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Five distinct types of dog existed by end of last ice age, study finds

While DNA from modern European dogs has contributed to breeds around the world, traces of other ice age groups remain, including in chihuahuas.
Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

From tiny chihuahuas to fluffy Siberian huskies, dogs come in all shapes and sizes. But researchers have revealed there is more to canine diversity than meets the eye.

Scientists have found five distinct groups of dogs were already present at the end of the last ice age, and their legacy lives on in our pets today.

“[If] I walk through Wimbledon Common I am pretty likely to run across dogs that all have a little bit [of a] different history, tracing back as far as 11,000 years ago to different corners of the world,” said Dr Pontus Skoglund, co-author of the study and group leader of the ancient genomics laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute in London.

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Archaeologists reveal human resilience in the face of climate change in ancient Turkey

Microscope image of Iron Age oak twig from Tell Tayinat in Hatay, Turkey.
Credit: Brita Lorentzen

An examination of two documented periods of climate change in the greater Middle East, between approximately 4,500 and 3,000 years ago, reveals local evidence of resilience and even of a flourishing ancient society despite the changes in climate seen in the larger region.

A new study led by University of Toronto and Cornell University archaeologists working at Tell Tayinat in southeastern Turkey, demonstrates that human responses to climate change are variable and must be examined using extensive and precise data gathered at the local level. The study highlights how challenge and collapse in some areas were matched by resilience and opportunities elsewhere.

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Dutch Archaeologist Discovers Traces of Four Submerged Medieval Settlements

A satellite image of the Noordoostpolder, a Dutch municipality where the four settlements were found (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

A five-year research project yielded the locations of several long-forgotten villages

Archaeologists have long known that multiple medieval settlements stood along the Zuiderzee, a now-obstructed inlet of the North Sea that used to cut through the Netherlands. Researchers unearthed two such historic towns—Urk and Schokland—in the mid-20th century, but until recently, the locations of other settlements remained unknown.

As Dutch regional broadcaster Omroep Flevoland reports, Yftinus van Popta, an archaeologist at the University of Groningen, has identified four “drowned” medieval villages in the Noordoostpolder, a low-lying tract of land reclaimed from the Zuiderzee in the 1940s, after five years of extensive research. (Per the United States Geological Survey, engineers reclaimed the Noordoostpolder and other flood-prone polders by draining water from the Zuiderzee and building a series of dikes.)

Medieval sources suggest that the settlements, called Marcnesse, Nagele, Fenehuysen I and Fenehuysen II, were first inhabited during the 10th and 11th centuries A.D. At some point in the 13th century, the Zuiderzee flooded, submerging the four towns and masking most traces of their existence.

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

CBA Festival of Archaeology

The Council of British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology runs from 24 October to 1 November.  The situation with the Corona Virus means that many of the events will be digital, although there will be a number of live events. Please use the search facility on their webpage to see the various events that are offered.

You can find their website here…

Please note that EMAS archaeological Society has offered a quiz on little known archaeological sites in South East England.

You can find a link to the quiz on the EMAS home page here…

Test your knowledge and see how much you know about the archaeology of the area!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Humans And Climate Drove Giants Of Madagascar To Extinction

Investigating the drivers of extinction: By analyzing stalagmites from the La Vierge Cave located
on Rodrigues the scientists reconstructed 8000 years of the region's past climate
[Credit: Hanying Li]

Nearly all of Madagascan megafauna - including the famous Dodo bird, gorilla-sized lemurs, giant tortoises, and the Elephant Bird which stood 3 meters tall and weighted close to a half ton - vanished between 1500 and 500 years ago. Were these animals overhunted to extinction by humans? Or did they disappear because of climate change? There are numerous hypotheses, but the exact cause of this megafauna crash remains elusive and hotly debated. 

The Mascarene islands east of Madagascar are of special interest because they are among the last islands on earth to be colonized by humans. Intriguingly, the islands' megafauna crashed in just a couple of centuries following human settlement. In a recent study published by Science Advances, a team of international researchers found that it was likely a "double whammy" of heightened human activities in combination with a particularly severe spell of region-wide aridity that may have doomed the megafauna. 

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The spacious changing room, or apodyterium, of the main mineral water public baths of the ancient spa resort of Diocletianopolis in Bulgaria’s Hisarya was more than 100 square meters in size.
Photo: Video grab from Nova TV

A sizable “changing room" or “undressing room", apodyterium in Latin, has been discovered by archaeologists in the main thermae (public baths) of the major Ancient Roman city and ancient spa resort of Diocletianopolis in Bulgaria’s Hisarya.

The main or central Roman thermae of Diocletianopolis in Bulgaria’s Hisarya, the modern-day town which is still a famous spa resort thanks to the healing qualities of its mineral waters, are said to be among the top three best preserved Ancient Roman public baths, together with thermae in Algeria and the UK.

Originally an Ancient Thracian settlement and then a Roman town called Augusta, the Antiquity predecessor of Bulgaria’s Hisarya was granted the status of a city in the Roman Empire in 293 AD under Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305 AD) who renamed it after himself, Diocletianopolis.

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Medieval Black Death May Have Sped Up Because of Droplets in the Air

And some people complain about having to wear a mask in the 21st century...
Credit: illustrissima /

Disease about which we know nothing and against which we have no defense is terrifying, and the plague was one such. In medieval times, its cause was unknown, treatment was nonexistent and its impact was devastating. Death rates are estimated to have ranged from a third to two-thirds for “regular” bubonic plague, and close to 100 percent for the pneumonic form that attacked the lungs. Mortality rates like that make the coronavirus seem practically benign.

Today we know more. Antibiotics were invented in the early 1940s, which is helpful because plague is caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis. The plague is still dangerous, especially in the pneumonic form: treatment must begin quickly if it’s to succeed. At least we aren’t reduced to thoughts and prayers.

We also know today that we don’t get plague for our sins. We get the bacteria from being bitten by a Yersinia-carrying rat flea – or from droplets in the air emitted by the sick. Yes, just like the coronavirus.

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HS2: Medieval graffiti to 'ward off evil spirits' found

It is believed the markings are "witches' marks", created to ward off evil spirits

Medieval graffiti associated with warding off evil spirits has been discovered by archaeologists.

A series of lines radiating from a drilled hole were unearthed on two stones at the remains of a church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire.

Historians believe the markings are 12th Century "witches' marks" created to protect against spirits by trapping them in an endless line or maze.

The discovery was made in preparation for the building of the HS2 rail line.

Archaeologist Michael Court said it was "a fascinating insight into the past".

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'Long-lost' medieval monastery in Gloucester rediscovered

The monastery was founded in about 1270 but was mostly demolished in the 16th Century

A "long-lost" medieval monastery has been discovered by archaeologists in Gloucester city centre.

The remains of the 13th Century Carmelite friary have been found beneath a demolished multi-storey car park.

Historians knew roughly where Whitefriars had stood, but its exact location was a mystery.

The dig, ahead of redevelopment work as part of the regeneration of the city's King's Quarter, took place in July.

City archaeologist Andrew Armstrong said it was "very exciting" finally to reveal the exact location of "this long-lost friary".

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À Bignicourt-sur-Marne, l'Inrap met au jour les vestiges d'un site carolingien (VIIIe-IXe siècles). Autour des bâtiments construits en matériaux périssables, ont été identifiés de nombreux « fonds de cabane » témoignant d'activités artisanales et agricoles.

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Archaeologists strike gold on Crete

“I feel this year’s findings have been a vindication for [Yannis A.] Sakellarakis. He always claimed – and I did not believe it at the time – that the excavations at Zominthos were very important. He would say, ‘I feel just like [Arthur] Evans when he excavated Knossos,’” the director of the dig, Dr Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki, says of her late husband. It is she who continues to conduct the Athens Archaeological Society’s excavations at Zominthos, at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level, approximately 7 kilometers west of Anogia.

Findings indicate that the excavations at this site on a plateau in the northern foothills of Mount Ida (Psiloritis), once “inhabited by the descendants of the Knossos dynasty,” have not come to an end. On the contrary, it has many more secrets to reveal. Its location is strategic – exactly halfway between the Palace of Knossos and the Ideon Andron caves. It was an important economic, religious and cultural center. Access from the north gate of the palace was via a ramp, dating from the Protopalatial Period (approximately 1900 BC), that ended in a robust retaining wall. In the Neopalatial Period (1700-1600 BC) the ramp was covered with plaques twice.

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Surprising leap in ancient human technology tied to environmental upheaval


For 700,000 years, our species’ ancient relatives in East Africa led rather stable lives, relying on an enduring set of skills and survival strategies. They made large, simple hand axes from nearby stones, perhaps using them to slice up prey, cut down branches, or dig for tubers.

But by 320,000 years ago—around the same age as the earliest fossil evidence of Homo sapiens—these early humans drastically changed their ways. They began crafting smaller, more nimble points that could fly through the air as projectiles, some made from obsidian gathered from many miles away. They collected red and black pigments—substances later humans frequently used in symbolic ways such as cave painting.

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East Africa Sediment Core Offers Human Evolution Clues

(Human Origins Program, Smithsonian)

Human Origins Program, Smithsonian)WASHINGTON, D.C.—According to a Science News report, a 450-foot-long sediment core from Kenya’s Koora Basin holds one million years of environmental data that could elucidate details of human evolution. Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution said that chemical and microscopic studies of the layers in the sediment core revealed that some 400,000 years ago, volcanic eruptions reduced the size of lakes and the amount of available water, while the climate fluctuated dramatically. As large animals died out, they were replaced by smaller ones with more diverse diets, he explained. Between 500,000 and 320,000 years ago, hominins living at Kenya’s Olorgesailie site, which is located about 15 miles away from the core-drilling site, shifted from making cutting tools of local stone to the smaller, more carefully made objects made from imported materials that are characteristic of the Mesolithic. 

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Skull found of 5,000-year-old man who had ancient brain surgery with stone 'scalpel'

The skull bore signs of an ancient form of surgery (Image: Darya Veselkova)

Archaeologists have unearthed the skull of a man who underwent ancient brain surgery 5,000 years ago.

The scientists were blown away to find indications the Bronze Age man aged in his 20s had endured surgery with a stone 'scalpel'.

Remarkable 3-D imagery and pictures from Crimea show traces of trepanation - when a hole is deliberately made in the skull.

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Thursday, October 15, 2020


Rescue archaeological excavations for the construction of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline (dubbed “Balkan Stream" by the Bulgarian government) have yielded a surprising discovery: a completely unknown medieval town described as the third satellite town of the city of Pliska, the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire between 680 and 893 AD.

Pliska was the first capital of the Ancient Bulgars south of the Danube River. In addition to having been the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) for more than 200 years, it was also the largest city in medieval Europe in terms of territory.

While not as densely populated, with a total enclosed area of 23 square kilometers it was substantially larger than Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, or Aachen, capital of Charlemagne’s Carolingian Empire.

Ancient hunters stayed in frozen Northern Europe rather than migrating to warmer areas, evidence from Arctic fox bones shows

The jaw of an arctic fox which shows signs of being killed by hunters

Ancient hunters stayed in the coldest part of Northern Europe rather than migrating to escape freezing winter conditions, archaeologists have found.

Evidence from Arctic fox bones show communities living around 27,500 years ago were killing small prey in the inhospitable North European Plains during the winter months of the last Ice Age.

Researchers have found no evidence of dwellings, suggesting people only stayed for a short time or lived in tents in the area excavated, Kraków Spadzista in Southern Poland - one of the largest Upper Palaeolithic sites in Central Europe. Until now it wasn’t clear if people retreated elsewhere each winter to avoid the intense cold.

Dr Alexander Pryor, from the University of Exeter, who led the study, said: “Our research shows the cold harsh winter climates of the last ice age were no barrier to human activity in the area. Hunters made very specific choices about where and when to kill their prey.”

Unlocking the secrets of 'six-headed chief' burial

The ancient burial site is believed to contain the remains of several generations of the same family UNIVERSITY OF BRADFORD

Archaeologists have used DNA analysis to uncover the secrets of a centuries old burial site nicknamed the "six-headed chief".

The grave at Portmahomack in the Highlands contains a man with a fatal sword wound to his skull.

He was buried with four skulls before his grave was later reopened to bury a second man, while a third man was buried in a nearby grave.

Analysis suggests some of the remains to be generations of the same family.

All the remains bar one date to the late 13th to early 15th century.

Archaeologists said the exception was one of the four skulls which dates to the 8th to 10th century and probably belonged to a Pictish monk.

Check out a Lidl bit of ancient history beneath city supermarket

Lidl merchandising Manager Colm Kelly takes a photo of a stone-lined cistern which was fed with water from a gully outside the cottage which was built around AD 1070, and was excavated and is now visable through a glass floor at the new Lidl Store on Dublin’s Aungier St.Picture
Credit:Frank McGrath 14/10/20

The remains of an 11th-century medieval structure is the centrepiece of Lidl's newest Dublin supermarket on Aungier Street.

The supermarket features several significant archaeological finds that can be seen throughout the shop, including the 18th century Aungier Theatre staircase, an 11th century sunken-floored structure and the 18th century Longford Street Arches.

Covered by a rectangle of glass flooring, the most impressive feature is the medieval remains of the humble abode.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Fossil footprints: the fascinating story behind the longest known prehistoric journey

A section of the double trackway. Outward and homeward journeys following each other. Central Panel: Child tracks in the middle of nowhere. Left Panel: One of the tracks with little slippage. M Bennett, Bournemouth University., Author provided

Every parent knows the feeling. Your child is crying and wants to go home, you pick them up to comfort them and move faster, your arms tired with a long walk ahead – but you cannot stop now. Now add to this a slick mud surface and a range of hungry predators around you.

That is the story the longest trackway of fossil footprints in the world tells us. Our new discovery, published in Quaternary Science Reviews, comes from White Sands National Park in New Mexico, US, and was made by an international team working in collaboration with staff from the National Park Service.

The footprints were spotted in a dried-up lakebed known as a playa, which contains literally hundreds of thousands of footprints dating from the end of the last ice age (about 11,550 years ago) to sometime before about 13,000 years ago.

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DNA testing sheds light on old Viking murder mystery

The grave was first uncovered 39 years ago (photo: Roskilde Museum)

Almost 40 years after the famous ‘Gerdrupgraven’ discovery was made near Roskilde, archaeologists uncover key piece of evidence 

One of the top draws at Roskilde Museum is the Gerdrup Grave, a 1,000-year-old Viking interment discovered 39 years ago just north of Roskilde in the tiny hamlet of Gerdrup.

The grave contains the skeletons of a man and a woman, and archaeologists have long speculated who they might be and why they were buried together.

Another element of the mystery is that the man was killed at some point and buried next to the woman. 

The Gerdrup Grave has another important aspect to it: it was the first discovery that proved that Viking women were buried along with a weapon – in this case a lance.

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Anglo-Saxon girl had her nose and lips cut off as punishment, shows skull

Skull of young Anglo-Saxon girl, front view with cuts and back view
with unfused sutures [Credit: Garrard Cole, Antiquity]

An Anglo-Saxon teenage girl appears to have had her nose and lips cut off — and possibly her head scalped as well — analysis of an old skull has revealed.

Unearthed in Oakridge, Hampshire, the remains have been radiocarbon dated to 776–899 AD — predating written accounts of this gruesome form of punishment.

Although it is not known exactly why the poor young woman was subject to the horrific facial mutilation, it was once routinely meted out to female offenders.

The disfigurement was given to adulteresses, slaves who stole and criminals guilty of more severe acts, the researchers reported.