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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.” 

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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".

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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. 

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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".

Read the rest of this article...

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”.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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’?

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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.

Read the rest of this article...

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).

Read the rest of this article...

Archaeologists baffled by mystifying feature at Hadrian's Wall: 'Don't know why'


The Roman Empire's conquest of Britain began almost 2,000 years ago. It changed the face of the country forever. Roman culture, food, art, as well as the myriad religions that were practiced across the Empire were brought to the island's shores.

To occupy and cordon off swathes of land the Romans erected forts and walls around Britain, many of which survive today.

One of the most notable pieces is Hadrian's Wall.

Stretching 73 miles from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea, all the way west to the Solway Firth near the Irish Sea, work on the Wall started in 122 AD.

Read the rest of this article...