Monday, June 22, 2015

ARTIFACTS SMUGGLED TO OTHER COUNTRIES FROM BAGDAD RECOVERED


The Ministry of Tourism and the Iraqi Antiquities, has recovered 663 artifacts smuggled to three countries in the framework of its efforts to recover thousands of lost artifacts of the country.

Undersecretary for Antiquities, Qais Hussein Rashid,said in a statement "the ministry received 663 artifacts were smuggled, were received in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of America, Italy and Jordan." He added that "it is part of the national campaign to protect Iraqi antiquities launched by the ministry this month."

He pointed out that the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities at the beginning of July next will showcase the recoveries."
And thousands of artifacts looted from Iraq, including about 16 thousand pieces from the Baghdad museum.

Iraq,was invaded by US forces in March 2003 with the support of other coalition forces action that made the country suffer the ransacking of its cultural heritage many of which remains hidden in galleries and museums of other countries.

KENNEWICK MAN IS CLOSELY RELATED TO CONTEMPORARY NATIVE AMERICANS -- NEW DNA STUDY

In July 1996, two college students were wading in the shallows of the Columbia River near the town of Kennewick, Wash., when they stumbled across a human skull. At first the police treated the case as a possible murder. But once a nearly complete skeleton emerged from the riverbed and was examined, it became clear that the bones were extremely old — 8,500 years old, it would later turn out.

The skeleton, which came to be known as Kennewick Man or the Ancient One, is one of the oldest and perhaps the most important — and controversial — ever found in North America. Native American tribes said that the bones were the remains of an ancestor and moved to reclaim them in order to provide a ritual burial.

But a group of scientists filed a lawsuit to stop them, arguing that Kennewick Man could not be linked to living Native Americans. Adding to the controversy was the claim from some scientists that Kennewick Man’s skull had unusual “Caucasoid” features. Speculation flew that Kennewick Man was European. A California pagan group went so far as to file a lawsuit seeking to bury the skeleton in a pre-Christian Norse ceremony.

“It’s very clear that Kennewick Man is most closely related to contemporary Native Americans,” said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Nature. "In my view, it’s bone-solid.”

Kennewick Man’s genome also sheds new light on how people first spread throughout the New World, experts said. There was no mysterious intrusion of Europeans thousands of years ago. Instead, several waves spread across the New World, with distinct branches reaching South America, Northern North America, and the Arctic.

But the new study has not extinguished the debate over what to do with Kennewick Man. Dr. Willerslev and his colleagues found that the Colville, one of the tribes that claims Kennewick Man as their own, is closely related to him. But the researchers acknowledge that they can’t say whether he is in fact an ancestor of the tribe.

Nonetheless, James Boyd, the chairman of the governing board of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, said that his tribe and four others still hope to rebury Kennewick Man and that the new study should help in their efforts.

The scientific study of Kennewick Man began in 2005, after eight years of litigation seeking to prevent repatriation of Kennewick Man to the Native American tribes. A group of scientists led by Douglas W. Owsley, division head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, gained permission to study the bones. Last year, they published a 670-page book laying out their findings.

Kennewick Man stood about 5 foot 7 inches, they reported, and died at about the age of 40. He was probably a right-handed spear-thrower, judging from the oversized bones in his right arm and leg.

MINES ARE BEING LAID BY ISIS IN PALMYRA -- NOT SURE WHY!

Islamic State has reportedly planted mines and bombs in the ruins of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, according to a monitoring organization.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not immediately clear whether the group was preparing to destroy the ancient ruins, or if they were simply attempting to prevent government forces from advancing towards the city in the center of the war-torn country, also known as Tadmur.

"They have planted it yesterday. They also planted some around the Roman theater we still do not know the real reason," Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Observatory, told Reuters.

The ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim group in May seized the city of 50,000 people, site of some of the world's most extensive and best-preserved ancient Roman ruins, which are feared to be at significant risk of destruction.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

ARCHAEOLOGISTS EXPLAIN HOW THEY STUDIED A DANISH BRONZE AGE FEMALE FIND WITH NEW METHODS -- BIO-CHEMICALS

We investigated the remarkable remains of the iconic Egtved Girl, who belongs to an impressive group of Bronze Age oak coffin burials from Denmark that were placed in monumental elite burial barrows dated to 1500-1100 BC. Excavations in 1921, close to the village of Egtved in Denmark revealed the partially preserved remains of a high status, fully dressed female of approximately 16 to 18 years of age. Dendrochronological analysis indicates that she was buried in an oak coffin approximately 3,400 years ago. Hair, tooth enamel, nails, and parts of the brain and skin are still
preserved, but no bones survived, most likely due to their dissolution in the partially acidic waterlogged environment prevailing within the oak coffin. A small container with some cremated skeletal remains of a 5 to 6-year-old child was placed by her head.

Ancient human mobility at the individual level is conventionally studied by the diverse application of suitable techniques (e.g. aDNA, radiogenic strontium isotopes, as well as oxygen and lead isotopes) to either hard and/or soft tissues. However, the limited preservation of coexisting hard and soft human tissues hampers the possibilities of investigating high-resolution diachronic mobility periods in the life of a single individual. Here, we present the results of a multidisciplinary study of an exceptionally well preserved circa 3.400-year old Danish Bronze Age female find, known as the Egtved Girl.

We applied biomolecular, biochemical and geochemical analyses to reconstruct her mobility and diet. We demonstrate that she originated from a place outside present day Denmark (the island of Bornholm excluded), and that she traveled back and forth over large distances during the final months of her life, while consuming a terrestrial diet with intervals of reduced protein intake. We also provide evidence that all her garments were made of non-locally produced wool.

Our study advocates the huge potential of combining biomolecular and biogeochemical provenance tracer analyses to
hard and soft tissues of a single ancient individual for the reconstruction of high resolution human mobility.Recent advances in tracing techniques at the individual level provide us with methodologies to map individual mobility during different life stages 1–14. However, the limited preservation of coexisting hard and soft human tissues often impedes the diachronic investigation of a single individual.
.

Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to K.M.F. (email: Karin.M.Frei@natmus.dk)

Published in Scientific Reports: 21 May 2015

www.nature.com/scientificreports/

Friday, June 12, 2015

GREEK HAIR STYLE AT THE ERECHTHEION HIGHLIGHTED BY FAIRFIELD UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR

Maybe the Greek women used a curling arm -- that's what Katherine Schwab discovered when she turned her attention to the hairstyles of the Caryatids, the six marble maidens created as columns on the south porch of the Erechtheion, part of the Acropolis of Athens. The ancient figures wear their tresses in intricate, subtly individualized arrangements of curls and wraparound plaits, each anchored by a thick fishtail braid dangling down the back.

An art history professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, Schwab wondered whether flesh-and-blood women could wear their locks the same way. She found a hairstylist to reproduce the Caryatid coiffures and used some of her students as models.

Now she has turned her experiment into an exhibition, which is on show at the Greek Embassy in Washington DC. "The Caryatid Hairstyling Project" includes photos of the stone Caryatids, photos of the student models during and after the styling session, and a video of the undertaking.

STENCH & SMELLS OF ANCIENT ROME HIGHLIGHTED BY BRANDEIS PROFESSOR

Archaeologist Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow had members and guests of the Archaeological Associates of Greenwich alternately aghast and amused last week at tales of the sordid smells and deplorable sanitation that existed in places like Pompeii, Herculaneum, Ostia and Rome in the first and second centuries.

Professor AOKO, as her classical studies students at Brandeis University call her, addressed "Raising a Stink in the Roman City: Creating an Archaeology of Smell" at the Bruce Museum. "Stench and smells and health are all pungent topics," she began, "and in the first and second centuries AD these cities were very smelly places where people got used to sordid smells." She presented a drawing of a typical kitchen scene that showed a woman cooking a stew -- flush up against the toilet.

"Shops and homes were mixed in together and rich and poor houses were mixed." There were "garlic sellers, felt makers, poultry handlers, fish sellers, perfume makers and olive oil makers," all in the residential mix. "Nothing stinks more than rotting olive oil," she said, "even 2,500 years later in excavations." People would throw dead animals into the streets. "With street fires burning flesh ... there were hideous smells that had to be endured," she said.

Daily baths were definitely not de rigueur. A photo showed a "hot tub" in Pompeii that was said to hold up to eight people. "Your companions might have open wounds, lesions, diarrhea, gonorrhea, or a strong smell of excrement or urine -- all very unhealthy," Koloski-Ostrow said. Romans were said to have lice-infested hair and bad breath, and kept animals in their houses, which added to "the smelly interiors, the stench," she said.

Koloski-Ostrow moved on to the state of Roman amphitheaters -- in particular one called Pozzuoli located on the Bay of Naples. "It's the best preserved amphitheater in the world," she said, pointing out on a slide the holes in the arena through which the animals were brought up from below. "The smell after days of games must have been ghastly, that of dead men, animals, blood and animal parts, and there must have been millions of flies," she said.

After Koloski-Ostrow completed her fragrant account of ancient Rome, one of the evening's attendees asked a question surely on the minds of many: How did Romans counteract all the terrible smells on and around them?

"With incense and perfume," Koloski-Ostrow answered. "They mixed perfume and sweat."

TRIUMPHAL ARCH FOUND UNDERNEATH ROME'S CIRCUS MAXIMUS

The remains of a triumphal arch built in honor of the Emperor Titus have been unearthed from underneath Rome's Circus Maximus chariot-racing arena The arch, which was built immediately after the emperor's death in 81 AD, would have formed a magnificent entrance to the Circus Maximus, where charioteers competed against each other in races that were depicted in the 1959 Hollywood epic Ben Hur.

Authorities in Rome now hope to reconstruct the imposing, 17-metre-wide, 15-metre-long marble arch, in a project that would cost at least €1 million (£718,000). They have already starting building a detailed digital image of what the monument probably looked like, based on their findings.

The remains of the arch were found at a depth of around 10ft below ground at the eastern end of the Circus Maximus, which is located between the Colosseum and the Tiber River. Its existence had been known only from historical records from the medieval period – it is thought to have disappeared from sight 800 years ago, after its stone was pilfered for other buildings and its foundations sank beneath the ground. Archaeologists found more than 300 marble fragments of the monument, some of them the size of a small car.

They discovered the bases of the four giant columns that formed the front of the arch, as well as the plinths on which they rested and traces of the original travertine pavement. Emperors and generals would have passed beneath the huge arch during triumphal processions to celebrate military victories against the enemies of the Roman Empire.

Until the money to reconstruct the arch can be raised, its foundations will be reburied in order to protect them from the elements – a common archaeological practice. Excavating the remains of the arch was complicated because much of it lay below the water table and the site was prone to flooding, said Claudio Parisi Presicce, a cultural heritage official. "When the four plinths emerged we realized that there was more down there so we expanded the dig," he said.

If it is to be reconstructed, the first task will be to divert or block the water, the legacy of a system of channels and mills that were built in the area during the medieval period. The arch is one of two that was built in honor of the emperor, whose full name was Titus Flavius Vespasianus. The other arch, which is intact and in a state of excellent preservation, stands at the entrance to the Forum, the heart of the Roman Empire.

ISIL PILLAGING ARTIFACTS RAISES MONEY FOR THESE TERRORISTS

Looting priceless artifacts has raised tens of millions of dollars for Isil – a sum comparable to the profit the terrorists have made by the kidnap and ransom of Western hostages

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has established a "ministry of antiquities" to maximize the profits from looting priceless artifacts across the territory it controls.

Since its lightning sweep through Iraq and Syria last year, Isil has sought to transform itself into an organization capable of ruling its own state, setting up an elaborate hierarchy of leadership and ministries. But while elsewhere in the Middle East, ministries of this kind try to protect antiquities; Isil's version was established to pillage and smuggle these treasures in a territory replete with classical ruins.

"They happened upon a pre-existing situation of looting and turned it into a highly organized trade," said Amr al-Azm, a former official in the Syrian antiquities ministry who now runs a network of archaeologists and activists to document the destruction of the country's treasures.

In Iraq, the jihadists have desecrated and looted the Assyrian remains at Mosul, Nimrud and Hatra. Earlier in May they captured the Roman city of Palmyra in Syria, raising fears that it might suffer the same treatment.

When Isil set up its self-described "Islamic Caliphate", it imposed a 20 per cent tax on looted antiquities. The jihadists then tried to gain control of the trade by regulating access to ancient sites.

By last summer, various "antiquities ministries" had been established across their strongholds. They have since been drawn together to form part of a "Ministry for Precious Resources", according to Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, who has helped to gather an archive of Isil's operational documents.

A number of groups have been contracted to carry out digs, helped by local archaeologists who identify the most lucrative sites. Accurate estimates for the revenue raised through this trade are hard to establish. But the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body, has put the figure at tens of millions of dollars.
Experts say the focus on figures distracts from the human consequences of the smuggling trade.

"The bottom line is that it's funding terrorism – and the deaths of Iraqi and Syrian people," said Michael Danti, an archaeologist at Boston University who is advising the US State Department on how to tackle the problem. Isil is believed to have developed a network of middlemen for the onward trade of the artifacts, providing one dealer with an armed escort for trips to the Turkish border.

In other cases, local people sell the treasures to middlemen, paying Isil a tax of at least 20 per cent on the profits.
The spoils have also been found in the possession of senior commanders. When US commandos killed Isil's alleged chief financial officer, Abu Sayyaf, on May 16, they discovered various relics inside his home, including an ancient Assyrian Bible.

Archaeologists say they are beginning to find evidence of organized pillage on a scale unseen throughout the Syria's civil war.

OLDEST STONE TOOLS DATING TO 3.3 MILLION YEARS AGO PREDATE EARLIEST HUMAN LINE

The world's oldest stone tools have been discovered, scientists report. The tools include sharp-edged flakes, hammers and anvils. They were unearthed from the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya, and date to 3.3 million years ago.
They are 700,000 years older than any tools found before, even pre-dating the earliest humans in the Homo genus.

The find, reported in Nature, suggests that more ancient species, such as Australopithecus afarensis or Kenyanthropus platyops, may have been more sophisticated than was thought. "They are significantly earlier than anything that has been found previously," said Dr Nick Taylor, from the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in France and the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. "It's really quite astonishing to think what separates the previous oldest site and this site is 700,000 years of time. It's monumental."

This stone tool is known as a core - flakes, used for cutting, are sheared away from its edges The first tools from the site, which is called Lomekwi 3, were discovered in 2011. They were spotted after researchers took a wrong turn as they walked through the hot, dry Kenyan landscape.

By the end of 2012, a total of 149 tools had been found, and another field trip in 2014 has unearthed more still. They include sharp flakes of stone, sheared off from larger rocks, which were most likely used for cutting. Hammers and anvils were also excavated, some of which were huge in size. "The very largest one we have weighs 15kg, which is massive," Dr Taylor told BBC News. "On this piece, it doesn't show the signs of actually having been flaked to produce other artifacts... rather, it was probably used as an anvil. "It probably rested in the soil and the other cobbles brought to the site, which were intended to be smashed apart to make tools, were struck against this large anvil."

Until this discovery, the oldest examples of this technology were the Oldowan tools from Tanzania, which date to about 2.6 million years ago. The researchers say the 700,000-year time difference reveals how manufacturing methods and use changed over time, growing more advanced.

Other finds, such as animal bones found in Ethiopia with cut marks that date to 3.39 million years ago, also suggest tool use began before H. habilis. Scientists now believe the 3.3-million-year-old implements were crafted by another, more primitive species

Dr Taylor said: "There are a number of possible candidates at present. "There was a hominin called Kenyanthropus platyops, which has been found very close to where the Lomekwi 3 tools are being excavated. And that hominin was around at the time the tools were being made. "More widely in the East African region there is another hominin, Australopithecus afarensis, which is famously known from the fossil Lucy, which is another candidate."

Australopithecus afarensis is a primitive species with both human and ape-like features Neither of these species was assumed to be particularly intelligent - they had both human and ape-like features, with relatively small brains.
However the tools suggest they may have been smarter than assumed.

Dr Ignacio de la Torre, from University College London's Institute of Archaeology, described this as "a game-changing" find. "It's the most important discovery in the last 50 years," he told BBC News. "It suggests that species like Australopithecus might have been intelligent enough to make stone tools - that they had the cognitive and manipulative abilities to carry tasks like this out."

NEW SPECIES OF HOMININ DISCOVERED IN AFAR REGION OF ETHIOPIA

A new species of ancient human has been unearthed in the Afar region of Ethiopia, scientists report. Researchers discovered jaw bones and teeth, which date to between 3.3m and 3.5m years old.It means this new hominin was alive at the same time as several other early human species, suggesting our family tree is more complicated than was thought.

The new species has been called Australopithecus deyiremeda, which means "close relative" in the language spoken by the Afar people.

The remains belong to four individuals and date to between 3.3m and 3.5m years old The ancient remains are thought to belong to four individuals, who would have had both ape and human-like features.Lead researcher Dr Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the US, told BBC News: "We had to look at the detailed anatomy and morphology of the teeth and the upper and lower jaws, and we found major differences.
"This new species has very robust jaws. In addition, we see this new species had smaller teeth. The canine is really small - smaller than all known hominins we have documented in the past."

The age of the remains means that this was potentially one of four different species of early humans that were all alive at the same time. The most famous of these is Australopithecus afarensis - known as Lucy - who lived between 2.9-3.8m years ago, and was initially thought to be our direct ancestor. However the discovery of another species called Kenyanthropus platyops in Kenya in 2001, and of Australopithecus bahrelghazali in Chad, and now Australopithecus deyiremedaI, suggests that there were several species co-existing.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

ANCIENT TOOLS FOUND IN UTAH DESERT -- MUCH DIFFERENT THAN CLOVIS -- DATE TO ABOUT 12-13,000 YEARS

Researchers exploring the desert flats west of Salt Lake City (northern Utah - USA) have uncovered more than a thousand ancient tools, such as spear points, a type of rectangular implement that hasn't been reported before, and objects that an archaeologist describes as "giant scrapers coming out of the ground... fresh as daisies."

The tools were found in 2012 on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range, where Dr. Daron Duke, lead researcher of the team that made the finds, was hired to conduct a survey. Based on ecological evidence and radiocarbon dates of organic matter in the area, laid down when this desert was a wetland, the oldest of the artifacts date to between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago, Duke said.


The most striking of the tools are 55 long, slender spear points and fragments, fashioned in a style known as Haskett - a tradition that's associated with the Great Basin region, but rarely found. One of the complete spear heads is the largest Haskett point yet found, measuring 22.6 centimeters (about 9 inches). And another was found to contain a residue of elephant proteins, making it the first likely evidence of mammoth-hunting in the Great Basin.

Together, these finds help clarify a picture that has remained hazy for archaeologists: the life and times of the Great Basin's earliest inhabitants, who may have been contemporaries of the ancient and widespread Clovis culture. "Haskett is very rare, anywhere," said Duke. "They were probably moving around with a sort of condensed tool kit, and I guess you could say they were low visibility. There weren't many people around, and they didn't leave much of a record. But we just got lucky here."

Haskett points are thought to be part of the larger Western Stemmed tradition of tool-making, whose artifacts are found throughout the Great Basin. And mounting evidence, including the new findings from Utah, suggests that the people who fashioned Western Stemmed tools were contemporaneous with the Clovis culture. "There's no doubt that the people who made fluted [Clovis] points are not those people who made Haskett points," Duke said. "Even though they accomplish the same thing, they're just completely different in their design."

His team found 19 extremely sharp, double-sided tools that they call rectangular bifaces, fashioned from broken Haskett stems, he said. "They appear to be used for some sort of intensive gouging of hard material, like bone or wood," Duke added. "These are artifacts that are not recognized in any of the other Paleoindian assemblages."

Edited from Western Digs (2 April 2015)
http://tinyurl.com/pejufw7
[2 images]

ANCIENT STONE TOOLS FOUND IN UTAH (USA) DESERT --12,000-13,000 YEARS OLD -- DIFFERENT FROM CLOVIS

Researchers exploring the desert flats west of Salt Lake City (northern Utah - USA) have uncovered more than a thousand ancient tools, such as spear points, a type of rectangular implement that hasn't been reported before, and objects that an archaeologist describes as "giant scrapers coming out of the ground... fresh as daisies."

The tools were found in 2012 on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range, where Dr. Daron Duke, lead researcher of the team that made the finds, was hired to conduct a survey. Based on ecological evidence and radiocarbon dates of organic matter in the area, laid down when this desert was a wetland, the oldest of the artifacts date to between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago, Duke said.

The most striking of the tools are 55 long, slender spear points and fragments, fashioned in a style known as Haskett - a tradition that's associated with the Great Basin region, but rarely found. One of the complete spear heads is the largest Haskett point yet found, measuring 22.6 centimeters (about 9 inches). And another was found to contain a residue of elephant proteins, making it the first likely evidence of mammoth-hunting in the Great Basin.

Together, these finds help clarify a picture that has remained hazy for archaeologists: the life and times of the Great Basin's earliest inhabitants, who may have been contemporaries of the ancient and widespread Clovis culture. "Haskett is very rare, anywhere," said Duke. "They were probably moving around with a sort of condensed tool kit, and I guess you could say they were low visibility. There weren't many people around, and they didn't leave much of a record. But we just got lucky here."

Haskett points are thought to be part of the larger Western Stemmed tradition of tool-making, whose artifacts are found throughout the Great Basin. And mounting evidence, including the new findings from Utah, suggests that the people who fashioned Western Stemmed tools were contemporaneous with the Clovis culture. "There's no doubt that the people who made fluted [Clovis] points are not those people who made Haskett points," Duke said. "Even though they accomplish the same thing, they're just completely different in their design."

In addition to these many revelations, the patch of barren Air Force land has also turned up other compelling finds, such as a type of tool that doesn't seem to have been recognized previously by archaeologists. There's a class of artifacts that's pretty much defined [by this locality] that I've never even heard of before," Duke said. His team found 19 extremely sharp, double-sided tools that they call rectangular bifaces, fashioned from broken Haskett stems, he said. "They appear to be used for some sort of intensive gouging of hard material, like bone or wood," Duke added. "These are artifacts that are not recognized in any of the other Paleoindian assemblages."

Edited from Western Digs (2 April 2015)
http://tinyurl.com/pejufw7
[2 images]

HOW EUROPEANS EVOLVED WHITE SKIN & INDO EUROPEAN LANGUAGES & HEIGHT

A new study shows that pale skin, as well as other traits such as tallness and the ability to digest milk as adults, arrived relatively recently in much of Europe. Comparing the DNA of 83 ancient individuals throughout Europe, the report says Europeans today are a blend of at least three ancient populations of hunter-gatherers and farmers who moved into Europe in separate migrations over the past 8000 years, and that a massive migration from the steppes north of the Black Sea may have brought Indo-European languages about 4500 years ago.

Curiously, neither the farmers who came from the Near East about 7800 years ago nor the pastoralists who came from the steppes 4800 years ago had the version of the gene that allows adults to digest sugars in milk. It wasn't until about 4300 years ago that lactose tolerance spread through Europe.

About 8500 years ago, early hunter-gatherers in Spain, Luxembourg, and Hungary had darker skin. In the far north, seven people from a 7700-year-old site in southern Sweden had both light skin gene variants, as well as a third gene which causes blue eyes and may contribute to light skin and blond hair.

The first farmers from the Near East carried both genes for light skin. One of their light-skin genes spread through Europe, so that central and southern Europeans also began to have lighter skin, while the other gene remained at low levels until about 5800 years ago.

Complex traits such as height are the result of the interaction of many genes. Selection strongly favored several variants for tallness in northern and central Europeans starting 8000 years ago, with a boost from the later migration 4800 years ago. In contrast, selection favored shorter people in Italy and Spain starting 8000 years ago. Spaniards in particular shrank in stature 6000 years ago.

Surprisingly, the team found no immune genes under intense selection, which is counter to hypotheses that diseases would have increased after the development of agriculture. People in northern latitudes often don't get enough UV to synthesize vitamin D, so natural selection has favored two genetic solutions to that problem - pale skin that absorbs UV more efficiently, and lactose tolerance to digest the sugars and vitamin D naturally found in milk.

Altamura Man yields oldest Neanderthal DNA sample

A team of researchers has confirmed that Altamura Man was a Neanderthal, and revealed that the bones are 128,000 to 187,000 years old.
Altamura Man was discovered in 1993 in the karst caves of Lamalunga, near Altamura, in southern Italy - one of the most extraordinary hominin specimens ever found in Europe. The remains were embedded in rock and covered in a thick layer of calcite. It was thought that excavating the remains would cause irreparable damage, and they have remained in situ. There was some debate initially about morphology and age. Subsequent study led to a consensus that the visible remains (the head, and part of a shoulder) were that of an archaic Neanderthal, of a genus believed to have been widespread in Europe 200,000 to 40,000 years ago.
The researchers with the current project began their work six years ago. A tiny part of shoulder bone was extracted. Uranium-thorium dating revealed that the calcite was formed 172,000 to 130,000 years ago, during the penultimate quaternary (Pleistocene) glaciations period - the last of five glaciations during Earth's history.
DNA has also been retrieved from the sample, and because of the age, represents the oldest ever recovered from Neanderthal remains. The researchers next plan to test the DNA sample to see if it can be sequenced. They are hopeful it might reveal new details about the evolution of hominids in general, and perhaps more about the early history of the Neanderthal.

Edited from PhysOrg (3 April 2015)
http://tinyurl.com/pmskntr
[1 image]

OLDEST NEANDERTHAL DNA FOUND IN SOUTHERN ITALY PINPOINTED TO 128,000 TO 187,000 YEARS OLD

A team of researchers has confirmed that Altamura Man was a Neanderthal, and revealed that the bones are 128,000 to 187,000 years old. Altamura Man was discovered in 1993 in the karst caves of Lamalunga, near Altamura, in southern Italy - one of the most extraordinary hominin specimens ever found in Europe. The remains were embedded in rock and covered in a thick layer of calcite. It was thought that excavating the remains would cause irreparable damage, and they have remained in situ. There was some debate initially about morphology and age. Subsequent study led to a consensus that the visible remains (the head, and part of a shoulder) were that of an archaic Neanderthal, of a genus believed to have been widespread in Europe 200,000 to 40,000 years ago.

The researchers with the current project began their work six years ago. A tiny part of shoulder bone was extracted. Uranium-thorium dating revealed that the calcite was formed 172,000 to 130,000 years ago, during the penultimate quaternary (Pleistocene) glaciations period - the last of five glaciations during Earth's history.

DNA has also been retrieved from the sample, and because of the age, represents the oldest ever recovered from Neanderthal remains. The researchers next plan to test the DNA sample to see if it can be sequenced. They are hopeful it might reveal new details about the evolution of hominids in general, and perhaps more about the early history of the Neanderthal.

Edited from PhysOrg (3 April 2015)
http://tinyurl.com/pmskntr
[1 image]

BRITAIN'S OLDEST HUMAN CREMATION FOUND IN ESSEX (5600 BC)

Archaeologists say a section of burnt bone, discovered during preparations for a new pipeline in Essex (England) and dated to the Mesolithic period, come from the oldest human cremation in Britain.

A meter-round pit at Langford contained 118g of cremated bone, back filled with charcoal in a burial believed to represent at least one adult from 5600 BCE. Two radiocarbon dates have been confirmed from the fragments, weighing less than a tenth of the weight expected from a complete individual. A further test was performed on ashes from the pyre. Only around 20 examples of burials from the British Mesolithic, between 10000 BC and 4000 BC, are known, none of which had been cremated. Three cremations from the period come from Ireland, with several discovered across Europe.

"This deposit shows that people had the required understanding of fire and pyre technology to achieve the high temperature required for complete combustion of the corpse - probably greater than 600 degrees centigrade," says Nick Gilmour, who led the excavation for Oxford Archaeology. "It also hints at a belief system where the dead were sufficiently respected that they were not simply abandoned, as has been previously believed, and that time and resources were invested in funerary practices despite a mobile, hand-to-mouth existence," Gilmour added.

Three struck flints, found in the same pit, included sharp blades fitting the technology of the period. A Bronze Age barrow was also unearthed during construction work.

Edited from Culture24 (15 April 2015)
http://tinyurl.com/pahh5me
[4 images]

CHINESE SITE REVEALS STONE ARTIFACTS 1.95 TO 1.77 YEARS AGO

At an eroded basin in Hebei province researchers have discovered what could be a “playground” of early hominids nearly two million years ago Examination of stone artifacts between 1.77 and 1.95 million years old suggested that they could be toys played with by children. This is an amazing discovery,” said professor Wei Qi, paleoanthropologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead scientist of the project at the Heitugou site in Nihewan basin, Yangyuan county.
In an area less than six square meters, scientists found more than 700 stone artifacts with nearly 20,000 fragmented pieces.

Wei, now retired and spending most of his time at the site, believed that these stone pieces were made by the hands of children and women. More than 80 per cent of them were small, ranging 20 – 50mm in length, with most carrying no sign of wear by use at all. One artifact, tagged HTG268, caught Wei’s special attention. In his opinion it could be a toy or gift made by a mother for her child.“It was so finely made and beautifully shaped, its quality could rival the stone artifacts of much more recent periods.”

There is other evidence suggesting the site was a playground instead of a living or working area. Researchers failed to find large amount of animal remains that are common in a habitat, and the near absence of large size stone tools could be a sign that few adult workers were involved in these activities. A big challenge was to determine the age of these stone artifacts, Wei said. Though the site was discovered as early as 2002, it was not until recently that the scientists were able to date it with any certainty.

Using a geochronological tool called magnetostratigraphy, which analyzed the direction change of the ancient Earth’s magnetic field that was recorded in the site’s sediment, the scientists found the Heitugou site to be older than the famous Dmanisi site in Georgia, which was regarded the earliest known hominid site outside of Africa.

The concentrated distribution and little wear showed that they were buried by a sudden event, likely a landslide, which protected them from later exposure to winds and precipitation. The Heitugou site was discovered in Nihewan basin, Yangyuan county, Hebei province. Before the catastrophic event, the playground was likely a small paradise.

Nihewan basin, now a rugged landscape with deep gorges, used to be an enormous lake which provided an ideal habitat for early hominids. In the past century, researchers have discovered numerous early hominid sites in the area.Children and their mothers could feel safe enough to sit by the lake making large amounts of stone toys. The scant animal fossils discovered at the Heihegou site were all herbivores such as elephants and rhinoceros.

But Wei’s discovery at the Heitugou site was not without controversy. Gao Xing, researcher with the CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, said the biggest concern was whether the stone pieces were all made by hand. “It is difficult to rule out the possibility that they were just stone fragments created by natural forces. They were too old, too preliminary. To determine whether they were hand-made artifacts may go beyond the limit of science today,” said Gao, who had visited the site.

“Future studies would be much needed. The Heitugou site has potential for significant discoveries, though it imposes some enormous challenges to paleoanthropologists.” Wei said he was sure that the stone pieces were hand made. If they are not, most stone pieces in museums today would be a subject of doubt, he said. But he admitted that the discovery brought up some difficult questions. It is commonly believed that the first hominid ventured out of Africa about 1.8 million years ago, via a route from Europe to Asia, but if there were hominids in China at the same time, the date or route of the expansion should be reconsidered.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

BULDOZING OF NIMRUD AND HATRA DISPUTED BY ARCHAEOLOGISTS AND SATELLITE IMAGES

Iraqi government's reports that the ancient archaeological sites of Nimrud and Hatra were completely destroyed and leveled to the ground by the Islamic State (Isis) have been disputed by an international association of archaeologists citing satellite imagery and local professional sources. Claims that Nimrud, an Assyrian 13th century BC site, and Hatra, a world heritage site blending Hellenistic and Roman architecture with Eastern decorative elements, were "bulldozed" by IS were first reported by the Iraqi ministry of tourism and antiquities.

The destruction would be the latest in a series of attacks on ancient artifacts and antiquities in Iraq and Syria in the name of an iconoclastic and strict interpretation of Islamic Law by IS. The jihadist group draws inspiration from early Islamic history, rejects religious shrines and condemns Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslims as heretics. Irina Bokova, head of the UN cultural agency Unesco, called the alleged demolition of Hatra "a turning point in the appalling strategy of cultural cleansing under way in Iraq".

But Marc Lebeau, Belgian archaeologist and founder of non-profit Shirin (Syrian Heritage in Danger: an International research initiative and network), told IBTimes UK that these "single-sourced statements" are not supported by any sources on the ground."I had some doubts at the beginning. I tried to cross check this information with Asor, with their sources and partners. We also have our own sources in Mosul and Nineveh province. They are all professionals and able to access any damage. They didn't say anything. If something had happened they would've told us immediately. We don't have any confirmation from these sources," he said.

The most recent satellite imagery from UNOSat via the Unesco World Heritage Centre "do not reveal any massive human/mechanical presence, nor visible destruction" in the Nineveh province areas in question, according to Lebeau, who added that nonetheless we need to be cautious about IS.

Unesco confirmed to IBTimes UK that satellite images show that the sites of Nimrud and Hatra "have not been completely razed to the ground" but added that it is difficult to tell what really happened. "The images' resolution is really low so it's difficult to get a conclusive result. It's not clear whether damages have taken place to the site. We're in the process of analysing the images and comparing them to the previous ones taken at the site," said Giovanni Boccardi of Unesco's World Heritage Centre.

He said that many sculptures and decorations "could have been destroyed" by the Islamic State. "It's difficult to assess the situation from the satellite pictures. Even if they only destroyed a part of the site or knocked off a decoration, it would still be a total catastrophe."

NEANDERTHAL RECONSTRUCTION OF THE REMAINS OF A 2 YEAR OLD SHOWS MAJOR ANATOMICAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THEM AND OUR SPECIES

Asier Gómez-Olivencia, an Ikerbasque researcher at the UPV/EHU, has led a piece of research that has produced a 3D reconstruction of the remains of a two-year-old Neanderthal recovered from an excavation carried out back in the 1970s at La Ferrassie (Dordogne, France). The work reveals the existence of anatomical differences between the Neanderthals and our species, even in the smallest ossicles of the human body.

The Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia between 230,000 and 28,000 years ago; during the last few millennia they coincided with Homo Sapiens Sapiens, and became extinct for reasons that are still being challenged. The archaeological site at La Ferrassie, excavated throughout the 20th century, is a mythical enclave because it was where 7 Neanderthal skeletons, ranging from foetuses to almost complete skeletons of adults, were found.

Among the remains discovered at La Ferrassie is the skeleton of a 2-year-old Neanderthal child found between 1970 and 1973 and baptized La Ferrassie 8; over 40 years since its discovery it has turned out to be useful in shedding new light on the anatomy of this extinct species. The study of these new remains has been published in the Journal of Human Evolution, and has also had the participation of researchers of the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) in Paris and Bordeaux. The fact that a discovery of such significance has been made thanks to reviewing the remains excavated in the 1970s provides the researcher with proof of "the importance and need to review old excavations. We're in no doubt about that."

The study began by reviewing the collections at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris and at the Museo d'Archéologie national de St. Germain-en-Laye linked to the excavations at La Ferrassie in 1970 and 1973; it was there that 47 new fossils belonging to La Ferrassie 8, which complete its skeleton further, were recovered. Remains of a skull, jaw, vertebrae, ribs and hand phalanges were found among the new fossils.

Featuring among the remains is a very complete left temporal bone and an auditory ossicle was found inside it: a complete stapes. Virtual 3D reconstruction techniques enabled this ossicle to be "extracted virtually" and studied.
This stapes is the most complete one in the Neanderthal record and certifies that there are morphological differences between our species and the Neanderthals even in the smallest ossicles in the human body. As Asier Gómez-Olivencia pointed out, "we do not yet know the relation between these morphological differences and hearing in the Neanderthals. This would constitute a new challenge for the future."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

VAST ROMAN VILLA FOUND IN YORKSHIRE WHERE A BYPASS WILL BE BUILT

Archaeologists say they have been given a “rare glimpse” into a vast Roman villa with winged corridors and a pavilion-style room with an underfloor heating system on the proposed site of a new bypass in North Yorkshire. Small sections of tessellated mosaic and a concrete floor, covered by wall plaster lying face down on top of it, have been discovered in Bedale, where an excavation of the villa, launched in November 2014, has unearthed pottery from between the mid-3rd and 4th centuries and a nearby ditched enclosure from the late Iron Age Romano-British period. The site lies comparatively close to Dere Street, a former Roman road, and within ten kilometres of the major Roman site at Catterick.

The villa is located on a ridge of higher land defined by Scurf Beck to the west, which flows southwards into Bedale Beck, a tributary of the River Swale, and Dere Street Roman road to the east.Geophysical surveying indicates that the villa is of a substantial size and is set within a landscape of enclosures and field systems. The road corridor runs through the western extent of the villa and a triangular area of land has also been stripped of topsoil to the east to better understand the Aiskew villa complex. The masonry walls of the villa have been robbed at some date, with the stones presumably used to build structures somewhere in the vicinity.

An intact concrete floor surface survives in the room at the north-east end of the corridor beneath areas of painted wall plaster which had collapsed onto the floor, possibly when the villa was demolished. A small square room with internal dimensions of around four meters appears to have been added on to the north-west side of the villa complex at some date. This was a room heated by a hypcocaust system, demonstrated by the remains of pilae stacks which would have supported a suspended floor. Hot air would have been drawn under the floor from a fire within an external stokehole identified on the north-west side of the room. Hollow wall tiles know as box-flue tiles would have been attached to the inside of the stone external walls and the hot air would have travelled up through the tiles and out of the building through vents. The internal surface of the tiles was covered in layers of plaster and the final layer was painted. The demolition debris excavated from this room by experts contained large quantities of wall tiles and painted wall plaster in many different colours, suggesting that this was a well-appointed room. It may have been used for entertaining and could perhaps be a heated dining room. Stone and tile roof tiles have also been recovered from demolition deposits across the building.

Quantities of animal bone have been found alongside oyster and mussel shells. Personal items including bone pins and copper-alloy brooches have been discovered, as well as iron tools including knives and a cleaver, used to butcher animals.

Such enclosures were in use in the region from the Late Iron Age, with the local population continuing to occupy many sites into the Roman period. The interior of the Bedale enclosure has been badly damaged by ploughing and all that survives are a few pits; there are no traces of insubstantial structures such as roundhouses.The upper fills of the ditch have produced small quantities of handmade Iron Age tradition pottery; such pottery is not closely datable as it was manufactured in this region over a very long period and continued to be manufactured during the Roman period. The enclosure was obviously in use into the Roman period as a small quantity of wheel-thrown Romano-British and imported samian pottery has also been found.

NORTHERN CHINA ERODED BASIN UNCOVERS WHAT COULD BE A PLAYGROUND OF EARLY HOMINIDS NEARLY TWO MILLION YEARS AGO

Examination of stone artifacts between 1.77 and 1.95 million years old suggested that they could be toys played with by children. “This is an amazing discovery,” said professor Wei Qi, paleoanthropologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead scientist of the project at the Heitugou site in Nihewan basin, Yangyuan county. “The site is a treasure chamber that may hold some useful clues to answer a lot of important questions, from the social structure of the early hominids to whether, when and how they arrived in Asia all the way from Africa.”

The “playground” was not big, but seemingly bustling with activity. In an area less than six square meters, scientists found more than 700 stone artifacts with nearly 20,000 fragmented pieces. Wei, now retired and spending most of his time at the site, believed that these stone pieces were made by the hands of children and women. More than 80 per cent of them were small, ranging 20 – 50mm in length, with most carrying no sign of wear by use at all.

There is other evidence suggesting the site was a playground instead of a living or working area. Researchers failed to find large amount of animal remains that are common in a habitat, and the near absence of large size stone tools could be a sign that few adult workers were involved in these activities. Though the site was discovered as early as 2002, it was not until recently that the scientists were able to date it with any certainty.

Using a geochronological tool called magnetostratigraphy, which analyzed the direction change of the ancient Earth’s magnetic field that was recorded in the site’s sediment, the scientists found the Heitugou site to be older than the famous Dmanisi site in Georgia, which was regarded the earliest known hominid site outside of Africa.

The concentrated distribution and little wear showed that they were buried by a sudden event, likely a landslide, which protected them from later exposure to winds and precipitation. Before the catastrophic event, the playground was likely a small paradise. Nihewan basin, now a rugged landscape with deep gorges, used to be an enormous lake which provided an ideal habitat for early hominids. In the past century, researchers have discovered numerous early hominid sites in the area.

But Wei’s discovery at the Heitugou site was not without controversy. Gao Xing, researcher with the CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, said the biggest concern was whether the stone pieces were all made by hand.

ARCHAIC NEANDERTHAL FROM SOUTHERN ITALY CALLED ALTAMURA MAN ANALYZED AFTER 20 YEARS AND DEEMED THE OLDEST NEANDERTHAL EVER FOUND

Altamura Man was discovered in a cave in southern Italy in 1993 by cave explorers. The finding was reported to researchers at the University of Bari. The remains were embedded in rock and were covered in a thick layer of calcite

It was thought that excavating the remains would cause irreparable damage and thus, they have remained in situ for over twenty years, leaving researchers to rely on casual observation for their studies. For that reason, there was some debate initially about morphology and age. Subsequent study led to a consensus that the remains (only the head and part of a shoulder are visible) were that of an archaic Neanderthal, of a Homo genus believed to have been widespread in Europe 200,000 to 40,000 years ago.

The researchers with the current project began their work six years ago—a tiny part of shoulder bone (and stalactite fragments) was extracted and brought back to the lab for study. Analysis by Uranium-thorium dating revealed that the calcite was formed 172,000 to 130,000 years ago—during the penultimate quaternary glaciations period. The team also reports that samples of DNA have also been retrieved from the sample, and because of the age, represent the oldest such samples ever recovered from Neanderthal remains.

It is believed that Altamura Man wound up in such a peculiar spot after falling in a well and getting stuck—it is assumed he starved to death, or died from lack of water intake. The researchers next plan to test the DNA sample to see if it can be sequenced—if so, they are hopeful it might reveal new details about the evolution of hominids in general and perhaps more about the early history of the Neanderthal.


Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-04-altamura-yields-oldest-neanderthal-dna.html#jCp

NEWLY DISCOVERED ANCIENT MAYA CITADEL DETECTED THROUGH REMOTE SENSING EAST OF THE MAIN TEMPLES OF EL PILAR

Spread across the imaginary line between western Belize and northeastern Guatemala, El Pilar is considered the largest site in the Belize River region, boasting over 25 known plazas and hundreds of other structures, covering an area of about 120 acres. Monumental construction at El Pilar began in the Middle Preclassic period, around 800 BCE, and at its height centuries later it supported more than 20,000 people. Ford, who is the Director of the BRASS/El Pilar Program at the MesoAmerican Research Center of the University of California, Santa Barbara, has taken a "hands-off", highly selective conservation approach to investigating the site. With the exception of a fully exposed Maya house structure, most of the structures at El Pilar have remained completely conserved by design, still covered in their tropical shroud. The Citadel excavations will open a new chapter in the research at El Pilar.

For three decades, archaeologist Anabel Ford has been exploring and studying the ancient Maya site of El Pilar, but until now she has never encountered anything like the ‘Citadel’. “We discovered a completely new component of the greater site that does not meet with any traditional expectations,” said Ford. “It shares nothing in common with Classic Maya centers: no clear open plaza, no cardinal structure orientation, and curiously no evident relationship to the major Classic site of El Pilar, little more that 600 meters away."

What Ford was describing was an unseen building, or associated complex of buildings, that was recently only detected by remote sensing technology—more specifically, a laser application known as LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging—in this instance an airborne remote sensing technique utilizing a helicopter employing laser technology to penetrate the thick vegetation and forest canopy that overlies and enshrouds objects and structures. It is a way of ‘seeing through’ the forest to reveal things otherwise invisible to the naked eye.

LiDAR helped to produce a remarkable map of El Pilar, revealing unexposed Maya architectural and other human-made features that, although still hidden from the naked eye, fit an often-seen pattern. This new set of structures, however, was something new. Dubbed the “Citadel” because of its location perched atop a ridge with the appearance of fortifications, it contains concentric terracing and four ‘temples’, each about three to four meters high. Unlike the other structure complexes, it seems by placement to have been isolated from the rest of greater El Pilar.
“The complex stretches from south to north across nearly a kilometer of terrain dramatically shaped into the hill with evident design and purpose,” states Ford. “The enormous complex presents a mystery. What is its origin? When was it built? How was it used? Why was it isolated?”

In a quest to find answers, Ford will be returning to the site in 2015, this time to do some ‘ground-truthing” and excavation. It will involve preliminary excavations to gather information about the nature and use of the constructions and terraces.

Ford hypothesizes that the Citadel, if it is a Classic period site, may have been designed and used for purposes separate from the Classic period site of El Pilar nearby, but she suggests two other contending possibilities: It could be an early, Preclassic (before 250 BCE) construction, before the organization of buildings on plazas became standardized during the Classic period (200 – 1000 CE); or it could be a later construction of the Postclassic period (after 1200 CE) when defensive locations were common. This would explain the massive terracing and the higher, ridge-top location.

EARLY HUMAN EVOLUTION -- NEW STUDY SHOWS "LITTLE FOOT" ONE OF MANY SPECIES OF AUSTR ALOPITHICENES AND 1/2 MILLION YEARS OLDER THAN "LUCY"

The research, published in the journal Nature, suggests that early hominids may have been far more diverse than previously thought.

Discovered in a cave in South Africa in the early 1990s, Little Foot (named for his tiny feet) was first thought to be about 4 million years old. But later estimates, based on minerals found in the same cave, placed him closer to 2.2 million years old. For years, scientists could not agree.

Now, an international team of researchers has turned to a dating technique that measures levels of aluminum and beryllium in the rock layer holding the fossil. Their conclusion: Little Foot is 3.67 million years old, about half a million years older than Lucy.

If accurate, the new estimate suggests that there may have been many different species of Australopithecus inhabiting a far greater range in Africa than previously thought.

Friday, April 10, 2015

POMPEII RESTORATIONS NOW VISIBLE AND EXCELLENT!

Despite its name, the Villa of the Mysteries, arguably the best-known monument at the archaeological site here buried by Vesuvian fury in A.D. 79, has something to reveal.

Restorations completed earlier this year and presented recently have disclosed the brilliant colors as they existed at the time of the eruption, as well as repair work that was done on some figures in ancient times, preservation officials said. An international team of experts used both traditional and high-tech methods to restore the mosaics and frescoes and supporting structures in the villa during the two-year project.

“This is the most ambitious restoration ever because it involved all the rooms,” said Massimo Osanna, the culture ministry official in charge of the site.

Though Pompeii is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, drawing more than 2.5 million visitors annually, in recent years, the site has most often grabbed headlines when something went wrong, usually an incident involving the collapse of a wall after bad weather. The criticism has made Italian officials bristle, and the culture minister, Dario Franceschini, grumbled on Friday that since the world’s news media has been so quick to “shine a spotlight on Pompeii every time something negative happens,” he hoped the news media would be as enthusiastic in reporting the restoration of “a pearl.”

Controversy has hounded the caretakers of one of the world’s largest open-air museums practically since it was first excavated in 1748. Exposure to the elements and the wear and tear tourists have proved to be serious challenges to safeguarding the vast site, not to mention the damage from the eruption, the occasional earthquake and the Allied bombing in 1943. And all too often restorers are called on to remedy the unintentional damage caused by their predecessors. In the 1960s, for example, “concrete was seen as the great save-all — it’s taken years to remove old restorations,” said Antonio Varone, a former director of the excavations at Pompeii.

Three years ago, the public outcry over Pompeii’s state of health prompted the European Union to allocate nearly €80 million (about $86.5 million) for its preservation, topped off by Italy for a total of €105 million (or $113.5 million.) There’s a catch: the funds must be spent by the end of 2015, or be returned, and critics have accused Pompeii officials of dragging their heels. Officials in Pompeii said on Friday that a sizable portion of the funds had already been earmarked for projects, and they felt confident that they would be able to meet the year-end deadline.

The cash infusion also covered 85 new jobs for archaeologists and engineers, and six-month apprenticeships for 150 budding archaeologists assigned to organize thousands of artifacts that have been in deposits for decades. Sidi Gorica, a recently graduated archaeologist at the University of Bologna said working at the site, even if only for a few months, was a dream come true. “It enriches you,” he said.

Mosaics were restored one piece at a time, while frescoes were cleaned. Lasers were also used on the frescoes, in particular to remove layers of wax that had been applied since the 1930s, oxidizing over time to darken the colors. The restored palette is what Pompeiians saw when Vesuvius erupted, Mr. Osanna said, adding that the lasers also allowed restorers to determine that some figures had already been repaired in ancient times. “Problems of deterioration had begun before the eruption,” he said. Experts also used ultrasound, thermal imaging and radar to study the walls of the villa and gauge their level of deterioration. The results will be published in the coming months so that they can be consulted for future restorations.