Thursday, June 03, 2021

Looking for Viking ship burials with a 17th-century illustration


New detailed surveys of Viking age ship settings in Hjarnø, Denmark have been completed by archaeologists examining the origins and makeup of the Kalvestene grave field, a renowned site in Scandinavian folklore.

The archaeologists from Flinders University conducted detailed surveys to determine whether a 17th-century illustration of the site completed by the Danish antiquarian, Ole Worm, was accurate, as part of the first survey since the National Museum of Denmark discovered and restored 10 tombs on a small island off the eastern coast almost a century ago.

The burial site is made up of monuments which, according to legend, commemorate a king named Hiarni who was crowned after writing a beautiful poem on the death of the old king and who was defeated in battle on the island.

The research, published in The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, shows the design of the famous Kalvestene grave field is unusual when compared to other Danish sites of the same period which typically incorporate circle, oval or triangle stone settings in addition to the ship shaped settings. Instead, there are strong parallels with Southern Swedish sites, raising questions about links between the two regions.

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Monday, May 31, 2021

Help our profession or UK’s shared history will be lost, say archaeologists

An archaeologist excavates the Saxon ‘Prince of Prittlewell’ grave site before developers move in. Photograph: Mola

Brexit has led to a serious shortage of senior archaeologists, sparking fears that controls on developments could be lifted and undiscovered treasures and untold stories about our past will be lost for ever.

“There’s a hiring crisis in archaeology,” Lisa Westcott Wilkins of DigVentures, an archaeology social enterprise, told the Observer. “We’ve lost a tranche of skilled workers from Europe and [there’s been] the instability of the pandemic.”

“One of our real terrors is that the government is going to use the shortage of archaeologists as an excuse to reduce our role in the planning system, just as it’s being redesigned with a white paper, paving the way for development at the expense of our history. Imagine this country without finds, such as the Viking and Roman discoveries at a development at Hungate in York. That is terrifying to me.”

Under planning regulations, developers fund excavations ahead of construction work. It has led to discoveries as significant as the so-called “Prince of Prittlewell”, a royal Saxon grave in Essex, which might never have survived if it weren’t for archaeological work ahead of a road scheme.

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Friday, May 28, 2021

University of Sheffield archaeology department set to close after management takes decision to cut courses despite 34,000 people signing a petition to save it


A member of the University of Sheffield's archaeology department has confirmed that staff have been told the majority if its current functions will be cut.

Medieval archaeologist Dr Hugh Willmott said: "It is with great sadness and regret that I have to report the university's executive board had decided to press ahead with their plan to close the department and move only two small elements of our teaching into dispersed departments where they shall surely wither and quickly die."

The university management had been consultating on three separate outcomes for the department - complete closure of all programmes, allowing it to continue with fresh investment, or a third option of subsuming a small number of taught Masters courses into other departments. The latter was chosen by board members, who identifed these areas of research and teaching as key departmental strengths.

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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Great Army of Viking warriors used Northumbria camp to launch raids on Picts

The Great Army landed in Kent in 865 and overran much of England in the 860s and 870s

A massive camp of the Viking Great Army discovered on a Northumbrian hilltop is the first physical evidence for chroniclers’ accounts of raids by the commander Halfdan against the Picts, experts say.

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley was identified by archaeologists after metal detectorists reported numerous finds of gaming counters, coins and other artefacts typical of Viking encampments. According to excavators the discovery appears to confirm written accounts that say that, when the Great Army split into two forces after its conquest of Mercia, an army under Halfdan ravaged the territories of the Picts and the Britons of Strathclyde, in today’s Scotland and Cumbria, in 875AD.

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Viking Great Army launched devastating raids on Celtic Picts from massive hilltop camp in Northumbria, experts say

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley, Northumbria, has been explored by metal detectorists for the past 15 years

A Viking Great Army camp discovered on a Northumbrian hilltop gives physical backing to early chroniclers' accounts of raids against the Celtic Picts, experts say.

The 49-hectare site in the Coquet Valley, Northumbria, has been explored by metal detectorists for the past 15 years.

They have found artifacts including gaming counters, coins and other items which indicate the presence of the Vikings.

Now, archaeologists currently working at the site say the finds confirm written accounts describing what happened after the Great Army split in two following its conquest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

Oxford University archaeologist Dr Jane Kershaw said it adds physical evidence to a sole written account describing how an army under the Viking commander Halfdan ravaged territories including those of the Picts in today's Northumberland

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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Cerne Abbas Giant may have been carved into hill over 1000 years ago

The Cerne Abbas Giant
National Trust Images/Mike Calnan/James Dobson

A mysterious chalk carving of a huge, naked man on an English hillside was made in the 10th century, according to the first attempt to archaeologically date the giant. The finding is unexpected because the earliest mentions of the Cerne Abbas Giant are from just over 300 years ago, suggesting it was forgotten for centuries.

Historians and archaeologists had many ideas about when the giant was constructed, says team member Mike Allen, an independent geoarchaeologist at Allen Environmental Archaeology in Codford, UK. “Everyone was wrong.”

The giant is carved into a hillside overlooking the village of Cerne Abbas in southern England. It is a figure of a man with a large, erect penis, holding a club. It was made by digging trenches into the hillside, then filling them with white chalk.

The earliest known reference to the giant is from 1694, from the records of the church in Cerne Abbas. The giant is absent from earlier records, notably a 1617 survey of the area by John Norden, who was famously thorough,

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Cerne Abbas Giant: Why the Anglo-Saxons created England’s most macho hillside chalk figure

The giant, carved in solid lines from the chalk bedrock, measures in at 55 metres high, and carries a huge knobbled club, which measures 37 metres in length
(Getty/iStock)

Scientists have begun to solve one of Britain’s greatest archaeological mysteries – the age of one of the UK’s largest and most enigmatic artworks.

Until now archaeologists and historians had thought that a 55-metre tall figure, cut into a hillside in Dorset, the so-called Cerne Abbas Giant, was prehistoric or Roman – or that, alternatively, it had been created in the 17th century,

But new dating tests, organised by the National Trust, suggest that the giant hails from none of those periods and was instead constructed by the Anglo-Saxons.

The tests indicate that the massive hill figure was either fully or substantially created at some stage between the mid-7th century and the 13th century. The new dating evidence has potential implications for understanding some of England’s other surviving and lost giant chalk figures.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Unique Bronze Age find just south of Alingsås

Credit: Mats Hellgren

A unique Bronze Age find was made on 8 April in a wooded area just to the south of the town of Alingsås. Following an archaeological examination by among others Johan Ling, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Gothenburg among others, it has emerged that this is one of the most spectacular finds ever made in Sweden. It comprises around 50 artifacts that are all largely intact. These exclusive objects would have belonged to one or more high-status women in the Bronze Age. 

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Viking remains lost for more than a century rediscovered in a museum

Woven wrist cuffs found at a Viking burial site

Antiquity Publications Ltd/Rimstad et al/R. Fortuna, National Museum of Denmark

The remains of a Viking have been rediscovered after being missing for more than a century. They were safely stored in a museum the whole time, but had been mislabelled.

The individual had been buried with expensive grave goods, suggesting they were an elite person or even royalty. They also seem to have been wearing long trousers with elaborate decorations.

The story of the Viking’s remains begins in 1868, near the village of Mammen in Denmark. A landowner named Laust Pedersen Skomager enlisted local farmers to help him remove the topsoil from a mound on his estate.

They found it concealed a wooden Viking burial chamber, now called Bjerringhøj. The farmers dug up the contents and shared them out, so when academics arrived on the scene soon after, they had first to recover the remains from their new owners.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2276409-viking-remains-lost-for-more-than-a-century-rediscovered-in-a-museum/#ixzz6tuLEBnaw

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Study: Cancer Rate in Medieval Britain Higher Than Expected

A cancer cell (white) being attacked by two cytotoxic T cells (red), part of a natural immune response triggered by immunotherapy. Photo: Reuters

Cancer isn't just a modern-day affliction. A new archaeological analysis suggests malignant growths in medieval Britain were not as rare as we once thought.

Even before widespread smoking, the Industrial Revolution, and the modern surge in life expectancy, it seems cancer was still a leading cause of disease.

Scanning and X-raying 143 medieval skeletons from six cemeteries in and around the city of Cambridge, archaeologists have predicted cancer cases between the 6th and the 16th century were roughly a quarter of what they are today. That's 10 times higher than previous estimates, which had put cancer rates at less than one percent.

"Until now it was thought that the most significant causes of ill health in medieval people were infectious diseases such as dysentery and bubonic plague, along with malnutrition and injuries due to accidents or warfare. We now have to add cancer as one of the major classes of disease that afflicted medieval people," archaeologist Jenna Dittmar from Cambridge University said in a report published by the Science Alert website.

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Archaeology and the climate crisis: how the past could save the future

"Archaeology bridges the gap, as it combines a scientific understanding with the cultural exploration of past human life."
Unsplash/Hulki Okan Tabak

Ask most people what archaeology is and you’ll get a mixture of responses involving fossils, funny hats, digging, and bones. It might surprise you to know that archaeology isn’t the tomb raiding that Indiana Jones made it out to be, and that there is much more to it than just finding old things. Even if you are in fact a keen amateur archaeologist, you may never have considered how studying the human past could help preserve its future.

Aside from accepting our fate or waiting for a technological breakthrough that radically alters the way we exist, we have two options in confronting the issue of climate change. The first is that we colonise a new planet. Without overlooking the imperialist undertones of this concept, some archaeologists have studied island colonisation in the past as a model for human exploration beyond our planet. Lessons from the past emphasise that this solution would still require us to adopt a much more sustainable way of life to avoid facing the same threats just a few centuries down the line.

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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Citizen archaeologist discovers ancient ‘logboat’ in the Boyne Valley

Citizen archaeologist Anthony Murphy (pictured) appears to have found another potentially significant discovery in the Boyne Valley - a logboat that could date back to Neolithic times. Photo Ciara Wilkinson

A citizen archaeologist who discovered the world famous ‘Dronehenge’ near Newgrange, county Meath during the heatwave of 2018, appears to have found another potentially significant discovery in the Boyne Valley using a drone - a logboat that could date to Neolithic times.

Anthony Murphy said, “I went looking for a dolphin. I didn’t find him but I did find a logboat.”

Made by hollowing out a tree trunk, such logboats or dugout boats have, according to Dr Stephen Davis, UCD School of Archaeology, “an immensely long history of use in Ireland, with examples known from the Neolithic right the way up to Medieval times.” 

“Closer investigation will be able to show more - for example tool marks would be able to tell whether it was made with metal or stone tools, and radiocarbon dating give an approximate age,” he added.

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'Miracle' cave in South Africa may be the earliest known human dwelling EVER found, 1.8million-year-old stone tools suggest

The team explored layers deep within the ancient cave and were able to successfully establish the shift from Oldowan tools, sharp flakes and chopping tools, to early handaxes (pictured) over one million years ago 

Ancient tools found in a 'miracle' cave in South Africa suggest our earliest ancestors set up camp there more than 1.8 million years ago, according to palaeontologists. 

Experts from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa's Kalahari Desert, delving down to ancient layers within the historic site.

Few places in the world preserve a continuous archaeological record spanning millions of years, but this is one such site. Its name means 'miracle' in Afrikaans.

The new study, including work by geologists and archaeologists, confirms the existence of human-made stone tools dating back 1.8 million years. 

This marks it as the earliest cave occupation in the world and the site of some of the earliest indications of fire use and tool making among prehistoric humans. 

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Is This 10,000-Year-Old Carving Europe’s Oldest Known Depiction of a Boat?

Arock carving discovered in Norway may be one of Europe’s earliest examples of art depicting a boat, reports Garry Shaw for the Art Newspaper.

The image, found in Valle, on the Efjorden fjord in Nordland County, appears to be a life-size representation of a boat made from sealskin, writes Jan Magne Gjerde, a scholar at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology.

Based on the height of the surrounding shoreline, which was higher in the Stone Age than it is today, Gjerde dates the art to between 10,000 and 11,000 years ago. That makes it one of the oldest images of a boat in the world. Previously, the oldest known depictions of boats in northern Europe dated to between 7,000 and 7,500 years ago.

The image—a white outline carved into a rock surface—was probably originally about 14 feet long. A portion of the drawing eroded away over time, and it is now only clearly visible under particular weather conditions. A second carving at the site also appears to show a boat, but just a small part of it remains.

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The Cave Where Vikings Offered Sacrifices To Stop The Apocalypse


The Surtshellir Cave in Iceland was discovered to be a trove full of Middle Eastern artifacts, and the location was used by the Vikings as an offering pit for sacraments to stop the apocalypse. The most noticeable artifact in the cave was a stone, boat-shaped structure that served as the main offering pit, as All That’s Interesting details: 

    As deputy director and chief curator of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University, Kevin Smith was thrilled at the discovery. The Surtshellir Cave in question was formed by a volcano that erupted nearly 1,100 years ago — and gave Smith a window into what might have happened there.

    Smith and his team also found 63 beads made of a mineral common in the Middle East but rarely found in Scandinavia.

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Archeologists discover remains of Viking rituals in Iceland

Volcano has erupted in Iceland near Reykjavik
(photo credit: REUTERS)

A site dating back to the Viking age, approximately 300 meters beyond the Surtshellir cave, located in Iceland, was discovered by archeologists, according to a report by Ancient Origins. 

The report stated that the site in question was used for ancient rituals performed by Vikings. 

Published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the archeologists, some based in Iceland with others hailing from the US and Norway, recorded many of their findings on the Surtshellir cave - the most notable discovery being a "boat-shaped structure made of rocks."

The Surtshellir cave is the longest lava cave in Iceland, stretching about 1.6 kilometers. It is named after the Viking fire giant Surtur, an integral figure in Norse mythology.  

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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Vikings created a massive boat in this volcanic cave to ward off the apocalypse

Archaeologists found that the Vikings constructed this boat-shaped structure out of rocks. Inside the structure the Vikings burned animal bones at a high temperature. (Image credit: Kevin Smith)

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of rare artifacts from the Middle East in an Icelandic cave that the Vikings associated with Ragnarök, an end-times event in which the gods would be killed and the world engulfed in flames. 

The cave is located by a volcano that erupted almost 1,100 years ago. At the time of that eruption, the Vikings had recently colonized Iceland. "The impacts of this eruption must have been unsettling, posing existential challenges for Iceland's newly arrived settlers," a team of researchers wrote in a paper published recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science. 

Archaeological work shows that after the lava cooled, the Vikings entered the cave and constructed a boat-shaped structure made out of rocks. Within this structure, the Vikings would have burned animal bones, including those of sheep, goat, cattle, horses and pigs, at high temperatures as a sacrifice. This may have been done in an effort to avert Ragnarok. 

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Boat-Shaped Viking Structure Found in Icelandic Cave

© Kevin P. Smith

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND—Live Science reports that a team of researchers led by Kevin Smith of Brown University has investigated a stone structure in Surtshellir Cave, which is located near a volcano in Iceland. The volcano is known to have erupted about 1,100 years ago, shortly after the island was colonized by Vikings. Smith said that after the lava from the eruption cooled, the Vikings built the boat-shaped structure with rocks. Within the boat’s outline, the researchers unearthed the bones of sheep, goat, cattle, horses, and pigs that had been burned at high temperatures. They also found orpiment, a mineral from eastern Turkey, and 63 beads, three of which came from Iraq.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Viking metalwork craft and expertise evolved from 8th to 9th century

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The evolution of metalwork expertise and craftsmanship developed by Viking craftspeople in Denmark in the 8th and 9th centuries has been detailed in a study published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. 

A team of researchers at Aarhus University, Denmark, analyzed tool fragments, raw materials such as metal bars, and complete objects such as keys and brooches, excavated from two sites in the town of Ribe, Denmark, a trading port established by Vikings in the eighth century.

The authors examined 1,126 samples of metalworking tools (crucibles and molds), 24 keys and brooches, and 24 metal bar ingots and fragments of spare metal. By analyzing samples from the surface of tools and identifying metallic traces contained in them, as well as examining the metallic composition of finished objects, the researchers were able to infer which metals were used to make these objects.

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Early bronze age tomb uncovered near Marlborough

James Cameron at the site of the tomb in East Kennett (left) and exposed lintel at the tomb (right)

 A rare archeological find has been unearthed on a farm in East Kennett.

Wiltshire archeologists say it is likely to be a 4,500-year-old megalithic tomb.

They have since surveyed the site, and believe there may be several more of them in the same field.

The burial chamber was discovered back in the summer when the Sarsen capstone collapsed and a small sink hole appeared in an arable field.

“For I ages I thought it was just another badger set but when I examined it more closely you can see that it is lined with stones and there is some kind of chamber there,” said farm owner James Cameron.

“It isn’t very big, probably a few metres square and dates from the Bronze Age.” 

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Mesolithic Double Burial Discovered In France

Mesolithic tomb of Casseneuil being cleared
[Credit: Frederic Prodeo, Willford O'yl, Inrap]

The Mesolithic covers a period of 5,000 years, and yet less than fifty burials from this period are known in France. One of them, containing two human remains, has been excavated by a team from Inrap in Casseneuil (a commune in the Lot-et-Garonne department in south-western France) since the beginning of March.

The Casseneuil burial site was discovered in 2008, during a preliminary inspection for the construction of a housing estate. The State (Drac Nouvelle-Aquitaine, regional archaeology service) commissioned the excavation, which is currently underway on a 1500 m² property. The radiocarbon dating recently obtained dates this double burial to around 9000 years before our era, i.e. an early period of the Mesolithic.

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Gold ring from Civil War era unearthed in Manx field

The ring will go on display at the Manx Museum in Douglas from Saturday - MNH

A gold and crystal mourning ring thought to have connections to the Lord of Man during the English Civil War has been unearthed by a metal detectorist on the Isle of Man.

The "delicate" 350-year-old piece was discovered in a field in the south of the island by Lee Morgan in late December.

It was revealed in an inquest where it was officially declared treasure.

The ring will now go on display in the medieval gallery at the Manx Museum.

Manx National Heritage curator Allison Fox said the piece, which is adorned with the letters JD or ID, would have been made for "an individual of high status".

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Lidl store builds glass floor to showcase 11th century Viking ruins

The store opened in 2020
(RTE news/YouTube)

A Lidl supermarket in Dublin has put on a show for amazed shoppers, installing glass panels in between the isles that reveal a medieval snapshot of the city,

The store on Aungier Street in the city centre, opened in 2020 and uses glass panelling to showcase 11th and 18th century archeological remains that lie beneath the shop.

When the site was uncovered, Lidl managers invested heavily into preserving the historic structures, reported dublin-news.

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Which Skills Were Valued in Early Neolithic Europe?


YORK, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of York, a recent review of stone tools recovered from early Neolithic cemeteries across Europe suggests that men and women were buried with different sorts of implements, and may have therefore performed different work-related activities during their lifetimes. Archaeologist Penny Bickle said that tools found in women’s graves were used to work animal skins, while men’s tools were associated with hunting and conflict. Bickle suggests the differences in tools reflect the variety of skills needed by members of the community. The presence of the tools in the graves is evidence of the value given to all of the jobs, she added.

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Swan Songs

Courtesy Filip Ondrkál)

Bronze lamp, four views

From 1881 to 1890, in locations including modern Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, a number of very similar bronze bird figurines dating to the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages (ca. 1300–500 B.C.) were unearthed. For more than a century, it remained unclear how these artifacts were used, but their similarity was seen as evidence of shared cultural practices and beliefs across a large swath of Europe at this time. Now, a team studying a recently discovered bronze waterbird, perhaps a swan, from the site of Liptovský Hrádok in northern Slovakia, has determined that the artifact, and likely the other similar examples as well, was originally attached to a small chariot, filled with animal fat or vegetable oil and used as a lamp during burial rituals and ceremonial activities. 

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Gladiator arena from Roman era unearthed in Turkey

 An aerial view shows the Roman-era arena poking out of a hilly area in Mastaura, Turkey. (Image credit: Courtesy of Assoc. Prof. Mehmet Umut Tuncer/Aydın Provincial Director of Culture and Tourism)

Archaeologists in Turkey have discovered the remains of a "magnificent" Roman-era arena, where up to 20,000 spectators likely cheered and jeered as they watched gladiator matches and wild animal fights, the excavators said. 

The 1,800-year-old arena was discovered on the rolling hills of the ancient city of Mastaura, in Turkey's western Aydın Province. Its large central area, where "bloody shows" once took place, has since filled with earth and vegetation over the centuries.

"Most of the amphitheater is under the ground," and the part that is visible is largely covered by "shrubs and wild trees," Mehmet Umut Tuncer, the Aydın Culture and Tourism provincial director and project survey leader Sedat Akkurnaz, an archaeologist at Adnan Menderes University in Turkey, told Live Science in a translated email.

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3D scanning gives new insight into 275-year-old Jacobite battlefield


Lidar technology has allowed experts to create a map of the Culloden battlefield, where the last pitched battle on British soil occurred in April 1746. 

Conservationists have accurately recreated the Culloden battlefield using electronic mapping techniques, 275 years on from its last battle.

Experts say the new technology gives “the most detailed understanding” possible of how the landscape looked in 1746, when the final Jacobite Rising “came to a brutal head in one of the most harrowing battles in British history”.

Culloden, near Inverness, hosted the final fight of the rebellion where the army of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) was defeated by a British government force under William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.

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Little Foot fossil shows early human ancestor clung closely to trees

Little Foot was discovered in the 1990s in a cave in South Africa and is the most intact ancient skeleton of any human ancestor. Credit: Paul John Myburgh

A long-awaited, high-tech analysis of the upper body of famed fossil 'Little Foot' opens a window to a pivotal period when human ancestors diverged from apes, new USC research shows. 

Little Foot's shoulder assembly proved key to interpreting an early branch of the human evolutionary tree. Scientists at the Keck School of Medicine of USC focused on its so-called pectoral girdle, which includes collarbones, shoulder blades and joints.

Although other parts of Little Foot, especially its legs, show humanlike traits for upright walking, the shoulder components are clearly apelike, supporting arms surprisingly well suited for suspending from branches or shimmying up and down trees rather than throwing a projectile or dangling astride the torso like humans.Little Foot was discovered in the 1990s in a cave in South Africa and is the most intact ancient skeleton of any human ancestor. Credit: Paul John Myburgh

A long-awaited, high-tech analysis of the upper body of famed fossil 'Little Foot' opens a window to a pivotal period when human ancestors diverged from apes, new USC research shows. 

Little Foot's shoulder assembly proved key to interpreting an early branch of the human evolutionary tree. Scientists at the Keck School of Medicine of USC focused on its so-called pectoral girdle, which includes collarbones, shoulder blades and joints.

Although other parts of Little Foot, especially its legs, show humanlike traits for upright walking, the shoulder components are clearly apelike, supporting arms surprisingly well suited for suspending from branches or shimmying up and down trees rather than throwing a projectile or dangling astride the torso like humans.

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

“Mixing between modern humans and archaic hominins was a common phenomenon.”

Kutubu island in Papua New Guinea. Different ancient humans encountered each other in this region.Marc Dozier

Around 45,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans expanding into the Pacific region encountered archaic hominins on their journey. It wasn’t long before they started having sex with them. So much sex, that it continued for millennia.

What the humans didn’t know is they were picking up genes that would help them adapt to and survive island living. These genes continue to benefit people living in this region today, new research suggests.

The Pacific region is home to a deep history of early human evolution. However, genomic studies in the region are just emerging, says Etienne Patin, a human population geneticist with Institut Pasteur in France. Patin is the new study’s co-author.

“Today, 95 percent of genomic studies focus on European-descent individuals, while they represent only 16 percent of the human population,” Patin tells Inverse.

His research, published Thursday in the journal Nature, examines whether or not sex between modern humans and other species of humans facilitated the genetic adaption to island environments still observed in some Pacific Islanders today. This population has the highest levels of combined Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry worldwide, the study suggests.

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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Ancient human migration into Europe revealed via genome analysis

The Bacho Kiro cave in Bulgaria. The research is based on analysis of several ancient human remains – including a whole tooth and bone fragments – found in a cave in Bulgaria last year. Photograph: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP via Getty Images

Genetic sequencing of human remains dating back 45,000 years has revealed a previously unknown migration into Europe and showed intermixing with Neanderthals in that period was more common than previously thought.

The research is based on analysis of several ancient human remains – including a whole tooth and bone fragments – found in a cave in Bulgaria last year.

Genetic sequencing found the remains came from individuals who were more closely linked to present-day populations in east Asia and the Americas than populations in Europe.

“This indicates that they belonged to a modern human migration into Europe that was not previously known from the genetic record,” the research, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, said.

It also “provides evidence that there was at least some continuity between the earliest modern humans in Europe and later people in Eurasia”, the study added.

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How new discoveries in west Africa could rewrite pre-history

Archaeology in West Africa could rewrite the textbooks on human evolution.

Our species, Homo sapiens, rose in Africa some 300,000 years ago. The objects that early humans made and used, known as the Middle Stone Age material culture, are found throughout much of Africa and include a vast range of innovations.

Among them are bow and arrow technology, specialized tool forms, the long-distance transport of objects such as marine shells and obsidian, personal ornamentation, the use of pigments, water storage, and art. Although it is possible that other ancestors of modern humans contributed to this material culture in Africa, some of the earliest Middle Stone Age stone tools have been found with the oldest Homo sapiens fossils found so far.

The textbook view is that by around 40,000 years ago, the Middle Stone Age had largely ceased to exist in Africa. This was a milestone in the history of our species: the end of the first and longest lasting culture associated with humanity, and the foundation for all the subsequent innovations and material culture that defines us today.

Despite its central role in human history, we have little understanding of how the Middle Stone Age ended. Such an understanding could tell us how different groups were organized across the landscape, how they may have exchanged ideas and genes, and how these processes shaped the later stages of human evolution.

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Excavations at Weymouth's medieval and Civil War sites

Campaigners wanted excavations to take place before the old council offices were redeveloped - Google

Archaeologists will be digging up part of a seaside town which was the site of a bloody battle during the Civil War.

Trenches will be cut in Weymouth's medieval high street and North Quay - the site of its former council offices.

The area was the site of the Battle of Weymouth in 1645, following a royalist plot to return the ports of Weymouth and Melcombe to King Charles I.

Dorset Council has commissioned specialists Context One to dig four exploratory trenches from next week.

Community group Dig the Street has been campaigning for excavations in the old high street - now known as High West Street - before the former borough council office site is redeveloped.

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Roman stately home unearthed in Scarborough 'potential world first'

The complex of buildings include a circular room and a bath house
MAP ARCHAEOLOGICAL PRACTICE

A Roman villa unearthed on a building site has been described as potentially "the first of its kind" ever found.

The remains of the large "stately home" and bath house were found on a site in Scarborough, in North Yorkshire.

Historic England said the type of layout has "never been seen in Britain" and may be the first example "within the whole former Roman Empire".

Inspector of ancient monuments Keith Emerick said it was "more than we ever dreamed of discovering".

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Roman site uncovered in Scarborough hailed as first of its kind in UK

The Roman remains discovered at Eastfield, Scarborough, are on the site of a new housing estate being constructed by Keepmoat Homes.
Photograph: MAP Archaeological Practice

When developers broke ground on the outskirts of Scarborough, they were hoping to build a housing estate ideal for first-time buyers, families and professionals, with en suites, off-street parking and integrated kitchens galore. But before shovels had even hit earth, they found someone else had got there first: the Romans.

The remains of a Roman settlement believed to be the first of its kind discovered in Britain – and possibly the whole Roman empire – has been uncovered near the North Yorkshire seaside town.

The find might have caused a headache for the developer Keepmoat Homes but has sparked excitement among experts, with Historic England describing it as “easily the most important Roman discovery of the last decade”.

The large complex of buildings – approximately the size of two tennis courts – includes a cylindrical tower structure with a number of rooms leading from it and a bathhouse. As excavations and analysis continue, historians believe the site may have been the estate of a wealthy landowner, which could have later become a religious sanctuary or even a high-end “stately home-cum-gentleman’s club”.

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The secret world of underwater archaeology


The Cosquer Cave's impressively well-preserved Stone Age paintings were only discovered in 1991. Researchers are always finding new treasures under water.

When the French diving instructor Henri Cosquer discovered in 1985 the access to a flooded cave at a depth of 37 meters (121 feet), during a diving tour in the Mediterranean off the coast of Marseille, he didn't know that it concealed an archaeological sensation.

He and his companions dived down to the entrance of the cave several times over the next few months. But it wasn't until 1991 that he managed to reach the main cave through a tunnel. It would later bear his name.

The narrow, stone-carved space was completely dry, its walls covered with mysterious prehistoric paintings.

The world's only underwater Stone Age cave

The archaeologists and scientists who later examined the cave found that the drawings were approximately 19,000 to 27,000 years old. The paintings mainly showed animals — seals, fish, horses, bison, mountain goats, sea birds — that were surprisingly lifelike.

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Russia Looking To Clone And Resurrect 3,000-Year-Old Ancient Siberian Warriors

PA/Russian Geological Society/vk.com

Russia’s defence minister has revealed his aspirations to clone ancient royal warriors and their horses in a Dolly the sheep-esque project.

Sergei Shoigu greenlit an archaeological dig at the 3,000-year-old Tunnug burial mound in the Valley of the Kings located in Tuva, Siberia, three years ago and apparently wants to clone the nomadic warriors that have been exhumed.

A modern-day shaman was reportedly drafted in to ensure the spirts weren’t angered by the site being dug up.

According to The Siberian Times, the oldest remains to have been discovered so far dates back to the ninth century BC.

At a Russian Geographical Society session on Wednesday, April 14, Shoigu said, ‘Of course, we would like very much to find the organic matter’, referring to the remains of the ancient people and animals.

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Ancient 'untouched' tomb discovered on Dingle Peninsula

The tomb was uncovered in recent days during land improvement works being carried out by a farmer

An ancient tomb, described by archaeologists as "untouched" and "highly unusual" has been discovered on the Dingle Peninsula in Co Kerry.

The tomb was uncovered in recent days during land improvement works being carried out by a farmer.

The National Monument Service has requested that the location of the structure should not be disclosed in order to prevent the possibility of disturbance.

The tomb was uncovered by a digger during land reclamation work when a large stone slab was upturned, revealing a slab-lined chamber beneath.

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Viking DNA and the dangers of genetic ancestry tests

Just to be clear, these aren’t real Vikings (TM Productions Limited)

Anna Källén, associate professor of archaeology and researcher in heritage studies, Stockholm University; and Daniel Strand, PhD in history of ideas at Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism, Uppsala University 

A Middle-Aged white man raises his sword to the skies and roars to the gods. The results of his genetic ancestry test have just arrived in his suburban mailbox. His eyes fill with tears as he learns that he is ‘0.012 per cent Viking’. These are the scenes from a video advertisement for the TV-series Vikings.

This man is certainly not the only one yearning for a genetic test to confirm his Viking ancestry. A plethora of companies around the world market DNA-tests that promise to provide scientific facts about your identity. These companies often claim to provide a complete view of your ancestry, even though they in reality only compare your DNA with other customers in their database. 

According to recent estimates, over 26 million people from across the world have purchased a genetic ancestry test. In the wake of this hype, researchers have begun to investigate how the tests affect our perceptions of ourselves. How do people make sense of a test result stating that they are, for instance, ’35 per cent Ashkenazi Jewish’, ’27 per cent British’ or ‘4 per cent western Asian’?

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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Archaeology and climate change

Climate policies should reflect the need to protect vulnerable archaeological sites and artefacts from climate change impacts.
Courtesy: Shahnaj Husne Jahan

Being born and brought up in Lalbag of Old Dhaka, I often find myself in the middle of a large, rapidly changing archaeological site by the Buriganga River. But as a climate change enthusiast, I never linked archaeology with climate change before. Participating in a webinar of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) recently, however, left me thinking about their connection.

Till the 1970s, it was mostly geologists and climatologists who talked about the changes in our climate. By the 1990s, it gradually turned into a broader environmental concern. And over the last couple of decades, it has become a development issue, if not an issue of survival of the humanity. In many countries, as in Bangladesh, climate change is still being dealt with by environment ministries. Climate change has recently been re-branded as "climate crisis" or "climate emergency". Thus, practically, it is no longer the sole responsibility of a specific ministry or agency to act upon.

Bangladesh has mainstreamed climate change superbly. Its 25 ministries and divisions, for example, are now receiving money to take climate actions. In the 2020-2021 budget, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh allocated 7.55 percent of its budget (almost similar to the previous annual budget) to climate-related activities through those 25 agencies. The Ministry of Cultural Affairs or its Department of Archaeology, however, is not one of them.

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Thursday, April 08, 2021

'Exciting' Stone Age discoveries in the Cairngorms

University of Aberdeen students at work to unearth the traces of the stone age inhabitants of the Cairngorms - UPPER DEE TRIBUTARIES PROJECT

New research has uncovered rare evidence of people living in Scotland's mountains after the end of the last Ice Age.

Archaeologists found stone tools and traces of firepits and possible shelters in Deeside in the Cairngorms.

Finds from the Mesolithic period, also known as the Middle Stone Age, are rare and usually made in lowland areas.

Archaeologists describe the evidence in the Cairngorms as "exciting".

The research, published in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, adds to existing evidence from a handful of other upland sites.

These include on the mountain Ben Lawers in Perthshire and at locations in Lanarkshire and Dumfries.

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Details of prehistoric Galloway heartland discovered during work on A75 go online

The Iron Age structure uncovered by archaeologists during excavtion work on the new A75 bypass at Dunragit.

Details of a prehistoric Galloway heartland hidden for eight millennia have now been published online.

The major prehistoric treasure trove of a number of ancient sites, artefacts and cremated human remains were discovered in the region during the £17million A75 bypass works in 2014.

The “significant” finds were unearthed around Dunragit by GUARD Archaeology Ltd – working on behalf of Transport Scotland – and stretch across the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages.

As well as jewellery and cremation urns, they uncovered the earliest known Mesolithic house in south-west Scotland, Neolithic ceremonial structures, two Bronze Age cemeteries and an Iron Age village – which show the use of the land for both hunting and farming for more than 9,000 years.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2021

To Save Norway’s Stave Churches, Conservators Had to Relearn a Lost Art

For more than 800 years, the stave church of Borgund, Norway, has towered over the surrounding village. Conservators face a constant struggle to protect the historic wooden building from the elements. HÅKON LI

TO STEP INTO ONE OF Scandinavia’s surviving stave churches is to enter the past. Shadows shift and tell stories in the elaborate carvings of intertwined beasts that are hallmarks of the churches’ unique architecture. Sounds reverberate off the timber as if traveling across centuries. The air feels dense with the tang of hewn wood, peat smoke, and pine tar.

As early as the 11th century, builders began erecting these churches all over the region. Much of Europe was raising massive cathedrals of stone during this period, but the Scandinavians knew wood best. While each house of worship was unique, all of them had staves, or load-bearing corner posts joined to vertical wall planks with a tongue-and-groove method.

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Dig reveals 6,000-year-old salt hub in North Yorkshire

Excavations at the archeological site near Loftus in North Yorkshire

Neolithic people were manufacturing salt in Britain almost 6,000 years ago, before the building of Stonehenge and more than two millennia earlier than was first thought, a new archaeological discovery suggests.

Excavations at a site at Street House farm in North Yorkshire have revealed evidence of the earliest salt production site ever found in the UK and one of the first of its kind in western Europe, dating to around 3,800BC.

The finds, uncovered at a coastal hilltop site near Loftus, include a trench containing three hearths, broken shards of neolithic pottery, some still containing salt deposits, shaped stone artefacts and a storage pit – all key evidence of salt processing.

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Norfolk: 'Elephant and castle' gold seal only third found

The elephant is carved on to a gemstone, which experts believe is probably a carnelian  PORTABLE ANTIQUITIES SCHEME

A medieval gold seal which shows an elephant carrying a castle on its back has become only the third of its kind recorded by the British Museum.

A metal detectorist found it in Norfolk in June and it is thought to date from between 1250 and 1350.

Experts said the "rare portrayal", carved into a gemstone, was found mainly on items signifying wealth.

Its status as treasure is subject to a coroner's inquest on 29 April and Norwich Castle Museum hopes to buy it.

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Analysis of ancient bones reveals Stone Age diet details

Human skull of Mollet III at Serinyà from the ancient excavation.

Fish was not on the menu of the hunter-gatherers of southern Europe 27,000 years ago. Surprisingly, people on the Iberian Peninsula in the Late Gravettian period mostly ate plants and land animals such as rabbits, deer and horses. An international team of researchers has been able to determine this for the first time on the basis of an isotope study of human fossils from the Serinyà caves in Catalonia. The results of the investigation led by Dr. Dorothée Drucker, of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (SHEP) at the University of Tübingen, and Joaquim Soler, from the Institute of Historical Research at the University of Girona, were published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

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Megaliths With Geometrical Engravings Found In France

Southern view of the megalithic sector under excavation
[Credit: Florent Notier, Inrap]

In 2018, in the commune of Massongy, a team of Inrap archaeologists excavated a small settlement and a vast megalithic complex from the Middle Neolithic period. Since then, laboratory work has revealed a great deal of information that complements the elements already collected in the field, revealing a site of exceptional importance.

The "Chemin des Bels" site is divided into two main zones: one corresponds to the traces of a village dated to the Middle Neolithic, the so-called "Cortaillod" culture; the other to a vast contemporary megalithic complex. The latter seems to be organised according to a very coherent plan with several phases of development. A large number of artefacts were found in the fill around a large recumbent slab 3.4 m long, 1.1 m wide and 1 m high, weighing around 5 tonnes. These objects show that the various stages of occupation of the site were fairly short (one to two centuries maximum).

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