Sunday, January 13, 2019


“It’s really the history of our species that’s at risk in a lot of ways,” says Meghan Howey. She’s an archaeologist at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. Humans have lived near the coast for thousands of years. In that time, they created and left behind many cultural sites that hold pieces of the past. These are famous places such as Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the central Pacific Ocean and the canal city of Venice in Italy. But they also include many smaller and lesser known sites. They range from Native American villages to early colonial settlements. If rising seas destroy these sites, “we’re going to lose [those people’s] stories too,” Howey says.

A rise of one meter (39 inches) in sea level threatens more than 13,000 U.S. archaeological sites in the Southeast alone, according to one 2017 report. David Anderson is an archaeologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “If you want to learn about what people did in the past, archaeology is the best way to do that,” he says.

Anderson and other researchers recently used online data sets to look at the dangers posed by rising seas to cultural sites in the southeastern United States. A one-meter (39-inch) rise in sea level could destroy more than 13,000 of those places, they found. These include some well-known historical sites found in Jamestown in Virginia, St. Augustine in Florida, and Charleston, S.C. Many Native American sites also are at risk. That study looked at just one region. But elsewhere around the world, countless other sites also face risks from climate’s impact on sea level.

Howey did a similar count in New Hampshire. Up to 14 percent of the state’s heritage sites could be lost to sea level rise, she found. Studies have also found similar risks — in the range of 15 to 20 percent — globally, she notes. “And that’s only what we know about,” she adds.

Climate change is underway. So now is the time to start thinking about sea-level rise, Anderson says. “How are we going to protect the important places in the landscape? We need to know what’s out there and what’s threatened.” Otherwise, it may become too late to save at least some of these sites.

Efforts to limit the worst impacts from climate change, including sea level rise, will require cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, for example. And maybe taking steps to limit flooding in important areas. Another approach might be to move cultural treasures. But projects like that are often costly. It’s unlikely that funds to do that will be available for every site. And some treasures simply can’t be moved.

But high-tech tools might help preserve knowledge of those treasures before physical sites are lost, says Mark McCoy. He’s an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He recently suggested how this might be done at many sites in Polynesia. That’s an area composed of many Pacific low-lying islands.

Rising seas endanger many of those islands — and their cultural treasures. If researchers used only traditional methods to map those places, “most would be gone before you got to them,” he says. Satellites with cameras and other remote-sensing tools, however, can more quickly and easily find and map many of these sites, he says. Those data can also help researchers assess the risks to particular spots.


Following several international exhibitions, the belongings of the most famous pharaoh, Tutankhamun, are to roam six European countries in 2019, after they are displayed in France in March. The exhibition, named King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, will find a new temporary home in Paris, after it has been resting in Los Angeles, California, from March 2018. The France exhibition will kick off from 23 March to 15 September 2019.

Subsequently, it is planned to journey to six other countries, including Japan, the UK, Australia, and South Korea, where they are to be revealed in 10 cities. The temporary exhibition witnessed a huge success in the United Stated. Local media reported that it attracted more than 500 million visitors since it opened in March.

The exhibit will open its doors in the Grande Halle at La Villette, in cooperation with the Grand Exhibition Museum, which will hold its soft opening this year.

King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh will display: ‘150 fascinating original objects found in 1922 in the tomb of the most famous pharaohs, the majority of which have never left Egypt before,’ according to the Paris official website of the convention and visitors bureau. The ministry of antiquities previously stated that the exhibitions includes 166 relics belonging to King Tutankhamun, yet some of them are redundant.

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Anany had formerly said the value of insurance coverage for the 166 pieces of King Tutankhamun’s belongings which will be exhibited abroad is estimated at $862m.

King Tutankhamun’s showcased belongings were originally transferred from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo. The relics include alabaster pots, wooden boxes, and statues of the pharaoh.

The increase in the temporary exhibitions abroad is an effort on the part of the Minister of Antiquities Khaled Anany to revive tourism in Egypt, and create a source of income for the ministry.

Local media reported that the ministry’s income from the past LA exhibition reached $5m, with four dollars going to the ministry for every ticket sold.

Anany explained the reason behind choosing Tutankhamen’s belongings to journey across Europe is that people have a love story with the young king pharaoh.

Before the museum opened its doors to the public in March, all 3,500 tickets of the exhibition were sold out, which led the museum to extend its opening time for three additional hours after the official working period, as regulations forbid hosting over 100 persons inside the museum at a time.

The first exhibition showcasing Egyptian artifacts in a foreign country, as part of the minster’s new policy, kicked off in Toronto, Canada, last year, and displayed the heritage and monuments of the Egyptian Fatimid era, while another demonstrated the artifacts of the cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, which were accidentally discovered under water after being lost for 1,000 years, whereas a third exhibition will soon be inaugurated for jewelry from ancient Egyptian eras.


Rare Stonehenge-Like Monument in Scotland Has Single 'Recumbent' Stone.

The ancient stone circle near the village of Alford, west of Aberdeen, was unknown to archaeologists until recently – but well-known to local people.

The ancient monumental structure — thought to be between 3,500 and 4,500 years old — consists of 10 stones, each about 3 feet (1 meter) high, standing in a circle about 25 feet (7.7 m) across.

The stone circle is located in a remote patch of farmland near the village of Alford, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Aberdeen.

The monument is an example of a "recumbent" stone circle, a style unique to the northeast of Scotland and the south-west of Ireland. This style has a large "recumbent" stone lying on its side between two upright stones, or "flankers," in the southwest of the circle. A member of the Aberdeenshire Council archaeological team, Neil Ackerman, told Live Science that the stone circle was "discovered" by archaeologists only in November of last year, after the land where it was located was sold.

"It really doesn't get much better than this," Ackerman said. "A lot of the recumbent stone circles that people have known about for a very long time only have two or three stones left — so to have one that is complete is quite unusual."


In the National Museum of Damascus, archaeologist Muntajab Youssef works on an ancient stone bust from Palmyra, one of hundreds of artifacts his team is painstakingly restoring after they were damaged by Islamic State.

Centuries-old statues and sculptures were wrecked by the jihadists when they twice seized control of the old city in central Syria during the country’s war, which will go into its ninth year in March. The 1,800-year-old bust of a bejewelled and richly clothed woman, The Beauty of Palmyra, was damaged during the first offensive on the city by Islamic State fighters in 2015.

After Syrian government forces took back the city with Russian military support in March 2016, the bust, alongside other damaged ancient monuments, was taken to Damascus and archived in boxes. When restoration work on it began last year, Youssef said it was in pieces. “The hands and face were lost completely, also parts of the dress and there are areas that are weaker,” Youssef, who has been working on the bust for two months, said.

Youssef is one of 12 archaeologists working on the arduous restoration job, which first began with the of moving the damaged pieces to Damascus. Mamoun Abdulkarim, the former Head of Syrian Antiquities, said that in some cases broken artifacts were transported in empty ammunition boxes provided by the Syrian army in Palmyra. How many artifacts there are in total is difficult to say, given the state they were found in.

“A big part of the documentation in the Palmyra museum, was damaged with the antiquities and computers,” archaeologist Raed Abbas said. “A statue needs pictures … in order to be rebuilt.”

Friday, January 11, 2019


It was called Camulodunum, which is a Romanisation of its Iron-Age name: the Fortress (-dunum) of Camulos, God of War.

Camulodunum was a hugely important site in pre-Roman times. It was most likely the royal stronghold of the Trinovantes, on whose behalf Julius Caesar invaded in 55 and 54 BC.

Colchester became Britain's first ever city.

In 60 or 61 AD, while the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus was leading a campaign in North Wales, Boudicca's Iceni warriors rebelled, defeating the Roman Ninth Legion and destroying the capital of Roman Britain, Colchester

Monday, December 31, 2018


From approximately A.D. 450-1400, a Native American group known today as the Hohokam overcame a harsh desert environment along with periodic droughts and floods to settle and farm much of modern Arizona. They managed this feat by collectively maintaining an extensive infrastructure of canals with collaborative labor.

New archaeological excavations by Desert Archaeology, Inc., carried out in advance of land development north of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, resulted in a detailed new look at the repair and maintenance of two Hohokam canals fed by the neighboring Salt River. The research was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Field Archaeology by Drs. Gary Huckleberry, T. Kathleen Henderson and Paul R. Hanson.

The excavations of these canal systems revealed a complex record of sedimentation that required substantial analysis to both delineate the evidence for major flooding and to determine when that flooding occurred. In his previous research, Huckleberry has investigated sedimentation patterns found in modern canal systems that can be directly tied to historically documented floods, thereby creating a strong comparative dataset to identify flooding in prehistoric contexts. The sediments found in the Hohokam canals excavated by Desert Archaeology, Inc., showed all the signs of poorly sorted sandy deposits and clasts of fine-grained material mixed by turbulent flows that Huckleberry had seen in historic contexts.

The archaeology team was able to date the Hohokam canals and flooding events based on a combination of classic and novel archaeological methods. Previous research in the region had relied on the stylistic analysis of pottery found in association with the canals to provide an approximate date for their use. The new excavations, however, were able to employ optically stimulated luminescence dating methods that reveal how long-ago quartz sand particles were heated by the fiery desert sun. With this new dating technique, the researchers were able to identify three distinct damaging floods that occurred between A.D. 1000 and 1400.

After each flood the Native American communities that relied upon the canal system to irrigate their fields banded together to repair the canal intakes, clear the channels of accumulated sediments, and repair canal walls and berms. Responding to disasters, however, strains social systems, even in the best of times.

Sunday, December 30, 2018


Significant new discoveries have been made during ongoing excavations at Akrotiri, on the Aegean island of Santorini, about 120 kilometers north of Crete and 230 kilometers southeast of Athens, Greece.

Inside rectangular clay chests were a marble proto cycladic female figurine, two small marble proto cycladic collared jars, a marble vial, and an alabaster vase. The chests were uncovered beneath rubble in a large building known as the "House of Desks", near an important public building decorated with rich murals at the southern edge of the settlement where the golden ibex now on display at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera was found in a clay chest beside a heap of animal horns in 1999.

According to archaeologists, the latest finds are undoubtedly related to the perceptions and beliefs of the ancient society of Thera - the official name of Santorini - and pose key questions about the ideology and possibly the religion of that prehistoric society.

Edited from Greek Reporter, Tornos News (12 October 2018)
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Archaeologists have accused Highways England of accidentally drilling a large hole through a 6,000-year-old structure near Stonehenge during preparatory work for a tunnel. The drilling, which is alleged to have taken place at Blick Mead, around a mile and a half from the world-famous neolithic ring of stones, has enraged archaeologists, who say engineers have dug a three-meter-deep hole (10ft) through a man-made platform of flint and animal bone.

Highways England have said they are not aware of any damage to archaeological layers on the site caused by their work and will meet with the archaeological team led by David Jacques, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham.

Before the drilling incidents, archaeologists were concerned that the construction of a tunnel and a flyover near the site will cause the water table to drop, damaging remains preserved in water-logged ground. The Highways Agency agreed to monitor water levels as part of the project.

The 6,000-year-old platform through which a hole has been drilled preserved the hoof prints of an aurochs, giant prehistoric cattle that are now extinct.

Jacques said: "This is a travesty. We took great care to excavate this platform and the aurochs' hoof prints. We believe hunters considered this area to be a sacred place even before Stonehenge. These monster cows - double the size of normal cattle - provided food for 300 people, so were revered. It the tunnel goes ahead the water table will drop and all the organic remains will be destroyed. It may be that there are footprints here which would be the earliest tangible signs of life at Stonehenge. If the remains aren't preserved we may never be able to understand why Stonehenge was built."

Blick Mead is part of the Stonehenge and Avebury Unesco world heritage. A Highways England spokesperson said: "We are not aware of any damage being caused to archaeological layers. We notified Prof David Jacques of the locations of our water table monitoring, and have adhered to guidelines in carrying out the work. Our assessments so far indicate that construction of the scheme will have no significant effects on the Blick Mead area, and we are undertaking this further hydrogeological investigation.

Edited from The Guardian (6 December 2018)
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A newly-identified Recumbent Stone Circle has been recorded on a farm in Aberdeenshire (Scotland), in the parish of Leochel-Cushnie.

Despite being a complete stone circle that has obviously been known and respected by those who have farmed the area over the years, it has been unknown to archaeologists until now. The site was reported to Aberdeenshire Council's Archaeology Service by Fiona Bain, whose family have farmed in the area for generations.

Neil Ackerman, Historic Environment Record Assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, visited the site along with Adam Welfare, Alison McCaig and Katrina Gilmour from Historic Environment Scotland (Survey and Recording). While fitting the Recumbent Stone Circle model, this is a slightly unusual example, they say.

Describing the monument, Mr Welfare said: "In numbering ten stones it fits the average, but its diameter is about three meters smaller than any known hitherto and it is unusual in that all the stones are proportionately small. It is orientated SSW and enjoys a fine outlook in that direction, while the rich lichen cover on the stones is indicative of the ring's antiquity."

Mr Ackerman added: "It is rare for these sites to go unidentified for so long, especially in such a good condition."

Recumbent Stone Circles were constructed around 3,500-4,500 years ago and are unique to the north east of Scotland. Their defining feature is a large horizontal stone (the recumbent) flanked by two upright stones, usually situated between the south-east to south-west of the circle. They are well known and spread throughout the north east of Scotland, but it is rare to find a previously unrecorded one, especially in such a complete condition

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


In recent years, museums in the United States have surrendered antiquities to numerous countries after determining that the objects had been illicitly acquired. Those restitutions were necessary: no museum should retain a work that was stolen or transferred in violation of international law or treaty obligations. Due diligence in acquiring an antiquity requires, at a minimum, documentation of where it was discovered in modern times and its subsequent movements across national borders. Applying those standards is not always easy and, at least until recently, often not undertaken with appropriate thoroughness. There is, though, a notable exception: the J. Paul Getty Museum’s 1977 purchase of “Statue of a Victorious Youth,” a Greek statue known as the Getty Bronze that Italy is claiming as its own.

Life-size Greek bronzes are rare, and ones of this caliber are especially prized. Although the Getty Bronze is currently dated to the second or third century B.C. it was first attributed to the fourth-century Greek sculptor Lysippos. Before acquiring it, the Getty undertook a comprehensive, five-year effort to determine that the statue could be purchased legally and in good faith. That review is said to have included analysis of international, Italian, American and California law and, notably, of Italian court decisions pertaining to the work.

The bronze was found in 1964 in Adriatic waters by Italian fishermen. In 1968, Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, ruled that there was no evidence that the statue belonged to the Italian state. Although the fishermen took the statue onto Italian soil, the court did not find that its brief presence in Italy transformed the sculpture into a component of Italian cultural heritage.

Before it arrived at the Getty, the statue made its way to a German art dealer who put the statue up for sale. According to the Getty, in 1973, acting on a request from Italy, German police initiated an investigation into whether the German dealer had received stolen goods. The investigation was dropped for lack of evidence of wrongdoing. In 1977, the Getty purchased the bronze in Britain for almost $4 million from a gallery affiliated with the German dealer. The bronze has now been publicly exhibited, studied and cared for at the Getty for 40 years.

In 1989, Italy requested that the Getty give up the statue and the Getty declined. In 2006, as part of negotiations that resulted in the transfer of 40 antiquities from the Getty to Italy, Italy again asked for the bronze. The Getty again declined, and years of litigation ensued. Last week, responding to an appeal by the Getty, Italy’s Court of Cassation decided (without a published ruling explaining its reasoning) that the museum must forfeit the bronze.

The New York Times reported that Italy insists the statue was found in Italian territorial waters — a conclusion that runs contrary to the Court of Cassation’s 1968 ruling — and that it was illicitly exported from Italy. “We provided enough evidence,” the Italian prosecutor told The Times, adding that the “statue was culturally and administratively Italian when it sank” in antiquity. But it is not clear what that evidence is. Under principles of international law, illegal export is not, absent a treaty provision to the contrary, actionable in the courts of another country. Since 2001, Italy and the United States have had such an agreement but it does not apply retroactively. The Getty, for its part, is unconvinced it should give up the statue. “The law and facts in this case do not warrant restitution,” a museum representative has said.

The Italian Ministry of Culture has said it plans to seek American assistance in forfeiting the bronze.

But in the case of the Getty Bronze, the expenditure of American taxpayers’ money and the deployment of the Justice Department’s limited resources would be a mistake. In acquiring the bronze, the Getty relied on a decision of Italy’s highest court and acted in good faith. Unless Italy provides compelling new evidence, the best future for this victorious youth is to remain in the only permanent home he has known since his discovery 54 years ago — in Los Angeles, at the Getty.


Since the start of the terrorist war against Syria, terrorist organizations and their backers have been stealing Syrian cultural heritage as part of a scheme to lay waste to Syria’s historical treasures.

Most recently, reports of the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums revealed an increase in the crimes of digging in search for antiquities in the areas of Manbej, Efreen and Idleb and the sites encircling Raqqa by terrorists and their supporters, namely the US, France and the Turkish regime.

Head of Antiquities and Museums Directorate Mahmoud Hammoud told SANA that US and French forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) militias have engaged in excavations and thefts in Um al-Sarj mountain which is rich in antiquities, citing overt excavations and looting in Manbej’s main market. He added that digging, looting and pillage are also taking place in the ancient tombs located in the eastern part of Manbej city, not to mention other archeological sites completely razed by heavy vehicles.

Hammoud considered these operations a grave violation of the Syrian sovereignty and international conventions and norms which he said are intended to undermine the Syrian cultural identity, indicating that the Directorate is making contacts with the bodies and international organizations concerned to condemn violations against the Syrian heritage. “We are hopeful that the Syrian army will soon restore security and safety to these areas because it is the only one capable of protecting our antiquities,” he added.

The acts of robbery targeting Manbej’s antiquities which date back to the Hellenistic and Roman eras are another proof which bears testimony to the magnitude of terrorism that has hit the Syrian human heritage.

Sunday, December 09, 2018


Italy’s highest court has ordered that a centerpiece of the Getty Villa’s art collection, a prized bronze sculpture more than 2,000 years old, should be returned to Italy in a ruling that could lead to a trans-Atlantic transfer or a diplomatic standoff.

The statue, named “Victorious Youth” but often referred to as the Getty Bronze, is on display at the villa on the outskirts of Los Angeles, which is part of the J. Paul Getty Museum. The bronze was retrieved from Adriatic waters by Italian fishermen in 1964. After a decade-long legal battle, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled Monday that the statue should be confiscated and brought back to Italy, rejecting the Getty’s appeal.

“It was a very, very long process, but we now hope that we will be able to have it in Italy as soon as possible,” said Lorenzo D’Ascia, a lawyer representing the Italian government.

Yet the fate of one of the finest original bronzes from the Classical era, probably fashioned in ancient Greece and lost at sea after being stolen by the Romans, is still unclear. The Getty has long argued that the statue was probably created outside Italy and was discovered in international waters after thousands of years, so it is not an Italian object subject to repatriation.

Italian officials, who say the statue was found in Italian territorial waters, had said that if the country’s high court decided in their favor that they planned to ask the United States Justice Department to enforce the ruling by seizing the statue. That would be likely to lead to another court battle in the United States.

In response to news of the ruling, Lisa Lapin, vice president for communications at the Getty Trust, said in a statement on Monday: “We will continue to defend our legal right to the statue. The law and facts in this case do not warrant restitution to the Italian government of a statue that has been on public display in Los Angeles for nearly a half-century.” She added, “We believe any forfeiture order is contrary to American and international law.”

The Getty Villa on the outskirts of Los Angeles features Greek and Roman antiquities, and acquired the bronze in 1977.CreditKendrick Brinson for The New York Times
The “Victorious Youth,” a life-size athlete crowned with an olive wreath, was long thought to be by Lysippus, or Lysippos in Italian, a Greek sculptor from the fourth century B.C. More recent scholarship, though, has dated it to the second or third century B.C. The fishermen who dredged it from the sea realized the value of their discovery, brought it to shore and buried it in a cabbage field, awaiting the right buyer.

Italian officials have argued that the statue, which was sold several times after its discovery, was subsequently smuggled out of Italy illegally, without a required export license, and hidden at various points in a bathtub and in a convent. The Getty Trust, the museum’s foundation, purchased it from an antiques dealer in Germany in 1977 for $3.95 million.

“At the very least, the museum should have been more prudent in their purchase,” Mr. D’Ascia said in a phone interview.

“They bought a statue lacking the export permit,” he said.

Under a 1939 Italian law, when antiquities and archaeological works are discovered in that country, the authorities must be notified and the artifacts are not allowed to leave Italy without an export license.

“We provided enough evidence,” said Silvia Cecchi, the prosecutor who has pursued the case for 10 years. “The sculptor was Greek, but the statue was culturally and administratively Italian when it sank.”

But during its long legal fight, the Getty had prevailed in other lower court rulings. Italian authorities maintained that previous trials lacked crucial evidence on the statue’s origin, which prosecutors were recently able to provide.

William Pearlstein, a partner at the New York art law firm Pearlstein McCullough & Lederman, which has frequently represented antiquities dealers in disputes with governments, said the Getty should file a suit in the United States, asserting its right to the statue.

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“It would state the Getty’s claim for title and challenge the Italians to assert their superior title claim to the satisfaction of a U.S. court, which I don’t think they can do,” he said. “What they’ve done is basically submitted a bunch of inside-baseball claims in Italian court.”

The view is very different in Fano, the seaside town on Italy’s east coast that the fishermen returned to with the statue after they found it more than 50 years ago. Generations there have fought for the statue, and now feel celebratory about its possible return.

“It’s pure joy for Italy, and for my town; we always felt the Lysippus belonged to us,” said Tristano Tonnini, a lawyer for the regional cultural association.

The town has a reproduction of the bronze at its port entrance, and a restaurant and newspaper named after its once presumed creator.

“It was found near here, was kept here and we hope it will come back here,” he said. “It was finally recognized that the Lysippus is like the other 40 masterpieces that the museum already returned to Italy.”

Mr. Tonnini was referring to accords between the Italian government and foreign museums that have allowed Italy to welcome back many dozens of objects. The Getty, under one of the agreements, has already returned 40 artifacts to Italy.

But both parties agreed to leave the bronze statue out of the deal while the court fight over it wound its way through the Italian legal system.

Nevertheless, in Fano, the emotional connection to the statue remains strong. “The bronze just belongs to our cultural heritage,” Mr. Tonnini said.

The Getty noted in its statement that it has trained Italian scholars, curators and conservators, restored art objects for Italy and provided millions of dollars in support of cultural organizations there. “We will continue to do so well into the future and are undeterred,” the statement said.


Alexander Hamilton's tax records, the blueprints for the largest municipal building in the United States and police logs of horse thieves all have a new home now that the Philadelphia City Archives has opened its state-of-the art facility. The new 65,000-square-foot building houses documents going back over 300 years, and it officially opened.

It also features an interactive new mural by Talia Greene. The sprawling work incorporates a 1930s-era map that banks once used to highlight black neighborhoods to restrict access to mortgages. Greene has virtually incorporated documents showing abolitionist and civil rights efforts within those neighborhoods.

Among them are the death certificate of Octavius Catto, the 19th-century civil rights activist, and a real estate transaction for Underground Railroad conductor William Still's house.


Archaeologists have accused Highways England of accidentally drilling a large hole through a 6,000-year-old structure near Stonehenge during preparatory work for a tunnel.

The drilling, which is alleged to have taken place at Blick Mead, around a mile and a half from the world-famous neolithic ring of stones, has enraged archaeologists, who say engineers have dug a three-meter-deep hole (10ft) through a man-made platform of flint and animal bone.

Highways England have said they are not aware of any damage to archaeological layers on the site caused by their work and will meet with the archaeological team on Thursday, led by David Jacques, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham.

Before the drilling incidents, archaeologists were concerned that the construction of a tunnel and a flyover near the site will cause the water table to drop, damaging remains preserved in water-logged ground. The Highways Agency agreed to monitor water levels as part of the project.

The 6,000-year-old platform through which a hole has been drilled preserved the hoof prints of an aurochs, giant prehistoric cattle that are now extinct. Jacques said: “This is a travesty. We took great care to excavate this platform and the aurochs’ hoofprints. We believe hunters considered this area to be a sacred place even before Stonehenge. These monster cows – double the size of normal cattle – provided food for 300 people, so were revered.

“It the tunnel goes ahead the water table will drop and all the organic remains will be destroyed. It may be that there are footprints here which would be the earliest tangible signs of life at Stonehenge. If the remains aren’t preserved we may never be able to understand why Stonehenge was built.”


A team of researchers with the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and the Brandenburgisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archaeologisches Landesmuseum, both in Germany, has found evidence that suggests Mesolithic people ate much better than previously thought. In their paper published on the open access site PLOS ONE, the group describes their study of food remains found on a bowl dated back to approximately 4,300 BC.

Movies and television shows have implied that those living during the Mesolithic were brutish and backward—eating hunks of meat carved from an animal and tossed onto a fire, for example. But in this new effort, the researchers report evidence that suggests people of the Mesolithic living in what is now Germany had cooking skills on par with modern humans.

The researchers came to these findings by analyzing an earthenware pot recovered at a site called Friesack 4, located in the Brandenburg region in Germany. Carbon radio testing showed the pot to be from approximately 4,300 BC. In their efforts, the researchers focused on residue found on the pot—evidence of a meal that had long ago been cooked and eaten. In their work, they looked for proteins instead of isotopes, because recent research has suggested they can be more accurate.

The researchers found evidence of carp roe that was fresh at the time it was cooked. They also found evidence of fish stock (water that had been used to boil fish) in the residue, suggesting Mesolithic cooks had boiled the roe in fish stock before consuming it.

But there was more—the researchers also found evidence of a crust made from organic material around the rim of the bowl. Electron microscopy revealed that it was some type of leaves. Thus, the early cook had boiled roe in a bowl using fish stock, and had covered it with leaves to promote heating, or perhaps to add flavor. Taken together, the findings suggest the Mesolithic people had much better cooking skills than previously thought—poached caviar sounds like something modern diners would find only in a high-class restaurant.

Read more at:

Sunday, December 02, 2018


A game called “58 Holes” or “Hounds and Jackals” is believed to have been invented in Egypt 4,200 years ago, becoming increasingly popular over the next centuries, and ultimately fading away some 3,650 years ago. But before its popularity dropped, it reached other parts of the world, such as Mesopotamia and Persia, where it also became pretty common.

At least 68 gameboards of 58 Holes have been found archaeologically, including examples from ancient cities such as Babylon, Ur, and Thebes. Archaeologist Walter Crist had been looking for examples of the game in the Azerbaijan area (which lies in the Caspian, a former USSR region).

He got lucky when he found a photograph in an Azerbaijani online magazine. He had a contact in the country and arranged to visit the country in April 2018. His luck, however, took a turn for the worse: the site had been scrapped by bulldozers to develop a residential neighborhood. Thankfully, a science official learned of the situation and informed Crist about another similar pattern.

The archaeologist traveled to the new site and indeed found another board game sketched on the inside of a Bronze Age rock shelter that dated to approximately 4,000 years ago. Although precise dating has not been carried out, the archaeological context strongly suggests this approximate time frame.

In the game, the two players are each presented with five pegs and dice. They have to reach a common end-point finish by moving their pieces along their respective tracks had to reach the finish, a common end-point, by moving their pieces along their respective tracks.

The “Hounds and Jackals” name comes from decorative shapes of the heads of playing pins found in Egyptian sites, where one player’s pins would be sculpted in the shape of a hound, whereas the other player would have jackals.

The pegs found at some archaeological sites were made of valuable materials such as gold, silver, or ivory. Of course, most versions would have featured simpler pegs made from wood, but these would have perished by now.


Paleolithic cave art in Turkey, Spain, France, and Germany, may represent star constellations, according to a report.

Martin Sweatman of the University of Edinburgh and his colleagues compared images in the caves, previously thought to be abstract animal symbols, with computer-estimated positions of the stars in the night sky at the time each cave’s artwork was made, based upon dating of the paints.

They found that the abstract images may have been used as a method for keeping track of dates, Sweatman said, by noting the position of the stars in the night sky. This knowledge could also have been used to navigate the open seas, he added.

Some of the images, such as the Lascaux Shaft Scene in France, which depicts a dying man and several animals, may even record comet strikes. For more, go to “The First Artists.”


Cosmos Magazine reports that a team of researchers led by Xiaoling Zhang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has unearthed a 30,000-year-old stone tool workshop in central Tibet—some 15,000 feet above sea level.

Evidence from the site, known as Nwya Devu, suggests humans were able to survive at the area's extremely high altitude at least 15,000 years earlier than previously thought. The researchers suspect the toolmakers were hunters who followed herds of gazelles, horses, yaks, and maybe even woolly rhinoceroses to the Tibetan Plateau, and speculate that Denisovan genetic material may have contributed to their ability to adapt to the harsh environment.

The types of tool technologies at the site also point to interactions between early Tibetans and people living in Siberia and Mongolia. To read in-depth about research into people's ability to live at high altitude, go to “The Heights We Go To.”


BURGOS, SPAIN—Science News reports that stone tools unearthed in Algeria amid butchered animal bones suggest the evolution of human ancestors was not limited to East Africa.

Mohamed Sahnouni of Spain’s National Research Center for Human Evolution and his colleagues say meat-chopping tools found in North Africa were made about 2.4 million years ago, or about 200,000 years more recently than the oldest known tools in East Africa.

The scientists think the tools could have been crafted by descendants of East African toolmakers who migrated into North Africa, or they may have been created independently. The animal bones came from savanna-dwellers such as elephants, horses, rhinoceroses, antelopes, and crocodiles that may have been hunted or scavenged from carnovores’ fresh kill sites, Sahnouni said.

No hominin remains were found with the tools, so the researchers are not sure who made them. To read about early remains of modern humans discovered in Morocco, go to “Homo sapiens, Earlier Still.”